FRESH TAKE: Prince Hamlet (Lisa Wolpe) and Ophelia (Chastity Dotson) star in ‘Hamlet.' (Photo courtesy Steven Koeppe)
FRESH TAKE: Prince Hamlet (Lisa Wolpe) and Ophelia (Chastity Dotson) star in ‘Hamlet.’ (Photo courtesy Steven Koeppe)

I’ll be gone for a short while. So this week and next, I’ll share some of what I plan to cover this month and tell you about other upcoming events worthy of your attention.

In Shakespeare’s day, the actors were all male, so they played the male and female roles. But, to quote Monty Python, “And now for something completely different.”

On Saturday, Sept. 7, the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A. presents the all-female, multi-cultural production of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company’s “Hamlet,” in honor of the company’s 20th anniversary.

Lisa Wolpe is an actress, director, teacher, playwright and the founder and producing artistic director of the company.

Natsuko Ohama, also celebrating 20 years with company, is one of the premier voice teachers in the country, a film and TV actress and she has portrayed roles ranging from Hamlet to Prospero.

These co-directors shared the helm 18 years ago in the production of “Hamlet,” in which they also alternated performing the title role. (In this current production, Ohama will play opposite Wolpe as Polonius.)

“This will be a richly appointed, classical production that mines the depth of Hamlet’s mystery,” explains Wolpe. “Hamlet thinks with a philosopher’s mind, hoping to find a virtuous, authentic path through a dangerous world of murderous monarchs. When the ghost of Hamlet’s father appears to urge him to avenge his death and kill his incestuous, usurping uncle Claudius, a terrifying supernatural world looms larger than ever as six souls die violently and depart to eternal unrest.”

The all-female “Hamlet” runs Wednesdays through Saturdays with matinees on Sundays, beginning Sept. 7 (with a champagne reception to follow on opening night). For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or visit

Also at the Odyssey is “In My Corner,” a singular new play by Lizbeth Hasse and Joe Orrach that works boxing, tap dance and music into the story of a street smart, wise guy Puerto Rican kid from New York City who comes of age in the ring and at the barre.

Footwork is everything for storyteller, pugilist and hoofer Joe Orrach, a “Nuyorican” who grew up in Farmingdale, Long Island by way of the Bronx. Developed and workshopped at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco and the New Black Box Theatre in Oakland (where the √áontra Costa Times called it a “knockout”), “In My Corner” chronicles Joe’s unusual journey, his narrative accompanied by live music featuring the riffs and rhythms of Latin, jazz and rock ‘n roll.

“In My Corner” opens for a nine-week run at the Odyssey Theatre on Sept. 6.


For your eyes only?


Competing for your attention on Sept. 7 is an art opening and reception that will break your heart with beauty. Two extraordinary L.A. artists, Alison Saar and Tom Wudl, will be on scene to launch an exhibition of their latest works at LA Louver Gallery in Venice.

Saar is an award-winning visual artist who grew up with a renowned artist mother, Betty, and painter/conservator father, Richard. The exhibition, titled Slough, presents new sculptures and drawings examining themes of racial struggle, cultural identity and the changing role of motherhood.

Wudl takes us into a spiritual realm with his Reflections of a Flowerbank World. His recent, exquisitely detailed paintings on linen and vellum are inspired by the Flower Ornament Sutra, a revered scripture of Huayan Buddhism which seeks to create a path to enlightenment through exalted experiences of imagination and reality. This sutra has infused his work through the past decade and was the subject of two previous gallery showings of his work.

A reception with the artists takes place between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 7 at LA Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd. For more information:, (310) 822-4955.


Promenade world premiere


Sometimes when you’re confronted with a new situation, you can use a few good laughs. Carlo Allen’s world premiere comedy “The New Situation” describes the dilemma faced by middle-aged siblings, who share a home in the Mid-Wilshire District, as their economic situation forces them to take on a renter.

The candidates they interview couldn’t be more different: a gay gourmet chef who’s grieving the loss of his partner, a straight man on the make, and a ma√Ætre d’ who’s also suffering from the economic downshift.

Can they all just get along? Find out Sept. 6 through Sept. 28 at The Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third St. For tickets and info call (800) 838-3006.


Cashing in


Next Thursday marks the 10th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s death. Just in time to mark that sad occasion, a new documentary film, “My Father and the Man in Black,” gives us the inside look at Johnny Cash as seen through the eyes of his former manager.

Canadian impresario Saul Holiff was the man who put Johnny together with June Carter. Jonathan Holiff is his son and the filmmaker who is piecing together his father’s life, in the shadow of the legend.

Following his father’s suicide, director Holiff discovered hundreds of letters and audio diaries, including secretly recorded phone calls with Cash during his crazed, pill-fueled 1960s jags, triumphs at Folsom and San Quentin, wedding to June Carter and his conversion in the early 1970s to born-again Christian.

These artifacts provide a behind-the-scenes view of the complex relationship between an icon of 20th century music and his long-suffering manager. Their collaboration created a superstar while each struggled with personal demons.

Mixing never-before-seen footage, creative re-enactments and poignant voice-over narration, it is also a catharsis for its maker.

“My Father and the Man in Black” opens Sept. 6 at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills, and will be available on video-on-demand and iTunes on Sept. 10.



Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for

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