Category Archives: Reviews

Theatre Review: “Hot l Baltimore” in Los Angeles!

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“Hot l Baltimore” directed by Che Walker and produced by Rochelle Rossman at Stella Adler in Los Angeles.

Cast: Mona Lisa Abdallah, Liselotte Alfons, Anastasia Burenina, Christina Blum, Ana Roza Cimperman, Robert Oliver Gislason, Christian Hoha, Ninni Holm, Edward Macgregor, Tatiana Olaya, Johann Schulte-Hillen, Kayla Strada, Nuno Sousa and Abel Vivas.

 

Los Angeles, CA- Director Che Walker’s production of Lanford Wilson’s 1973 play “Hot l Baltimore,” which had a successful run on the Gilbert Stage at the iconic Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angeles, brought together a mishmash of colorful characters who all have one thing in common– they are all on the verge of homelessness as the seedy Hotel Baltimore that they call home is slated for demolition.

Set in the lobby of the dilapidated hotel, “Hot l Baltimore,” which pulls its title from the neon marquee with the burnt out ‘e’ that sits above the dying building, follows the trials and tribulations of the soon to be evicted characters as they live out their final days at the hotel.

The cast of the show gives audiences a brilliant slice of life peek into the lives of these characters, which range from naive hopefuls and over-the-top eccentrics, to cynical prostitutes who’ve seen too much sorrow to ever fully recover and the hotel’s less than chipper staff that seem to go out of their way to make all of the ‘guests’ feel like they’re the scum of the earth.

Mona Lisa Abdallah first takes the stage as the hotel’s daytime desk clerk Mrs. Oxenham, and boy does this actress bring her easily flustered, germaphobic and overly conservative character to life with distinct style. From her fidgety, nail biting mannerisms to her unrelenting nosey-ness and constant eavesdropping, Mona Lisa makes Mrs. Oxenham into a character we all love to hate.

The interactions between Oxenham and Paul (played by Robert Oliver Gislason), a former tenant who returns to the hotel (after being sent away to a work farm for two years due to a drug conviction) in search of his grandfather, serves as the perfect example of the disconnect between the two societal classes portrayed by the story’s hotel staff and their ‘customers.’ Instead of being willing to help, Oxenham brushes off Paul’s requests and treats him as if he his less than human, further solidifying the idea that these down-on-their-luck characters are really just worthless individuals undeserving of respect.

While the play is definitely tragic in the way it portrays the less than glamorous lives of the majority of its characters, it is not devoid of comic relief. The way Mona Lisa’s character uses a tissue to pick up the old rotary phone, and takes several minutes to lick the adhesive on an envelope just to mail a letter, definitely brings a bit of quirky humor to the show.

On top of taking on the pivotal role of Mrs. Oxenham, Mona Lisa was also cast to take on the role of Dopey, a new character written into the production by director Che Walker. Mona Lisa reveals her wide range as an actress through her portrayal of these two very different characters within the same production, something she accomplishes with astonishing ease.

 

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Mona Lisa Abdallah as Dopey in “Hot l Baltimore”

 

As Dopey, one of the hotel’s resident hookers, Mona Lisa gives an engaging monologue about the struggles of being a prostitute in the lower rungs of society, where the girls continually spend their money to look glamorous in the eyes of their revolving door of Johns, have little left over for themselves and still battle the unceasing  yearning for the familiar touch of true love– a sad cycle few are able to escape.

The young and lovably naive prostitute known as The Girl, played by Kayla Strada, gives us a little insight into how some of the older prostitutes started out their lives in the ‘business,’ probably holding onto a glimmer of  hope that they would some day escape the murky underworld that’s sadly trapped them.

And then there is Jackie, played by Tatiana Olaya, a rebellious young thing who’s travelling with her little brother trying to gather enough money to start an organic farm back in Utah. After using all of her money to purchase the land for the farm (which she has yet to see), she goes about trying to convince Mr. Katz, the hotel manager played by Ninni Holm, to cosign a loan so she can get the start-up money she needs for the farm. But when that doesn’t work out, she decides to steal jewels from Morse’s room; however, she is caught and gets herself kicked out of the hotel. Even sadder than the fact that Jackie has no chance of really making a go of it with the farm, is that she leaves her brother Jamie, who’s not-all-there mentally, behind.

Through Millie, played by Johanna Schulte-Hillen, a retired waitress with a pension for reminiscing over the past, audiences are privy to a character who represents a different kind of ‘failed’ existence– one where the person doesn’t even reason that their life is in shambles. The character, who always seems to be telling ghost stories (that she clearly believes) in her somewhat soothing southern drawl, has a sweet, but melancholy quality about her– as if she had a beautiful future ahead of her at one point, but somehow took a turn for the worse.

The drama that ensues as the conflicting personalities of the characters clash, and the tragic, sometimes hard to swallow, display of their personal turmoil, kept viewers engaged throughout the run of the show. From the soon to be destroyed building, where hot water is simply not a thing and a working elevator is a memory long past, to the decaying youth of the play’s struggling band of prostitutes, “Hot L Baltimore” is imbued with themes of human struggle and cultural decay, and the actors involved do a marvelous job of breathing life into this 1973 play in the modern age.

 

 

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Actress Marine Lanctuit Steals the Screen and Stage

Actress Marine Lanctuit in "The Book of Days"
                                           Actress Marine Lanctuit in “The Book of Days”

Like many actors, Marine Lanctuit knew she was meant to be on stage from a very young age. Unlike many actors, however, she has put in the time and effort it takes to reach an astonishing level of success in the entertainment industry.

On film, Lanctuit has contributed her talent toward many projects. Some of the most recent productions she has led include: Creed and Lost Angels by writer and director Stan Harrington, Red Poppies, produced and directed by Yaitza Rivera, and Heroines by director Travis Geiger.

During her time on Creed and Lost Angels, Lanctuit was able to deepen her relationship with multi-award winning producer, writer and director Stan Harrington. Harrington is currently known for his management of the Stella Adler Theatre, where actors like Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Harvey Keitel, and Gary Ross all received guidance and instruction early in their careers.

It was at the Stella Adler Theatre where Harrington met Lanctuit, captivated by her diverse abilities as an actress in theatre and on stage. Lanctuit played Isadora in Lost Angels, a story about what a young actress will do to “make it big” in Hollywood: and the peril that can come with this search for fame and fortune.

Red Poppies achieved widespread critical acclaim for it’s depiction of war and the

political, physical and emotional violence it wreaks upon victims. In the film, Lanctuit gripped the emotions of the audience in her portrayal of Margaret Thomas, the cousin of Iris, a victim of a violent assault during wartimes. The 2013 film was nominated for best dialogue by Action on Film International USA.

Lanctuit leads as Aurore in the film Heroines, which tells the harrowing story of a woman being brainwashed by her psychiatrist as he carries out his highly unethical psychological experiments on her – without her knowledge or consent.

When it comes to theatre, Lanctuit is just as qualified as she is on film. In Paris, where she began her career, she starred in a variety of plays, includingThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht, and The Marriage of Figaro by Beaumarchais, “a play with a cult following in France,” Lancuit described.

In the United States, Lanctuit further developed her theatrical abilities in several productions directed by Oscar-winning producer and director Milton Justice. 

Lanctuit expressed that she learned an enormous amount about how to deepen her talent as an actress during her time working with Justice. Considering his long list of accolades, this is not surprising: in addition to winning the Academy Award in 1987 for Best Documentary, Down and Out in America, Justice has produced innumerable titles in television and film.

The plays in which Lanctuit partnered with Justice include: Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Book of Days by Lanford Wilson, and Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov.

Of these plays, Lanctuit said that her role of Irina in Three Sisters was, “without hesitation,” the favorite of all the roles she’s ever played.

“It’s not with every material that you get to develop a character so much,” she explained in an insider interview. “There are 2 to 3 years between each of the four acts, so you see her evolve from a naïve young girl into a woman.”

During her theatrical career, Lanctuit has also worked closely with award-winning actor, writer, producer and stage director Tim McNeil, best known for his work in the film Forrest Gump. McNeil admired Lanctuit’s talent so much that he cast her for the lead role in two of his plays: Orange Flower Water, and The Odd Couple. Additionally, the film Red Poppies was adapted from McNeil’s script.

Currently, Lanctuit is working on Wandering Stars, directed by James Zsignmond. After wrapping this production, she has already booked film work for the next three years!

Marine Lanctuit has accrued quite an array of accomplishments during her prolific acting career, and there is no end in sight to her extraordinary level of success. We look forward to seeing where this spotlight takes her next.

Digital Artist Susie Liu a Creative Powerhouse in Advertising Production

Advertising Producer Susie Liu
Advertising Producer Susie Liu

The advertising industry calls for creativity, ingenuity and experience. Susie Liu fits all of these categories and more. This London-based advertising veteran has been in the industry for 15 years, working in all aspects of the business including design, print production and localization.

Liu’s current job as Advertising Producer for the cutting-edge global advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi (Sectorlight) involves more leadership and logistics, but her love for design has never left her. Her true passion is to create ads that entice the viewer and leave them wanting more. She has designed campaigns for clients ranging from real estate or technology to retail businesses.

Liu has always been a right-brained thinker. Since childhood, she’s looked at the world with a more imaginative eye than most. Becoming Advertising Producer was a long time coming for Liu, who has always known what she was meant to do in life.

“I looked at ways to improve magazine articles and advertisements and change the style to my own liking by recreating visuals on the computer,” Liu said. “I’ve always gravitated toward anything visual or creative.”

For most, the immense list of responsibilities her job entails would be impossible, but her management experience and background in design makes her a powerhouse at what she does.

“I love problem solving and finding solutions,” Liu said. “It’s exciting to work for clients and people I feel passionate about and being able to deliver a great piece of work that inspires and meets their expectations.

Since her graduation from the renowned School of Art and Design at Kingston College in London in 1996, Liu has been working her way up in the design world.

Her years as a graphic designer provided her ample exposure to the hands-on aspects of design, which allowed her to appreciate her later role as Creative Artworker all the more.

“Having the design background provides me with the ideas and visual understanding of how something should look and feel and the role of a Creative Artworker gives you the technical skill set to create it,” Liu said.

Liu’s naturally creative mind and background in design gave her the knowledge she needed to generate inspiring work that met her client’s needs, but it’s her undeniable leadership abilities that earned her to the role of producer.

In addition to her work with Saatchi & Saatchi (Sectorlight), Liu has worked as Senior Creative Artworker, Production and Design Manager, Production Team Lead, Digital Artist and Designer for numerous companies including Apple, Wordsearch and HTC.

At Wordsearch, an innovative real estate advertisement firm, Liu worked as the advertising producer of the global launch of a 42-acre recreation development for the Battersea Power Station in London, which is one of cities most iconic structures.

Another notable Wordsearch project for Liu was her work for the One World Trade Center, the main building of the new World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, which also happens to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. It was crucial that the advertisement for this costly and symbolic project was attracting the maximum number of investors, which is where Liu and her team came in.

She also worked with Wordsearch as advertising producer for Masdar City. This 6- square kilometer eco-city in Abu Dhabi relies on solar and renewable energy sources and is aimed to be the hub for clean tech companies. Liu was hired to produce a series of printed and digital marketing meant to entice people into this new, not yet built, city.

In addition to Wordsearch was her involvement with Hogarth Worldwide, an international marketing implementation agency. She was the advertising producer for the London branch of HTC on the HTC One Phone. She and her team translated and localized all of the literature, in at least 40 different languages, created a variety of advertisements, point of sale and signage.

Since Liu’s thirst to create never sleeps, she is currently preparing for a job starting with 181 Fremont, a new building in the cultural heart of San Francisco’s SOMA District. She’ll be working on the artwork and production of the residential brochures. In addition, she will be working on the development of interactive presentations to create assets and components for the technical build, clean and prepare floor plan sheets for print, and retouching the final imagery for print and post production.

To find out more about the work of advertising producer Susie Liu, make sure to visit her website at www.susieliu.info.

Producer Richard Moore Makes His Mark Across Platforms

Richard Moore
                                                      Producer Richard Moore shot by Charlie Hyams


Producer Richard Moore has been responsible for some of the most thought-provoking films, powerful documentaries and successful advertising campaigns of our time. He got his start while still in high school, has spearheaded hugely profitable production companies, and has worked with award-winning directors and multi-billion dollar corporations. Through all of it, he has maintained a level of professionalism and natural talent, which have allowed him to maintain stringent standards when choosing all of his projects.

The roots of Moore’s drive and determination can be seen in the beginnings of his career, when at just 19 he personally organized the funding of a full-scale Universal Records music video production for all-girl band The Saturdays. In addition to overseeing budgeting and set building, Moore was tasked with hiring and managing more than 70 cast and crew members.

“This was my real introduction to what it to took to be a producer,” Moore said. “With managing pressure, dealing with a lot of people in different positions and different environments, while simultaneously supporting your director and helping him or her to achieve their creative vision.”

Moore served as the senior producer at Big Balls Films, the company behind the wildly popular Copa90 YouTube channel. Funded through an investment by Google, Copa90 quickly became the most successful sports YouTube channel in Europe, in no small part because of Moore’s prowess as its head of production. Geared toward the much sought-after 12-to-30 year old audience, Moore was in charge of courting advertisers for the channel, which received a hefty annual operating budget from Google.

“For Copa90, I was responsible for the launch and channel management, with an annual budget of $3 million to spend on programming,” said Moore, describing his critical role in the project.

“I, alongside the creative team at the channel, was key in pitching, selling and executing brand-integrated shows while also building our original slate of programs, which we would then sell to third party platforms.”

Among Moore’s other notable advertising productions are campaigns for clients including the financial services group HSBC and Mexican tequila giant el Jimador.

Working with the cross-platform production company Unit9, Moore produced the #ispossible campaign for HSBC, a London-based international banking and financial services company. The campaign consisted of three commercials, each of which follows a young entrepreneur who found success through the backing and guidance of HSBC.

“The campaign documents [the entrepreneurs] as they reveal the people that helped them realize their ambitions and explain how to achieve yours through inspiration and mentorship,” he said.

Also while working with Unit9, Moore produced the “Mexology” campaign for el Jimador tequila. Moore, who admits that a huge factor for him in choosing a project has to do with his impression of the director, was personally requested by the director of the “Mexology” campaign, Martin Stirling. Moore had previously worked with Stirling on the Most Shocking Second A Day campaign for the Save the Children Fund, so when Moore was contacted by Stirling for the “Mexology” campaign, he promptly accepted.

“I worked with the recent Cannes Gold Lion-winning director Martin Stirling, who specifically requested me on the project due to my background and experience in documentary-style films and as someone who has the ability to manage global clients in a very high-pressured and time-sensitive environment,” Moore said.

The campaign took an innovative approach through its examination of Mexican culture in America, which ultimately promoted el Jimador’s trademark laid-back appeal to youthful consumers, which comprise the company’s target audience.

Mexology was a commercial campaign for el Jimador tequila about four artists who were challenged to collaborate on the creation of an event that embraced the Mexican spirit of enjoying life,” Moore said. “They were tasked with re-imagining the legendary Michigan Building, an abandoned theatre in Detroit, without a script, storyline and within 48 hours.”

As a major player in the production field, Moore’s name drew the attention of Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson himself. When Sir Branson’s mother Eve began a project to assist women in North Africa, Branson reached out to Moore to produce a film about the charitable endeavor on behalf of Virgin Unite.

“When we arrived at Eve’s house, she asked us within the first 10 minutes of our meeting if we wanted to help her ship a herd of cashmere goats from England to North Africa to help bring stability to women in the region through creating jobs in the textile trade, specifically in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco,” recalled Moore. “It sounded so far-fetched and bizarre that we had to do it, and two weeks later we were filming with her and her beloved goats in Africa.”

With such a wide array of projects, encompassing everything from advertising and sports media to music videos and charitable works – not to mention his extensive work as a producer for film and television – Moore has shown himself to be a leader in an incredibly competitive field, and we look forward to what he has in store for us next.

Producer Filippo Nesci Continues the Nesci Family’s Successful Lineage of Creative Innovation

Arturo Nesci
A photo Arturo Nesci took of his brother Domenico Nesci in the early 1900s

Film has been a passion of millions of people all over the world for more than a century. But for Italian producer Filippo Nesci, film is much more than just a passion. It’s a birthright.

Nesci’s family history with film goes back to the early 1900s when his great grandfather, the Baron Arturo Nesci, was a photography enthusiast. 

A generation later, Nesci’s grandfather, Michele Nesci, established himself as a filmmaker, photographer and finally, a film professor at the prestigious Roberto Rossellini Film School of Rome. While Filippo Nesci’s father, Domenico Nesci M.D., took a different path, becoming a creative psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Domenico was also heavily influence by film; and, in the last decade he has incorporated the medium into a innovative creative psychotherapy training that he invented for medical students known as “The Workshop Movies and Dreams.”

After helping his father make a documentary for the Italian online scientific journal of psychotherapy “Doppio Sogno” several years ago, Filippo Nesci was hooked on the filmmaking process, and his innate skill in the industry immediately propelled him on the track to becoming a producer.

Filippo Nesci
Domenico Nesci (left), Filippo Nesci (center), & Professor Dominique Scarfone (right) after presenting a workshop on multimedia psychotherapy at the IPA Congress in Boston on Jul7 23, 2015.

Nesci’s breakout production was the music video for singer-songwriter Meg Myers haunting, beautiful, tour de force Monster. The video garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube despite Myers not being attached to a label or a publicist at the time of its production, which was an impressive feat for Filippo Nesci to pull off.

“It was organizing, planning and getting everything for the director (Abram Pineda-Fisher) in order to make his vision come true,” Nesci said.

Pineda-Fisher’s vision included a night scene in a forest that involved Myers being soaked in buckets of cold water. During the filming of that scene, Nesci went above and beyond the typical call of duty for a producer as he assisted his crew with keeping Myers as comfortable as possible during the challenging shoot.

“I was very impressed with the commitment she had for her first big music video,” Nesci said.

Myers has since signed with major label Atlantic Records, thanks in part to the organic success of the Monster video that Nesci produced. Atlantic Records is part of Warner Music Group, one of the “big three” recording companies and one of the largest and most successful labels in the world.

Nesci parlayed the success of Monster into more music videos, including 80s Fitness by British electronic music production duo KOAN Sound. The video featured an elaborate production of two fitness enthusiast teams who used a combination of parkour and martial arts to whimsically compete to the death in front of intricate, beautifully designed background sets that were created from miniatures.

“This was an extremely ambitious production considering this music video had a very limited budget,” Nesci said.

Nesci went out and covered vital expenses such as food, production design and additional staff that kept the production going. He even found two production designers to build a small gym on set, and scheduled the transportation, construction and overall management of the gym’s creation.

“The results were an amazing music video, and an extremely happy artist crew and record label,” Nesci said. “The director (Tim Hendrix) kept getting more work thanks to the success of the video.”

80s Fitness went on to win Best International Video at the 2013 FirstGlance Film Festival, a 2013 Jury Award for Best Music Video at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, and a College Emmy.

Another Nesci production, the film Wrecks and Violins, also took home multiple awards. The story of a disoriented teenager who needed to overcome a stranger’s bizarre torment with nothing more than a violin and a monkey-suited comrade earned the Golden Ace Award at the Las Vegas Film Festival and was a 2012 NFFTY Audience Award Winner.

Nesci used his innate people skills to create a light and relaxed atmosphere throughout the film’s entire production process which was vital to the project finishing on time and within budget. His most remarkable accomplishment during the film’s production was when he used his diplomatic talents to obtain a permit to film a key scene in the parking lot of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena without spending a dime.

“(It was) not easy to get,” Nesci said. “It required all my unique communication skills.”

But perhaps the most impressive of Nesci’s production feats was when he found a white alpaca for a commercial for the Scotch whiskey distillery Lagavulin. The commercial’s director specifically wanted a white alpaca and a field in which to film the South American llama lookalike. Nesci found not only a white alpaca, but an entire alpaca farm.

“I found him the exact alpaca he wanted, and I also found other different ones that we later filmed just to have more options in post-production,” Nesci said.

The find paid off for Nesci and Lagavulin as the commercial won a 2014 Clio Award.

Nesci has already build an impressive resume of award-winning projects such as films, music videos and commercials, and will no doubt add many more to it in the future.