Definitely Dickens Holiday Carolers, 2008

November-December, 2008
Sierra has joined as a member of the East Coast branch of the Definitely Dickens Holiday Carolers, a professional, costumed caroling group providing holiday a cappella entertainment for the New York and New Jersey metropolitan areas.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Isn’t giving thanks fascinating?
More Thanksgiving Day pics with my husband Pete & sister Lisa here

“What’s the Point?” by Hector Coris – A New Musical Revue

Lyrics by Hector Coris, Music by Alan Cancelino

Starring Hector Coris, Patrick Garrigan & Eadie Scott

Musical Direction by Alan Cancelino
Choreography by Susan Haefner
Directed by Collette Black

“What’s the Point” is a musical revue by Hector Coris and Alan Cancelino, an almost comedic character-driven musical in the realm of “Songs for a New World”…only extremely funny. A three-person show (two men, one woman) and piano, it utilizes a blank stage, simple props/costumes & furniture pieces, and a little bit of mime to establish time, place and character for each number. Solos, duets, trios – all utilized throughout the show. Some songs were downright comedy, others sweet humor, some parody on certain Broadway & Cabaret “staples” of the biz (“The Mel Brooks Way,” “The Disney World Song”) Hector’s lyrics have held me in stitches each time he performs them at open mics around town. His “My Moment” song, which he sings towards the end of “WTP” is a brilliant example of commentary on modern “idol” worship. Perhaps one of the most subtly subversive yet wonderfully sweet songs I’ve ever heard was “I Played With Myself,” sung by Patrick Garrigan. All it took was Patrick, the piano, a chair, and the audience’s imagination to make the song a standout example of excellent songwriting and interpretation. And Eadie’s remorsefully funny search for “A Real Straight Guy” highlighted her comedic strengths.

Director Collette Black kept the energy and flow from one song to the next going and going – a hard feat with only three bodies on a rather large stage, comparatively. The energies and characters of the actors on stage kept the Laurie Beechman Theater stage full, the choreography was well-thought out and executed. I’m not a huge fan of the LB stage for Cabaret use; it doesn’t have the intimacy of a good Cabaret space, but is big enough for a full-blown (albeit tightly staged) musical or blackbox theater show. However, the food is good and the drinks look marvelously decadent, although on the pricey side. However, for “What’s the Point?”, the stage was well utilized. I was sitting in the front “row” of tables, and could hear everything despite the absence of mics; I could not tell if the use of them was needed for the far wall of the room, but I’d suspect they could be used if demanded.

All in all, a great evening of comedy. I suspect more from Hector – heck, I’m singing one of his songs for Big Night Out’s composer showcase on January 29th, 2009 at Dillon’s restaurant!


Climate Change Exhibit at the American Museum of Nat’l History

This exhibition, “Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future” closes August 16, 2009 and is probably one of the most well-organized, succinct, and understandable breakdown of most of the issues surrounding the science and moralities of the climate change discussion.

Pete & I had been invited as bloggers to view the exhibit in a special pre-show, with dinner and an after-hours viewing. Pete did his blogging duty and wrote about the exhibit immediately…This was actually post dated to the correct date two months later…oops!

The Introductory area was instantly interesting: it charted the known rise of CO2 emissions over the last 400 years and tracked it along with the rise of the world’s population. I had no idea how fast humans have increased in number, just in the last 400 years alone. It’s truly an amazing thing to see graphed out in front of you – I had no idea that in the 1700’s we were merely 600 million people, and now we’re in the 6 billions of people.

The second area deals with Climate Change Today, and how specifically CO2 causes the warmth of the climate. A metric ton of coal is on display (as a model) for you to get a sense of how big we’re talking when we are told about tons of coal being burned off for energy, and how much CO2 is being let out into our air. It also goes into deforestation and other ways in which climate change is brought about.

The third area, Making a Difference, is probably the most fun and interactive part of the exhibit, in that you are able to utilize touchscreens to customize a profile of your driving habits, light bulb use, and other ways in which you and your family utilizes energy. It was great fun changing my profile from Los Angeles driver-of-an-SUV (Honda CRV) for at least 1 hour each day to a New Yorker walk-or-use-public-transportation consumer, and seeing the difference in the CO2 emissions. Yes, I moved to New York for the musical theater – but it’s a great feeling to not have to drive too!!!

The fourth area, Changing Atmosphere, goes into the worldwide atmospheric changes that scientists say are the symptoms of a warming world. It was scary to see how the possibility of increased and more dangerous hurricanes, typhoons and rains might endanger large areas of population in the near future. Not to sound too dark, but maybe the Earth is trying to handle the human population surge it’s own way?

The fifth, sixth and seventh areas, Changing Ice, Changing Ocean, and Changing Land, goes specifically into how the earthbound elements. Of particular interest was the representational core of ice, the layers of which showed distinct changes in temperature and CO2 content. Probably the most disheartening image to face in this part of the exhibit is that of the polar bear, rummaging through human garbage in search of food that is no longer plentiful in his or her own land.

The eighth, and last, section – A New Energy Future – offered up opportunities and options for both reducing CO2 emissions and creating energy to meet the demanding energy use of our ever-growing population. Some fantastic scale model versions of floating energy units and other ways of harnessing the natural energy sources of the earth were also on display.

All in all, this is a great exhibit to see whether you think you know everything about global climate change or whether you fancy yourself completely ignorant on the subject. It has plenty of things for children to do, lots of visual representation of complex subjects to utilize as teaching tools, and also goes into immense detail on some pretty intricate concepts. Whether used to introduce the concept of climate change to yourself or your family, or to reinforce/supplement your own working knowledge of the global problem at hand, go to this exhibit before it closes!

Picture captions: clockwise from upper left:
  1. Me in front of a mockup nuclear reactor…yeesh!
  2. Checking out a beautiful butterfly in the Butterfly Conservatory, which was also open.
  3. Multiple solutions to a clean energy sources
  4. Kids drew & wrote letters & pictures in response to global energy issues; my favorite is the single hand raised above the water (upper right of photo)
  5. Dinosaur shaped fried chicken pieces for dinner!

Anti Prop (H)8 Rally November 15, 2008

The City Hall area was filled for a little more than 2 hours as thousands of people congregated to speak up against Proposition 8 and all of its cousins. It started around 1:30 and ended around 3:15, was very peaceful but energetic, and there were a lot of powerful speakers there. The rally was one of several going on around the nation, including San Francisco and Los Angeles. What is interesting is that I knew about the rally from a friend on Facebook – in fact, the entire event was planned, promoted and organized online.

The number of creative signage was impressive, both humorous and with outright outrage. The most touching of sign-carriers were those who were with their loved ones who pointed out how many years they were engaged but not married. There were the bride & bride, groom & groom dress ups, and even a lady dressed in a bridesmaid dress holding a sign saying “Always a Bridesmaid, Never a…?”

And, as it happens in New York, I bumped into former UCLA-dorm-floor-mate Philip!

The truth is, the Propositions of anti-gay marriage are awaiting court decisions – that is, now that they’re on the table, it is up to the courts to decide whether it is still constitutional or not. Frankly, after striking down Proposition 22, I can’t imagine that the CA courts can say yes to this one. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger says he is against Prop 8 policy and wishes it overturned, although he seemed quiet while the campaign was going on.

Anyone interested in becoming a part of the solution to ending descrimination against gay & lesbian marriage, check out & And if you yourself have a account with some pictures of the November 15th rally in your area, add them here.

2008 Election Day in New York!

It was wild. Exciting, exhausting and stunning. I walked over to Times Square from work, met with Pete, and then hung out for a bit to take pictures and watch the political circus. The JumboTron MTV screen started playing The Daily Show/Colbert Report Indecision 2008 special election coverage, but we quickly lost interest as there was no sound – it’s not as funny or understandable with closed captioning.

Times Square was set up for the event, with all of the huge screens broadcasting news networks, from NBC, ABC, CNN & FOX. Each time a new series of states came in for Obama, a huge wave of cheers erupted. Cheers also erupted every time the camera crane swept over the crowd for an action shot.

When the announcement that my home state, California, was officially on the map for Obama, and the words “President-Elect Barack Obama” started scrolling across the digital-screen ticker tape and onto the screens, the entire place went wild.

My entire flickr set can be found here.

Obama ’09-’12+

Part of the solution:

Voting Pic of the day (so far) on TwitPic

Part of history!

I Voted 2008 – and Here’s Video to Prove It!

Raissa Katona Bennett & Terese Genecco @ The Metropolitan Room

The second half of Saturday, Nov 1st was spent in Cabaret Heaven. I went to two shows that highlight the extremes of the craft’s spectrum. 180 degrees away from each other, these two shows (and these two ladies) exemplified the different personal energies that a cabaret show can encompass. One was beautifully meditative and emotional; the other was explosive and emotional. Either way, I was struck tonight at how the same stage (The Metropolitan Room) can be transformed from an intimate exploration of one’s personal transformative state to a high-rolling, bongo-playing set on fire. I was a cabaret student yesterday, that’s for sure.

After recovering from Halloween 2008, I went to see Raissa Katona Bennett perform her show “Putting Things Away” at the Metropolitan Room. It was just David Caldwell at the piano and herself at the microphone, directed by Eric Michael Gillett. A simple setup for a simple, straight-forward but emotional show.

Raissa kept to mostly original works and story/character-based songs that required emotional stamina and acting. Within the 13-odd songs, I believe I only recognized “Will You?” from the set, although that could have been due to cabaret-song ignorance. Standout songs included “I Furnished One Room Apartment” (lyrics by Michael Mooney, music by Stephen Hoffman), a scathingly funny “You Wanna Be My Friend?”, a beautiful Menken/Spencer song “How Could I Not?”, and a David Caldwell original entitled “Tomb With a View.” Raissa does not steer clear of the extremes of tears and laughter – instead, she goes right into her emotional core on more than a few numbers and doesn’t let go. She’s definitely an actress-singer, one who does not shirk the character’s moment to moment experience throughout the song. One song in particular (referencing her character’s relationship with her mother) brought up incredible sorrow and anger from Raissa, showing a depth of her acting skills uncommon in standard “cookie-cutter cabaret.” She ended her set with “We Live on Borrowed Time” by David Friedman, reminding us to take the reigns of any project, love, or opportunity as time goes by. I was happy to spend some of this borrowed time with her that late afternoon.

Upon leaving Raissa’s show, I put down my name for Terese Genecco‘s late-late-late night show (11:45pm) and returned to the Metropolitan Room after doing a few errands. Terese is a San Francisco-based singer, although she has toured across the nation with her “little big band.” I was soooo excited to finally meet and see her perform, having at least read about her performances via cabaret emailing lists and other online accounts. I was glad I put my name down earlier – with this being the 2nd and last show of hers in New York this round, the place was PACKED.

Dressed in a black suit and white necktie, with her dark brown/black hair cut short and spiky, Terese embodies a classic big band singer done modern. She had a 7-piece band on that tiny stage (some spillage over onto the stage left area). With piano, drums, bongos, upright bass, sax, trumpet & trombone, there was an incredible amount of sound emanating from the stage, filling the relatively small Metropolitan Room. However, Terese has a voice and an energy big enough to match her tiny band. During the night, she expressed that she once envisioned herself as the “white lesbian Sammy Davis, Jr.” She stayed on that track with amazing re-arranged versions of such songs as “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home,” “Got a Lotta Livin’ to Do,” “With Plenty of Money And You,” and “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” She even re-introduced the bongo-based arrangement of “Come Rain or Come Shine,” as originally recorded by Judy Garland.

Mid-way through the show, Terese brought up a young but already accomplished singer, Shawn Ryan, known for being a semi-finalist on Season One of “America’s Got Talent.” They first sang a duet of “Any Way the Wind Blows,” and I could tell from their banter that the two of them (almost photo negatives of each other by sex, height, and hair color) are great creative friends. Terese then left the stage for Shawn, who sang an incredibly funny version of “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It” (funny due to the fact that his husband was watching the show from his booth in the back!). Terese returned for a hot St. Louis-blues-rock version of “St. James Infirmary” arranged by the legendary Russell Garcia.

Terese’s next song choice took almost everything out of the equation as she sang a song just by herself and the piano, proving herself to be a singer of emotional caliber in addition to her big-band persona. She sang the gorgeous song “If I was a Boy” by Maria Gentile & Caren Cole, written from the point of view of a lesbian who just wishes to be able to love her woman in the open, or to have a relationship with her dad without restraint. In light of Proposition 8 in California on the ballot this year, and being threatened to pass by a narrow margin on November 4th, this song had me holding back tears. I lost – a single tear ran down my cheek. Oh, and by the way Vote No on 8, California!!!

She ended the night with another big-band hoopla with Shawn Ryan teaching her how to “Shimmy.” She allowed each band member their own solo, providing further proof that each of them were brilliant musicians in their own rights. Terese also pointed out all the singing and composing talent in the room, including Hector Coris, Michael Feinstein, Marilyn Maye, Jenna Esposito, Rob Langeder, and Tony DeSare. I left the Metropolitan Room tired but enthusiastic, with a raw voice and raw hands from too much wooping and clapping.

Terese Genecco & I

Shawn Ryan & I. I think we were born with the same T-zones…

All in all, a great night of Cabaret!!!

First Halloween in New York

First Halloween in New York – after much hemming and hawing, I came up with a Living Dead Doll costume completely made from pieces in my costume box and made my face up. Pete opted for a mask made with his baby-faced website logo. We then traveled down to the Chelsea-based New York Halloween Parade. I was used to the Santa Monica Blvd/West Hollywood parade of Los Angeles. However, this was probably more awesome, as New York’s is an actual “Parade” of costumed people walking down the street, separated from onlookers with cameras behind police barricades. Walking in the NY parade feels like being a pseudo-rockstar. Professional and non-professional photographers run around as well – I had one photographer stop me for a photo (he got in close on my makeup). And you had to be wary of car-drawn floats blaring music and large mardi-gras costumes too. All in all, a lot of fun.

For the parade, we met up with Stew Noack – a photographer, designer, and amazing costume maker who dressed up with a group of his friends as characters from “The Venture Brothers.” He went as one of the villains (damn, didn’t remember the name), and had “flames” arising out of his head & one hand made of moldable, lightup led-based tubing. With a switch, he could make them pulsate too. He’s going to make my costume for next year even if I have to lock him in my basement to do it. 🙂

We saw political dress-ups, some Sarah Palins, a flushable George Bush, a pro-Obama group yelling and beating drums. One group dressed like a bunch of flies being chased by Venus fly traps. There was a VHS-tape monster, a group of dancing gnome-creatures, and a gorgeous “spider” puppet hanging from the side of a building that danced incredibly spookily.

After food at the 24-hour-open Around the Clock diner in the East Village, we went home. This next part was the best bit: being stuffed into a late-night subway train with a huge number of people in costume. It was surreal, and I LOVED it.

More photos at my Halloween 2008 set here.