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This Month Find Forever Flamenco

at The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

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There are a number of events and venues here in L.A. which I maintain are under appreciated. I’m talking about places and performances unique to this city which I’m convinced the fine folks living here would relish the experience of – if they’d just get off their haunches and go.
I’m talking such civic treasures as The Museum of Jurassic Technology, the pay-what-you-can nights at the Odyssey and the Actors’ Gang, the productions of the Coeurage Theatre Company which always operates under a pay-what-you-want admission policy, Sky’s Gourmet Tacos, Culver City’s Wende’s Cold War Museum, Sweet Rose Creamery, The Velaslavasay Panorama, the free summer concerts held at the California Plaza, as well as those offered by LACMA.

But close to topping that list would be the performances of the Forever Flamenco series produced by Deborah Lawlor of the Fountain Theatre every month for the last fourteen years.

Fourteen years.

Think about that.

Fourteen years.

Now I don’t know where that places Forever Flamenco in the ranking of the longest running shows in Los Angeles, but it surely has to rank right up there alongside of Bleacher Bums at the Century City Play House and Kvetch at the Odyssey Theatre.

Why its right up there with Lauren Gunderson’s I and You!

(Oh, wait my bad! That show didn’t run forever. It just felt like it did.)

forever flamenco banner-march 2016.jpg

Now, yes, the Forever Flamenco draws from a very deep, rich pool of singers and dancers and musicians which has been ever revolving and ever expanding.

And yes, the Forever Flamenco series is only staged once a month, but it’s been once a month for fourteen years!!

There’s a reason for that longevity.

The performances are that good.

Now, I’m a tough audience member to put a show before.

I have this real bugbear about L.A. audiences and their annoying habit of bestowing standing ovations on the worst sort of dreck.

I’ve seen audiences stand for The Whipping Man, King Dick, The Mountaintop.

These were not shows to stand for.

These were shows for beating to death with a broom.

I don’t know why L.A. is like that, but my personal jerk knee response has been a determination not to stand for anything that doesn’t give me at least three organisms and a nosebleed before the first act curtain falls.

Why the first time my lovely wife Marlene actually saw me leap to my feet at the end of a show she nearly fainted.

She had convinced herself that for some reason whenever I walked into a theatre and took a seat that I would be mysteriously stricken by paralysis from the waist down until the final curtain fell. ♠

The reason I tell you this is so you’ll have a reference for when I say, that in attending the Forever Flamenco series one Sunday at the end of every month for the last five years, I can’t remember once not springing to my feet at the show’s end and clapping like one of those battery operated mechanical chimps you can buy on the cheap down in the toy distinct.

Because, yes – The performances are that good.

The next offering in this amazing cycle will be Sunday, March 20 at 8 o’clock.

Currently the stage at the Fountain is covered in sand for their production of Dream Catcher

And believe it or not, Flamenco dancers find it hard to do their thing in a foot of sand so for the present the series is being given a stage as a guest of the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

Dancers Fanny Ara, Manuel Gutierrez, Mizuho Sato and singer Jesus Montoya will perform with guitarist Gabriel Osuna and Antonio Triana (who will also serve as artistic director to this staging).

I know all these performers.

They are perhaps the most amazing talents you will ever see.

Ever!

And, once again – The performances are that good.

That’s why I have been beating the drums for this series from day one.

I don’t know what it would take to get your butt down to the Odyssey to see this show, and if I knew, I would do it.

Would you go if I showed you past reviews from one of Bitter Lemons “sixteen best theatre critics in Los Angeles”?

Okay, here goes:

“Dancers Manuel Gutierrez and Oscar Valero display both the amazing power and exquisite grace in their performances that is the hallmark of Flamenco. You can go knowing nothing of the forms ands styles of Flamenco, entirely ignorant of the history of the Hindu and Arabic influences on the music, or of its ancient Andalusian roots, but watching Gutierrez and Valero you are nevertheless aware of being in the presence of world class artists.” (Working Author –September, 2013)

“This is followed by Manuel Gutierrez, who began dancing Flamenco at the age of four and was winning Flamenco dance competitions by eight. Gutierrez captures the essence of “coraje” or spontaneity. He dances as if in defiance of a world seeking to dwarf him, a world which may overshadow the man, but never his passion.

All the dancers – Fanny Ara, Elena Osuna and Gutierrez – are forces of nature on stage. If only the DWP could devise a way of hooking into Gutierrez’s performance as a power source they could light the Pacific Northwest up like Fremont Street in Las Vegas till the close of the century.” (Working Author –February, 2014)

“Mizuho Sato who is a testament to the international appeal of flamenco. While watching [her] perform I was conscious of the fact, that the next bailaora [Flamenco dancer]I see who isn’t a smoldering firestorm of sensuality will be the first.

Manuel Gutiérrez…could be the poster boy for Flamenco in Los Angeles, displays in his footwork a driving fury you expect will have the theatre reverberating with sonic booms as he ruptures the sound barrier.” (Working Author –December, 2014)

“Flamenco is like some mystical hybrid, a construct of two distinctly different parts that seem initially at odds, a lion and an eagle, a man and a horse, a woman and a serpent.

Flamenco is a wailing of unplumbed anguish and an exaltation of unquenchable elation that, when melded thru Flamenco, results in a celebration of the human spirit.” (The TVolution – January, 2016)

Would you go if I gave you a dollar?

Okay, done! A dollar to the first five “newbies” to attend the March 20th performance. Just announce yourself to Associate Producer James Bennett and show him your ticket to receive one U.S. treasure back dollar bill.

You’ll find James in the lobby of the Odyssey pushing the Sangria punch – he’s the guy who’ll be annoying everyone with his relentless smiling and whistling. (We’re pretty sure he’s on medication.)

I guess what I’m trying to convey here in my flippant sorta of exuberant way, is that if I really knew what it would take to get you to head over to the Odyssey on the 20th of this month and catch Forever Flamenco that I would do it in a meth fueled heart beat.

And why?

Because, as I’ve said before and no doubt shall again – The performances are that good.

♠ Gary Lamb and Crown City Theatre’s production of “Godspell broke my fifteen year long affliction of “ovation paralysis.” Milagro! Milagro…!! Then it took me two weeks to get Marlene’s jaw off the floor!

♥ Yet another show that had me doing my best Robert Ironsides’ impression when the cast came out for their curtain call. (Played by Raymond Burr – Google it.)

♣ Yeah, like they know beans!

 ♦   ♦   ♦

FOREVER FLAMENCO: ANTONIO TRIANA & COMPANY

Directed by Antonio Triana

Produced by Deborah Lawlor & The Fountain Theatre

Starring Fanny Ara, Manuel Gutierrez, Mizuho Sato, Jesus Montoya, Gabriel Osuna, Antonio Triana

For tickets and additional information click HERE

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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