just when we thought it was safe...

just when we thought it was safe...

Dear Ones,

Well, 2021 was a roller-coaster of a year in many ways. We had the joys of a vaccine and starting to get out into the world again; combined with the disappointment of more surges sending us back inside.

And we started out the year with the sadness of Stephen heading up to Toronto for the funeral service for Tanya, who had died a year ago, on January 1st of 2020. It took a lot of paperwork and tests and forms for Stephen to be able to get to Canada with a compassionate dispensation from COVID quarantine – but he did it, and Rebecca and I watched the beautiful and moving service on a live broadcast.

Later in January, Stephen was able to get the first of his vaccine shots (Moderna), and then in February the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra continued having outdoor in-person rehearsals in the back yards of the parents of the students.  In February, Rebecca and Troy decided to part company and give up their apartment, and Rebecca and Potemkin moved back home with us for a while.

For Stephen’s birthday, we started with a trip to Egg Tuck for awesome breakfast sandwiches, which we took to enjoy outdoors in a park. Later that day, we drove to Santa Monica and got take-out dinner from Ye Old Kings Head and took it to eat in Tongva Park before heading to the drive in to see the movie “Minari”, along with Bob and Anne Miskey (Bob is the second violinist in Stephen’s quartet).

By the end of the month, Stephen got his second Moderna shot, and Rebecca found an amazing co-living home just a few blocks away from us. It is a beautiful old Craftsman mansion which has been converted into a space for up to eight housemates. Rebecca’s large room has a separate private entrance at the back of the house, and her own bathroom. We helped her put together a little kitchenette, and to put up some beautiful saris for curtains on her multiple big windows that look out onto the beautiful backyard area where we have met many times for meals.

In March, New Musicals Inc. had a film shoot for our new Veterans’ Project – SO PROUDLY WE HAILED. All the performers, directors, and crew had to be COVID tested in order to take part. Elise also started work on the robe for her upcoming role as The Dragon Queen – and was also able to get vaccinated with the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In April, NMI launched the annual 15 Minute Musicals. We had cast eight performers who were all vaccinated so we were able to have in-person rehearsals. At the same time, we presented our annual New Voices Project completely via Zoom.

Once Elise was vaccinated, she was able to go visit Art (and Bruce and Peg and Carol Jennings and Kathleen Rice!) in Kansas City for the first time in nearly a year and a half, and it was a really lovely visit!

By May we started to feel like things were getting back to normal, and we even started to attend movies in the movie theatre again (while wearing masks!). Elise continued to work on The Dragon Queen – preparing for a projected film shoot in the fall. (That meant not only memorizing the script and learning the songs, but also continuing to work on the robe, wings, tail, and mask to create the full character). We also had another shoot for the Veterans’ project at NMI, and started renting out the space again to various groups. And finally Rebecca was also able to get vaccinated (Pfizer) so the whole family was feeling pretty good about life!

In July, Stephen’s quartet started doing outdoor concerts again; we attended the outdoor “Smorgasburg LA” (basically a collection of food trucks!); and at NMI we actually produced our eight 15-Minute Musicals LIVE at the Broadwater Mainstage in Hollywood. We got in just under the wire, as COVID started to surge again in July with the Delta variant, and LA re-instituted the mask mandate just a day after our live (unmasked) performances!

NMI also held an all online “Pitch” conference that was a great success; Stephen played a church concert and the Summer Solo Symphony series; Elise drove up to visit Deb and watch an online Woodstock High School reunion; Stephen and Elise went to see “Princess Bride” at the Hollywood Bowl, and Rebecca took a trip to Hawaii with her college roommates Alda and Arpita.

In August, NMI was back at the (postponed) Hollywood Fringe Festival with a production of the family fantasy musical GIDEON AND THE BLUNDERSNORP. We had sold-out audiences (even though we had to require proof of vaccination and mask) – and we won the Best Musical prize. (There is a link to a live-streamed version of the show later on this page – if you have kids – I would highly recommend you watch it – I think the whole family will love it!).

At the end of August, Stephen and Elise headed to the garden island of Kauai (the smallest of the Hawaiian islands) for just over a week and absolutely fell in love with this little gem. We went ziplining, rode in a helicopter, sailed on a catamaran, went snorkling, tasted rum, and generally had an amazing vacation. (This meant, of course, that we have once again postponed our South America trip which was originally supposed to happen in 2020. It is now booked for August 2022, but that’s not looking particularly good at the moment either!)

In September, Elise continued work on the Dragon Queen character (moving on to the tail, and the chains needed to chain her to a dungeon wall!). NMI launched the new season of the Core Curriculum, and for the first time ever, Elise delivered the opening weekend lectures to new participants. When Elise first stumbled upon what was then the Academy for New Musical Theatre back in 2003, it was to hear the Founder, John Sparks, deliver that opening lecture which he had already been doing for a couple of decades at that point. Over the last few years, as John has taken his retirement more and more seriously, he has gradually left the running of the Core Curriculum more and more to Elise, but this fall was the first time that he said he wanted to step away completely – including the lecture. This was a big responsibility, and huge musical theatre shoes to fill, but John did give about a year of notice so that Elise could prepare. The weekend went well – and, of course, none of the new participants had anything to compare the experience to anyway!

At the end of September, Elise and Rebecca flew out to Kansas City to visit with family again – this time with the very sad news of the sudden and unexpected death of Elise’s first cousin David Baur. Our hearts and thoughts go out to David’s wife Pam, and their children and grandchildren.

In October, NMI started to release a series of one-minute musical videos called “129 Ways To Get A Man” – based on an actual article from McCall’s Magazine from 1957. The 129 “tips” vary from funny to slightly offensive to completely insulting when viewed from a modern perspective – so we had fun spoofing them by adding some musical couplets for Edna Ferver (played by Elise) to sing to comment on each “tip”. We’ve released about half a dozen of them so far – and hope to keep doing them until we’ve covered all 129 “ways”!

Elise also continued to prepare for the filming of The Dragon Queen with blocking and lighting and make-up tests; and NMI did another round of shooting for the SO PROUDLY WE HAILED series (and this time Elise was directing a couple of the episodes).

Stephen and Elise were able to get booster shots (in fact, Elise got the COVID booster AND the shingles shot AND the flu shot all in one day!); and we celebrated Rebecca’s birthday for two days – starting with lunch on the rooftop at the funky “Mama Shelter” and a trip to the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit. Then on her actual birthday, we had breakfast at the Blu Jam Cafe.

In November, Stephen and Rebecca went to Toronto for the unveiling of Tanya’s gravestone – right next to her beloved Eddie. It was also a really lovely trip since they got to visit with Ellen and her boys and their families – including all seven of Ellen’s grandchildren – including the brand new twin boys, Cody and Shai, born in July to Stephen’s youngest nephew Jordan and his wife Taryn.

Elise stayed home and finally did the actual shooting for The Dragon Queen (two shoot days in November and one in December). The shoots went well (although it was quite the challenge as the costume was heavy and hot!) – and now we are waiting on the editing to release the video itself.

Thanksgiving and Hannukah were the same weekend (a rare event!) and Rebecca and Stephen worked together to make latkes (potato pancakes) to share with our friends Bob and Anne.

In December, Elise was able to register for Medicare (!); Stephen played the Disney Candlelight Concerts, a concert with Maestro Joo, and the Nutcracker ballet. Rebecca’s work – Bend the Arc – made the decision to let go of the lease on their office (since their employees are still working from home) – so Elise was the beneficiary of a bunch of awesome office furniture that allowed her to completely make over her NMI office.

A couple of days after moving all that furniture, Rebecca treated Elise (and herself!) to an “Awesome Trifecta Massage” at a lovely spa; and then we met Stephen in between Nutcracker shows in Long Beach to eat Indian food in memory of June’s passing three years ago on the 19th.

On Christmas eve day, Elise treated herself to her first facial in two years; and Rebecca and Elise had a comfy movie night at home while Stephen played some gigs. Then on Xmas day, we went to see the new movie version of West Side Story at the El Capitain theatre and followed up with take-out Thai food (all the Chinese restaurants in town were completely full!). Our plans for New Year’s Eve were very modest – we stayed home but toasted in the New Year with our favorite egg nog!

As we venture into 2022, we would like to ask you all to SAVE THE DATE because on Wednesday, April 27th, 2022 at 6:30pm PST, Stephen and Elise will be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary with an Elvis Presley themed vow renewal at the Viva Las Vegas chapel in Las Vegas! If you can make it in person, let us know! If not, we will make sure you get the link to watch the (short) ceremony live streamed online. (If you think you do want to come in person – please RSVP by February 15!)

And we wish all of you a very happy New Year and a blessed 2022!

 

Elise, Stephen, Rebecca, and Potemkin

We are so thrilled that we got to spend so much time together this year! To the left is Stephen’s birthday and then Elise’s birthday; below is a Family Cheese Tasting Party in Rebecca’s back yard; and the last three pictures are from Rebecca’s birthday celebrations.

Once Rebecca got vaccinated in May, the three of us went out to celebrate with free Krispy Kremes! Rebecca also got herself a new “head shot” taken in her own backyard.

A NEW PAD

In March, Rebecca moved in to a fabulous old Craftsman mansion which had been renovated as a co-living home.

Rebecca has a one-room apartment with a separate entrance on the ground floor at the back of the building, but access to the common areas in the house …

And a great outdoor space where she can relax…

And have great socially distanced outdoor meals with us!

She has a kitchenette corner…

A private bathroom …

An Ikea-built “walk-in” closet …

A home office …

And a canopied bedroom…

With beautiful saris for curtains…

And Potemkin loves it!

And occasionally even takes a walk outside!

COOK FOR A CAUSE

In May, we took part in a fundraiser called “Cook for a Cause”. The proceeds went to Union Station Homeless Services, which is headed by Anne Miskey, the wife of Bob Miskey, who is the second violinist in Stephen’s quartet. Rebecca joined us for the evening, and we had already shopped for the ingredients we would need …

We got started on the wine early…

Then we tuned in to the webinar so that Chef May of the Gourmandise School could walk us through the recipes.

Stephen and Rebecca got ready to roll.

Stephen followed Chef May’s instructions…

Starting with the Olive Oil cake (infused with orange) that would be our dessert later.

Then he prepared for the dough for the gnocchi…

Which had to be rolled out …

Then cut into small pieces and boiled …

While also preparing the Brown Butter and Sage sauce…

Which we served up along with a “Little Gem” salad.

The Olive Oil cake may look plain, but it was amazing! What a great meal!

At the end of August, we took an amazing one week trip to Kauai – the smallest of the Hawaiian islands. We did so many amazing things – including ziplining, snorkling, catamaran rides, helicopter rides, and more. Here are a few pictures – but there is a full page with all the details of the trip here: HAWAII TRIP 2021.

Over the course of the last year and a half, Elise has been preparing for the role of The Dragon Queen – which we shot in the fall, and will be releasing online as soon as it is edited. Below are some pictures from the project. For a window into what has been going in to the creation of this character, check out THE DRAGON QUEEN.

THANKSGIVING

For Thanksgiving dinner, Stephen started with a Kabocha squash…

Then made a stuffing of barley, parsnips, figs, and apricots …

And stuffed the squash with it …

Then put the “lid” back on the squash to bake it …

When it came out of the oven, the “lid” came off again …

And Stephen starting slicing …

It went onto the plate with a topping of parsley and toasted walnuts…

Along with the rice and chicken cutlets he had already made …

And we had a great Thanksgiving feast…

Topped off with the Jewish Apple Cake I made, topped with homemade butterscotch sauce!

ODDS & ENDS

Our little balcony garden thrived and blossomed!

We got a fancy new green screen for our home office.

Stephen got a plaque from the Theatre Musicians Association in thanks for his years of service as their webmaster.

Stephen and Elise both got vaccinated in the parking lot of Dodgers Stadium.

First stop on Stephen’s birthday was “Egg Tuck” for a yummy breakfast which we ate in the park.

Dinner, in another park in Santa Monica, was take-out from Ye Old Kings Head Pub, prior to watching the movie “Minari” at the drive-in with Bob and Anne Miskey.

Stephen got a “gig” as a conductor on an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.

Rebecca took a trip to Hawaii with her college roommates, Alda and Arpita.

And got a chance to hike through a volcano!

Rebecca carved yet another amazing Halloween pumpkin!

Potemkin continues to be very happy in her new apartment!

Stephen and Rebecca made latkes for Hannukah.

And we shared them with Bob and Anne at a combo Thanksgiving/Hannukah dinner.

The Avanti Ensemble played several concerts during the year – usually as a quartet, but occasionally as a quintet!

Dad enjoyed the strawberry cheesecakes we sent him for his 92nd birthday!

Stephen’s nephew Jordan and his wife Taryn had twin sons – Shai and Cody.

Elise got lots of “new” furniture for her NMI office – including a huge beautiful desk, a bookshelf, and a credenza – because Rebecca’s work (Bend the Arc) gave up their office and gave everything away.

Elise’s Dad – a Korean War Vet – is still going strong at 92!

Rebecca making Bubie Tanya’s famous recipe for Cockeyed Cake with her cousins Jessica and Carly.

Stephen with his great-niece, Princess Remy.

The newly unveiled headstone for Tanya and Eddie.

On Xmas day, we went to the El Capitain to see the awesome new movie version of WEST SIDE STORY – preceded by a rousing organ solo, and then a very flashy reveal of about six layers of curtains before getting to the actual movie screen. It made it really fun to be back in a live movie theatre – even though we had to wear masks!

NMI released a series of very short musical videos (about 1 minute each) titled “129 Ways to Get A Man” (starring Elise as “Edna Ferver”). They are based on an actual article from McCall’s Magazine from 1957 that seriously posited 129 different ways a woman could go about finding herself a husband. We haven’t changed the actual “ways”, but we’ve added a musical couplet to add a comical button to each one. There are a bunch in this playlist – and eventually we hope to produce 129 of them!

All year long, NMI has been working on short musical stories in collaboration with real life veterans. The project is called SO PROUDLY WE HAILED, and we currently have 8 videos released, 2 in post production, and plans to put another handful into production in the coming year. Here is one of those musicals – CHRISTMAS IN AFGHANISTAN. If you want to see more of these amazing, moving, and important musical stories, you can check out SO PROUDLY WE HAILED.

In June, we paid tribute to our Founder, John Sparks, on his 80th birthday – with a choral version of his favorite song – “When You Wish Upon A Star”.

In August, for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, NMI produced “Gideon and the Blundersnorp” – a lovely piece of fantasy family musical entertainment which Elise had been developing with the author, Michael Gordon Shapiro, over the last year or so. (The LA mandates meant we had to require proof of vaccination or negative COVID test to attend – as well as require masks of all audience members – but we had sold-out and enthusiastic audiences nonetheless!) It is about an hour long – and I highly recommend it for family viewing!

Throughout 2021, New Musicals Inc. has continued to create new musicals – although a lot of our work has been via Zoom and online videos. We are proud of the work we are doing, and thrilled to be able to bring many stories to the world through musicals. Below are some of the projects for you to watch!

In July, Elise dramaturged, produced, and hosted the production of eight 15 minute musicals presented live at the Broadwater Theatre in Hollywood. (We got them in literally days before the city re-instated the mask mandate.) Here is one of those musicals – FOR RICHER OR FOR POORER – a kind of “Groundhog’s Day” for a young man trying to figure out how to pay for his wedding. If you are interested in the other seven, you can check out CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS.

In a similar vein to our Veterans’ project, we also started the Neighborhood Heroes project in which we musicalize the stories of ordinary folks in the neighborhood. With a grant from the North East North Hollywood Neighborhood Council, we started the project with the story of our own handyman, Geoff Davis – a truly extraordinary man. To check out more about Geoff, and the project, you can visit NEIGHBORHOOD HEROES.

In September, Elise delivered the opening weekend lecture for the new group of Core Curriculum participants – for the very first time. (Elise has been gradually taking over all of the duties from John Sparks, but up until this year, he was still doing the opening weekend lecture that he has been giving for decades). It was a tough act to follow, but here is a portion of that lecture (which has been converted into a series of shorter posts for Elise’s monthly vlog HOW TO GET NO FEEDBACK FROM ELISE.

here’s hoping 2022
is a winner!