I thought LA was all Botox, anorexia, and traffic jams under Hollywood lights.
I was wrong.
They do drive everywhere (my host, Sasha, couldn’t believe that I took the bus from the airport), but I’ve now met extremely talented Hollywood actors with mobile faces who eat!
As soon as I read that the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits had a show with an animated sabre tooth cat puppet created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop, I realized that a) I had to go, and b) underneath the tinsel and the hype, Los Angeles is an arts town. Just like Montreal, but with an even higher bohemian index.
The Page Museum was my hands-down favourite LA museum so far. Why? Because museums can be boring, just staring at boxes on walls. But this museum had tons of people in orange shirts, holding out replicas of sabre tooth tiger and cat and dire wolf skulls, answering questions and telling me stories. I love that.
I had no idea that “tar pits” is a misnomer: it’s not tar, it’s asphalt (Natives would use it to quill arrows or seal shells long before it became an asphalt mine), and the depth is considered shallow for pits, since a lot of it was only a few feet deep, but that’s enough for a herbivore to wander on the leaf-covered surface, get stuck, holler for help, and have carnivores jump on top of it, only to get stuck themselves. A pile-on like this only happened about once a decade, but that’s enough to make this the largest collection of Ice Age fossils in the world. A little boy asked about dinosaurs, but sorry buddy, the dinos died 65 million years before the Ice Age (a mere 11,000-50,000 years ago).
I lined up early for the Ice Age Encounters. I liked the host, Jacquita, right away, and she integrated a cool video into her presentation. And then…the sabre tooth cat! Yay!
I stuck around to ask a few questions of Betsy Zajko.
And we took a selfie with Cali the sabre tooth cat!
Next, Sci-Fest LA.
There was a line-up outside the theatre. Always a good sign.
I got a seat right in front. Fantastic.
Stan Lee did the “turn off your cameras” intro. Say what?
And then the plays!
Turnover. Keisha Thompson had me without saying a word: her character was immobilized for the first few minutes, while David Dean Bottrell (“True Blood”)’s fast-paced dialogue oscillated between sinister and funny. I won’t give too much away, but it certainly makes you think about murder in a different way.
Human History, written by Joel Silberman. It was Joel’s show yesterday. At the restaurant afterward, people would ask me, “How do you know Joel?” like at a wedding. I would say, “I don’t know Joel. I’m a Roswell award finalist.” But everyone else knew Joel. And what a clever play, a high school class on race relations after aliens have obliterated 90 percent of the human race, finely acted. Really well done.
The Lunchtime Show was just fun. Here’s the monster.
Everyone laughed at Neil Gaiman’s The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds. I just want to point out the acting by Burl Moseley and Cheryl Francis Harrington.
Burl was Cock Robin as well as a bartender, and I noticed the gentle way he set down the glasses after polishing them, exactly the way you would if broken dishes came out of your pay. And Cheryl was so good in her comedic roles that when she posed dramatically as the dame at the closing scene of the play, I dearly wanted her to come back out again and start the show all over again.
A Billion Tuesday Mornings: Peter Gray Lewis just about broke my heart as the autistic man who invented an alternate universe machine, and Lily Holleman perfectly captured his frustrated, loving daughter. I only wish I could’ve seen more Tim Chiou. You just don’t see enough hot Asian leading men, and he was only in the opening scene.
Access: This one broke my brain open on how to use the theatre. Five men, all playing the same character simultaneously in different universes. Hats off to scriptwriter Spencer Green as well as the ten plus actors! I was excited to see Tim Chiou again, but only for about five seconds.
Efficiency: I wasn’t sure what I’d think of the world’s first science fiction play, but it was extremely well done. Because so many soldiers are dying and losing limbs on the battlefield, a doctor invents a way to turn them into cyborgs so they can keep on fighting. Lots of moral questions that continue to haunt us in 2015.
So. Impressive acting, strong scripts, inventive sets. Sci-Fest captures the best of speculative fiction, the curiosity and innovation that makes you think about the world today.
At the restaurant afterward, David Dean Bottrell shook my hand. I gave him my card, and he said, “I just realized who you are. Wonderful story.” As one of the founders of the festival, that was quite a compliment.