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Nothing Is the Same...a harbinger to the present

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A pastel panorama, courtesy of scenic designer Tesshi Nakagawa, brings island ease to mind as audiences enter the Sierra Madre Playhouse for Nothing is the Same, by Y York. But the view of Hawai’i that unfolds shows the unease that emerged in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in World War II.  The play is at once a look back to halcyon days of youth and a prescient view of conditions leading to ethnic unrest that we are experiencing today.

This short play centers on four playmates- Mits (Kurt Kanazawa); George (Cedric “Ikaika” Jonathan); Daniel (OnShiu) and Bobbi (Chloe Medriaga): all from Asian or south Asian roots. Their experience of the attack is different than one might imagine. The children see it as if in a movie. But one fateful action that Sunday morning changes all their relationships. Mits, of Japanese descent, waves at the invading airplanes, which the other children interpret as an effort to flag the enemy. The rumor goes around that Mits is a spy. Think about it. He’s eleven!  However, the discrimination that the kids display about Mits serves as a miniature of subsequent wartime Japanese persecution that emerged on the mainland.

Y York’s evocation of childhood will delight audiences, not only of the story itself, but for the complex style of Pidgin English the actors speak. It may seem challenging to understand at first, but once our ear becomes acquainted, rather like listening to Shakespeare, the sounds provide another dimension to bring us into the world of the play.

Director Tim Dang is responsible for meticulous attention to the smallest details that drives the story: for the language and movement provided by dialect coach Kelsey Chock and for opening up the actions of the play. Indispensibly realistic sound effects (Howard Ho) bring forth the terror of the bombing, as well as the lapping water of a nearby lagoon. Dang breaks through the fourth wall to create the impression that young Daniel, armed with two inner tubes, really does try to swim away. And, of course, the whole comes together through the industry of scene painters Hillary Bauman and Orlando de la Paz.

Since Christian Lebano became Artistic Director of Sierra Madre Palyhouse, each production has gained in prestige, outreach, and expertise.  Through its Field Trip program, Nothing is the Same will host a number of local schools, allowing frank discussion of the roots of prejudice to enrich the community. To serve the interests of the ambitious production schedule, Dang created a double cast system, and on opening night I saw “Mauka” (for Mountain) cast. As performers playing children, they must reach into their own childhoods to come up with young behavior; and, at times, the Mauka cast seemed be in contact with their eight or nine-year-old selves rather than eleven, as specified. It may be interesting to see how Cast Two (“Makai” for Sea) fares.

Nothing is the Same continues Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2:30 PM and two Saturday evenings, February 24th and March 3rd; culminating in a 2:30 performance on March 4th , 2018 at Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre 91024. Tickets, $20.00 to $30.00. Phone (626) 355-4318 or online at




Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.