Monthly Archives: May 2007

Puttin on a Play — writing panel

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Come see my collection of pals talking about how they write
their theatrical masterpieces. I'm producing this panel for IWOSC
because I have spent so many years reviewing theatre and writing
about it. And IWOSC is a great organization. Come see! 
 
"The Playwrights Round Table: Why Write for the Theater in 
Tinseltown?"
IWOSC's MAY GENERAL MEETING
Monday, May 21
7:30 p.m. Sharp!

Veterans 
Memorial 
Building, 
4117 Overland Avenue Culver ity
 

IWOSC is spending the month of May in the Theater, with a 
workshop on "Staging Your Words: How to Produce Your Own 
Play" slated for Saturday, May 19, and a playwrights Round 
Table the following Monday evening.
  

Please join Del Shores, Hoyt Hilsman, Katherine Griffith, 
Diane Lefer, Jonathan Dorf, and Dan Berkowitz as this 
distinguished panel of nationally-produced playwrights 
discuss the art and craft of writing plays, the state of 
live theater in
Los Angeles - and why, in the land of the 
Silver Screen, it is good to not be in Development Hell. 
  

Believe it or not, there are advantages to being in the 
theater in Tinseltown: You may make little money, but you 
have all the power. Your work isn't cut and edited by 
others. You can say what you want. Enjoy the immediate 
gratification of producing it yourself soon after you write 
it -- great when you are responding to current events.
  

But what does it mean to write theatrically? What does 
theater do that other mediums don't?  What is the state of 
live theater today?  How does it fit in with other mediums?
 
Meet the panelists:
  

* DEL SHORES (writer/director/producer) has written, 
directed and produced film, television and stage. He has 
written six plays: "Cheatin'" (1984), "Daddy's 
Dyin'...Who's Got the Will?" (1987), "Daughters of the Lone 
Star State" (1993), "Sordid Lives" (1996), "Southern 
Baptist Sissies" (2000), and "The Trials and Tribulations 
of a Trailer Trash Housewife" (2003). "Daddy's 
Dyin'...Who's Got The Will?," originally ran two years at 
Theatre/Theater in Hollywood, winning many 
Los Angeles 
theatre awards, including LA Weekly's Best Production and 
Best Writing. The play has subsequently been produced in 
over 2,000 theatres worldwide. A 1990 movie version 
of "Daddy's Dyin'" starred Beau Bridges, Tess Harper, Judge 
Reinhold, Keith Carradine and Beverly D'Angelo. Shores 
wrote the screenplay and executive-produced the film.
  

In 1999, Shores wrote and directed the film version 
of "Sordid Lives" starring Beau Bridges, Delta Burke, 
Olivia Newton-John, Bonnie Bedelia, Leslie Jordan, and Beth 
Grant, along with most of the cast from the play. The movie 
has become a cult phenomenon. In 2002 Twentieth Century Fox 
released the DVD/Video, which has now sold over 200,000 
units.
  

Shores has written and produced for the television 
series "Queer As Folk," "Dharma & Greg," "Ned & Stacy," 
and "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," and wrote, directed and executive 
produced the Showtime movie, "The Wilde Girls."  He is 
currently in pre-production for both the film version 
of "Southern Baptist Sissies," which he will write, direct, 
and produce, and a TV series based on "Sordid Lives," which 
he will also write, direct and produce.  
  

* HOYT HILSMAN is an award-winning screenwriter, playwright 
and journalist.  Hilsman has written screenplays for a 
number of studios and television networks, including 
Disney, Sony, New Line, ABC, NBC and CBS. His stage plays 
have been produced in theaters around the country and 
abroad, and have won numerous awards.  His television 
script, "Foggy Bottom," based on his childhood in 
Washington, was honored at the 2005 Slamdance Festival. 
Hilsman has also been a regular theater and television 
critic for Daily Variety.  He has written, produced and 
directed several independent films and television series, 
including "Deadly Embrace," "Snow Without Name," 
and "Beneath the Eyes of God."  
  

In addition, he is a past President of the 
Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, a judge of the PEN West Literary 
Awards and he has recently helped to organize a series 
of "Intentional Conversations" for business, civic and arts 
leaders throughout Southern California.
 
* KATHERINE GRIFFITH is a writer and actor whose work has 
been seen in 15 states, five countries and over 100 venues, 
including comedy clubs, prisons, 
San Francisco's Solo Mio 
Festival, Yale, 
Woodstock's Kleinert Arts Festival, Dance 
Theater Workshop, PS 122, and 

Dallas 
Theater 
Center. Her 
play, "The Ballad of Billy K: The Tall Tale Adventures of 
the Crazy K Kid," won the Stages Texas Playwrights Award 
and was presented at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference. It 
was also a finalist for the Mill Mountain Theater Festival 
and Bay Area Playwrights Festival. She is currently 
expanding the Billy K mythology into a series of children's 
books.
 
In response to 9-11, 
Griffith created "Windows on the 
World," in which she portrayed 40 characters in a 10-minute 
montage of found and edited text. "Windows" was selected 
out of 1,500 entries as a finalist for the Heideman Award 
at the Actors Theatre of 
Louisville. 
Griffith was chair of 
the Committee for Women at the Dramatist Guild for three 
years and on the advisory board for the International Women 
Playwrights Conferences. She is currently creating a Hungry 
Ghost Pageant Play for the Zen Center of Los Angeles's 40th 
Anniversary conference this May. 
  

* DIANE LEFER has written fiction and traditional full-
length plays. Her play "Harvest" was produced in Los 
Angeles under the direction of Jon Lawrence Rivera. She 
wrote the play and music for "American Buggery," an account 
based on the court records of men hanged for bestiality in 
colonial 
New England, which premiered at Trustus Theatre in 
Columbia, South Carolina. Lefer collaborated with Hector 
Aristizabal to create "Nightwind," a performance piece 
about his arrest and torture by U.S.-supported military in 
Colombia. Lefer's latest work of fiction, " 
California 
Transit," was published in April and was awarded the Mary 
McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction.
  

* DAN BERKOWITZ is West Coast member liaison for The 
Dramatists Guild of America, the professional association 
of playwrights, composers, and lyricists, and is Co-Chair 
of The Alliance of 
Los Angeles Playwrights (ALAP).  Among 
many works, he is co-author of "There's No Place Like 
Hollywood!," an Ovation Award nominee for Best Musical; the 
off-Broadway musical "Miami Beach Monsters;" and the 
revue "A… My Name is Still Alice," which premiered at San 
Diego's Old Globe, moved to Second Stage in 
New York, and 
has since been produced in more than 35 states. Dan writes 
a regular column for The Dramatist magazine, and will soon 
skid onto the information superhighway driving 
www.DanBerkowitz.com.
  

* JONATHAN DORF, ALAP's co-chair, has had his plays 
produced in more than 35 states, as well as in 
Canada, 
Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and 
Asia. His plays 
include "Ben," "Bookends," " 

Shining 
Sea," "Milk and 
Cookies," and "Neverland," which have been produced at such 
venues as Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, Ensemble 
Studio Theatre - LA, Moving Arts, and the 
Pittsburgh New 
Works Festival.  Dorf is the author of the book "Young 
Playwrights 101," a complete playwriting resource for young 
playwrights and those who teach them. He lives online at 
www.jondorf.com.
  

The Moderator is IWOSC's own GARY YOUNG, Director of 
Professional Development and an accomplished playwright. 
Young's plays have been produced throughout the 
U.S. and 
Europe, at the 
Kennedy 
Center, 

Lincoln 
Center, the White 
House, the Smithsonian, and many schools and 
colleges. "Interruptions," an off-beat portrayal of grief 
and loss, originally produced at the 

Kennedy 
Center, ran at 
the Stella Adler theatre in 
Los Angeles. His one-person 
show, "On Hold: the Myth of Male Maturity," opens soon. 
Young also authored the book, "Loss and Found," co-written 
by his wife, Kathy Young.
  

COST:  IWOSC members: free. Guests are welcome; general 
admission: $15.
   
Reservations required. Deadline: Noon, Monday, May 21. 
Seats will be held until ten minutes before the start of 
the program.  Contact info@iwosc.org or 1-877-799-WRITE 
[799-7483] for reservations, directions, or information.
  

  

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cover_0407.jpg Cosmetic Surgery Goes ‘Mini’

New less invasive techniques are just as effective and easier on the pocket

BY DEBBIE K. SWANSON PATRICK

If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should not grow old.  – James A. Garfield

RANDI MacCLAREN DIDN’T HAVE WRINKLES AT 54. What she had were sagging eye lids and her face was sinking in. It was time for her to do something. She met with a doctor and they determined what she needed—an eyelift and some fat put back into her cheeks to fill them out. One day after the procedures her face was bruised, but she was in the office for a follow-up visit and felt fine. Two months later she’s thrilled with the results.

“I had no problem,” she says, “except an allergy to the eye drop. No pain, as I took the prescribed pain medication. The worst thing was having to sleep upright in bed for two weeks.” ‘Mini’ me

Is it time for you? Have you looked in the mirror and thought, “Who is that person?” If so, you might have thought about doing “a little something” to bring back that youthful glow and elasticity.

Yet, this is also a time for accepting who we are. Dove skin care line, for example, is embracing “real women,” young and over 60, with a tasteful media campaign of nude images of women, all shapes and sizes. The modeling community is waking up at last to the deadly habits and unhealthy image of the billion-dollar industry. TV’s Ugly Betty is a smash, partly because of “Betty’s” less than petite figure. Today, determining what you really want to do is the key, not comparing yourself to some unrealistic ideal.

So what are the options?

There are dozens of new non-surgical cosmetic procedures on the market, starting with dermabrasion, which is nothing more than scraping or sanding the skin (oh, doesn’t that sound fun?) to remove the top layers of mostly dead skin to reveal new, younger looking skin underneath.

On the other hand, if just about everything has fallen and can’t get up again, you can go to the extreme of a full body lift, which is a rather wretched process of surgically lifting the entire rear, stomach and thighs with incisions nearly full circle around the waist. The incisions aren’t pretty. 

Most of us just want a small procedure or two so that our appearance outside matches how we feel inside, if not a step better. We’re healthier, more active and live longer, and we want to look as good as we feel. So what do you do first?

Where to start

First, Dr. Kian Samimi of San Diego, and formerly chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at the University of Arizona, says to get a thorough evaluation by a “board certified” plastic surgeon.

“This means they are licensed by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and if they are a specialist in a particular area, it’s wise to also be recognized by the ASAPS (American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery),” says Samimi, who has traveled to Vietnam as part of a humanitarian mission to operate on poor children and young adults with facial deformities.

“Some ear, nose and throat docs also do facial plastic surgery, and they have their own board and are well qualified, but I know an eye doctor out there who is performing breast work,” he cautions.

Once you know the doctor’s credentials, have a lengthy conversation. “When someone comes in for consult, we spend a lot of time with the patient,” says Dr. Samimi. “I use mini-procedures as a screening tool. For example, a woman may come in wanting a facelift, but I may not be sure about their expectations of the results. I like to suggest a smaller procedure, assess her response, and go from there.” That means less expense, less pain, trauma and a quicker recovery. Then, at a later date she can decide if she wants to go further.”

Dr. Steven Svehlak of Sunset Cosmetic Surgery, who did MacLaren’s eye lift, agrees, saying to take as much time with the doctor as you need. “If you feel rushed or aren’t being listened to by the doctor, find someone else,” he says. Svehlak and his partner Daniel Yamini, MD, were the doctors who recently corrected actress Tara Reid’s botched breast enhancements, dramatically revealed to the world in a dreaded wardrobe malfunction at a red carpet paparazzi event.

“Do as little as needed to reach goals,” adds Svehlak. “We have many options now, so we like to talk about a patient’s vision of themselves, what they like, don’t like, want to see different. Then we can advise on the best ways to proceed.”

Consider the results you really want to achieve, discuss all of the options, costs and relative lasting effects. Here is a breakdown of the treatment, purpose, effects, and ballpark costs (as these can fluctuate widely depending on the doctor):

Skin Resurfacing: Dermabrasion and dermaplaning help to “refinish” the skin’s top layers like you refinish a wood floor. A series of controlled surgical scrapings through the epidermal layer give skin a smoother appearance. Most over the counter and spa treatments don’t go beyond epidermal layer and you need to go to dermal layer to get correction. 

Men and women of all ages can benefit from dermabrasion and dermaplaning. Healing slows with age, but more important to consider are your skin type, coloring, and medical history to prevent discoloration, blotchiness or other skin reactions.

Chemical peels can accomplish some of the same goals, reducing fine lines, but without surgical instruments. Dermabrasion can reduce deeper lines.

“If you have very sun damaged skin, a product called NuDerm, based on Retin-A, (also called Tretinoin, Avita, Renova) can reverse aging caused by sun damage. It’s stood the test of time,” says Dr. Samimi. “Yes, there is peeling, but it’s a good long term solution. The old laser technology causes redness for about two months and is considered rather brutal. Beware that products that have retinol aren’t Retin-A, which is only available by prescription.”

Men can also use a topical skin care product called Prevage (produced by Allergan/ Elizabeth Arden), which is a 1 percent idebenone solution. “This product, like RetinA, can correct current skin damage and prevent further damage,” says Samimi.

Botox: Ah, the lunchtime makeover. What Botox does is prevent the muscle from moving, but it can be done gently leaving some animation in the muscles, or more dramatically to prevent any muscle movement. Dr. Samimi says, “Everyone in authority says Botox is safe. Yes, it’s a synthetic botulism, but so far removed from it chemically that authorities such as the ASPA say there are only occasional minor temporary side effects, no systemic effects.” Cost: $250 to $600 per injection. Lasts three to four months. 

Fillers: Fill ’er up! It’s about being full, not taut, says Dr. Samimi. “We used to associate youthfulness with taut skin, now it’s fullness. Aging shows in the loss of volume in the face. Filler materials address that. The skin can be pulled tighter while at the same time products such as Restalyne can fill in where the face has hollowed. New fillers don’t need skin testing like collagen because they’re not ‘natural’ or animal products.” Cost: $250+ per injection. Lasts four to six months.

The difference between Botox and injectable fillers:

“When you can see a wrinkle on your face even when your face is still or “static,” then that wrinkle needs something to fill it in to make it disappear.  When wrinkles show as the face moves, they’re called “dynamic” wrinkles, perfect for Botox to paralyze. These processes last for up to several months.

New fillers are synthetic so there is no allergy issue. Restylane is hyaluronic acid (the backbone of synovial fluid in our joints, also used to treat osteoarthritis, according to the University of Connecticut Health Center). It lasts three to six months, as does Juvederm.

A new product called Artefil, is supposed to be a “permanent filler,” raising the issue of what happens if it is injected wrong? You may have to live with the result the rest of your life. But Dr. Samimi says it may be good for certain places, like the fold along the sides of the nose. This is when temporary fillers have the advantage, because your face changes over time.

Facelift ‘light’

Thermage is a treatment using heat to tighten the skin. Some say it also stimulates collagen production, but Dr. Samimi says scientific studies don’t support that claim.  Some scarring under the skin occurs over time after treatment, which can actually work to further tighten the skin.

Plasma lifts (trade name Portrait®): Dr. Svehlak describes this procedure as the replacement of laser peels to firm, improve skin tone and complexion and reduce wrinkles. It is getting raves in the plastic surgery community. Using a hand-held nozzle that pulses and heats the nitrogen gas, tissue under the skin is heated. Unlike lasers, it doesn’t burn the skin, it stimulates body’s own healing ability, increasing collagen, blood flow, elasticity and firmness. “The surface acts as wound covering,” says Dr. Svehlak, “so in three to six days, surface skin that’s treated will peel off and new skin is underneath. It looks like mild sunburn after a week, but can be covered with makeup.”

Results: Full results will be seen in three to four months with improvements possible for up to a year.

Thread and ribbon lifts: Tuca Jebbia, 51, is a professional esthetician who worked for a time for the doctor who performed her Ribbon Lift procedure two months ago. She loves the results. “It lifted my neck and face, you can see the difference,” she says. Unfortunately, she can also feel it a bit, but says it’s not noticeable to others. “I haven’t had any problems. I just love it.”

In a thread lift, also called a Feather-Lift™, a patented polypropylene thread with directional cogs is placed beneath the skin by the ear. Once inserted under the skin, the cogs form a permanent support structure for the tissue of the face, lifting and contouring it. The approximate one hour procedure is done using a local anesthesia and patients can normally return to normal activities within a week. “The problem,” says Dr. Samimi, “is the threads lose strength and can break.”

The Ribbon Lift, however, is more substantial. The dissolvable ribbon is secured with sutures by the ear. The problem with these is if the ribbons are not placed deep enough you can feel them.

An ASPS spokesperson says the jury is still out on the lasting effects of lifting the cheeks and jowls.

Jebbia was bruised by her ribbon lift, but wasn’t concerned. “I did have a bruise in my right side face close to the chin and my left down neck that lasted 5 days only.” Would she do more?  “Yes, I would love to have more procedures in the future,” she says.

Liposuction

Like hair, fat tends to disappear from areas we do want it to areas we don’t. Liposuction has been around for years because it’s done in the office with little downtime, and is suitable for all areas of the body. Now there’s vaser ultrasound liposuction, which uses heat to melt the fat before suctioning it out. This is great for getting rid of the dreaded “turkey neck.” Cost: $3,000.

If you need more extensive work requiring hairline incisions and anesthesia, the cost can range from $8,000 to $12,000, sometimes up to $20,000. The upside: Losing 10 to15 years off your perceived age.

Eyes/Brows

The eye lift that MacLaren had will reduce the loose skin or amount of fat around the eye with minimal or no scarring. Cost: $3,000 to $4,000 per set of upper or lower lids.

A brow lift is really a forehead lift, which pulls up the brows to reduce heaviness in the eyelids. Cost: $5,000 to 6,000. Two techniques are available, endoscopic and the older conventional surgery or “open” technique, which Dr. Svehlak says is more predictable and lasting.

Jebbia’s advice about her ribbon lift: “Do it! It is fast, it is simple, it cost’s less, you can return to work in a couple of days, and you can see results immediately.” And as for MacLaren, “Everybody says I look good, but they don’t know what I did to look that way.”

Missing in Action

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Sorry for the lapse in communication. but that’s what happens when life happens. It’s been a crazy couple of months. Let’s recap. March 6 — foot surgery, then recovery. The day I was headed to surgery, I got the call for a second job interview that would lead to yes, a job! It was time. My independent career wasn’t going the way I wanted and I was anxious to learn something new and get back into a groove. And just as that happened, my pal Susan told me she had cancer and needed to replace herself at her job. That is how I got my last job, at City of Hope, when my friend Jill had to leave for health reasons. I stepped in and was there for 14 years. But this time, the dice didn’t roll that way. I chose to go to Caltech, which I think is working out for everyone. But it was a nutty couple of weeks trying to decide. Tore myself up over the choice but finally let my gut take over.

Then, with my foot in recovery, I packed on what feels like 50 pounds and now have to work that off. That didn’t stop me from buying new clothes, however. I’m still not walking pain free, so my goal is to start an easy walking routine June 1. Now I’m getting used to the 600 steps to and from my office and the walks to lunch and around the campus, as well as the office routine. Oh, The Office. Oh, Dilbert. How I’ve missed you!

Still teaching yoga on Saturdays, now at Susan’s as she goes thru the hell that is cancer treatment — at City of Hope, where I worked for 14 years! She’s going thru an 18 week cycle of hyperchemotherapy that’s already taking its toll. Yoga is a blessing at such times. Time to relax, to shut out the world, to be with yourself, and find the time and quiet to heal. I hope I can help with that. Yoga on the lawn, among the roses, the lavendar, avocado trees, and Betty the dog jumping with joy at our presence in her yard. As Martha says, It’s a good thing.

With all of this I’ve lost touch with my blog, my friend’s blogs and writer’s group updates. But I have book a playwriting seminar for May 21 at the Culver City Veterans Auditorium. Be there at 7:30 for a great night of enlightenment on writing for the theatre with Hoyt Hilsman, Diane Lefer, Katherine Griffin and a couple other surprises. Visit www.iwosc.org for more.

The shock of starting a new job was multiplied when the day I set foot into my new office at one of the premier colleges in the country, a madman killed 32 people in another college — Virginia Tech. It was a horrible day as the news finally broke, yet it was eerily quiet in our building. No one mentioned a thing. No bulletins were sent via e-mail. But go into the dining halls and faces were staring at the TVs, watching CNN news, stunned. Later that week, the Caltech canon was painted by students maroon and orange, and Friday was a collective day of remembrance, with maroon and orange ribbons distributed by the bookstore. It was fitting that the sky opened up and rained tears for us all.