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Category: theater

Carla Zilbersmith in new documentary, 'musical comedy about dying'

ZilbersmithSinger-actress-comedian Carla Zilbersmith's death from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on Monday at her home in Berkeley came less than two weeks after a documentary about her, "Leave Them Laughing," had its world premiere at the Hot Docs international documentary festival in Toronto.

The film by Academy Award-winning director John Zaritsky won the Special Jury Prize for Canadian documentary.

(A trailer for the film can be viewed at

Zaritsky told The Times that he first heard about Zilbersmith in late 2008 when he read one of her jokes about dying in a Canadian newspaper's end-of-year list of memorable quotes.

He went on to find samples of her singing and comedy performances on YouTube and then "discovered this beautifully written blog of hers" -- -- before speaking to her about doing the documentary.

Zaritsky said he describes "Leave Them Laughing" as a " 'musical comedy about dying' because it includes numerous jokes by Carla about dying and becoming disabled and also it has loads of songs that she wrote and performs in the documentary."

But the film is also poignant, he acknowledged, "because it's based on her blog. Interspersed with all the music and the comedy are pretty insightful blog entries she wrote about the process of dying and facing death that are quite moving."

Click here to read the complete obituary.

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: Carla Zilbersmith performing at the Coronet Theatre in West Hollywood in 2006. Credit: Michael Lamont / Coronet Theatre

Memorial set for youth theater founder Jack Nakano

A memorial celebration of the life and work of Jack Nakano, who launched a number of nonprofit theater arts programs for young people over the decades, will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd.

Nakano, who died of heart failure in 2009 at age 75, was a performing arts teacher at La Cumbre Junior High School in Santa Barbara in 1962 when he joined other local drama teachers to create the summer theater program that became the long-running Youth Theatre Productions in Santa Barbara.

He later taught theater arts at Santa Barbara High School. And in the early '80s, while chairing the drama department and teaching theater at Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, he focused on his second nonprofit theater arts program for young people: California Youth Theatre.

Nakano left California Youth Theatre in 2004, and it closed two years later. In 2006, he launched YouTHeatre-America!, a nonprofit national theater arts program for young people.

During his long career working with young people, Nakano touched the lives of performers such as Jack Black, America Ferrera, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Randolph Mantooth, and Timothy, Joseph, Samuel and Benjamin Bottoms.

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: Jack Nakano in 2006. Credit: Gilbert A. Smith


Writer Jane Brody examines her grief over husband's death

Jane Brody, who writes about health and medical issues for the New York Times, lost her husband, lyricist Richard Engquist, to lung cancer on March 18.

Only days before, Brody had described in a column how she was preparing for his death, saying "You never know when your time will be up, and so it is best to prepare for the end sooner rather than later."

This week Brody wrote poignantly about her fresh experiences of grief.

"As my husband of 43 years approached the end of his life and the anguish within me welled like a dam ready to burst, I realized something both simplistic and profound — losing a spouse is nothing like losing a parent. ...

When we marry 'till death do us part,' do we really expect to be parted by death? I know several women who lost their husbands after relatively brief marriages, forcing them to raise young children on their own. I thought I could imagine their pain and anger at the unfairness of it all. But I also knew they could not afford to wallow in grief, if for no other reason than that their children needed them to be emotionally intact.

But after the children have moved away and have children of their own, a spouse’s death leaves an emptiness that is hard to fill. There’s no one in the house with whom to share the events of the day, discuss the broken pipes and rotten politics, relish the antics and achievements of the grandchildren."

Click here to read the rest of the column, and feel free to post your comments below.

-- Claire Noland

Actress Nan Martin's influence on South Coast Rep

Nan Martin, a versatile character actress who appeared on film, TV and stage for decades, died Thursday at her home in Malibu from complications of emphysema. She was 82.

Nan Perhaps best known for playing Mrs. Ben Patimkin in the 1969 film "Goodbye, Columbus," alongside Jack Klugman, Ali McGraw and Richard Benjamin, Martin became a prominent figure in regional theater circles.

Martin was a member of the first advisory board of the Theatre Communications Group, the national service organization for American not-for-profit theater, when it began in 1961.

A year later, while touring in a play, Martin visited drama students at what was then San Francisco State College, where she spoke passionately about the regional theater movement and encouraged students to start their own theaters.

Two of the students who heard her speak were Martin Benson and David Emmes, who co-founded Orange County’s South Coast Repertory in 1964.

"We were mightily inspired by her talk," said Benson. "It really helped push David and I on to [say], ‘Let’s go and do it.’ "

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: Nan Martin in 1967.

Remembering the life of Lars Hansen

Hansen The public is invited to a celebration of the life of Lars Hansen, whose long theater career included overseeing the Pasadena Playhouse and the Theater League Alliance of Southern California. Hansen died Jan. 31 of complications from liver cancer. He was 60.

The celebration will be at 3 p.m. March 14 at the Colony Theatre, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank. Many of Hansen's personal and professional friends will sing some of his favorite songs.

"Lars offered many years of diligent service to the Los Angeles theater community, and was for some time a vital supporter of a number of valuable companies in our city, including the playhouse," Sheldon Epps, Pasadena Playhouse artistic director, said in Hansen's obituary by The Times' Valerie Nelson.

You can find the obituary here.

-- Keith Thursby

Photo: Lars Hansen, left, and David Houk at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1989. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Lars Hansen funeral set for Saturday

Lars Hansen2 The funeral Mass for Lars Hansen, a longtime local cultural arts administrator, will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana, 15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd., Mission Hills.

A memorial celebration is being planned for March at a Los Angeles-area theater.

Hansen, who oversaw the Pasadena Playhouse and the Theater League Alliance of Southern California, died Sunday. He was 60.

Click here to read his obituary.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Lars Hansen, left, and David Houk at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1989. Credit: Los Angeles Times

They may be dead, but these celebrities are nonetheless making money

It's that time of year, when Forbes magazine releases its annual list of top-earning dead celebrities. You might think Michael Jackson would top the list, since his estate has opened the floodgates with music and a film, "This Is It," to satisfy consumer demand for all things MJ in the wake of his unexpected death in June.

Laurent But no, holding on to the No.1 spot is French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Laurent died of brain cancer at age 71 in June 2008. Boosted by the auction of much of his estate at Christie's in February, more than $350 million has been raked in during the last 12 months, Forbes reported.

Coming in No. 2 is the team of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, the duo responsible for such Broadway and movie musicals as "South Pacific," "The King and I," "The Sound of Music," "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!" Rodgers died in 1979 and Hammerstein in 1960, but they still combined to earn $235 million in the last year.

Then Jackson shows up at No. 3 with $90 million.

The rest of the list, according to Forbes:

4. Elvis Presley, $55 million.

5. J.R.R. Tolkien, $50 million.

6. Charles Schulz, $35 million.

7. John Lennon, $15 million.

8. Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), $15 million.

9. Albert Einstein, $10 million.

10. Michael Crichton, $9 million.

The full Forbes coverage is here.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent at his London boutique in 1969. Credit: Associated Press

Lou Jacobi in 'Avalon,' celebrating Thanksgiving


Lou Jacobi was a character actor who made his Broadway debut in 1955 in "The Diary of Anne Frank," reprised his role in the 1959 film version and appeared in many other movies, including Blake Edwards' "Arthur," Woody Allen's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex" and Barry Levinson's "Avalon."

Though Jacobi, who died Oct. 23 at age 95, often drew notice for his comedic roles, his turn in "Avalon" was poignant. This scene, from the movie, based in Baltimore and seemingly filmed in sepia tone, is of a Thanksgiving feast before the immigrant family begins unraveling.

Fans of the 1990 film will recall a later scene when Jacobi's character, Gabriel Krichinsky, utters the crucial line, "You cut the turkey!"

-- Claire Noland

Soupy Sales, a hit with the critics

Soupy Not only was Soupy Sales a TV star, he was a hit with the critics.

Sales, who died Thursday at 83, elevated pie-throwing into an art on his shows.

 “Soupy transformed this simple bit of slapstick into satire by exaggerating it beyond anything Mack Sennett ever staged,” L.A. Times television writer Don Page wrote in 1965. Writing in the New York Post the same year, Gerald Nachman called the program a “phantasmagoria of Dada.”

Here's Soupy with Alice Cooper, of all people, from a 1979 show. And yes, the bit includes a pie.

Anyone have Soupy Sales memories to share?

-- Keith Thursby

Photo: Soupy Sales in 1966, rehearsing for his debut on Broadway in "Come Live With Me." Credit: Associated Press


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