Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Toto Does Bingo!

This past Wednesday night, the Ark Theater Company, one of the two theater companies co-producing Say Goodbye Toto, had their annual Drag Queen Bingo fundraiser at Hamburger Mary’s in West Hollywood. For those of you who’ve never been, it’s just like your grandma’s Bingo, though it’s run by the sarcastically hilarious Drag Queen Ms. Bridgette Of Madison County, and Bingo Boy, the creator of it all.

They like to have Celebrity Ballcallers to assist Bridgette, so our very own Renee Scott, who plays Dorothy, and Joe Porter, who plays Toto, gamely dressed up in their costumes and lent a hand, or a paw, as it would be.

Joe forgot to bring his makeup to put on his Toto nose and other markings, so he grabbed a green Bingo dauber, and painted it on that way. It worked surprisingly well.

(Shall we take a moment to admire Toto’s sprightly ears? I made that paper mache headpiece, and attached the ears to it. Lion and Cat also sport the same kind of headpieces, and I made those too, having had no previous paper mache experience. It’s amazing what you can put you mind to and make happen when you have three days until your show opens, ha ha ha.)

Renee and Joe did great, and almost charmed the dress right off of Bridgette (who promptly christened Joe “ToJo.”) Everyone had a lot of fun, we raised money for Ark, and Jake Elsas, who plays the Wizard, ended up winning the grand prize of an Ipod Shuffle. Jake’s been suffering through a sinus infection, and has been told to rest his voice to save it for show nights, so as he won and jumped up to claim his prize, Joe as Toto ran up with him and interpreted his words, which ran something along the lines of “Wow! Thanks! Cool!”

It was awesome.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ask Toto A Question #16

Hey Toto,

How do you feel about owners that spend tons of money on clothes for dogs? I mean, they're cute but are they really necessary? (Unless you're a sleddog from Alaska). I just find it amusing when owners dress their dogs in jackets, sweaters and booties in Southern California. Why hide their soft & furry coats that nature gave them? Do you have any clothes? Or any must-wear items?


Hi Fur-Is-My-Coat!

I gotta say, I’m right there with you on the whole clothes thing. I think it’s dumb. More than dumb, I think it’s DUMB dumb. Like, DUMB DUMB DUMB dumb.

Whenever you see a dog wearing clothes, what do you notice? How SMALL that dog is. So essentially, the owner is putting clothes on a dog because they think the dog is a baby doll. What’s next, making them drink water from a baby bottle? Putting a diaper on them? Feeding them strained carrots? How hard

It’s just dumb.

Do I have any clothes? Nope,. Fur IS our coat. Why put more on, right?

Do I have any must wear items? Well, ummmmmmm. Okay, FINE. Sometimes, when nobody’s looking, I wear this:

But it itches.

Thanks for the question!

Ask Toto A Question runs every other week until the questions run out. Don’t let that happen! Send Toto your queries at

Friday, August 14, 2009

Check Out Our Awesome Review!!

Courtesy of

Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, the Munchkins, and the Wizard himself are back—in Amy Heidish’s charming, delightful, and surprisingly original Say Goodbye, Toto, a Wizard Of Oz not just for the kiddies.

Heidish’s comedy (a co-production of the Ark Theatre Company and Playwrights 6) sticks closely to L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s tale but does so from a fresh new point of view—Toto’s. In Say Goodbye, Toto (a curious title, since not a single character says “Goodbye”), Toto speaks, though unfortunately for the pooch, no one in Kansas can understand him, least of all the person he’s most eager to talk to, his beloved “Babe” aka Dorothy Gale.

Just as Judy Garland did in the MGM movie classic, Say Goodbye, Toto’s Dorothy (Renee Scott) longs for “a whole world out there beyond the farm. And all I see is grey.” Unlike the movie’s Toto, who could only say “Bow wow,” playwright Heidish’s talkative canine (Joseph Porter) informs us from the get-go that he cares not a hoot what’s beyond the farm. “I’m right here,” he tells his uncomprehending mistress. “I’m all you need.”

Within minutes of this declaration, however, Dorothy and Toto are running for the cellar to escape the approaching cyclone and the next thing you know, they’re being greeted by a pair of the nuttiest, quirkiest, cutest Munchkins ever (Anna Quirino Miranda and Jordana Oberman), a sort of green-frocked female version of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The two immediately determine that Toto must be a sorcerer, and kowtow before him, smacking their Munchkin heads to the ground in a show of loyalty which prompts Dorothy to wonder if perhaps they don’t have nerve endings in their foreheads. There’s also a cat (Tracy Eliott) in the Marvelous Land Of Oz, who surprisingly can understand whatever Toto says, and who just may be more than she seems.

The Munchkins present Dorothy with a gift, the “Sparkly Shoes” belonging to the late Locasta, the Wicked Witch of the East, whose house Dorothy has fallen upon. (In case you’re wondering why they’re not “Ruby Slippers,” those red-gemmed pumps are the property of MGM, and unlike Baum’s novel, not yet in the public domain.) Meanwhile, Toto has run off and encountered the Witch (Alice Ensor), whose dress keeps coming apart without the brooch stolen by the aforementioned cat, and who wants more than anything to know where to find said Sparkly Shoes.

Any variation of The Wizard Of Oz wouldn’t be complete without the three companions who accompany Dorothy as she follows the Yellow Brick Road, and it is here that Heidish’s tale begins to take flight, for these three fellow travelers are mirror opposites of their L. Frank Baum counterparts. Lion (Andres Ramacho) turns out to be indeed “the bravest in all the land,” Scarecrow (Mike Fallon) the smartest, and Tin Man (Brant Mahnken) the most compassionate. What? A Lion who’s not cowardly, a Scarecrow who actually has a brain, and a Tin Man with a heart? Stick around and you’ll find out why.

Say Goodbye, Toto takes its titular hero (and Dorothy et al) on that well-known journey—across a wide ravine, then a river, and of course, that soporific field of poppies, prompting a hallucinogenic dream sequence. Still, nothing can stop our Yellow Brick Road-followers from going to see the Wizard (Jake Elsas). When they do at last find themselves in his presence, though, they are greeted not by that booming-voiced disembodied head we remember so well from the movie—but by a bear, a duck, and a rabbit—in puppet form one and all, prompting Toto to wisecrack, “There’s a whole farm back there!”

What makes Say Goodbye, Toto much more than just another Wizard Of Oz retread is the way playwright Heidish tweaks L. Frank Baum’s iconic characters just enough to make them her very own. Many laughs come from Dorothy’s inability to understand even the simplest of Toto’s remarks, as when the doggie insists that the Lion bow down to him, and all he gets is a swat on the nose and a “Hush” from Dorothy, who’s only heard barking. There’s also Toto’s comic interplay with his nemesis the Cat. (Toto: You got a crush, I get it. I’m adorable. Cat: Fleabag, I’m trying to help you.) I like the way Heidish maintains Baum’s stilted dialog all the while making it just slightly twisted as well. (Dorothy, waking up from her poppy-induced nap: Oh dear. Could you kindly tell the hammer to stop hitting my head?”) Also, Toto’s relationship with Dorothy will resonate with anyone who’s had mismatched feelings for someone else.

Director Jamie Virostko deserves high marks for bringing Heidish’s script to vivid stage life and guiding her troupe of comedically gifted actors to performance gems. One of Virostko’s inspirations was to use Heidish’s two adorable Munchkin girls to facilitate scene changes, literally becoming the wind that blows our heroes across the ravine, the river that needs to be crossed, and the poppies that put our fearless band to sleep.

Having been part of the Playwrights 6 workshopping of Say Goodbye, Toto, I’m particularly impressed by how absolutely perfectly cast this World Premiere production is, beginning with the phenomenal Joseph Porter as a pugnacious, needy, caring and totally adorable Toto. (Just watch the way he lays on his back, legs extended up, luxuriating in one of Dorothy’s tummy rubs.) A sweet but spunky Scott pays tribute to the movie’s Dorothy, all the while giving this Kansas girl her own particular edge. Ramacho is a hoot as the oh-so-full-of-himself Lion, Fallon has loads of fun with the highly intellectual (yet still distinctively supple) Scarecrow, and Mahnken likewise makes the most of this biggest-hearted Tin Man. Eliott is every bit as purrfectly feline as Porter is ruff-ruff(-and-tumble) canine. As the witch, Ensor is an amusing mixture of imperiousness and frazzle. Elsas may well get the most laughs of anyone (without initially showing his face) manning and voicing three of the funniest puppets seen on an L.A. stage since Avenue Q. Finally, taking quirkiness to new levels, are the splendidly gleeful duo of Miranda and Oberman as the Munchkinettes.

Scenic designer Christina Silvoso has created a gorgeously fantastical set painted in swirls of green (what else?) which serves well as all of the Ozian locales, lit in Technicolor splendor by Jeffrey M. Davis. (If only the two had concocted a way to make the Kansas scenes fit Dorothy’s description, “It’s just so grey here.”) Ryan Lennon’s costumes are clever takeoffs on the tale’s original illustrations, with special kudos due the Lion’s curlicue paper mane and the Munchkin’s full green skirts and horizontally-striped stockings. (Lennon also designed the great puppets.) Christopher Moscatiello’s excellent sound design employs just the right mix of what appears to be original music setting the mood for each scene, and of course the requisite cyclone’s roar.

Like the best Disney animated films, Say Goodbye, Toto is family entertainment which proves equally enjoyable for adults as for kids, with plenty of lines to tickle grownups’ funny bones all the while whizzing past the younger set. Last night’s audience was adults only, and everyone seemed to be having an absolute ball. I certainly did!

Ark Theatre at the Hayworth, 2511Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Through September 19. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00. Sundays at 7:00. Reservations: 323 969-1707

--Steven Stanley
August 6, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dorothy's Notes

Our second guest column! Isn't this exciting!?

The lovely Renee Scott, who plays Dorothy, takes the helm:

I’m Renee. I play Dorothy. On the first weekend of shoes, we had a family come see us, dressed up in Dorothy costumes. (Well, dressed in the traditional blue gingham. I am a re-imagined Dorothy, and I actually wear a purple dress.) Grandma, Mom, Son and Daughter. When I asked her, the little girl, Leah, told me her name was Dorothy. She was adorable. I was wondering if we were the first play those kids had ever seen.

My first show was 42nd Street on Broadway, when I was five years old. I am lucky to have grown up in Brooklyn, just a short subway ride away from the best theatre in the country. In New York, they run commercials for all the Broadway shows pretty much non-stop. I became obsessed with the commercial for 42nd Street, which featured the song, “We’re In the Money”. I sang that song all the time – at dinner, walking down the street, on the way to school, even at church under my breath – to anyone who would listen. Eventually, I wore my parents down (I am nothing if not persistent) and my Dad took me to see the show. I was so small I could sit crossed legged in the chair and still have room for my teddy bear to sit next to me. We sat in the fifth row. I still remember so many moments from that show. The costumes, the lights, and especially the curtain rising to the sound of all those tapping feet…

I was hooked. Bitten. In love. Fully.

“Say Goodbye Toto” is my 52nd stage show, (and typing that just made me feel ancient). And I am still deeply in love with the theatre. The lights, the costumes, all of it.

My favorite part of acting in a stage show is the repetition. I like a nice long run. When “Cats” closed on Broadway, there was a cast member who had been there since Day One. She had played something like 4,000 performances as a Cat. That would be me. (Except, please God, let it not actually be IN “Cats”.) I would totally do that, because every day, every show, is different. Yes, it is the same script, and cast members. But the energy is always different. And, more than that, you get to live your favorite parts over and over again. You never get to do that in real life, except in your memory.

Every night that I am onstage with this brilliant cast, I learn something. I find new moments, make new connections. The audience always informs something new. And as actors, we bring with us everything that has happened in our day and in our lives up onstage with us. As we evolve, grow, and live, so do our characters.

We get to live so many different lives, I sometimes wonder, “Who WOULDN’T want to be an actor?”

And I couldn’t help but wonder, as I glanced over at little Leah, sitting crossed legged in her seat, holding her little stuffed Toto, if one day she will look back at our play and realize that’s where it all began for her too.

I can only hope. I think the world needs more actors.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ask Toto A Question #15

Another one from our Twitter fans! This time from @briendownie

@totothedog - when I watch the Wiz of Oz, everything goes to color in Oz, except you! you're still black! what color are you on the inside?

further question for you @totothedog... did you even notice everything went color in Oz, seeing as dogs are color-blind? am I confusing you?

Hi @briendownie!

Well, the short answer to your question is that I don’t know what color I am on the inside, as I’ve never pulled myself inside out to look. It would hurt, methinks.

I hear I might be red or pinkish on the inside.

As to your further question – allow me to clear up a popular misconception: dogs are not really color blind. Take it away – Wikianswer Man!

Dogs are not color blind - they see color, but their chromatic acuity is significantly less than humans'. This is for two reasons: (1) dogs have far fewer cone cells in their retina (cone cells are responsible for seeing color); and (2) dogs are dichromatic (they see only two primary colors - blue and yellow) whereas humans are trichromatic, meaning we see three primary colors - red, blue, and green.

Humans have 7 times higher proportion of cone cells than dogs, meaning that when dogs do see colors, they are pale or faded. However dogs have a much higher concentration of rod cells, responsible for seeing black-and-white, and also much more sensitive in lower light conditions. For that reason, dogs have much better night vision than people.

So there you go! Yeah, I noticed Oz was colorful when we landed. I can see Dorothy’s dress, and I can see Munchkinland, but I don’t see what the big deal is about Emerald City – it looks pretty bland to me.

And the most important thing? When in the dark, be next to a dog! Obviously.

Thanks for the question!

Ask Toto A Question runs every other week until the questions run out. Don’t let that happen! Send Toto your queries at