Issue 19 | August 2006

  • Message from the Associate Membership Directors
  • Message from the President
  • Member Profile: Ashlin Halfnight ‘97
  • Members in the News…
  • Industry Successes…
  • And the Award Goes to….
  • LA Insider…

A Message from the Associate Membership Directors: Angela Lin and Amit Samuel

Greetings!

We are excited to introduce a new Highlights section this month. It’s called Harvardwood Highlights: LA Insider. It will be devoted to tips, points of interest, or just what’s cool in LA. To start us off this month, I have written about that which feeds your soul, your spirit, and your stomach. Which is which I leave up to you.

Thanks to everyone that submitted this past month. This issue has a nameless barrister, an OddSquad, and a “rice cub.”

Please continue to share your stories. In addition, please be sure to send us items for the LA Insider. Your participation is what Harvardwood is all about.

Ciao,
Angela and Amit

Message from Mia

The ides of August are upon us, and with them, a flurry of Harvardwood activity on multiple continents... The Harvardwood Summer Internship Program is wrapping up in LA and NYC - if you’re on the east coast, be sure to join our interns and the new NYC Chapter Heads at the end-of-summer cocktail mixer on Wednesday. Across the pond – Scotland, to be exact – Harvardwood UK is hosting a drinks gathering at the Edinburgh Festivals this Friday. Details, as usual, can be found on our big fat Harvardwood website: www.harvardwood.org

Meanwhile, back at the (Hollywood) ranch, we’re gearing up for the second annual Harvardwood Seminar Series in September. Save the dates (Sept. 9, 16, 23, 30) and prepare yourselves for some serious edu(ma)cation at the hands of our illustrious industry experts -- and this year, I won’t be on crutches [crossing fingers, knocking wood]…

--Mia

Member Profile: Ashlin Halfnight '97

by Dominique Kalil '00

I’ve been mulling over this for quite a while now, and I still don’t know what angle to take with this former English concentrator from the Class of 1997. What can one do with a former professional hockey player-turned-kindergarten teacher-turned-successful playwright, who happens to be well versed in the obscure (well, obscure to me anyway) Russian literary genius Mikhail Bulkagov? Ashlin Halfnight and I chatted about a lot of random things -- the metaphorical quality of the Hungarian language (in which Ashlin is conversationally fluent) and its unusual Finno-Ugric origins, for example. I felt very “Harvard”, but not for the reasons one would immediately think. I always tell people that the best thing at Harvard wasn’t the classes I never went to, nor the professors I never saw, not even the striking campus I took for granted -- instead it was the cornucopia of fascinating and budding individuals that seem to blossom all around me. I think I’m now at the age when those very blossoms are starting to flourish in a very public and productive way, and the view is really quite stunning.

Ashlin grew up in Toronto, the quintessential athlete. Intermingled with hockey, soccer, baseball and lacrosse, though, was some theatre, an interest that continued through his first year at Harvard. As a varsity hockey player, he would rush from practice to rehearsals for much of his freshman year. He admits that it was difficult to sustain the energy required to follow completely different trajectories, and it appears that hockey did win out temporarily. After captaining the team his senior year, he went on to play professionally in the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization. Ashlin’s creative drive seems to have persisted over his two years as a pro hockey player, despite the frequent traveling and smelly locker rooms. When he finally decided hockey was not his future career, he began to consider his options in creative fields.

From Ashlin’s perspective that began a time of completely random, even accidental, meandering, although really to me it sounded quite methodical and meticulously contrived. It included a summer at the Iowa Writers Conference, classes at the Lee Strasberg Acting Studio, an MFA in playwriting from Columbia, and a year as a Fulbright scholar in residence at the National Theatre of Hungary. By the end of it, he became highly educated and very well trained in the craft of playwriting. True, this time was also interspersed with a stint playing hockey in a small German town, some eventful work for the US Census, and an ongoing teaching position in a program for gifted, underprivileged children in NYC, but these experiences ultimately informed rather than detracted from his creative goals.

Ashlin’s first success as a playwright came rather quickly with his first play, entitled Play Therapist Play, about a convicted rapist’s post-prison life. Last year, his play God’s Waiting Room won rave reviews from the New York Times while premiering at the New York Fringe – and ended up taking home the festival’s Most Outstanding Play award. Next up is this year’s FringeNYC entry, Diving Normal, directed by Mary Catherine Burke and produced by Electric Pear Productions. Diving Normal opens at VENUE #4: Access Theater, see http://www.divingnormal.com/. Sun 13 @ 11:15, Sat 19 @ 6:45, Sun 20 @ 12, Wed 23 @ 7:45, Fri 25 @ 7:30.

Members in the News…

From the Hollywood Reporter (8/14/2006):

Paramount Pictures has hired Todd Kessler '94 to adapt the Shannon Burke novel BLACK FLIES. Darren Aronofsky '91 is attached to direct and is producing along with his Protozoa partner Eric Watson. Lorenzo di Bonaventura '80 also is producing.

Industry Successes…

Congratulations to our alumni Emmy nominees, which include Carlton Cuse ’81 (Drama Writing, LOST), Mike Schur ‘97 (Comedy Writing, THE OFFICE), and Rodrigo Garcia ’82 (Directing, BIG LOVE).

Jeremy Blachman's HLS '05 new book came out last week to favorable reviews from USA Today and the New York Post. The book's called ANONYMOUS LAWYER. It's a satirical novel about life at a large corporate law firm from the perspective of a fictional hiring partner. It’s based on a weblog he’s been writing of the same name (http://anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com). Additional information and reviews are on the parody law firm website he created to promote the book -- http://anonymouslawfirm.com.

Lucia Brawley ’99 appears as Karen Jimeno, Michael Pena’s character’s sister, in “World Trade Center,” which opened Wednesday, August 9th nationwide. She is currently on location in Budapest.

Maya Browne '92 just wrapped production on the first of three films her independent production company, Bratt Studios, will finance, present and produce over the next two years. “American Fork” (which Maya Produced with Jeremy Coon of “Napoleon Dynamite”) is an offbeat comedy that stars William Baldwin, Bruce McGill, Kathleen Quinlan, Mary Lynn Rajskub and newcomer Hubbel Palmer. Following “Fork”, Maya will Produce “Crabs in a Basket” (the directorial debut of James L. White who wrote “Ray”), “Mama Black Widow” (Darren Grant, director of “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”, attached to direct) and “Come Sunday” (Terrence Howard attached to star).

Abha Dawesar '95 will be reading at the historic bookstore Shakespeare and Company in Paris on August 14th at 7pm from her third novel That Summer in Paris. If you are in the vicinity of Notre Dame then drop by. For more details (http://www.shakespeareco.org/events.htm).

Ian Maisel CPC ’06 has just published his first major newspaper article in the Boston Phoenix, the largest weekly paper in Boston, which is available at http://www.phx.com/article_ektid20035.aspx. The piece is called “Only in The Movies: A virtual movie studio gives hope to gamers who really want to direct.” The article, like Ian, is fairly unusual – it is an intensive video game review of a moviemaking sim that switches back and forth from a straight review to the imagined perspective of a movie producer. Ian would love to get any feedback – comments, criticisms, questions – you might have! You can see some of Ian’s other work at his website at www.ianmaisel.com and email him at ian@ianmaisel.com.

Jeremy Rabb's A.R.T ‘98 comedy group "OddSquad" just wrapped principal photography on its first feature film, "Actual Footage," which he also co-wrote. In addition, he recently booked his 8th episode of "Grey's Anatomy," the upcoming season premiere.

Nancy L. Slotnick '89 will be on the ABC summer show One Ocean View, coaching the guys in the house about dating and relationships. It should air on Monday, August 14 at 10pm EST. She is planning to do more coaching on television and radio, so please let her know if you hear of any shows in need of that, at nancy@cablight.com.

And the Award Goes to…

Kim Romano’s ’77 first film MURIEL, won BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY at the Woods Hole Film Festival on August 5th. It's also scheduled to screen at the SF Shorts Festival in San Francisco, the Boston Jewish Film Festival and the Key West Film Festival later this year.

Harvardwood Highlights: LA Insider

The Spot: Wat Thai
8225 Coldwater Canyon Ave
818/785-9552

In a particularly non-descript part of the Valley there is an oasis worth visiting. As “the largest Thai Theravada Buddhist Temple,” Wat Thai transports its visitors to Chiang Mai, a province famous for its many temples (wats in the Thai language.) The florid temple is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday mornings. An assortment of food stalls outside serve up some of the most authentic Thai food in LA. The word “thai” means freedom, and, from the city beyond its walls, that’s exactly what Wat Thai delivers.

The Tip:
The dollar chicken or beef skewers (no peanut sauce in sight) and the sesame battered plantains are a delicious bargain (skip the pad Thai), but do not miss out on the best dish I tried: the mango rice dish. It is sweet with unreal umami – strange but oh so good.

The Spot: Lucky Devil’s
6613 Hollywood Blvd
323/465-8259

Lucky Devil’s is the clearest sign yet of Hollywood Boulevard’s return to cool. This bright, airy eatery is deceptive – a familiar 50’s era diner décor with throwback cuisine executed with all the style of haute couture. There is a house-made twenty-ingredient veggie burger, but the showstopper here is the hamburger. It’s a half-pound of Australian Kobe beef dressed any way you want it. The excellent selection of beers on tap includes the very tasty Sprecher’s root beer. Lucky Devil’s is perfect for a hip date, a post nightclub protein fix (it’s open till 3am on weekends), or just a pilgrimage for arguably the best burger in LA. The prices are the only scary thing about this Devil. If you’re scared, Ronald, the Big Whack-slinging Clown, is just down the boulevard.

The Tip:
Don’t even think about leaving without a pecan frozen custard. It combines hand-ground vanilla beans from Madagascar with custard so thick that the straw in it is there just to mock you. It can feed three people easily. Four, if one of you is Ellen Pompeo.

The Spot: Largo
432 North Fairfax
323/852-1073

If you think entertainment in LA is limited to visiting the Mouse House or being sprayed with brackish water from an animatronic shark, it’s time to get off the tram. Down the street from The Grove, away from its synchronized water shows and its eerie AnyTown ambiance, is a spot that’s defines LA entertainment for me. Largo attracts the best performers from around the country and the world. This is the only club in LA where I trust the booking agent to book great talent every night. Dinner (minimum $15/person) is served before each show. Last month I saw a comedy show with Jim Gaffigan, Nick Swardson, Dana Gould, and others. I’m still laughing. Music aficionados shouldn’t miss LA’s music savant Jon Brion. His regular gig at Largo is a platform for him to introduce you to his vast aural landscape. Don’t think, just listen – the sounds are sublime.

The Tip:
Before any sold-out show a small group of people can buy standing room only tickets. How early you have to get there depends on who’s playing and how badly you want to get in.

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