CVIndependent

Sun09202020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Before everything went to hell, the Coachella Valley theater community was enjoying, by far, its most successful season ever.

CVRep was reveling in its first full season in its gorgeous new home, the CVRep Playhouse in Cathedral City. Dezart Performs and the Desert Rose Playhouse were in the midst of sold-out seasons. Coyote StageWorks was getting settled into its new digs at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, while Palm Canyon Theatre and Desert Theatreworks were packing people into shows in downtown Palm Springs and Indio, respectively.

“We started off our ninth season like a rocket,” said Shawn Abramowitz, the executive director and board president of the Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, which shares space at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club with Dezart Performs. “We had not just record attendance, but record donations—and we were really growing, which allowed us to invest more.”

The weekend of March 13-15 was going to the biggest weekend during this most successful season ever: Four of the six aforementioned companies were opening shows, while LGBT-focused Desert Rose was entering its second weekend of Beautiful Thing, which had received rave reviews, and Palm Canyon Theatre was embarking on the final weekend of a successful production of The Pajama Game.

But as that weekend approached, the reality of COVID-19 began to set in. The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament was postponed, while Coachella and Stagecoach were delayed until October (before being cancelled altogether for 2020). Disneyland closed—as did all of the shows on Broadway.

Desert Rose Playhouse, Dezart Performs and Desert Ensemble Theatre Company (which, appropriately, was preparing to open a show called How to Survive an Apocalypse) chose to cancel the weekend’s shows, while Desert Theatreworks and Palm Canyon Theatre shut down after Friday’s performances. Only CVRep would make it through the weekend—and on Sunday, March 15, the company’s production of The City of Conversation would become the final full theatrical production the valley has hosted since.

The cancellations devastated the local theater community, both emotionally and financially.

“I will tell you, the amount of frustration and disappointment in coming right up to opening night and having to cancel—I do not want to go through that again,” said Chuck Yates, the founding artistic director of Coyote Stageworks. “We shut down The Velocity of Autumn the day before we were supposed to open. It’s too hard.”

Now, more than four months later, all of the valley’s theater companies remain in limbo. None of them know what the 2020-2021 season will bring—even though some companies have optimistically announced seasons starting as early as September.

In other words, the theater world is a mess—but the mess has had a silver lining, of sorts: It’s brought the local theater community together.

Some—but, notably, not all—of the desert’s theater companies have banded together to launch the Alliance of Desert Theatres, “a cooperative of producing theater companies in the Coachella Valley that network and take action in order to nurture a vibrant performing arts community,” according to the website. The effort started with a Zoom call back in May, and continues with weekly Zoom calls and subcommittees that look at various initiatives.

“I felt that (the alliance) was going to be a great resource and offer a sense of community and camaraderie to get through this horrible time,” said Michael Shaw, the artistic director of Dezart Performs. “We’re sharing our woes; we’re sharing our strategies. This was an opportunity to really get a sense of what we need to do to survive as a theater community.”


David Cohan, the vice president of the board of directors at CVRep, serves as the Alliance of Desert Theaters’ spokesman. He explained that the alliance grew out of internal conversations taking place at CVRep.

“With everything that is (happening), we felt that this is the time and place where we need to come together,” Cohan said. “Joe Giarrusso, the president of the (CVRep) board, and I started discussing this. I suggested that if nobody was doing it, maybe we should be the ones to organize it. So we put out emails to all the other theater groups and set up an initial meeting. That was the starter.”

Cohan said the alliance’s weekly meetings give participants the opportunity to share information and ideas, and the group is working on possibly pooling some resources. As an example, Cohan said, the alliance has discussed the feasibility of filming productions and streaming them.

“That’s not as simple as it sounds,” he said. “For instance, for CVRep, we are a union theater company, and there are two different unions—one that covers live theater, and one that covers, basically, broadcast theater. … If you’re recording a live performance, but then wanting to stream it, you’re talking about two different unions and two different sets of rules.

“Then you get into technology—how could you do it? How do you do it in terms of equipment? A lot of theaters don’t have recording equipment—and how expensive is it? Besides cameras, what do you need? … There are some people who are much more technically oriented and have been doing research on recording. Could we buy some recording equipment and share it among the theaters? That’s one of the things we’re discussing.”

While it’s been helpful to exchange ideas and share information, Cohan said the sense of community the alliance has fostered has been its biggest benefit.

“The camaraderie has been nothing short of amazing and heartwarming and astounding,” he said. “We’re all working really well together—and it makes for a stronger arts community. We all have a much better appreciation for one another.”

Desert Ensemble’s Abramowitz agreed.

“It’s really a huge support system for theater companies,” Abramowitz said. “Even the groups that aren’t necessarily a part of the alliance, it doesn’t mean that the alliance wouldn’t have resources available for those other theater companies. There’s been a need for a very long time for groups to come together to figure out how we can combine resources in a way that is non-competitive and that allows us to grow. We’re all doing great work, and we all support each other, and we all love each other—even though we’re also all very competitive.”

Abramowitz said the Alliance of Desert Theatres fulfills a different purpose than the long-established Desert Theatre League—best known for its annual Desert Star Awards, honoring the best in local theater each year. (Incidentally, Desert Star nominations are slated to be announced on Aug. 1.)

“The Desert Theatre League’s mission is to highlight the work that is being done in the valley,” Abramowitz said. “What’s not a part of their mission is helping us expand, in terms of resources and availability.

“I think the common thread among all of us is … how can we best help each other out when we do not know what our reality is going to be like? The alliance itself is supposed to be equal in terms of participation. That there’s no specific leader; there’s no specific hierarchy. We’ve formed subcommittees to help each other out, whether it’s regarding fundraising, or what possible grants are out there for us, and who could possibly use them. What are the (standard operating procedures) for reopening? What do we think it’s going to look like? Where can we get the best deal on hand sanitizer?”

Shaw said one of the alliance’s goals is to help educate the public about local theater.

“The fact that we are speaking weekly, it’s good that all of our patrons and all of our donors know that we’re doing that, because what we’re also doing is educating the public,” Shaw said. “‘Did you know that there is a LGBTQ theater in the valley? Did you know that there’s a very successful theater in Indio at the Indio Performing Arts Center? Did you know that?’ There are a lot of people who don’t know that. It’ll help open the eyes and educate the public about what the offerings are in the community once we get back up and running. It would have been great to have something like this before, pre-COVID, but we’re all so busy.”

That busy-ness is one of the reasons some of the valley’s theater companies have declined to participate in the alliance—at least for now. Take Coyote StageWorks, for example; the company was listed as a member in the news release first announcing the formation of the Alliance of Desert Theatres, but Yates said he later decided that he needed to take a step back.

“I applaud them. We were in the first three Zoom conversations about setting it up and what it could be,” Yates said. “David Youse is my board president. We talked a lot about it. … It was taking away our focus from keeping our own business alive. It also seemed to be heading in a different direction from what we initially thought the alliance was going to be. We just decided that at this particular moment, it was imperative that we focus on Coyote.

“Some of the talk was in getting buying power on hand sanitizer and that kind of stuff for the theaters. Well, we already have that covered with being at the Cultural Center.”

Yates said he may at some point decide to rejoin the alliance.

“Things may change. I may go back to them and say, ‘All right, now we’re ready,’” Yates said. “But at the time it was all happening, there was too much unknown. We had people saying that they were definitely starting up in November, and I was like, ‘I can’t support that.’ An alliance means that you’re aligned.”


Meanwhile, the theater companies are all trying to figure out how to handle their 2020-2021 seasons—if the pandemic even allows a 2020-2021 season.

Palm Canyon Theatre and Desert Theatreworks, as of this writing, are selling tickets for fully announced seasons, starting in September. Desert Rose is in the midst of a move from Rancho Mirage into a new home—the former Zelda’s nightclub space, on South Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs.

Most of the other theater companies have their eyes set on 2021.

“Gosh, we are definitely not opening up this year,” Desert Ensemble’s Abramowitz said. “There’s just no way, especially without state or federal guidelines on how a theater company or a performance-art center should operate. We don’t want to give hopes to any of our patrons and then cancel. Right now, we are thinking of the beginning of next year. We’re changing our gala event—which would normally be an event with food, and drink, and song, and a ton of people—to something a little bit more quaint.

“We are (hoping to do a season starting in the first part of 2021), but it will be very short. Instead of doing the gala event and then three full-stage productions, we would be doing a gala event and two stage productions. One of them would be (company founder) Tony Padilla’s show that we want to do for our 10th anniversary, that we did a reading on back in December of last year. Then, we also hope to redo How to Survive an Apocalypse. We have the set; we have everything.”

Dezart Performs’ Shaw is also setting his sights on a scaled-down season in 2021, starting with the show he was never able to open back in March—presented, perhaps, in an unconventional manner.

“Our goal is to produce three shows this season, and start with Every Brilliant Thing, where we left off; how we’re going to present it comes down to money,” Shaw said. “We are looking into various streaming platforms. We’re looking at filming it live and then streaming it as a recording.

“Our second show—for the first time, we’re actually producing a musical. It’s only two actors. … Then we’re doing a brand-new drama by Paul Coates called The End of It.”

Chuck Yates, at Coyote StageWorks, said the set for The Velocity of Autumn remains onstage at the Cultural Center.

“Our plan is, when it is safe for people to come back to a theater, we will do that show,” he said. “We have a couple of other titles in a holding pattern if we get to do more than one show—but at the moment, nobody seems to know when we’re able to do what we do.”

In the meantime, Yates said he’s working with the Cultural Center—which recently started hosting drive-in movies—to possibly hold smaller events outdoors.

“I won’t say they’re full productions, but they’d be some concerts and some other sorts of fun outdoor events for Coyote StageWorks,” he said. “All of that’s in the works right now, just so we can keep doing some things. … We’ve also talked about doing our play-reading series outdoors when it gets cooler.”

Over at CVRep, which has been hosting a steady series of virtual events, the plan is to reopen with The City of Conversation, hopefully in January 2021—but even if that can happen, Cohan said it will be a big challenge to actually pull it off, barring a miracle cure for COVID-19.

“We’re making all sorts of plans,” Cohan said. “We have multiple calls a week where we’re coming up with plans A, B, C, D and E; it just keeps going. One of our plans is, if it is safe enough, and if we think we’ll have the patrons to be able to do it, we will invite people to come back to the theater with enormous modifications to how we do in-person shows—with a very limited seating capacity and socially distanced seating. We’re also talking about making it safe for the actors by having their dressing rooms and rehearsal rooms separated with Plexiglass and all kinds of other things. We’re trying to figure all that out—and then having particular protocols for how people will actually come to the theater, everything from going to fully paperless ticketing to having people arrive at the theater at staggered times so people aren’t waiting together in our lobby.

“We’re thinking about everything. There are very extensive cleaning protocols to the actual seats and every surface, and restrooms, both during the shows, when restrooms will get cleaned multiple times before the show and intermissions, and after the show, as well as all the seats being sprayed down and disinfected between shows. … And then what happens as we approach a show, if an actor comes down with the sniffles, which is not an unusual thing? Can we still run the show? We used to be able to. An actor used to be able to muscle through. But now if an actor has the sniffles, can we still do that?”

Below: Josh Odsess-Rubin and Martha Hackett in CVRep’s The City of Conversation—the final show to be performed in the valley before the March shutdown.

Published in Theater and Dance

Ron Celona looked weary as patrons entered the CVRep Playhouse in Cathedral City for the Saturday, March 14, matinee performance of The City of Conversation.

This was supposed to be a bustling, packed weekend of theater in the Coachella Valley. At least four theaters were opening new productions, while two more companies continued successful shows.

But as of that Saturday afternoon, The City of Conversation was the only show still open. Before we entered the theater—not even one-third full—Celona confided that after the Sunday show, CVRep, too, would be going dark.

Barring a miracle, we were watching the last play to be performed in the Coachella Valley by our fantastic theater companies in quite some time.

The production of The City of Conversation was a fantastic. Thanks to a great cast, led by Martha Hackett as old-school liberal activist/socialite Hester Ferris, the play showed how political differences can rip a family apart. It was compelling and riveting—so much so that it managed to make at least some theater-goers temporarily forget the unprecedented weirdness going on outside.

That is, until one of the characters made a joke about an expired toilet-paper coupon.

Celona’s angst over whether or not to let the show go on encapsulates the dilemma our valley’s producers faced heading into the weekend: On one hand, out of an abundance of caution, they could do societal good by closing the theater doors and having people staying home. On the other, they could take precautions and let the amazing, expensive work they’d rehearsed, built sets for and toiled over for weeks and months be seen and enjoyed by people who badly needed a distraction from the outside world.

As of Thursday, March 12, when the Independent started reaching out to local theater professionals, all six shows were slated to go on as scheduled—with the aforementioned precautions.

“We are offering hand sanitizer to people who have bought tickets,” said Chuck Yates, whose Coyote StageWorks was set to open The Velocity of Autumn the next night in the company’s new home at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. “For those who haven’t bought tickets yet, we don’t know if they will come.

“It’s a huge financial impact. Theater is never easy, and this is particularly hard. … There are a lot of people who don’t know what to do. All of the small theaters here, like us—nobody is in a financial situation to handle this, so we are opening The Velocity of Autumn. … It’s got heart; it’s funny; it’s beautifully written. It’s perfect for our community.”

The play—about an 80-year-old artist who’s barricaded herself in her Brooklyn brownstone with Molotov cocktails (!) to keep her family from removing her—would have been a lovely distraction for people who needed it. But these are unprecedented times.

Yates called back later in the day on Thursday to let us know he’d changed his mind.

“Of course I’m disappointed,” he said. “But we will try to figure out alternative dates. Right now, we’re biding time, waiting to see what the news brings. Maybe we can do it in a few weeks or months, or maybe next season.”

Robbie Wayne, the producing artistic director at the LGBT-themed Desert Rose Playhouse, told us on Thursday he intended to continue the run of Beautiful Thing, which had opened to rave reviews the weekend before.

“You’re not given a class on how to do this. Nobody knows how to handle this, so we are learning as we go,” he said. “I’m trying to be as informed as possible about this—everyone’s trying to figure it out. We haven’t had a large number of refund requests, but we are trying to figure out how to do this—it’s a dilemma. We don’t want it to be about the money, but that has to be taken into consideration for the venue. As of right now, we are removing snacks; we offer hand sanitizers; we are scrubbing the place down; and we are telling people stay home if you don’t feel well. But we also want to keep some normalcy in our lives.

“We want to be responsible for helping to curb this outbreak … It’s a hard place to be in. I have the TV on all the time. I go with whatever my gut tells me at the end of the day, because 24 hours can change everything. It is minute by minute now, because there is so much to consider.”

Wayne’s words were spot-on: The next day, he made the decision to suspend the weekend’s shows.

“We have staff members and patrons with compromised immune systems, so I went with my conscience. There are no winners in a situation like this, unfortunately,” Wayne said.

Over at Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, the same dilemma played out: After announcing on Wednesday that the “curtain will go up!” on the weekend’s opening of—yes, really—How to Survive an Apocalypse, the next day, executive director Shawn Abramowitz and artistic director Jerome Elliott announced the show would not go on, at least for opening weekend.

“We are so proud of our team for their magnificent work on this play,” they said. “This was a hard decision, but we feel it is the right call during this unsettled and confusing time.

That meant that as of Friday night, three of the six shows were still open: Palm Canyon Theatre’s The Pajama Game, and the opening night for Desert Theatreworks’ The Producers went on as scheduled, along with CVRep’s The City of Conversation.

“We have scrubbed the theater down,” Celona said on Thursday, March 12. “We have a cleaning crew coming in after every performance. We have purchased professional wall-mounted sanitizing dispensers for the lobby and the theater area. Our theater is 208 seats, so we are less than the 250-seat gatherings that are being cancelled, and we are about 50 to 60 percent of capacity. The bottom line is, when our accountants say we have to close, we close, and when the county of Riverside says we have to close, we close.”

The morning after those Friday-night shows, both Palm Canyon Theatre and Desert Theatreworks announced they would go dark. CVRep followed two days later.

“I hope if someone has a ticket to a live theater event, and the show is closed due to the virus, that they would consider donating the money to the theater instead of asking for a refund,” Coyote StageWorks’ Yates said. “This is the kind of thing that kills arts organizations.”

Published in Theater and Dance

Last night, I met friends for drinks at a bar on Arenas Road, in downtown Palm Springs. I haven’t been out much this week, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As we drove down Arenas, unsuccessfully looking for a spot, I was surprised to see that most of the bars appeared to be packed.

“I don’t know if I have ever had more mixed feelings about something in my life,” I told my husband.

On one hand … I was elated to see that all of these small, locally owned businesses were getting much-needed business. It was good to see the servers and bartenders making good money. I was proud to be part of that needed cash infusion.

On the other hand … I kept thinking: Should all of us be out and about like this?

After drinks, we wandered down Palm Canyon Drive and got dinner at a local restaurant. While the street wasn’t dead, it certainly was getting quieter as the night went on.

Again, mixed feelings.

After I hit send on this Daily Digest, I am going to get ready to head to CVRep in Cathedral City, to do a review of The City of Conversation—the only play currently running in the valley that has not yet been shuttered by the pandemic. (More on this below.) Then I am going to meet friends at a charity art event, and go to dinner at Lulu. I am going to savor it like it’s the last good night on the town I have for a while … because it might very well be.

I hope it’s not. But it might very well be.

Here’s today’s news.

• The Desert AIDS Project just announced something huge: It’s opening a COVID-19 triage clinic.

This just arrived in my inbox, from CEO David Brinkman:

“In the next 48 hours DAP will take a bold step and we ask you to please have our backs. Last week, we opened our new clinics for DAP’s day-to-day healthcare operations, leaving our original clinic temporarily vacant. Today, I worked with our infectious disease doctors to develop an emergency plan of action to ensure the health and well-being of all we serve. The original clinic will be transformed this weekend into a specialized COVID-19 triage clinic. This will allow our medical experts to screen patients demonstrating symptoms in a quarantined space, while also allowing our non-symptomatic patients to continue having their health needs met without potential exposure.

“This is no small undertaking. Desert AIDS Project is the healthcare home to 7,000 of our friends and neighbors, most of whom live at 200 percent of the federal poverty level or below. And, the majority of our patients are of an age with significantly increased risk. We already are seeing a dramatic increase in inquiries and we must be able to meet the need as it grows in the coming weeks.

“This new clinic will cost DAP $575,000 to operate over the coming months.”

Wow.

See the full announcement—and make a donation while there, if you can—here.

• As for those plays: Yesterday, we reported that Desert TheatreWorks, Palm Canyon Theatre and CVRep were moving forward with their productions. This morning, however, Desert TheatreWorks announced last night’s production of The Producers would be its last until April 10, while Palm Canyon Theatre announced it was cancelling the final two planned performances this weekend of The Pajama Game. As of now, PCT plans on proceeding with the rest of its season—Sordid Lives is slated to open Thursday, March 26—but noted that this is a “very fluid situation.” This makes CVRep the last theater company standing: As of this writing, The City of Conversation will continue at least through this weekend.

Read more about all of this tomorrow in the second Installment of the Independent’s Pandemic Stories series. Yeah, I said yesterday that story would be available today … and then things changed. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.

• All schools in Riverside County are closed for the next three weeks, per county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser. More info here.

• Good news: During the closure, kids in need within the Palm Springs Unified School District can still get free meals. School buses will be delivering them on normal morning routes, or they can be picked up at schools. Get the details hereDesert Sands and Coachella Valley Unified are also making meals available to kids at schools.

• The United Way of the Desert has launched a very good information page, chock full of resources and phone numbers people may need during this crisis. View it here

• This is amazingly cool: Yesterday, we reported that the Certified Farmers’ Markets had been suspended for the time being. Today, the organizers have started posting direct contact info for the various vendors (with their blessing) on the Certified Farmers’ Market Facebook page, so people can directly contact and buy from the vendors if they so choose. Get all the 411 here.

• The Palm Springs Art Museum has decided to close for the time being. More info here.

That’s all for now. Please, support local businesses. Be a good neighbor. Stop hoarding crap. Be smart and diligent and caring. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Welcome to the first-ever Coachella Valley Independent Daily Digest. The goal for this Daily Digest is to round up reliable, vetted news related to COVID-19 and the accompanying societal changes. There’s too much unreliable information floating around on social media (and even coming out of some elected officials’ mouths)—and in this space, we'll sort through it all to get to truthfulness and sanity.

In addition to news updates, we’ll also highlight good things happening—specials from local businesses (that REALLY need your support right now), enlightening comments from members of the community, and so on. Please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have anything you think should be included.

And with that ... here's the news.

• As we were getting close to clicking send on this, the Palm Springs Unified School District announced it would be closing schools the next two weeks. They're moving up Spring Break, essentially. Parents are receiving this message right now: "Hello PSUSD families. This is Supt. Sandy Lyon. I wanted to provide you with an update on the coronavirus situation as it relates to our District. You may be aware that over the past day, there has been an increase in the number of confirmed cases here in the Coachella Valley, and there are a number of tests pending that could result in several other confirmed cases. Additionally, both the Riverside County Department of Health and Governor Newsom issued a directive to suspend gatherings of over 250 people. As a result, Palm Springs Unified School District is moving its two-week spring break. It will begin on Monday, March 16."

• Eisenhower Medical Center announced earlier today that visitors will no longer be allowed at EMC for the time being. More on what EMC is doing to protect the community can be found here.

• As of this writing, local theaters have made a split decision on whether to stay open or not. While Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, Coyote StageWorks and the Desert Rose Playhouse have cancelled or postponed shows this weekend, Palm Canyon Theatre, CVRep and Desert TheatreWorks are letting the shows go on. Read more about this in the second installment in the Independent's Pandemic Stories series tomorrow (Saturday).

As for that first Pandemic Stories installment: Kevin Fitzgerald talked to the owner of Piero's PizzaVino about the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tourney, and how that devastated her and her staff. Piero's is one of the few local restaurants to have a pop-up location at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, alongside big names like Nobu and Spago.

• As for closures and cancellations: The Palm Springs Gay Softball league has suspended practices and play through March, and the national NAGAAA Cup tourney the league was hosting at the end of March is cancelled. Other recent cancellations/closures include the Palm Desert Food and Wine fest, all Certified Farmers Markets through at least March 30 (though the Palm Springs Cultural Center remains open for now), the Palm Springs Library (though the Palm Desert Library remains open), and shockingly, The Abbey down in West Hollywood.

• From our partners at CalMatters: As the coronavirus toll rises, so do concerns about health-care workers' safety.

• Earlier today, President Trump declared a national emergency. The press conference was ... well, fascinating. At one point, after Trump said he didn't take any responsibility for the pandemic, a reporter from PBS asked him about his firing of the national pandemic response team. His response was that he didn't do it, and that this was a "nasty question." As for that firing, Snopes says it's true that it happened.

• Support local businesses! If you're comfortable with going out (while taking all the precautions that you should be), local bars and restaurants need you right now. If not, order food from a local restaurant on GrubHub or one of the apps!

• Alternately, consider buying gift cards from local businesses. Some places are offering 20 percent bonuses.

• If you found this email helpful, forward to a friend, or have them email us and we'll add them to the list. Please consider supporting the Independent, too ... we could use it!

Until tomorrow ... stay safe; support local business, and wash your hands!

Published in Daily Digest

To the characters in The Boys in the Band, someone like Pete Buttigieg would have been inconceivable—a happily out (and married) man who was a serious candidate for the U.S. presidency.

When Boys premiered in 1968—one year before the Stonewall riots—a same-sex couple still could be arrested for dancing together, even in a place as purportedly free-thinking as New York City’s Greenwich Village.

“Younger actors have to be very, very mindful that they’re not aware of the level of repression of these characters,” says Michael Pacas, who is directing the production of the play that will open at Palm Canyon Theatre for four shows on April 30. “Back then, you could be arrested for just being in a gay bar, have your name in the paper and be fired. Younger actors enjoy a much more permissive society.”

Boys, the story of a group of gay friends who have gathered at a Manhattan apartment for a birthday party, is a drama with flashes of bitter comedy. The birthday boy is Harold, a self-described “32-year-old ugly pockmarked Jew fairy” with a wicked wit, a stiletto tongue and an endless well of self-loathing. Many of the characters share Harold’s self-loathing to some degree, including Michael, the party’s host; Michael’s boyfriend, Donald; the promiscuous Larry; and Larry’s boyfriend, Hank, who is separated from a woman.

Many of the play’s most outrageous (and quotable) lines come from Harold or Emory, an interior decorator who’s the campiest of the camp. (It’s Emory, via playwright Mart Crowley, who coined the phrase, “Who do you have to fuck to get a drink around here?”) A film version of Boys came out in 1970, and the play was revived in 2018 in a 50th anniversary edition in an all-star edition with gay actors Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Zachary Quinto. That revival, with a slightly updated book, was filmed and will air on Netflix later this year. It’s the revival version, with the addition of an intermission, that will be performed at the Palm Canyon Theatre.

“We’re setting production in 1968,” Pacas says. “Everyone has a cell phone now, and the landline is a major plot device.”

Despite the many changes in LGBT rights since the play was written, Pacas says, “it really is sort of a snapshot of gay life.”

And not always a positive one, either. Of course, when George and Martha go for each other’s throats in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, no one expects their relationship to stand for every heterosexual marriage. But when Michael and Harold declare emotional war on each other, with devastating results, it was seen by some critics as an etched-in-acid portrayal of gay men at a time when mainstream portrayals of gay people still were rare. (“Show me a happy homosexual,” declares the cynical Michael, “and I’ll show you a gay corpse.”)

“People have two takes on the show,” Pacas says. “One is: ‘But it’s such a negative portrayal of gay men!’ Another is: ‘Oh, that’s such a fun show; this is what life really was like in 1968.”

Pacas says the latter attitude brings its own challenge, particularly for those audience members who come for the campy dialogue.

“We also have to communicate to those who want to quote the lines with the characters that there’s a lot of internal and external homophobia” mixed with the humor, he says.

Pacas grew up in Baton Rouge, La.

“I came from a rather—let’s just put it, Southern Baptist upbringing,” he says. “Back then, it was quite brave of you even to go to a gay bar. People were taking down the license plates of the people inside and trying to make trouble.”

He later moved to Chicago, where he met his husband, and the two moved to Palm Springs after visiting one weekend.

“If people think this play is a negative view of gay men,” he adds, “it’s my job, and the actors’ job, to make it empathetic. … We still have that same old bugaboo of hating ourselves.”

That’s not the only challenge in staging a 1960s period piece in 2020 Palm Springs.

“This show is a stage manager’s nightmare,” Pacas says. “People are onstage the whole time, moving around, eating food, drinking, eating birthday cake. And I need to talk to the actors just in case someone is gluten-free or has allergies.

“Unlike back then,” he adds with a laugh, “we may end up with a vegan birthday cake.”

The Boys in the Band will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 30; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 3, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $29.50. For tickets or more information, call 760.323.5123, or visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org. Kevin Allman is a California-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter: @kevinallman.

Published in Theater and Dance

A crowd of more than 80 people battled cold weather and a baffling lack of parking on Wednesday, Dec. 18, to head to Copa Nightclub to celebrate the winners of the sixth annual Best of Coachella Valley, as voted on by the readers of the Coachella Valley Independent.

It was the third time in four years that Copa has hosted the event—an honor bestowed upon Copa due to its win in the Best Nightclub category. The event honors the winners of the Independent's yearly readers' poll, which features almost 130 categories, ranging from Best Chiropractor, to Best Vegan/Vegetarian Cuisine, to Best Marijuana Dispensary.

The biggest contingents at the party—hosted by Independent editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle—came to celebrate Augustine Casino, which took the top spot in a whopping eight categories; Paul Zapala's win as Best Real Estate Agent; and KGAY 106.5's victory as Best Radio Station.

Below is a gallery of photos from the event, taken by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

Every year, when late August rolls around, and we start the first round of Best of Coachella Valley voting, the results announcement seems so far away.

Yet … the next three months fly by—and while the time is flying, a lot of work is being done.

Primary, that work is being done by you, the amazing readers of the Independent. To start, you tackle that first-round ballot—including almost 130 categories and NO pre-selected finalists, just a blank field to fill in next to each category.

After that goes on for several weeks, we here at the Independent get to work, and we tabulate all those first-round ballots to determine who you picked as our finalists. Then, in late September comes the announcement of each category’s three to six finalists (five in most cases)—and the start of the final round of voting. After four weeks of that, we here at the Independent check the results and begin putting together our special Best of Coachella Valley print edition, as well as this online version.

We say it every year, but it’s worth repeating: Man, you readers are good. Yeah, other publications and websites here in the Coachella Valley do readers’ polls—but the slate of winners and finalists you Independent readers come up with is so much better than the rest, partially because of how we do our polling (i.e., asking readers to vote just once in each round, to lessen the ballot-box-stuffing), but mostly because you, our readers, are smart and community-minded. This is a fantastically diverse, valley-wide selection of finalists and winners.

So, please join us to celebrate at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Copa Nightclub—again your selection this year as Best Nightclub—at 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs, for the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party. All of the winners present will receive certificates and have an opportunity to say thanks. Plus, we may have several surprises in store for everyone. I hope to see you there.

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists … and welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2019-2020!

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Arts

 

Best Art Gallery

TIE

CODA Gallery

Shag

 

Runners up:

3. Heather James Fine Art

4. Melissa Morgan Fine Art

5. Michael Weems Collection

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Show at Agua Caliente

4. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

4. Empire Polo Club

5. Rancho Mirage Amphitheater

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. CREATE Center for the Arts

5. Coachella Valley Symphony

 

Best Local Band

Giselle Woo and The Night Owls

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

The Flusters

Ocho Ojos

4. Avenida Music

5. Captain Ghost

 

Best Local DJ

DJ Galaxy

 

Runners up:

2. Alf Alpha

3. Alex Harrington

4. DJ Baz/Barry Martin

5. DJ Mr. D/Joe De Hoyos

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. Giselle Woo

3. Doug Van Sant

4. Courtney Chambers

5. Krystofer Do

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Adam Enrique Rodriguez

 

Runners up:

2. Shag

3. Sofia Enriquez

4. Chris Sanchez

5. Cristopher Cichocki

 

Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD

 

Runners up:

2. Mary Pickford Is D’Place

3. Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center

4. Century Theatres at The River and XD

5. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Palm Springs Air Museum

Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Coachella Valley History Museum

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Desert Theatreworks

5. Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

6. Dezart Performs


Life in the Valley

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

TIE

Desert AIDS Project

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

3. Boys and Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley

4. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

5. Shelter From the Storm

 

Best Gym

EOS Fitness

 

Runners up:

2. 24 Hour Fitness

3. World Gym

4. In-Shape

 

Best Yoga

Urban Yoga

 

Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Plus

3. Yoga Center Palm Desert

4. Power Yoga Palm Springs

5. Yoga Central

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Lanes Bowling

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Mischief Cards and Gifts

 

Best Auto Repair

Exotic Car Service

 

Runners up:

2. A.G. Auto Care

3. Kennard’s Automotive

4. TIE

Cam Stone’s Automotive

Singh’s Automotive Repair

 

Best Car Wash

Quick Quack Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. Elephant Car Wash

3. Executive Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash

5. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Moorten Botanical Garden

3. Vintage Nursery

4. Lotus Garden Center

5. Bob Williams Nursery

6. Sky Nursery

 

Best Pet Supplies

Bones-N-Scones

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. PetSmart

4. Pet Oasis

5. PoshPetCare

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Palm Springs Pride

 

Runners up:

2. Concert for Autism

3. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

4. Red Dress/Dress Red (LGBT Community Center of the Desert)

5. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

6. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)

 

Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Rancho Mirage

3. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Palm Springs (Spa Resort Casino)

4. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Bryan Gallo, KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

3. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

4. Brooke Beare, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Jeff Stahl, KESQ News Channel 3

 

Best Radio Station

KGAY 106.5

 

Runners up:

2. 93.7 KCLB

3. Jammin’ 99.5

4. Mix 100.5

5. 107.3 Mod FM

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. John Taylor, KGAY 106.5

3. Bill Feingold, KNews 94.3 FM/104.7

4. Don Wardell, 107.3 Mod FM

 

Best Retail Music/Video

Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

 

Runners up:

2. Record Alley

3. Guitar Center

4. Music Heals

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Game Stop

3. Comic Asylum

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. The Saguaro Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Renaissance Palm Springs

5. Kimpton Rowan

 

Best Indoor Fun/Activity

Escape Room Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Get Air Trampoline Park

3. Glitch Palm Springs

4. Desert Rocks Indoor Climbing Gym

 

Best Marijuana Dispensary

Joy of Life Wellness Center

 

Runners up:

2. The Leaf El Paseo

3. Atomic Budz

4. Palm Springs Safe Access

5. Mother Earth’s Farmacy

 


Valley Professionals

 

Best Doctor

Dr. Maria Gopez

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Bruce Ferguson

3. Gennady “Henry” Nosovitsky, PA

4. Dr. David Morris

5. Dr. Michael Jardula

 

Best Eye Care

Milauskas Eye Institute

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision)

3. Dr. Greg Evans (Evans Eyecare)

4. Dr. Wallace Goldban (Desert Ophthalmology)

5. Dr. John K. Schofield

 

Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Dr. Scott Shepherd (Palm Springs Family and Cosmetic Dentistry)

 

Runners up:

2. Hospitality Dental and Orthodontics

3. Dr. Frank Hernandez (Hernandez Dental)

4. Dr. Gerald Chang

5. Vineyard Family Dental Office

 

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Mark Sofonio

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Timothy Jochen

3. Dr. Scott Aaronson

4. Dr. Bruce Chisholm

 

Best Attorney

Walter Clark

 

Runners up:

2. Barbara Barrett

3. Christopher Heritage

4. Brad Faber

5. Michael Knighten

 

Best Air Conditioning Service

Comfort Air

 

Runners up:

2. Timo’s Air Conditioning and Heating

3. Esser Air Conditioning and Heating

4. General Air Conditioning

5. Simmons Air

 

Best Personal Trainer

Jaime Jimenez

 

Runners up:

2. Ryann McMillon

3. Brian Guzman

4. Brandon Wertz

 

Best Chiropractor

Dr. Gina Davis

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Jim Cox

3. Dr. Susan Brennan

4. Dr. Navid Nazemi

5. Dr. Stephen Krupey

 

Best Real Estate Agent

TIE

Barbara Carpenter

Paul Zapala

 

Runners up:

3. Shann Carr

4. Paula LaBellarti

5. Jason Allen

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors

3. Sheriff Chad Bianco

4. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia

5. Palm Desert City Councilman Sabby Jonathan


Fashion and Style

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Trina Turk

 

Runners up:

2. R&R Menswear

3. Wil Stiles

4. Kimbals

5. Division

 

Best Local Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. Goodwill

4. Plato’s Closet

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. H3K Design

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Bob’s Discount Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

Misty’s Consignments

 

Runners up:

2. Sunny Dunes Antiques Mall

3. The Estate Sale Co.

4. Victoria’s Attic

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Tiffany and Co.

 

Runners up:

2. El Paseo Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. The Fine Jewelry Bar

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Heads Up Hair Designs

3. 18|8 Fine Men’s Salon

4. Turquoise Salon

5. Dishwater Blonde Salon

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

 

Runners up:

2. Spa at the Ritz Carlton

3. Spa La Quinta at the La Quinta Resort

4. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

5. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Massage Envy

 

Runners up:

2. Studio M Salon and Spa

3. Bliss Chakra Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Cathedral City Floral Designs

5. Vaso Bello Celebrations

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

 

Runners up:

2. Bloodline Tattoo and Body Piercing

3. Blue Rose Tattoo

4. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Ooh La La De Paris Eyewear

4. LensCrafters

5. One Price Optical


Outside!

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. TIE

Moorten Botanical Garden

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

5. Wellness Park at Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place for Bicycling

CV Link

 

Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree

3. Bear Creek Path (La Quinta)

4. Tahquitz Creek Loop

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Whitewater Preserve

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

4. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

5. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon Trail

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

4. Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

5. The Cross Trail Loop

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. La Quinta Civic Center Park

4. Demuth Park

5. Sunrise Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Nomad Ventures

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs/Palm Desert Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Tri-A-Bike

3. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

4. BikeMan

 

Best Sporting Goods

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

 

Best Public Golf Course

Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

 

Runners up

2. Desert Willow Golf Resort

3. Eagle Falls Golf Course

4. Classic Club Golf

5. Mission Lakes Country Club

 


For the Kids

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Demuth Park

4. Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Mr. G’s Toys and Expressions

 

Runners up:

2. Target

3. Walmart

4. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Target

 

Runners up:

2. Old Navy

3. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

4. Carter’s

5. The Children’s Place

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Old Spaghetti Factory

4. Shakey’s Pizza

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Boomers

3. Escape Room Palm Springs

4. Get Air Trampoline Park

5. Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Fantasy Lanes Bowling Alley

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

3. Get Air Trampoline Park

4. Chuck E. Cheese’s

5. Shakey’s Pizza


Food and Restaurants

 

Best Casual Eats

TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Kitchen 86 + Bar

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. Dash and a Handful

4. Lynn Hammond

5. Fusion Flair

 

Best Diner

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Bongo Johnny’s

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. Rick’s Restaurant

5. John’s Restaurant

 

Best Organic Food Store

Sprouts Farmers Market

 

Runners up:

2. Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods

3. Whole Foods

4. Nature’s Health Food and Cafe

5. Harvest Health Foods

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Real Italian Deli

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Nothing Bundt Cakes

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Jensen’s Foods

 

Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Nothing Bundt Cakes

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Billy Reed’s

6. Jensen’s Foods

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Great Shakes

 

Runners up:

2. Brandini Toffee

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Coco Freeze

5. Kreem

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

4. Oasis Date Gardens

5. Windmill Market

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Yogurtland

 

Runners up:

2. Jus Chillin’

3. Tutti Frutti

4. Beach House

 

Best Bakery

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Aspen Mills

4. Frankie’s Italian Bakery, Café and Supper Club

5. Carousel Bakery

 

Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

 

Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree BBQ

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Zobo and Meester’s

 

Best Burger

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Tyler’s Burgers

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. Tony’s Burgers

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Grand Central Palm Springs

 

Best Sandwich

TKB Bakery and Deli

 

Runners up:

2. The Sandwich Spot

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. The Lunchbox

6. Billy Q’s

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Blaze Pizza

4. Upper Crust Pizza

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Wingstop

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Bagels

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Panera Bread

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Koffi

4. Coco Freeze

5. Big Juice Bar

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantast Springs

4. Emperor Buffet

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Local Coffee Roaster

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree Coffee Company

3. Coachella Valley Coffee Company

 

Best Coffee Shop

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Gre Coffeehouse and Art Gallery

3. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

4. IW Coffee

5. Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Grand Central Palm Springs

4. Starbucks

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. POM California Cuisine at Fantasy Springs

4. Acqua California Bistro

5. Bellatrix at the Classic Club

 

Best Breakfast

TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Wilma and Frieda’s

 

Runners up:

3. Elmer’s

4. Broken Yolk Café

5. Bongo Johnny’s

6. Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Best Brunch

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. The Tropicale

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s

 

Runners up:

2. JOY at Fantasy Springs

3. Palm Tree Palace

4. New Fortune Asian Cuisine

5. Soul of China

 

Best Greek

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. Athena Gyro

3. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Yianni’s Taverna

 

Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. French Corner Cafe

3. L’Atelier Café

4. Cuistot Restaurant

5. Si Bon

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Sam’s Indian Food and Pizza

 

Best Italian

Mario’s Italian Café

 

Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

4. Il Giardino

5. Il Corso

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Shabu Shabu Zen

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

5. Taka Shin

 

Best Korean

JOY at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Maru Korean B.B.Q. and Grill

3. Umami Seoul

4. You Grill Korean BBQ

 

Best Sushi

Dragon Sushi

 

Runners up:

2. Misaki Sushi and Griill

3. Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

4. Joyce’s Sushi

5. Taka Shin

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Mariscoco's Culiacan

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 

Runners up:

2. The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente

3. LG’s Prime Steakhouse

4. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

5. Outback Steakhouse

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. My Thai

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Thai House

5. Le Basil

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. 533 Viet Fusion

3. Rooster and the Pig

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. Pho of the Desert

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

 

Runners up:

2. Native Foods Café

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. The Sandbox Kitchen

 

Best Upscale Dining

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. The Tropicale

4. Johannes

5. Jillian’s

 

Best Outdoor Seating

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Jackalope Ranch

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. Bellatrix at the Classic Club

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

5. Paul Bar/Food

 

Best Mexican

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Pueblo Viejo Grill

3. Tac/Quila

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. La Tablita

 

Best Salsa

Rincon Norteño

 

Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Tac/Quila

 

Best Burrito

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. El Mirasol

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Loco Charlie’s

 


Spirits and Nightlife

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Draughtsman

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Eureka!

 

Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Desert Beer Company

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Henry’s Sports Bar and Grill

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Cocktail Menu

TRIO Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Tonga Hut

4. Workshop Kitchen + Bar

5. Seymour’s

 

Best Craft Cocktails

Paul Bar/Food

 

Runners up:

2. Seymour’s

3. Truss and Twine

4. Libation Room

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Hunters

 

Runners up:

2. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

3. Blackbook

4. Chill Bar Palm Springs

5. The Roost

6. Streetbar

 

Best Happy Hour

La Quinta Cliffhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. The Tropicale

4. TIE

Il Corso

Kitchen 86 + Bar

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Tool Shed

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Desert Fox

5. Club 5

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. El Mirasol

5. Tac/Quila

 

Best Martini

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. TIE

Del Rey at the Villa Royale

Zin American Bistro

 

Best Nightclub

Copa Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Hunters

3. Chill Bar Palm Springs

4. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Big Rock Pub

3. AMP Sports Lounge

4. Revel Public House

5. Billy Q’s

6. Henry’s Sports Bar and Grill

 

Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. V Wine Lounge

3. TIE

Dead or Alive

Twelve Cocktails Above at Fantasy Springs

5. La Fe Wine Bar

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. Desert Wine Shop on 111

4. Bouschet

5. Larry’s Wine and Spirits

 

Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Paul Bar/Food

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. Stacy’s Palm Springs

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale

Published in Readers' Picks

“It’s a super-big challenge to fly.”

That the reason it’s taken more than 20 years for the Palm Canyon Theatre to put on the popular musical Peter Pan—but the venerable downtown Palm Springs theater will launch its new season with a production of the classic musical, on Friday, Sept. 20.

Paul Grant, who will play Captain Hook, discussed the show inside the spacious Palm Canyon Theatre auditorium on the northern side of downtown Palm Springs. Songs and dancing and costumes and scenery are all fine and dandy, Grant said, but to really get Peter Pan off the ground … you have to really get Peter Pan—not to mention Wendy, Michael and John Darling—off the ground, to make their way to Neverland. To replicate the show’s signature theatrical effect that sends multiple actors aloft, Grant said, “You have to hire Foy”—the company started by Peter Foy, the designer of the flight systems from the original production, which have been used in nearly every production since.

“It’s very expensive,” Grant said. “They’ve wanted to do it for a long time, but kept pushing it off” due to the significant cost—up to $10,000 for a two-week run, depending on the package, according to information from the Flying by Foy website. But the theater “had a good year this past year, so they’re in a better position, and they wanted to bring (the idea) back to life,” Grant said.

Peter Pan was a great fit for the season-opener, because the Palm Canyon Theatre operates a Kids’ Camp for six weeks every summer.

“We wanted to do a show coming out of the summer that was inclusive of the kids,” Grant said. And what better choice than a beloved musical about a boy who won’t grow up?

J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, debuted in 1904, and has been staged in a variety of forms ever since. After the popular 1953 Disney animated film, the 1954 stage musical adaptation, starring Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard, enjoyed a sold-out limited Broadway run. Peter Pan solidified its place in theatrical canon through subsequent televised re-stagings on NBC, in 1955 and 1956—as well as a 1960 standalone special that most people know today, thanks to numerous rebroadcasts and a home-video release. In 2014, NBC broadcast Peter Pan Live!, a new, slightly rewritten production with additional songs that starred Allison Williams and Christopher Walken.

Peter Pan is one of few American productions with roots in the traditions of pantomime, a style of family-friendly musical comedy developed in England with roots in 16th century Italian commedia dell’arte. Conventions of pantomime include song, dance, gags, slapstick comedy and cross-dressing lead characters—with, in the case of Peter Pan, the mischievous hero played by a young woman in men’s clothing. Kellee McQuinn takes on the title role in this production.

Grant plays the more-earthbound role of Captain Hook, a pirate with a bone to pick with Peter, because the boy cut off his hand and fed it to a crocodile—whose ravenous appetite for the remainder of Captain Hook makes it a constant, unnerving reptilian presence. Hook is “evil but fun,” said Grant, who also plays the Darlings’ initially imperious father. The dual casting is traditional, and not accidental. Grant offered a casual theory: Though the story is about a boy who won’t grow up, several other characters do grow over the course of the play, especially Wendy, the eldest Darling child—but so does her father, who at the end is a far more patient and gracious figure.

“The experience of traveling through their children’s fantasy has changed the way that he responds to them,” Grant suggested. However, Grant emphasized that, as of the interview, rehearsals had yet to begin for the specific production.

“In the end,” Grant said, “the actor is just a color. The director is the painter.” Longtime Palm Canyon Theatre principal Se Layne will direct and choreograph.

Peter Pan will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $32 to $36, with discounts. For tickets or more information, call 760-323-5123, or visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

The Great Depression-set musical Guys and Dolls is a classic—and the Palm Canyon Theatre is bringing the show, which initially premiered on Broadway back in 1950, to its stage in January and February.

During a recent phone interview, director/choreographer Derik Shopinski explained why the Palm Canyon Theatre decided to include Guys and Dolls in this year’s schedule.

“It’s been a number of years since we’ve done the show,” Shopinski said. “The timing felt right. It’s in a good time slot for us, given the snowbirds really love the older shows that they know—and this one has gotten a huge response already with ticket sales.

“It’s a fun, feel-good show. It does have a message at heart, but it’s still a fun show.”

Shopinski elaborated on what’s fun about Guys and Dolls.

“At its heart, it’s two different love stories—the contrast between the Salvation Army girl and her bootlegger-gambler boyfriend, and the other couple, with the nightclub star and her gambler boyfriend who have been engaged for 14 years. It’s about the problems that they face, how they arrive at the end of the show, and how they tie it all up,” Shopinski said. “It has one of the best musical scores. … There’s so much about it that’s fun to watch, fun to look at and fun to listen to. We also have some amazing talent in the show, so that’s going to be very exciting for me, working with this very talented cast.”

That cast will contain some faces familiar to those who have attended Palm Canyon Theatre shows before, as well as some new talent.

“I have Paul Grant, who is playing Nathan Detroit, and Se Layne, who is playing Miss Adelaide, his love interest,” Shopinski said. “The other couple is married in real life—Nicholas Sloan and his wife, Jamie Leigh Walker, are playing Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown. I’ve worked with them both separately on other projects, and they are a dream to work with; they are incredibly professional, and they work well together, because they’ve done shows together since before they were married and while they’ve been married.”

Shopinski said the song that stands out to him comes toward the end of Act II.

“‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat’—it really wraps up the show in so many ways,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest ensemble numbers for all of the men and the band members. It’s a high-energy dance number that ties everything together.”

Bringing older musicals to the stage today may seem like a challenge to some—but Shopinski said he doesn’t see things that way.

“I really know these kinds of shows, given I grew up with them,” he said. “I know the music, and when you get into directing them, you can really dissect the story. While it’s historical … it’s necessarily telling historical events, because it’s taking place in another time. This was when they didn’t have all the television shows, and there wasn’t an internet. All you had was film and theater. They were three hours long, and it was what you did for entertainment. You went out to dinner, and then you went to the theater.”

The Palm Canyon Theatre finds success and is able to do a wide variety of shows thanks in part to its casting process, Shopinski said.

“Our casting process is very diverse,” he said. “We cast people of all backgrounds and all ages. Any given show, we’ll have 16-year-olds performing with our veteran performers. That, in turn, brings in the younger members’ friends to experience the shows. Our audience is as diverse as our cast members.”

Guys and Dolls will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 18, through Sunday, Feb. 10, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $32 to $36. For tickets or more information, call 760-323-5123, or visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

More than 80 people came to the Copa Nightclub on Wednesday, Dec. 12, with one goal: to celebrate the people, businesses and organizations that make the Coachella Valley a fantastic place to call home.

The Coachella Valley Independent and Copa Nightclub sponsored the fifth annual Best of Coachella Valley Awards Show and Party, an event that honors the winners of the Independent's yearly readers' poll, which features almost 130 categories ranging from the best place to hike, to the valley's best restaurants, to the valley's best sex-toy shop. (Our readers say it's Skitzo Kitty, by the way.)

The biggest contingents at the party—hosted by Independent editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle, with help from assistant editor Brian Blueskye—came to celebrate Barbara Carpenter, voted Best Real Estate Agent for the second year in a row, and Augustine Casino, which took the top spot in a whopping seven categories.

After the awards were given out, Best Local Band winner Avenida Music delighted the audience with a full set.

Below is a gallery of photos from the event, taken by Kevin Fitzgerald. In the media section, find the welcome video from Rep. Raul Ruiz, as well as a video of the event, courtesy of Tantalum Films. (Originally published on Dec. 13; updated with video Jan. 3.)

Published in Snapshot

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