(Billboard at La Cienega and Pico in Los Angeles - isn't the gnarled old tree just the perfect touch?!)

 

MONSTER HOUSE SCREENING!

On Friday, June 30, 2006, I presented a live theremin performance at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater in conjunction with the upcoming film Monster House (Spielberg / Zemeckis), the 3D animated Sony picture for which I played the theremin on the soundtrack. The film received a special pre-release screening as part of the 12th Annual Los Angeles Film Festival.

Well, what can I say ... Yet another magical experience has come and gone. It was a glorious evening on every count — not a problem or flaw presented itself to mar the memorable occasion.

I arrived at the Amphitheater around 3:30 and started getting set up. Despite the very steep terrain of the amphitheater, artist/crew access is incredibly easy — I was able to park right in front of the artist's gate, about 20 feet from the side stage where I was to perform, then parked my van just a short distance away after I had unloaded it. All I had to do was roll my road cases up a short ramp and I was THERE.

Flanking the main (enormous) stage are two smaller performance areas: I played from a very dramatic and highly visible perch on the stage-right side of the main stage.

The sound crew arrived about a half-hour later and immediately got busy helping me with my audio. I had at first resisted the idea of playing through their main system until I realized that my theremin and "digital orchestra," powerful as they are, really did not "cut it" in this large outdoor auditorium — I really did need some help with the sound for it to carry outdoors. The crew, to a person, was helpful, friendly and enthusiastic. They really went above and beyond the call of duty to make me sound and look good.

After I ran sound checks with the crew, I went down to the main entry way where I set up an Etherwave theremin for the patrons to experiment with as they came in for the screening. Afterward, the House Manager told me she had never seen people having so much fun as when they were out there goofing around with the theremin!

I played for a full hour before the movie began, serenading the audience as they came into the theater. They were attentive and received my music very enthusiastically, giving me warm rounds of applause, whistles and cheers after each piece. I mainly played music from films, since that seemed appropriate to the occasion — what better musical theme could there be for a film festival?

Among other things, I played the theme from A Summer Place, the main theme from Somewhere in Time, "Over the Rainbow," the "Dementia" theme from Spellbound, along with other light fare including a medley of Gershwin songs and some 60s lounge stuff thrown in for good measure. Of course, I began with my signature theme, "Those Were the Days." I also played the Rachmaninoff Vocalise. After the last note of the Rachmaninoff faded away, there was a moment of silence, then kind of a collective "ahh..." from the audience, and then very enthusiastic applause. It was an amazing and quietly exhilirating moment.

But I think the biggest hit of the evening was a really nice orchestral arrangement I found of "Somewhere Out There" from Speilberg's A Mouse Tail. The theremin fit very nicely into it, mostly playing the melody but also going into a soaring counter-melody in the middle section that I worked out especially for this performance.

The lighting crew really went all out for me, bathing me in ever-shifting shades of azure, purple, crimson, yellow, gold and amber; setting appropriate visual moods for me as I played. During the "Moonlight Sonata," I was bathed in a beautiful pool of intense blue light, with twinkling star effects all around me. Wow!!

As I was standing on stage playing the theremin in front of some 1300 people [an almost but not-quite capacity crowd], bathed in a beautifully hued pools of theatrical lighting, I thought to myself, "I can hardly believe I am actually being paid to do this!" (Don't tell anyone, but I would have done it for free!!)

The screening began promptly at 8:30, beginning with comments by the director Gil Kehan. The film really is amazing. Friday night was the first time I saw it all the way through — at the "logistics rehearsal" the night before, they only screened about the first half-hour of it.

I discovered Friday night that quite a bit of the theremin stuff that I did didn't make it into the final cut. When I did the gig, I actually recorded a LOT of music — something like two dozen separate cues, some of them 30-40 bars in length. (That's a lot for the theremin.) Well, a good bit of it ended up on the proverbial "cutting room floor" including the really best scene in terms of the theremin:

A babysitter and her boyfriend are sitting on the couch watching a scary movie on TV and you hear, coming from the TV, theremin oooeeeooo'ing on the sound track. Then the theremin sound morphs into "real time" as the silhouette of a huge monster's hand slowly starts rising up from the bottom of the frame. It suddenly reaches OUT into the audience to grab you (remember this is 3D!), and at that moment the theremin screeches up to a loud, high-pitched wail! I was really disappointed that this scene did not make the final cuty. Maybe it will be included in a "deleted scenes" feature on the DVD.......

But there are still several really good "theremin moments" in the score where it really stands out and you can definitely hear it, including another really great moment where a "scary monster" is creeping into a boy's bedroom.

The score is magnificent — it was played by a full symphony orchestra so it has an amazingly full and rich sound.

And the film itself is amazing — the animation is just eye-popping spectacular. I think most everyone will really enjoy it even though it's basically a kid's movie. The screening was not in 3D so I didn't get to see those effects, but based on what I did see, I can hardly wait for the film to come out!

 

Monster House

When DJ and his buddy Chowder accidentally land their ball on their cranky neighbor's lawn, they discover that the house across the street is even scarier than the guy who lives in it. With his parents out of town, DJ and his friends must do battle with the evil house before it destroys the neighborhood. UCLA Spotlight Award-winning director Gil Kenan uses motion capture technology and a cast of both wonderful newcomers and indie film favorites in this animated comedy thriller. Part Toy Story, part Nightmare Before Christmas, with a little Something Wicked This Way Comes, Monster House appeals to children and adults alike.

MPAA Rated PG for some scary sequences, crude humor and brief language.

Director: Gil Kenan
Executive Producers: Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg, Jason Clark Producer: Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey
Editor: Adam Scott
Screenwriter: Dan Harmon, Pamela Pettler, Rob Schrab
Cinematographer: Xavier Perez Grobet
Music: Douglas Pipes
Cast: Voices of Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Catherine O'Hara, Kathleen Turner, Fred Willard

Monster House is scheduled for release nationwide on July 21st.

 

On the next three pages are some snapshots I took at the Amphitheater. There were several professional photographers taking pictures of me as I played; if I can get any of the photos I'll add them in.

Then I have concluded this write-up with a brief history of the John Anson Ford Amphitheater. As I researched its origins, I was quite surprised to find that it had actually started out as a venue for a Passion Play.

 

MORE INFO:

MiceChat Forums

Los Angeles Film Festival

Los Angeles Times Calendar

North American Midway

ThereminTribe.Net

John Anson Ford Amphitheater

Another page from the Los Angeles Film Festival site

 

(Page One)

Page Two - Photos

Page Three - Photos

Page Four - Photos

Page Five - History of the Ford Amphitheater

Theremins

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