An LA Journey

By Mende Smith


Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing one of L.A’s newest playwright collaborators, Lorenzo Alfredo, premiere An L.A. Journey, a triumphant story of personal suffering and courage tinged with bittersweet sorrow told through the eyes of Lorenzo Alfredo as a child.  Most beloved coming of age stories, are not like this one. An L.A Journey is homegrown—and it feels that way. A cast of 16 actors portrays multiple roles in the play.  As the audience takes in the faces of the common working class in modern South American towns ranging from Guatemala to Mexico we follow eleven-year-old Lorenzo, played by Olin Tonatiuh (of Boyle Heights) as he finds his way from the K’iche village of Xojola, Guatemala upon losing his only caregivers. For the first few scenes of this production, we come to feel for the boy as he begs for food on a busy street—now a homeless youth working odd jobs on the brink of starvation. This youngster steals the show as he finds a new home in Guatemala City with his would-be savior, Olivia, played by Blanca Melchor (of South Pasadena) who discovers she can use the boy to gain the courage to leave her unfulfilled life behind her and travel to America to chase another man whom she calls “her boyfriend” in New York City. This multimedia production is carried off beautifully at the CASA 0101 Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. At first glance, this performance space looks more like an elementary school gym than an art house, but walking in you are transformed to the many stages of a homeless child’s memoirs.


The minimalist set, designed by set designer Cesar Holguin (of Los Angeles) consisted of painted wooden crates positioned and stacked on the stage in simple configurations in the foreground of slide-projected streets, desert roads, interior houses of various sizes, and the occasional constellation view of the cosmos. The warmth of this production is embodied in the cast themselves.  The honest depictions of the lives unfold in simple dialogue by plain-faced rugged people. Most scenes are scattered with few props; from indigenous bright clothing and handfuls of flowers, baskets of oranges and dusty backpacks used throughout the performance—and it works.

Inside the T.V screen-like set, a wonderful ensemble of actors builds. Where the play begins, we follow Lorenzo’s harrowing journey of twists and turns and we feel for him the way we might feel for any lonely child. From our seats in the audience, we want to hold out our arms and fill his life with the joy and security every child deserves, but we must watch as he is disenfranchised before our eyes and mistreated by the adults who he depends upon for hundreds of miles on his journey to freedom.  This play brings laughter, and tears. Because of this child’s story, we can lose ourselves in the true stories of thousands like Lorenzo, and find ourselves wondering if we will ever view immigration the same again? Each actor is worth noting, but standouts include Aurelio Medina as Spicy and Kathy Pedraza as Rosa. The simplest words of each are impeccable, and their onstage chops are undeniable.


Emmanuel Deleage (Co-Writer/Director) has put together an amazing show with smooth scene changes, a clear focus, and a cohesiveness that is both impressive and unmatched. No actor pulls focus when they shouldn’t, and even the smallest of children is of the utmost importance.

In addition, the lighting design of Maura McGuinness and the costume design of Abel Alvarado enhance the show in their simplicity. I can only describe the lighting as magical, with the beams of impeccably placed spotlights and projection playing their own distinct parts in the show. The costumes are unique to every culturally diverse group of characters we see in modern Los Angeles—merchants, families, and travelers—and everything complements each other.

This production features native music of South American Cultures and songs in English, Spanish, and also K’iche. The real life boy in this story, now-grown Lorenzo Alfredo takes the stage for two spoken word/singing performances adding to the story’s crescendo of devotional merits. Alfredo’s quavering vocals and sudden gestures of affection coupled with the karaoke-esque tracking offer an emphatic reprise to the true-life adventure of hope and sacrifice and foretell the positivity of this story with elegance and optimism of the tribulations of both crossing cultural borders and the ethical realities of coming to America.

I encourage you to go see this production. At this time of year, hundreds of theatres are putting on shows to capture your imagination, but I guarantee you won’t find one quite like An L.A Journey.  If you want to escape from your everyday grind into a the reality of a migrant child’s dreams, hopes, and fears— then come out and support these fine players!

An L.A Journey runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 5 pm through June 7, 2015 at CASA 0101 Theater, located at 2102 EAST 1st STREET, BOYLE HEIGHTS, CA 90033. For tickets call (323) 263-7684 or buy online at The running time of the play is 123 minutes.

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The Majesty Of The Antarctica

By Beverly Houwing

Adobe Certified Instructor and wildlife photographer, Beverly Houwing, has been traveling from a very young age and became interested in photography as a teenager.  We are very happy to share her amazing photography and thoughts from her recent trip to the Antarctica. (Click on each image to view larger version.)

Few parts of the world are truly unspoiled. To get the opportunity to see a place that is pristine and has a low volume of visitors compared to most other tourist destinations was a real treat. About 38,000 people on average get to the Antarctic Peninsula, the most popular destination, each year.   The point of departure for an Antarctic expedition (and it really does feel like you are on one) is from Ushuaia in Argentina — the southernmost city in the world. Just knowing that made me feel that this far away continent was reachable! Rather than going straight to the Antarctic Peninsula I took the “scenic route” - quite literally. Before even getting close to the continent, we cruised to amazing places with huge amounts of birdlife and spectacular scenery, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island.   After getting used to boarding zodiacs from a lurching gangway in choppy water and landing in the surf on rocky beaches, I was sufficiently prepared for our first stop on Antarctica. We crossed the infamous Drake Passage to get there, and it lived up to every bit of it’s name as the “roughest water on the planet”.


We went past Elephant Island, where Shackleton had to leave his men after their failed attempt to cross Antarctica via the South Pole, in order to get to South Georgia to bring a rescue party, which he accomplished.   The next afternoon when we arrived at the continent the weather was calm, sunny and “warm” for the polar region. Massive icebergs floated off the coast, fed by glaciers that descend from the high mountain peaks at Brown Bluff. Some icebergs was passed were over 1 mile in length and over 100 feet above the water - sheer towering walls of ice.


Smaller icebergs had Adelie penguins resting on them in between going on feeding missions before returning to their colony on land.


Our next stops were at small islands off the coast of the peninsula. Places like Hope Bay, Petermann Island, Booth Island, Yalour Island & Danco Island all have fantastic numbers of penguins. Hope Bay was another place that Adelie penguins seem to have overrun. Many stood or rested on the ice floating in the bay, while other icebergs had weddell seals relaxing on them.




In addition to the different species of seals, crab eater...

08-Petermann Island 10 

and leopard...


that also hung out on the sheet ice drifting about, the other attraction was the spectacular icebergs that came in different shapes, sizes and shades of blue.


Some had delicate icicles dangling from them...


and others had layers...


 To see more of Beverly's Antarctica and other wildlife photogarphy visit her website.

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The Blood Sweat and Tears of David Clayton Thomas

By Mende Smith

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“This is really not anything new for me,” comes his voice, jovial and empty with a certain charmed anticipation. “…And recording these songs, it was really funny that I did not even need sheet music, they are so engrained into my mind—these are the songs I did way back in the beginning of my career when I played in clubs.”

Most of the questions I have for him are about the journey that brought the front man of the nostalgic band Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T) international stardom. “We can talk about the Soul Ballads album, but not what I did sixty years ago.” The man says again. David Clayton-Thomas asserts he not the same as he was then, and he makes no apologies. As he opens to the conversation, slowly as if holding the story of his past closed with a pair of vice grips, his voice reads easy.


There is no arguing these tracks on this album are timeless now; committed to the nostalgic court of multi-generational appeal by ballad radio stations all over the world, and listening to Clayton-Thomas’ renditions of them, one might believe his voice is the new voice of these soul ballads, not merely the covers they are, but the new expressions of them that he hopes they will be. From where he sits comfortably in his Toronto home, he orchestrates the conversation he wants to have. Unskillful, his voice echoes, thunders.

BloodSweatAndTears-july2010“Can we talk about the Soul Ballads album rather than digging back into the book?  You want to know about the past, read it in the book I wrote, it’s all in the book...” I wonder if I have hit some nerve—or maybe placed a coin in the wrong slot of the 70s memoir machine? I decide to follow his lead and see where it goes.

Trying to draw a line between the two points of Clayton-Thomas’ music career, we talked about working with the right people to make the right things happen. Of his success, he says that it was clear from the first performances, which way the ball was rolling.

“I think we knew from the very first day that Blood, Sweat & Tears was something different, and something very special—I think all the guys in the band knew it from the very get-go.”

Of his younger days in BS&T, Clayton-Thomas recalls the tireless pursuit of making music, while residing in two countries. In those days, his band toured the world and played five shows a night in forty-minute sets with twenty-minute breaks in between, and it is clearly not among his fonder memories now, as we might expect.

“ My touring days are behind me now, I’ve already done that for forty years with Blood, Sweat & Tears,” Clayton-Thomas laughs, “I am still doing performances, but nothing like before; nowadays we pick nice events. This is a different kind of thing; like going back to the beginning, to my roots.”

Today, Clayton-Thomas enjoys the fruits of his laboring years greatly. Talking about his companion musicians adoringly, like faces in his community now close at hand. When I try to engage in the origin story further, he caps the conversation by referring me to his webpage for links to his autobiography and begins talking about how easily he comes by his talent.

“I find that the elite, really top-notch musicians are a very small club—and we all know each other, so its not very hard to get a group together for a thing like this, you just call your friends.”

As a grandfather of his industry, his impression of the way the music business has changed over the years from a “marketing and promotions tool” to the “distribution-only engine” shares a common view.

“The reason we would ever sign with a record company in those days was for promotions, for getting shows—for your career, that was the basic idea. Now, the Internet does all of that. Any musician can record and just put it out there—I’ve met new artists that are doing the whole thing themselves from production to marketing who do not even want to get signed,” Clayton-Thomas adds. With the effortless pick-up of his tell-all book by a major publisher, Clayton-Thomas admits that his story did pay off in the end.

But he is not looking back there anymore.

Soul Ballads1-300x300The Soul Ballads album had its debut on Universal Canada in 2010, and Airplane Records has re released it in the states today—prompting this review. Clayton-Thomas is all too pleased to imbibe—like the interview today, once he has presented his story, his way.  Soul Ballads was the brainchild of Clayton-Thomas’ friend Lew Pomanti, who had recently wrapped a Michael Buble’ album. Pomanti asked his old friend David to take on the task of recording his versions of what he calls “soul tunes” like those he and Pomanti played in the clubs back in the BS&T heydays together—this association strikes a kinder chord in Clayton-Thomas. Teaming up with a full orchestra, they produced the recordings in this century with a chorus of enthusiastic friends and musicians.

“Lew and I go way, way back,” Clayton-Thomas says, “We toured the world together for about five years in the seventies.”

Every one of the album’s tracks date back to more than thirty years in American music history, and a few, more than fifty. Nostalgia is a brand that Clayton-Thomas does not mind spinning in some circles. Clayton-Thomas says he is already in the best company, and so the album ‘practically made itself.’ Crediting the talents of the late greats, he explains how the ninety-day session turned out classic hits by Brother Ray (Charles), Otis Redding, Gladys Knight, Kenny Rodgers, and Curtis Mayfield—cherishing the most over-played songs on American radios made new ‘in the modern recording studio of twenty-first century technology with a full orchestra’.

“I think it’s intimidating. And in other interviews I have been quoted saying no one should attempt to do these great songs but Ray Charles or Gladys Knight. And here I am now taking on the task of doing them. I think it’s important that when you pay homage to these great, great songs, you try to do it with respect and use your own voice—don’t try to do an imitation.”

Clayton-Thomas refers to how the collaboration made it all sound new again, adding that it is the best way to pay tribute to the greatest artists—recording the tracks to the highest quality in post-modern spectrum, where most of these original recordings were so limited in the technology of the fifties and sixties, only the soul of these records came pouring through despite the early recording tools. When asked to give some advice to budding artists, Clayton-Thomas pauses for a moment and answers with the cold-hearted truth of what’s come to pass?

“The record business has gone through enormous changes in the last three or four years, and the fans seem to think they can just get all the music for free—and its basically bankrupted all the record companies. With no money, there is no money to support new acts—even acts like myself, and so, we have the power back in our hands. We don’t have to wait to get signed to get going anymore—that is one thing that is for sure today that we did not have the advantage of the first time around.”

Clayton-Thomas adds that as recently as ten years ago if a record company did not sign you, you did not even get into the business.  He proudly takes a seat at the helm of his next project with a group of musicians doing old jazz standards.

Time will tell if Soul Ballads will do the justice to the talents of the last century of music, time was, the spinning wheel still turning, we have the nostalgia of the first carousel ride to look back to and those long-gone psychedelic roots locked tightly in the memoirs of the bands who soaked the world in their own blood, sweat, and tears so none other would ever have to again—what goes up, obviously came down.

For more information and future concert dates about David visit his website.

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Filmmakers Bill Singleton and Trevor Bailey Talk
New Film ‘Fade to Black’ and Ending Violence

By Amber Topping

Bill Singleton and Trevor Bailey brought their unique backgrounds and talents to the forefront when they came together as a duo to co-direct Fade to Black: The Trigger Effect – a film about the effects of violence. Bill began his career in the field of publishing back in 1990 when he founded publications such as Black History Magazine and World History Magazine (interviews and stories including artists like Halle Berry and Janet Jackson). While Trevor worked in the military, as a bus driver and even as a constable before settling in as a writer and filmmaker. Together, they have an important message to spread about putting a stop to violence and treating others how you want to be treated.


Congratulations on your film Fade to Black: The Trigger Effect and winning the Best Director Award at the Pocono Mountains Film Festival! For those who are unfamiliar, what is the film about?

Trevor: The film explores the lives of Jamal, Gage, Pepe and JJ. When Pepe gets a gun from a local gangster, Mr. M, their lives take a dramatic turn. Gage and his friends decide to get wasted before going to a party. On their way, through a local park, they notice Jamal and his family celebrating his brother's birthday.

Bill: Pepe decides to show off his gun and shoot in the air as a prank to scare them, and he inadvertently kills Jamal's mother, father and brother, injuring Jamal and his wife Dana.

Trevor: Gage horrified at the tragedy, begins the journey of self-examination that leads to opposing violence and Jamal, seeking revenge for the murder of his family, begins his journey that leads him to discovering the power of forgiveness.

Can each of you tell me a little bit about your background and how you became interested in film?

Trevor: I always wanted to become an actor and then I discovered my true talent was in writing and I also realized you have a lot more power to just write whenever you’re inspired to, whereas in acting you kind of depend on other people to give you the stage. I started writing screenplays and hanging out on the sets of my filmmaker friends and really became fascinated with the whole process, so I decided I wanted to write and make films.

Bill: Instead of going to film school, I got a camera and started doing it hands on. My filmmaking aspirations basically go back to when I was a kid with a super 8 camera. I would line¬up all my little army men in battle positions and then just rolled film. As I grew up, I got more involved in the publishing world and in 1990, I founded Black History Magazine and World History Magazine, which really took off and allowed me to expand the company into other areas of publishing and eventually into digital production and distribution. That’s essentially where our two roads met up. Trevor came to me with the first thirty pages of this script he was working on and I immediately wanted on board. My only stipulation was that he had to direct it.


What was the inspiration behind making the film? Is it at all based on a true story?

Trevor: It actually stems from a true story. I had read a news article about a woman, Lisa Costa who had just been enjoying a day in the park with her grandson when a guy came along and shot her simply because his friends dared him to. George Powers and his two friends had broken into a house and stole the gun earlier that day, then got drunk and went off to the park loaded, and with a loaded gun. He basically said, "Now I'm gonna shoot someone,” and his friends urged him on, daring him to do it. So he shot and killed Lisa Costa, just because she was the first person he saw.

Bill: I was fascinated that something like this could actually happen, and I wanted to know why. What is it about the human condition that causes people to be so ruthlessly violent and more importantly, how do we stop it? Fade to Black explores the human psychology of violence by following the lives of four young men whose paths all meet on their mutual territory of making destructive life decisions and terrorizing others, instead of finding more positive outlets for their energies.


Can you talk a little bit about your process getting the film made? Did you face any challenges along the way?

Bill: Where do we start? How about the very first day of shooting when the lighting guy didn’t show up. We called him the “Yeah, Yeah man.” Everything was “yeah, yeah sure man,” yet nothing he said ever panned out. Then there was the sound guy who also never showed up, we nicknamed him “the sounds of silence.”

Trevor: Yeah that first day we basically had to educate ourselves with a crash course in ‘how to use available lighting’ since we had no lights to work with. We obviously replaced the lighting and sound guys and everything was going great until the fire.

Bill: The fire was definitely the biggest scare. A group of us had decided to take a break from editing and we went to eat at a soul food place around the corner. When we got back, fire trucks were all out front and smoke was coming from my apartment. The camera, the computer and all of our footage were all inside and I was sure we had just lost the entire film. When we were allowed back inside, all we could see was smoke filling the entire apartment and the firemen had smashed the wall, the TV and stomped through everything to ensure that the fire was entirely out. It must have been fate, because the camera, the computer and the footage were pretty much the only things that weren’t damaged. We still had our film.

What message do you each hope to leave with the audience after seeing the movie?

Trevor: There are a lot of different things that different individuals can take from this story, but I think overall the main message is to treat others how you want to be treated. Simple but powerful, it goes a long way in dealing successfully with others.

Bill: I hope the film inspires people to make better choices overall, choices that affect your own life and choices that affect others. I think a lot of the time people make bad choices simply because it takes less energy than making good choices and the characters in this film definitely portray that. Hopefully, we’re also able to show people that the good choices are what ultimately lead us to better things.


What do you personally believe is the best way to end all the violence? How can we each individually spread that message of peace?

Trevor and Bill: First, you have to do the hard work of thinking about how you want to be treated in a situation before you just act out of emotion, fear, self-interest or thoughtlessness. Then you have to actively choose to do what you would want done to you. Finally, do your best to listen to others, acknowledge their reality, include them when you can, challenge them to be their best when they don't and forgive them when they fail to do their best. Create, invent or build a way to achieve a solution that stops violence and starts a just peace based on love.

How can people best see Fade to Black: The Trigger Effect? Do you have plans for further distribution of the film?

Trevor: We are currently reviewing our various options for getting the film out to the public.

Bill: We are in discussions with various distributors and are reviewing our options at this time. We are looking at all the various platforms that can make the film a profitable venture.

Do you have any other upcoming projects?

Bill: Right now we’re working on a web series that showcases different types of artists and the reality of their different journeys in life and in their art.

Trevor: We definitely plan on making more feature films as well. Our goal isn’t so much focused on ourselves as filmmakers, but in making films that resonate with people and impact their lives in some way. That is the power of filmmaking.

Bill: Making a film is hard, but that is half the battle. Getting to the public, building your core audience and making it commercially successful is the other half of this business. We are on a journey to do just that. We ask for the public's help at achieving this goal for the film. You and your audience can do that by contacting us at or www.facebook/fadethemovie. We encourage you to do so and thank you in advance for your support. 

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Born Into Barnes:
The Untold Antics Of The Barnes Sisters

By Mende Smith

There is nothing conventional about the lives of the Barnes sisters. Hollywood transplants from the Midwest, these funny ladies live and work side by side as housemates, writing partners and above all, siblings. Born three years apart in a small southern Illinois town and raised like twins by a single dad in a shutdown tavern, their real-life story reads more like a sitcom. Sheila and Mary Ann tell talk about the antics of growing up in an empty barroom and dance floor playground and exploit their own story for Reap Mediazine, wearing bright smiles. “The tavern was still intact,” Sheila says. “But it was not operational. The living space was upstairs, but we played on the main floor that was once the old tavern; roller skating on the dance floor, and we’d have beauty pageants up on the bar.” Sheila laughs. “It was our home.” Mary Ann recalls the way the occasional drunk patron would come stumbling in through the tavern door, unaware that it was now their home. “Oh, yeah. Sometimes a drunk would come in and walk up to us playing in there and wonder why an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old girl were behind the bar.” Mary Ann laughs. “We played in there every day, and in a small town like that nobody locked their doors. And for a number of years our father did not even bother to take down the beer signs from the windows, so it was even more confusing.”


The Barnes sisters wrote a comedy pilot called Damaged Goods based on their zany upbringing. With an ex-Marine turned factory worker father and an absent mother suffering from bipolar disorder, coming and going on adventures with new men–five of whom she married–leaving the girls with their father and two older siblings to fend for themselves, much chaos ensued. “It was kind of like a game the way she left,” Sheila recalls, “Our mom had a great sense of humor too, as we say in our pilot, and she was so much fun that the first time she ran off, we thought it was a game.” Both sisters crack up again. “She would be so much fun and just great to be with and then, she would go away again and find a new husband. Then, after it maybe did not work out, she would be back staying with us again,” Mary Ann says. The girls had planned to go on to college one day, and Sheila could have easily gotten into an Ivy League school with her outstanding grades, but their father had a plan to keep his girls from ever straying too far from home; he told his daughters he had cancer.  “And for many years, it worked,” Sheila laughs loudly, “We both would have probably moved away to go to college, but our dad convinced us he was dying of cancer and so we never wanted to leave him. We went to school locally instead.”

“I started at Southern Illinois University and eventually moved to St. Louis and finished at Webster, but the funny thing is, our dad did die young, but not from cancer. His autopsy report showed he was cancer free–nobody was more surprised than we were.” Sheila says. Sheila struggled first as a small-town journalist, she says, until she had $14 to her name and was nearly living out of her old blue Pontiac. When she decided to head to California to work an assistant job at Paramount Studios, Mary Ann tagged along. There the comedic screenwriter duo was born.

“My first job out there, I was an assistant to these really great guys, Mort and Barry, and they had gotten Emmys for their work on the Golden Girls. But they were in development, so they would work away from the office a lot. I would sneak Mary Ann into the office, and we would write together and when they would call to say they were coming in, I would kick her out again.” Sheila laughs.

“After awhile they’d see someone who looks an awful lot like me leaving the office, and they realized she was my sister and they started giving her work to do. Looking back, I probably should have split my pay with her … but we were two heads for the price of one.” Sheila says. So, that is how the Barnes sisters started working together.

After the success of their first episode, Mary Ann and her husband, David, were renting a small place off of Hollywood Boulevard, near Sheila and her husband’s big empty house. Mary Ann and Sheila’s late-night writing sessions often resulted in sleepovers so it was just a matter of time, they say, before they were through with the rent hikes and the added stress of living separately. They have all been living together in veritable harmony ever since the ’80s.

“We have a trapdoor in the deck that leads to the basement, and that is our office,” Sheila adds, “It’s a little medieval, but it is what it is.” The girls’ husbands, they say, “get along swimmingly,” and oftentimes their friendship is healthier than that of the Barnes sisters.

“They get along great even though they are very, very different. You know, as women, we might get mad and hold a grudge for days and days, but the guys, I remember once they were having a political argument and then Sheila and I were looking at each other thinking ‘Oh, my God. This is getting heated and we are gonna have to move out.’ And then suddenly one of the guys said, ‘Hey, the game’s on!’ and then they both went in and sat down to watch and it was over.” Mary Ann recalls. “It never even came up again.”

Thrown into the group dynamic, is the girls’ only brother, who, Sheila adds, is mentally challenged. “He’s super sweet and is like a 6-year old forever. Though in many ways, he is the most mature one in the house.” Mary Ann laughs.

The sisters say they have often thought it would be great to extend the comedic family compound to other creatives and accommodate artist friends. “We kicked around the idea of buying, say, a 10-bungalow place and letting people come join the fun, but we just never did.”

When asked about the challenges of the screenwriting business, Sheila says that the best part of having her sister as her writing partner is their level of acceptance. “One of the things that is so hard in this line of work is the ego. I have worked with partners on shows before and they say, ‘Well, if something I write comes out of it, you have to give up something you wrote too.’ It gets really ridiculous because you have to consider what’s good for the project first, not just the egos.” Sheila says. Mary Ann agrees and adds to Sheila’s rant, “I don’t care if something has more of her ideas in it, and she doesn’t care if something has more of my ideas in it–and well, you know, we have always finished each other’s sentences so, we really don’t get in each other’s way there.”

So many people who meet the Barnes sisters think they are twins because of how they look and act together, it does not bother them when people ask. They admit that psychologically, they probably are twins. And, though it sounds bizarre, Sheila says she believes she is really Mary Ann’s clone. Both sisters are married to writers as well, and so they all read each other’s work and live in what Sheila calls “one big writers’ room.” The sisters speak highly of everyone they have worked with in the business from comedian Richard Jeni, on the UPN series Platypus Man to funny man Tim Allen, when they did ABC’s Last Man Standing. “The great thing about working with Tim is,” Sheila, says, “He can just make something out of nothing. We will be working on a scene with Tim and he will be doing some really funny, insane thing with a kitchen drawer, which you would not think was funny on the page but it really is hilarious.” Mary Ann calls Allen a “really nice and super funny guy” on and off the stage. The Barnes add that they are in the perfect line of work for the “crazies they truly are.”

The girls say that they have been fortunate to find producers who “get” the multi-generational vibe they have in their own duo, and happily exploit them and use it to their comedic advantage. For example, the girls are not shy about admitting their Christmas tree is still standing in their living room since the week of Thanksgiving. They just have not taken the time to take it down and laugh about the fact nobody comes over to see it. The year before, too, the fake tree stood past Easter and only came down at all because they had guests over. “We had writer friends coming and we did not want them laughing at us, and we took it down an hour before they arrived.” Sheila smiles. “And then were so embarrassed,” Mary Ann laughs, “that we confessed anyway! We told them that we only just took it down, so they still thought we were crazy.” The Barnes sisters clearly love their work, and they credit their husbands for giving them support in the dizzying business of show. “We are thankful for the guys. They are both creative types too, and without them this would not be so much fun. We are doing very long hours like we do in the comedy room,” Sheila says.

“Our husbands have pretty much done all of the cooking since we moved in together, and we did not even know they could cook,” Mary Ann adds.

One sister then muses on how her brother-in-law is great with taking out the kitchen garbage, and the other calls her sister’s husband the “King of the Barbeque Grill,” a title that has raised competition in their blended household resulting in recipe cook-offs. “A couple of times our husbands would both end up in the kitchen cooking the same meal at the same time, and it would be two different dinners,” Sheila laughs. “It really is great, having them have our backs like that, when your deadline is coming and all you can do is work for days like that, and say, you miss your husband’s birthday: He doesn’t care. We just make up for it later, and we don’t care at all. A birthday is flexible.” Sheila says.

On a bittersweet note, both sisters agree that they decided not to have children of their own greatly because of the way their mother was incapable of raising even one child of her four. “Having kids,” Sheila says, “ … it seemed like something you ran away from. And so we always say that part of the reason we moved back in together is so we could keep being those kids we were, sort of raising each other into adulthood.”


At one time, Sheila recalls, she thought maybe she would have kids someday, but the day never came.   She and her husband tried to live in southern Illinois where Mary Ann and her husband were full time.  As a way to get away from the Los Angeles buzz, they thought buying a “summer house” would be a good idea.  Sheila laughs about how much she resented it now, saying she hated feeding the ducks on the lake, being surrounded by nature and a “verdant green landscape” because it was too much like doing nothing. “I remember thinking, ‘When is my life going to start again?’ ” Sheila groans. “And I was so happy when we sold that place again and Mary Ann and I came out here to find the house we’re in now. My husband did not really care what we found, and we can see the Hollywood sign right out the front window, and it reminds us where we are.” Sheila says. “Living right here is inspiration, and then there’s those days, as Mary Ann says, when it feels like it’s mocking us. Those are the tough days.” Both sisters burst in peals of laughter.

The sisters are script doctoring for a few series and also polishing another feature, and praise the short turnaround time. They say though it is a downside they cannot get writing credit, they are keeping their heads in the game, adding ideas to someone else’s ideas, that the learning experience is worth it.

“It sharpens our skills, and it is a fun break away from our own writing. And then you can come back to it fresh again, and we can do our original stuff.” Sheila says.

One big-scale project the Barnes sisters are currently writing on is the supernatural dramedy Evermoor, a series for Disney Channels Worldwide. “Working with Lowell Nate over at Disney has been awesome,” Mary Ann says. “Lowell is a funny guy too, and he is so smart and funny and gives us great input in sort of Americanizing it both for British and American audiences.” The series premieres in October and is projected to show in 160 countries.

It’s a huge victory, the writing duo says, which actually came from an earlier failure. Disney called them up after re-reading a script they had submitted three years ago; Lowell asked them if they wanted to give this project a go. “It’s a funny thing,” Sheila says, “How anything–really any project–can lead to another thing down the road, where a break is going to come, or where a job is going to come from. It’s part of this business–and nothing is wasted.”

Living a writing life in Los Angeles, the girls say, is never boring. “For us, for both of us really, comedy is a lifesaver,” Sheila says. “There’s always that thing where people say being a comedian means you’re depressed, and for some people, yes, that is a real thing. But for me, in my life, I can be in the worst situation and I can say, ‘OK, what can I take from this to make myself laugh over this, or make someone else laugh in a script?’” Sheila laughs. “Absolutely,” Mary Ann adds. “ … And then she’s bitter. And the writing is so down and that works too for us; comedy is all about making the most out of your damage.”

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