HomeCommunity NewsDavid Laurell: Storytellers Grace the Colony Stage for HALA

David Laurell: Storytellers Grace the Colony Stage for HALA

This past Tuesday evening, the home fires were burning bright on the stage of the Colony Theatre as JAM Creative’s artistic director Suzanne Weerts once again brought together a group of tale tellers for her storyteller series that, since 2017, has raised more than $43,000 for local nonprofit organizations.

Having presented 11 storytelling shows inspired by such themes as mothers, fathers and the holidays, last week’s event asked the evening’s performers to share their thoughts and memories on the theme of home.

Throughout the modern era, musical artists have reminded listeners that there’s not place like home. From the 1828 opera semiseria “Clari,” to Kenny Loggins’ 1977 debut solo album “Celebrate Me Home,” the words “house” and “home” have been reused time and time again. Artists have used those words as metaphors for our plot of land, our community, or our country, as well as our churches, schools, newsstands and anything else that symbolizes our humble abodes.

On April 30, JAM Creative brought to the Colony Theatre stage “HOME,” a benefit show for Home Again L.A., a Burbank-based homelessness and housing nonprofit that provides shelter. Theatregoers experienced “deeply funny and meaningful stories” shared by Pilar Alessandra, Clay Bravo, Eric Conner, Lauri Fraser, Ron Hart, Vicki Juditz, Kona Morris and Andrea Shreeman.

This past January, it was the people that gave Weerts the idea of a show about home, especially the local people who for, myriad reasons, have lost their homes. That led to her desire to do the production as a benefit for the Burbank-based Home Again L.A. which assists situationally unhoused families.

Voice-over actress Lauri Fraser told a tale of living in India.

“Suzanne has always been a big supporter of ours,” said Albert Hernandez, who serves as the executive director of HALA. “After she came up with the theme of home, she immediately thought of us, called me to say she would like to have the event benefit us, and, of course, I was thrilled and am thankful for the team at JAM Creative for their desire to help lift Home Again L.A.’s mission.”

Last week’s show, which began with the musical stylings of singer and songwriter Arielle Silver, was followed by eight hilarious and often touching stories. The evening’s storytellers included screenwriter Pilar Alessandra, who is the host of the “On The Page” podcast, as well as writer and actress Clay Bravo. Alongside Alesandra and Bravo was Burbank Cultural Arts Commissioner and New York Film Academy instructor Eric Conner, voice-over actress Lauri Fraser, actress Vicki Juditz, writer and comedienne Kona Morris, writer and film director Andrea Shreeman and Ron Hart, who is the co-creator of the Disney Channel’s “Liv and Maddie.”

and film director Andrea Shreeman took the audience to “The Orange House,” a part of a book she is writing about romantic partnerships.

Along with City Councilwoman Tamala Takahashi, City Clerk Kimberley Clark and Jack O’Neill, who is the former chief operating officer for the Bob Hope Family Estate and former vice president with the National Broadcasting Company, other notables in attendance were representatives of the show’s sponsors: Universal Studios Discover a Star, the Volpei Gussow Real Estate Group, Schafer Electric, Ume Federal Credit Union, Color Images Copy and Print, Susy Shearer Photography and Video Ventures Productions.

While Weerts and her storytellers did their part to support HALA by raising $4,500 at last week’s show, on May 10, anyone desiring to be of help to the cause can purchase tickets to attend HALA’s 10th annual gala fundraiser that will take place at the Autry Museum of the American West.

Actress Vicki Juditz shared a story about housesitting.

Staged as a “Boots and Brew Barbeque,” this annual gathering is designed to generate funds that will enable the organization to continue providing essential services to local families who are unhoused or at risk of losing their homes.

The gala will feature a silent auction, live entertainment and an awards ceremony that will see the 2024 Impact Award bestowed upon the city of Burbank. The city has provided the nonprofit with funding and resources to deliver critical programs such as rapid rehousing and rental assistance, and community workshops aimed at preventing homelessness.

The organization will also posthumously honor Barbara Lazar, who died in June 2023. On her behalf, Lazar’s three children will accept the 2024 “Hands On, Hearts In” award for the pivotal role their mother played in the growth of HALA by securing a day center, enlisting various congregations to provide shelters, and volunteering to prepare meals for those in shelters.

For more information or to purchase gala tickets at $150 per person, visit homeagainla.org.

Ron Hart, the co-creator of “Liv and Maddie,” shared his homage to home.
Kona Morris spoke of living in a tiny cabin without running water north of the Arctic Circle.
Burbank Cultural Arts Commissioner and New York Film Academy instructor Eric Conner telling his homey tale.
Writer and actress Clay Bravo provided a comedic take on the home life of a busy bee.
Screenwriter and podcast host Pilar Alessandra discussed what it is like to be the “New Kid.”

DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

JAM Creative presented their 12th storytelling event last week.

First published in the May 4 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

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