Winning the Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards

Forget the Oscars. Never mind the Tonys. Pay no attention to the Grammys.

Give us the Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards.

Contributed by Cathie Sheridan.

Sure, last night’s ceremony at the Long Center clocked in at just under four hours. Nevertheless, we loved almost every minute of this energetic toast to 38 participating high schools and their remarkable talents.

Some quick observations and then some winners. Playbill’s Tyler Mount was the show’s best emcee yet. Fast, funny and on target with his “paid segues” and promos. Despite the total running time, the show, which highlights dozens of slickly produced musical numbers and video selfies from Broadway pros, felt tighter, more on time this year.

RELATED: Tyler Mount returns to Austin for high school musical theater awards.

Austin City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan just about stole the show and earned the evening’s only unadulterated standing ovation. He showed up to read municipal proclamation — usually a dull task — but donned a little, regal hat and performed a magnificent version to the tune of King George III‘s “You’ll Be Back” from “Hamilton.”

To use a show biz term: He killed! Killed! He should come back every year.

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Contributed by Cathie Sheridan.

Enough is enough: Here are the winners.

2018 Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards

Best Production: “The Addams Family,” Dripping Springs High School

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Katie Haberman, “The Addams Family,” Dripping Springs High School

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Stone Mountain, “Catch Me If You Can,” St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Related: A record 38 schools up for musical awards.

Best Direction: “The Addams Family,” Dripping Springs High School

Best Ensemble: “West Side Story,” McCallum Fine Arts Academy

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Christine Ashbaugh, “Guys and Dolls,” Marble Falls High School

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Ryan Mills, “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Vista Ridge High School

Best Featured Performer: Cassie Martin, “The Addams Family,” Dripping Springs High School

Best Choreography: “Grease,” Cedar Ridge High School

Best Orchestra: “West Side Story,” McCallum Fine Arts Academy

RELATED: All rise for the Austin high school musical.

Best Musical Direction: “Catch Me If You Can,” St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Best Scenic Design: “Shrek the Musical,” Rouse High School

Student Design Award: Alessandro Hendrix, Crockett High School

Best Costume Design: “Catch Me If You Can,” St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Best Lighting Design: “Hairspray,” Akins High School

Best Technical Execution: “Chicago,” St. Stephen’s Episcopal School

 

 

Meet the 2018 Austin Arts Hall of Fame inductees

The Austin Critics Table recently announced the latest group to be inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame.

The five honored Austinites have contributed to the city’s cultural scene over the course of many years. They will be inducted 7 p.m. June 4 at Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research Blvd. The event is free. Following the inductions, the arts critics will give out awards for the 2017-2018 season. Lots of awards.

RELATED: Giving City toasts Austin Critics Table Awards

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Anuradha Niampally. Contributed by Austin Dance India

The honored are (with the informal journalism group’s identifiers):

Norman Blumensaadt (Different Stages) – company founder, artistic director, director, actor

Kathy Dunn Hamrick (Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, Cafe Dance) – company founder, artistic director, choreographer, dancer, educator

Michael and Jeanne Klein (Blanton Museum of Art, The Contemporary Austin, Ransom Center, et al.) – patrons, board members, civic leaders, arts advocates

Anuradha Naimpally (Austin Dance India, Cafe Dance) – company founder, artistic director, dancer, choreographer, educator

For now, Austin Opera opts to go without an artistic director

After firing Artistic Director Richard Buckley for alleged misconduct, Austin Opera has opted to go without a leader in that position for the 2018-2019 season.

ALSO SEE: Richard Buckley fired from Austin Opera.

Instead, General Director and CEO Annie Burridge has appointed Tim Myers, most recently artistic and music director of North Carolina Opera, as the Austin outfit’s artistic advisor.

Myers, who has overseen world premieres at top spots such as Houston Grand Opera, will also conduct in Austin the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Silent Night,” based on the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël,” which reimagines the famous Christmas Eve truce during World War I. Hometown hero Kevin Puts wrote the music.

The European Premiere of Kevin Puts’ ‘Silent Night’ at the Wexford Opera Festival. Contributed

SEE THE SEASON: How Austin Opera got its groove back.

Austin Opera has drafted two other conductors to lead the more traditional operas. Steven White, whose credits span the North American continent, will take over the baton for “La Traviata,” which concludes this season, and “Otello” next season. Peter Bay, music director for the Austin Symphony, comes to the rescue next season for “La Bohème.”

A fifth opera, “Soldier Songs,” by David T. Little, will mix video, rock, opera and theater to tell the stories of veterans of five wars as part of the nontraditional Opera ATX efforts, first tried at the Paramount Theatre.

“We are honored to have Timothy, Steven, and Peter contribute their extraordinary talent to our company,” says Burridge. “In the coming months we will share our plans to select our next permanent artistic leader, and we look forward to engaging our audience and musicians in that process.”

Elgin’s Margo Sawyer wins Guggenheim Fellowship

Margo Sawyer, the Elgin-based artist whose art intersects sculpture and architecture, has won a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation recently announced 173 fellowships (including two joint fellowships) in arts and sciences for 2018. This honor comes with up to $45,000 to support one of the winners’ future projects.

“The Guggenheim Fellowship would allow me time and resources to cultivate designs of spaces transcendent,” Sawyer says. “Public places that foster contemplation.”

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Artist Margo Sawyer. Contributed

RELATED: Contemporary Austin collection to Blanton Museum.

Sawyer, 59, has been on the University of Texas art faculty for 30 years. For decades, she has transformed old brick structures in Elgin into multi-use arts spaces.

She is the niece of Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas and her father was one of the first African-Americans to serve in the U.S. diplomatic corps in the 1950s. He met her British mother in Accra, Ghana. Her grandfather founded the NAACP in Topeka, Kan. and helped initiate the legal action that became Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that struck down school segregation.

Sawyer grew up the  U.S., U.K. and Cameroon. In 1973, her mother took her to Egypt during the Yom Kippur War.

“I was about 15 and it was an experience that made me the sculptor I am today,” Sawyer says. “We were the first and only 17 tourists allowed in the country. I spent 30 minutes alone in Tutankhamun’s tomb — an obsession as with many people ever since. The experience at Abu Simbel, where the monuments are carved into the living rock, a union of sculpture, architecture and painting united, has been my modus operandi all my life.”

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From Margo Sawyer’s recent solo show, ‘Reflect: Reflector,’ at the San Antonio Play House.

She is currently working on a glass colored spiral immersive sculpture for the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo.

“The viewer will be enveloped in a pool of color,” Sawyer says. “I just completed windows for a private chapel and also I’m working on a commission for the University of Houston all with hand-painted glass being made with Franz Mayer of Munich, who did the exquisite windows for Ellsworth Kelly‘s ‘Austin.”’

RELATED: Ellsworth Kelly’s ‘Austin’ worships light.

Sawyer realizes this is a big turning point during a long career of many achievements, including many works placed in private homes, museum collections and public spaces, along with wide recognition in the Austin arts community, including the Austin Critics Table designation as 2015 Artist of the Year.

“This is an amazing moment for me,” she says. “I have been making sculpture since I was 14 years old, and am honored that I have been a sculptor throughout my life. This year feels transformative and the recognition is monumental, a testament to the personal commitment and belief in the vision I have created.”

 

Memorial concert planned for music school founder Margaret Perry

UPDATE: Admirers of Margaret Perry have announced “A Life in Music: The Margaret Perry Memorial Concert” for 11 a.m. May 25 at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church at 606 W. 15th Street.

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Margaret Perry with students at the Armstrong Community Music School. Contributed

Perry died on April 5. She asked for a concert rather than another kind of memorial service; also no photos or speeches. The event, of course, is free and open to the public, and folks will gather for a light lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the concert.

Perry chose the music and the musicians, who include:

Participating Artists:

Shelley Auer

Brett Barnes

Liz Cass

Jessa Cohen

Phil Davidson

Matthew Hinsley

Nora Karakousoglou

Sonja Larson

Paul Matthews

Carla McElhaney

Rick Rowley

Julia Taylor

Participating Organizations:

Austin Chamber Music Center

Austin Classical Guitar

La Follia

Texas Early Music Project

We Are the Chorus

Tanner Walterman

Karen White

ORIGINAL OBIT: Margaret Perry, founder of Austin’s Armstrong Community Music School, died Thursday morning of pancreatic cancer at age 66.

“A phenomenal loss,” said Austin philanthropy leader Mary Herr Tally. “This one hurts.”

In October 2017, Perry stepped down as director of the school, formerly associated with Austin Opera and named for humanitarian James Armstrong, who died last year, after learning of her diagnosis.

RELATED: Benefactor James James Armstrong has died.

“Margaret was an amazing person who took the school to heights James and I never imagined,” said Larry Connelly, Armstrong’s surviving husband. “James was always so proud to have his name associated with such a great organization.”

“Her imprint will be forever on the Armstrong Community Music School, the staff that followed her vision wholeheartedly, and the faculty that shared her mission of service and excellence,” said Rachel McInturff, the director of the school’s finance and administration. “Her wisdom guided many. Her laughter uplifted all. She will be deeply missed.”

Perry originally trained as a harpsichordist and played with various baroque music groups. She served for several years as pianist for Houston Ballet. Although she taught piano privately for decades, she was know to the larger arts community as a lecturer and arts educator. Often when she led the education efforts at Austin Opera, she helped explain the shows before each performance.

Perry served on numerous boards of directors before and after the founding of the Armstrong School in 2000. At the time, it was the only American community music school established by an opera company. She won numerous honors and was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jeff and Gail Kodosky, Laura Walterman, Austin Gleeson and other benefactors have established the Margaret Perry Endowment Fund which has already attracted $200,000 and is managed by the Austin Community Foundation.

A memorial concert at a time to be determined will feature music only, no speeches or photos, followed by a reception.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

Austin Symphony posts decisive new season

As Austin Symphony reveals its new season, Music Director Peter Bay talks about a decisive change in direction.

Peter Bay reveals decisive new season for Austin Symphony

“We are just going to play the pieces we ought to play,” Bay said over soup at Zax restaurant. “We got pigeon-holed into season-long themes. Now we will tie each individual concert together by a theme with variations.”

At times in past, Symphony seasons have seemed a bit tentative while trying to please key backers. Not this time out. Among the themed concerts in 2018-2019 season is an evening devoted to rarely performed works by women composers.

“They all would have had great careers,” Bay says of Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger and Fanny Mendelsson,” if being a composer was considered a career for women back then.”

Also on that program is a piece by Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon.

The Symphony will salute the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, perhaps America’s greatest composer, with music from three of his Broadway shows as well as Divertimento for Orchestra.

It will also bring back nonagenarian pianist Leon Fleisher, who for a time lost the use of his right hand, and served as a mentor for Bay as a conductor.

“I owe him a lot,” Bays says. “He helped get my career started.”

The 2017 Texas Young Composers winner by Paul Novak, “On Buoyancy,” will advance to the Masterworks series.

“This is a first,” Bay says. “It deserved to be on the subscription program.”

Given all the tragedies in the news, the Symphony will return to another somber Requiem, this one by Johannes Brahms. Also, protean Robert Faires will reprise part of his one-actor “Henry V” for a Shakespearean program.

A dozen or so of the Masterworks selections are new to the Symphony, which has been keeping records since 1911, although spottily during a couple of decades.

ALSO READ: Archive of programs shine light on Symphony — and city’s — history.

The Austin Symphony’s 2018-2019 season contains some surprises.

And now for the complete 2018-2019 season:

MASTERWORKS I: SEPTEMBER 14/15, 2018

“The Mighty Russians Part III” Season Opener

Lise de la Salle, piano

Glazunov: Carnaval Overture, op. 45

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1in F-sharp minor, Op. 1

Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony, Op. 58

MASTERWORKS II: OCTOBER 19/20, 2018

“Happy Birthday, Lenny!”

Bernstein/Harmon: Suite from Candide

Bernstein: Divertimento for Orchestra

Bernstein: Selections from On the Town

Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

MASTERWORKS III: NOVEMBER 30/DECEMBER 1, 2018

“Tale of Two Titans”

Orli Shaham, piano

Paul Novak: On Buoyancy (2017 Texas Young Composers winner)

Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83

MASTERWORKS IV: JANUARY 11/12, 2019

“Variation Voyage”

Leon Fleisher, piano

Ives/Schuman: Variations on “America”

Dvořák: Symphonic Variations on the Theme “I am a fiddler” for orchestra, Op. 78

Franck: Symphonic Variations, FWV 46

Britten: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, Op. 34

MASTERWORKS V: FEBRUARY 22/23, 2019

“Brahms’ Requiem”

Conspirare Symphonic Choir

Heather Phillips, soprano

Paul Tipton, baritone

Brahms: Variations on the St. Antoni Chorale, Op. 56a

(Craig Hella Johnson, conductor for Variations)

Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45

MASTERWORKS VI: MARCH 22/23, 2019

“Creative Expressions” Celebrating Women Composers

Time for Three (Nicolas Kendall, violin; Charles Yang, violin; Ranaan Meyer, double bass)

Michelle Schumann, piano

F. Mendelssohn: Overture in C Major

Boulanger: D’un matin de printemps

C.W. Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7

Kaprálová: Suita rustica, Op. 19

Higdon: Concerto 4-3

MASTERWORKS VII: APRIL 12/13, 2019

“Champions of Austria”

William Hagen, violin

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4

Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in D minor

MASTERWORKS VIII: MAY 17/18, 2019

“A Shakespearean Evening”

Robert Faires, actor

Chorus Austin

Berlioz: Excerpts from Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17

Walton: Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario

SARAH AND ERNEST BUTLER POPS SERIES

POPS I: OCTOBER 27, 2018; Dell Hall

“Wizard of Oz” – Film with Orchestra

POPS II: DECEMBER 29/30, 2018; Palmer Events Center

Ella & Louis

With Byron Stripling & Carmen Bradford

POPS III: FEBRUARY 9, 2019; Dell Hall

“Singin’ in the Rain” – Film with Orchestra

POPS IV: MAY 31/JUNE 1, 2019; Palmer Events Center

The Broadway Soprano

Lisa Vroman

SPECIAL EVENTS

OCTOBER 28, 2018; AISD Performing Arts Center

Halloween Children’s Concert

DECEMBER 4, 2018; Hyde Baptist Church

Handel’s Messiah

TBD

SARAH AND ERNEST BUTLER TEXAS YOUNG COMPOSERS CONCERT

DECEMBER 2019; Austin area

Christmas in the Community

JUNE – AUGUST 2019; Hartman Concert Park

Hartman Concerts in the Park

JULY 4, 2019; Vic Mathias Shores

H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert & Fireworks

 

Your input needed for Texas Medal of Arts Awards

Since 2001, the Texas Cultural Trust, an advocacy group, has been honoring our state’s luminaries through the Texas Medal of Arts. The laurels are bestowed every other year at one of the most glamorous galas in Texas. The most recent one in 2017 at Bass Concert Hall was a blow-out.

John Paul and Eloise DeJoria win a 2017 Texas Medal of Arts Award for their corporate philanthropy with Patron and Paul Mitchell. Contributed.

RELATED: What the arts mean to great Texas artists and patrons.

Now the Trust wants your input.

Send your nominations in by April 5, 2018 for the February 2019 edition of the honors. Categories include architecture, arts education, arts patron (corporate, foundation or individual), dance, design, film, lifetime achievement, literary arts, media/multimedia, music, television, theater and visual arts.

RELATED: Soaking up the glamour of Texas Medal of Arts.

For a complete list of past honorees, go here. The 2017 winners included Eloise and John Paul DeJoria with Paul Mitchell/Patron, Kris Kristofferson, Lynn Wyatt, Lauren Anderson, Yolanda Adams, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Tobin Endowmen, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Leo Villareal, Frank Welch, John Phillip Santos, Scott Pelley and Kenny Rogers.

Austin theater veteran Ken Johnson dies at age 82

UPDATE: Kenneth O. Johnson: A Celebration of Life will be 11 a.m. April 28 at Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd St.

Austin theater veteran Kenneth O. “Ken” Johnson died at home Friday of a heart attack. He was 82.

“Ken died here on Gault Street sitting in a red swivel chair in front of his computer and TV,” said longtime friend and housemate Maggie Cox. “Two of his dogs were in his office with him.”

According to his friends, Johnson came to Austin from Port Arthur in 1965. He transformed the community theater troupe known as Austin Civic Theatre into Zachary Scott Theatre, which is now Zach Theatre. Johnson named it after an Austin-reared stage and movie star who died in 1965 and whose family had been prominent in the city through several generations.

Kenneth O. “Ken” Johnson, 1935-2018

Johnson had long runs as the director of at least two other groups, Center Stage and Hyde Park Theatre, and he participated in the revival of the Paramount Theatre. Johnson wrote many plays and screenplays, most notably “Jesse’s Closet,” his stage drama that he adapted and directed for the screen.

Tempestuous and sometimes controversial, Johnson kept close a coterie of theater friends. Cox worked with him in various capacities for decades and invited him to share her home during his later years. She said that Johnson raised the general level of quality in Austin theater, including at what would become Zach.

“His abrasive nature was like a grain of sand in an oyster shell before he left,” she said. “Strong  management practices after that helped propel Zach Theatre toward the grand theater it is today.”

Dock Jackson, a Bastrop public servant who worked with Johnson mainly in the 1970s, praised his skills as director, producer, writer, theater owner, actor, singer, set designer, costume coordinator and master carpenter.

Jackson: “There wasn’t anything he didn’t or couldn’t do in the theater.”

Johnson worked energetically until the end. He eagerly took to YouTube and created many short films for that format.

Memorial services are pending.

 

Former Austinite Harvey Schmidt of ‘Fantasticks’ fame has died

We just read that Harvey Schmidt, co-creator of “The Fantasticks,” the longest running musical in history, has died at age 88.

The 2010 cast of ‘The Fantasticks” at the University of Texas. Contributed by Lauren Tarbel

The last time we chatted with Schmidt, a former Austinite who attended the University of Texas, he was in town in 2010 with his lyricist, Tom Jones, to toast the 50th anniversary of his hit, which ran for nearly 42 years at the 153-seat Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village — 17,162 performances! — before closing in 2002. It returned in 2006 at the Theater Center and ran until its New York total since 1960 reached 21,552.

Word Baker, who directed the show, also attended UT.

In Austin during the 1950s, Schmidt and Jones were part of the Curtain Club, the extracurricular drama group started by critic and scholar Stark Young in 1907. Both “The Fantasticks” and their much less successful “Celebration” relied heavily on their theater historical training at UT.

Harvey Schmidt. Contributed by Photofest

Two more of their best remembered Broadway shows were “I Do! I Do!,” a two-actor musical about love and marriage that was mostly a showcase for Mary Martin and Robert Preston, and “110 in the Shade,” based on “The Rainmaker.” Their major musicals have been revived here periodically. More evidence hometown loyalty: The Paramount Theatre was one of the few in the country that ever exhibited the ill-fated 1995 movie adaptation of “The Fantasticks.”

Here’s a snip from something I wrote back in 2010 before the UT event: So just how did “The Fantasticks” get its start in Austin? The composing pair closely studied the source material, Edmund Rostand‘s “Les Romanesques,” with (UT professor and director) B. Iden Payne and witnessed multiple student versions of the story about parents who bring their children together by pretending to keep them apart. They collaborated on deliriously popular student revues at UT and creative projects in New York before “The Fantasticks” took off, boosting the careers of Jerry Orbach, Robert Goulet, Glenn Close, Rita Gardner, Richard Chamberlain, George Chakiris, John Davidson and others. (The book to read is “The Amazing Story of The Fantasticks: America’s Longest Running Play” by Donald C. Farber and Robert Viagas.)

This is what I wrote afterwards: We witnessed history. Oct. 15, on the first night of the University Texas’ celebration of the 50th Anniversary of “The Fantasticks,” a perky set of undergraduates performed a sharply contoured revue of songs by Texas exes Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. The portfolio included fewer than two dozen from the composing team’s 1,000+ songs, written over the course of 60 years. Yet it polished up rare gems, like alternative versions of the “I Do! I Do!” title song and the duo’s work as UT students and cabaret composers during the 1950s.

At the end of the show, Schmidt and Jones, now in their eighties, met at the piano. They sang four short songs, but — oh! — it was well worth witnessing the composers of America’s longest running play jazzing it up for the crowd. Two instant hits were “Mr. Off-Broadway,” their self-descriptive salute to the movement they helped popularize, and “Freshman Song,” the first they ever wrote together, 60 years ago for a wildly popular UT student review. How many can say they have witnessed the crowning of such a career at one’s alma mater?

The song’s shy, hopeful lyrics set loose the waterworks for the assembled guests, mostly alumni who packed the weekend of performances, panels and parties. The subsequent reception outside the Brockett Theatre was like old home week for seven decades of theater and dance students.

The eldest member of the Curtain Club — which predated the drama department — spoke of joining in the early 1940s. She was the picture of grace and eloquence.

The next morning, UT playwright Steven Dietz delivered a philosophical keynote speech about theater preparing us “to be.” Texas Performing Arts director Kathy Panoff, with help from music director Lyn Koenning, interviewed Schmidt and Jones for a delightful hour of anecdotes and reminiscences. Both Texans retain a ready wit and literate array of references.

Playwright Kirk Lynn and arts editor Robert Faires then led a discussion of how new work changes theater, dance and training. The panel linked choreographer Kitty McNamee, playwrights Robert Schenkkan, Kim Peter Kovac and Carson Kreitzer. They made a convincing case for the act of making something from nothing.

Costume designer Susan Mickey helped me corral a raucous crew of talents: Bruce McGill (“Animal House,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance”); Todd Lowe (“Gilmore Girls,” “True Blood”); and Brian Danner (Los Angeles fight director). We discussed whether a university arts education was worth nothing – or everything. Other talks and demonstrations honeycombed the Winship Building before a performance of “The Fantasticks.”

 

New Austin subscribers must wait for ‘Hamilton’ season tickets

Broadway in Austin has paused its acceptance of new subscribers for the 2018-2019 season that includes the smash musical “Hamilton.” Current subscribers to the 2017-2018 season can still renew their seats through March 27.

New subscribers to the Texas Performing Arts series can sign up for the waiting list to be notified if additional season tickets become available.

Michael Luwoye and Isaiah Johnson in the ‘Hamilton’ national tour. Contributed by Joan Marcus

This pause is unprecedented in the history of touring shows at the University of Texas’ Bass Concert Hall. Demand must be incredibly high.

UPDATE 11:26 a.m. Feb. 28:

“We’ve heard no complaints or frustrations from customers so far,” says Broadway in Austin spokeswoman Amy Layton. “The numbers on the waiting list for new subscriptions, however, are on the rise.”

Layton said that this situation has happened in other markets where “Hamilton” was on the season list.

“Current season ticket holders’ seats are held,” she says about those with 2017-2018 season subscriptions. “We have not given any of them away. Current subscribers have until March 27 to renew.”

Layton also said that because the touring route is already locked in, it’s highly unlikely that any new performances would be added in Austin. That can happen in markets where hits such as “Hamilton” can “sit down” at one theater for a long time, places such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Toronto.