WORLD PREMIERE! The incredible sort-of-true story of John Broadus Watson, father of Behaviorism and modern advertising. He has the power to control your brain. Indeed, we suspect he’s making you read this now.
Friday, September 19: DONATE WHAT YOU CAN. It's "Pay What You Can" with a twist! Half of all proceeds for this performance will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Tickets that night may only be purchased at the door. Call (310) 281-8337 to make a reservation.
Sunday, September 28: TALKBACK with Burglars of Hamm and T'ai Hartley, great-grandson of John Broadus Watson.
WINNER OF AN L.A. DRAMA CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD!
Musical Score - Matt Almos, Brendan Milburn & Burglars of Hamm (original songs)
NOMINATED FOR SIX OTHER L.A. DRAMA CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS!
Lead Performance - Hugo Armstrong
Direction - Matt Almos & Ken Roht
Writing - Burglars of Hamm: Carolyn Almos, Matt Almos, Jon Beauregard & Albert Dayan
Musical Score - Matt Almos, Brendan Milburn & Burglars of Hamm (original songs)
Choreography - Ken Roht
WINNER OF TWO OVATION AWARDS!
Book of a World Premiere Musical - Carolyn Almos, Matt Almos, Jon Beauregard & Albert Dayan
Lyrics/Composition of a World Premiere Musical - Matt Almos, Brendan Milburn & Burglars of Hamm
NOMINATED FOR SEVEN OTHER OVATION AWARDS!
Best Production of a Musical (Intimate Theatre)
Acting Ensemble of a Musical
Musical Direction - John Ballinger
Direction of a Musical - Matt Almos & Ken Roht
Lead Actor in a Musical - Hugo Armstrong as "John Broadus Watson"
Costume Design (Intimate Theatre) - Ann Closs-Farley
Video/Projection Design - Jason Thompson
WINNER OF FIVE STAGE RAW LOS ANGELES THEATER AWARDS!
Musical of the Year
Male Comedy Performance - Hugo Armstrong
Original Music - Matt Almos, Brendan Milburn & Burglars of Hamm
Musical Direction - John Ballinger
Choreography - Ken Roht
NOMINATED FOR TWO OTHER STAGE RAW LOS ANGELES THEATER AWARDS!
Choreography - Ken Roht
Costume Design - Ann Closs-Farley
"...triumphant... wickedly entertaining... feels suspiciously like a groundbreaking new musical." -L.A. Times
"...a beautifully acted, entrancing spectacle..."-L.A. Weekly (GO!)
"...delightfully twisted... laugh-loaded... Act 1 is a near non-stop knee slapper... relentlessly funny songs." -Stage Raw (PICK OF THE WEEK)
"...a transcendent breakthrough... this is LA's intimate theater at its complicated best. Don't miss this one." -KCRW; also named THE BEST OF 2014
"...audacious, provocative, entertaining... plenty of ear and eye candy... sophisticated and tuneful at once..." -Arts In L.A.
"...astonishing... Every psychologist, parent, teacher, anyone who cares about children should see this... I was mesmerized... wonderful..." -Mariette Hartley, Emmy Award-winning actress & granddaughter of John Broadus Watson
"...brilliant staging, sparkling dialogue, side-splitting humor, and catchy tunes with lyrics that are by turns witty and trenchant... An awesome theater experience." -Dr. Alan J. Fridlund, Associate Professor, Psychological & Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara
Photos by Geoffrey Wade Photography
Hugo Armstrong as John Broadus Watson
Erin Holt as Mary Watson
Amir Levi as Little Albert
Cj Merriman as Whitey
Rebecca Metz as Emma Watson
Andrew Joseph Perez as Phil the Rat
Bill Salyers as Jacques Loeb
Tim Sheridan as William McDougall
Devin Sidell as Rosalie Raynor
Jacob Sidney as Dean Stevens
Curt Bonnem as Jacques Loeb
Reggie De Leon as Little Albert / Phil the Rat
Scott Golden as Dean Stevens / William McDougall
Julia Griswold as Mary Watson
Erin Holt as Rosalie Raynor
Aviva Pressman as Emma Watson / Whitey
Jacob Sidney as John Broadus Watson
Reed Doubler - Adrienne Geffen
Bass / Tuba - Michael Teoli
Violin / Mandolin - Korey Simeone
Guitar / Banjo - John Ballinger
Keyboard - Brenda Varda / Ryan O'Connell
Producer for Sacred Fools - JJ Mayes
Lead Producer for Burglars of Hamm - Carolyn Almos
Associate Producer for Center Theatre Group - Lindsay Allbaugh
Stage Manager - Rebecca Schoenberg
Arranger / Orchestrator - Brendan Milburn
Set Designer - Tifanie McQueen
Costume Designer - Ann Closs-Farley
Lighting Designer - Brandon Baruch
Projection Designer - Jason H. Thompson
Musical Director - John Ballinger
Music Preparation - Madeline Myers
Prop Designer - Lisa Anne Nicolai
Assistant Choreographer - Liz Bustle
Intern - Brian Hutnicki
Key Art - Christopher Komuro
“The Behavior of Broadus” was commissioned by Center Theater Group, Los Angeles, CA
This production was developed with support from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Wicked fun with 'The Behavior of Broadus' at Sacred Fools Theater
'The Behavior of Broadus' at Sacred Fools Theater feels suspiciously like a groundbreaking new musical
Controversial psychology and show-biz moxie commingle in “The Behavior of Broadus,” with triumphant results.
As delightfully self-assured as it is comically self-referential, made up of equal parts whimsy, wacky, profane and profound, this cracked experiment in satirical musical development is a wickedly entertaining watershed for Sacred Fools Theater Company, the Burglars of Hamm, Center Theatre Group and the general theatrical landscape.
John Broadus Watson, the father of behaviorism and subliminal Madison Avenue tactics, may seem a peculiar subject for a "tuner"; no doubt so did Mormon missionaries in Uganda or Andrew Jackson as a rock star when first proposed as ideas.
Written by the Burglars – Carolyn Almos, Matt Almos, Jon Beauregard and Albert Dayan – with composer Brendan Milburn, the “sort-of-true story” unfolds to the beat of musical director John Ballinger’s deft combo like a bluegrass Dada cabaret in a shimmering petri dish.
Expertly co-directed by Almos and Ken Roht, whose choreography as usual rocks, the production is remarkably resourceful, from Jason H. Thompson’s marvelous projections and Ann Closs-Farley’s bipolar costumes to Tifanie McQueen’s spare set pieces and Brandon Baruch’s surreal lighting.
Hugo Armstrong is amazing yet again as the hero. The property could stand further tweaks -- particularly its over-reliance on vignettes and some songs that feel underdeveloped next to showstoppers such as “Albert, Albert, Albert,” “I Know the Stars” and “Ad Man" -- but it’s difficult to care when faced with such rapt, silly-smart invention, played to the hilt and beyond by a fantastic ensemble.
Devin Sidell is wonderful as lab assistant/second wife Rosalie Raynor, adroitly balancing parody and pathos. Andrew Joseph Perez’s absurdly loquacious trained rodent and Amir Levi’s notorious infant test case are riotous. They, like colleagues Erin Holt, Cj Merriman, Rebecca Metz, Bill Salyers, Tim Sheridan and Jacob Sidney, embody multiple roles with unswerving panache.
The improbably cohesive net effect feels suspiciously like a groundbreaking new musical. You have just been psychologically programmed to reserve tickets immediately.
--David C. Nichols
© 2014 L.A. Times
Remember back to Psychology 101. . . or even better the beginning of the last century. Psychology is a brand new discipline trying to gain a foothold as one of the Sciences. Freud and Jung are the big guys talking about cigars and dreams and the mysterious netherworld of the unconscious. On the other side of the debate for what drives a mind are the upstart Behaviorists. Eschewing, what they consider the hokum of psychoanalysis, they believe in conditioning; reward and punishment: the rat will find the cheese if you shock him enough times!
Now imagine a darkly funny, oddly joyful musical based on the misguided journey of one these pioneers of the mind.
That's a peek into the witty, complicated inspiration of the LA company Burglars of Hamm and their world premiere musical The Behaviour of Broadus now playing at Sacred Fools.
The Broadus of the title is James Broadus Watson. While he seems like an absurd creation of the Burglars of Hamm, Mr. Watson is a historical figure and a surprising amount of the musical is actually true.
But don't expect a staid respectful biography. The Burglars hold true to the chronicled arc but pervert the telling through their own blend of witty, sardonic humor. This is a world where lab rats are personified, singing solos and a chicken can be a man's best friend.
Now if you don't know the Burglars of Hamm, they're a four-person writing/performing collective that surface every few years with a satirical gem. One of their early pieces from more than a decade ago, "Resa Fantastiskt Mystisk" purported to be a lost masterwork of a Strindberg contemporary. As the audience entered they were given headphones with a director's voice telling them what it all meant. These are folks so steeped in the theater that they know how to poke fun at its foibles.
As exciting as their earlier work was, this piece is a transcendent breakthrough.
While the musical begins with the irreverent tone the company's known for, as it unfolds across two hours the journey becomes more sophisticated and nuanced.
It's also something of a Cinderella story for the company and LA theater. While the Burglars have been toying with the idea for more than a decade, in 2010 Center Theater Group commissioned the project and lent development support. It's that remarkably rare example of LA's theater ecosystem working the way it should with the big guy supporting a small local company to production. Now CTG passed on producing it at the Kirk Douglas and it's easy to see why the comedy would make them a little skittish. No sacred cow, or pig, is safe in the Burglars hands. But if the cheeky Book of Mormon could fill the Pantages, The Behavior of Broadus deserves a chance to fill the Douglas.
For longtime LA theater fans it's also a chance to see the payoff and maturity of dedicated, consistent work. From director Matt Almos and co-director Ken Roht, whose signature joyful style, honed through so many 99 cent spectaculars, is intact but somehow clearer; to the always grounded Hugo Armstrong who plays Broadus and strings together 20 years of work in a single night; to the uniformly stunning cast: this is LA's intimate theater at its complicated best.
Don't miss this one.
KCRW's The Best of 2014
Mr. Armstrong also led the Burglars of Hamm's production of The Behavior of Broadus at Sacred Fools. A musical that had everything from singing rats to crying babies and a wickedly dark sophisticated sense of humor. Anyone doubting if LA theater has the chops need look no further.
© 2014 KCRW
"The Behavior of Broadus" is astonishing, as is the young, vital, troupe that created it. A musical about John Broadus Watson... a zany piece that 'almost follows the truth'. Every psychologist, parent, teacher, anyone who cares about children should see this. I know, I'm his granddaughter and as an audience member, I was mesmerized by his journey and how it affected generations. I hope this wonderful piece has a glorious future... we need it!
--Mariette Hartley, Emmy Award-winning actress & granddaughter of John Broadus Watson
I never thought that anyone would be able to bring John B. Watson’s story to the stage. How could anyone capture the larger-than-life charmer who fathered Behaviorist psychology, became the first of the “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue, and told generations of mothers how to rear their children before Dr. Spock? Alas, the geniuses at the Sacred Fools Theater Company and Burglars of Hamm have done it in “The Behavior of Broadus,” a musical that will delight those who don’t know the backstory but will profoundly move those who do. Watson’s story was of a man who escaped a chaotic childhood of oppressive religion and rank hypocrisy by founding a utopian psychology that saw humans as Pavlovian machines to be conditioned and controlled, and then found that there was no escaping his own past. The writers “get” the science and the history, and they play it out with brilliant staging, sparkling dialogue, side-splitting humor, and catchy tunes with lyrics that are by turns witty and trenchant. Little Albert, the impaired infant whom Watson tortured to prove his theories, is given voice as Watson’s conscience and the play’s moral center. None of this could work without performers equal to it, and they were all superb in and out of song. John B. Watson came through as the evangelist he always was in a bravura performance by Hugo Armstrong, who was breathtaking in his transformation from charismatic visionary who denied the inner life to fallen man confronting his demons and the damage they wrought. An awesome theater experience.
--Dr. Alan J. Fridlund
Associate Professor, Psychological & Brain Sciences
UC Santa Barbara
Read a paper co-authored by Dr. Fridlund about Dr. Watson's "Little Albert" experiment
Marjorie Prime and The Behavior of Broadus Examine the Mechanics of Our Brains
Directors Matt Almos and Ken Roht turn The Behavior of Broadus into a beautifully acted, entrancing spectacle following the life and existential crisis of one John Broadus Watson. A living cartoon, with Almos' ever-so-appealing Appalachian-to-ragtime songs and lyrics (accompanied by a live band), it shows Watson born into a Satan-fearing family, which may well have been related to his pathological need for control.
Hence, as a professor at Johns Hopkins University, he understood that he could manipulate the behavior of rats (played by actors), and orphaned children, through a system of rewards and punishments. This put him in the face of a political-philosophical buzzsaw provided by the Freudians and Jungians, embodied by Jacques Loeb and William McDougall (Bill Salyers and Tim Sheridan, respectively), who figured that dreams explain behavior more explicitly than does behavior modification.
Watson also cheated on his wife (Erin Holt) with his Vassar-grad research assistant (Devin Sidell), which was reason enough for the university to turn on him — a scene depicted humorously as a medieval cabal, with Jason H. Thompson's projected flames spitting onto the walls of Tifanie McQueen's utilitarian set.
Armstrong's priceless performance renders Watson as a slightly odd zealot. And the play certainly has an ax to grind with the cruelty of his mechanistic vision of humanity. The play is, in fact, a plea in our age of drones and robots to remember the value of a poem, and of a sunset, of being "human," which renders Watson a bit of a straw man. (As though Freud's view, blaming every aberration on mommy, was kinder and gentler.) The musical condemns Watson by conflating his theories with his amoral recklessness, even though the two are entirely different entities.
Because to some degree he was right: We're all machines, oiled with chemicals, averse to pain and attracted to rewards.
--Steven Leigh Morris
© 2014 L.A. Weekly
Read the full article
The name Dr. Watson is most commonly associated with Sherlock Holmes’s affable sidekick, but in this delightfully twisted musical, co-directors Matt Almos and Ken Roht and the always edgy Burglars of Hamm and Sacred Fools Theater Company introduce us to another Dr. Watson – John Broadus -- who was the father of behaviorism and a fellow you damn sure wouldn’t want your children around.
Matt Almos, Carolyn Almos, Jon Beauregard and Albert Dayan’s book is laugh-loaded, and covers the Watson’s life (1878-1958) from his inauspicious beginnings in rural South Carolina into and beyond his days at Johns Hopkins University, where his rabid obsession with controlling human behavior and creepy experiments with lab rats — and even a baby human lab rat famously named Little Albert (Amir Levi) — would catapult him into fame and fortune in the recondite world of behavioral psychology (before Dr. Spock came along).
Act 1 is a near non-stop knee slapper; Act 2 is less so, and drags on too long. It traverses events in which the good Dr. plunges into the heady world of advertising after being kicked out of academia for a torrid, well-publicized affair with his lab assistant (Devin Sidell), and where he eventually confronts the specters of his victims (mostly abused animals).
The show is still a hoot. The book slyly references pop culture, skewers psychological and scientific hauteur, and takes a swipe at the unending American obsession with product.
Hugo Armstrong is terrific as Watson, wearing the hats of lovable rube, scientist with a God-complex, fear-inducing ad exec and doddering old fool with equal aplomb. He is backed by a terrific ensemble, whose singing and dancing are the show’s comic marrow (Roht’s choreography is razor sharp), complemented by Matt Almos and Brendan Milburn’s mélange of relentlessly funny songs.
Tifanie McQueen’s low-key scenic design proves remarkably effective. Ann Closs-Farley weighs in with a fetching array of costumes and masks, while Brandon Baruch evokes subtlety and whimsy with the lighting schema. Musical Director John Ballinger is part of a five-piece band that doesn’t miss a note.
--Lovell Estell III
© 2014 Stage Raw
Straight up, the Sacred Fools–Burglars of Hamm co-production of The Behavior of Broadus is the most audacious, provocative, entertaining, original musical to premiere in LA since 2008’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, to which the new show bears more than a little resemblance.
Not only did both receive workshopping and support from Center Theater Group (for which, bless CTG), but each exhibits the same cheerfully anarchic spirit; the same harum-scarum, period-mashing, fourth-wall-breaking theatricality; and equal 20/20 hindsight as to the effect of historical personages and events on the present day.
The behavior Behavior charts is that of Dr. John Broadus Watson (1878–1958), to whose life story the Burglars librettists (Carolyn Almos, co-director Matt Almos, Jon Beauregard, and Albert Dayan) hew more closely than did Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman in their evisceration of our seventh president. Watson (impersonated charismatically by Hugo Armstrong) escaped a hardscrabble Southern upbringing and fundamentalist conditioning to earn a psychology Ph.D., becoming a pioneer in the movement known, and somewhat eclipsed today but still hanging on, as “behaviorism.”
Broadly (Broadusly?) speaking, that’s the Pavlovian, anti-Freudian notion that science must observe and experiment upon human subjects. Probing into that which is interior, dreamlike, or hypothetical is rigorously proscribed.
As the musical faithfully synopsizes, Watson applied his faith in the power of psychological conditioning first to the behavior of maze rats (impersonated charmingly by Andrew Joseph Perez); then to child-rearing (he beat Dr. Spock to the punch by decades with 1928’s bestselling Psychological Care of Infant and Child); and finally to advertising, where he propounded the notion that products sell not because of the facts we consumers are told about them but by the seductive narrative woven around them. (Sound familiar?)
...Once Watson’s personal and professional lives merge after intermission, the ideas start pinging, and Armstrong’s performance takes on full potency and poignancy. We see Watson as much a prisoner of his own theories as their booster: His parenting system sadly backfires on his own sons, and he’s haunted by his incomplete, world-famous experiments on the infant known as “Little Albert,” in whom Watson instilled a fear of rats without following through to undo any potential damage. (Amir Levi chillingly portrays the grown Albert in Watson’s heartbreaking hallucination.)
We’re also invited to consider behaviorism’s role in making us all consumerists, and in advancing the effects of authoritarian political systems generally. Few musicals offer as much food for the mind.
There’s plenty of ear and eye candy too. The score, credited to the sensational composer Brendan Milburn (Sleeping Beauty Wakes), as well as to Matt Almos and the Burglars generally, is sophisticated and tuneful at once, and—praise be—heavily period influenced as well. Choreography by co-director Ken Roht is sharp and apt throughout, avoiding showiness and camp. Most memorable of all are Jason H. Thompson’s brilliant projected images, whether literal or symbolically tinged, of the outside world Watson was so eager to bend to his behaviorist will.
© 2014 Arts In L.A.