“The epiphany came with Joey Pantoliano.” Cedering Fox recalls the exact moment when she realized she felt more comfortable behind the scenes. She’d been acting and directing when Darrell Larson, the man she credits with launching her into “this whole literary thing,” asked her to fill in for him directing Literary Evenings at the MET Theater. “Joey was reading a Damon Runyon short story,” she says in her trademark husky voice (her day job is voiceovers). “And I’m in the front row and I turn around, and everyone in the audience was laughing so hard tears were falling down their faces. And I said to myself, ‘This is as good as it gets.’”
Since then, the New York native (whose mother is the poet Siv Cedering) has produced and directed some of L.A.’s best literary salons, including Spoken Interludes and Literary Stages. But Word Theatre (www.wordtheatre.com), the readfest she began earlier this year at the Canal Club in Venice, marks the first time Fox has ventured out on her own. About once a month she gathers several actors to share the stage with authors, a microphone and maybe a stool to read short stories over a Sunday brunch — recently, Leelee Sobieski read Charles Baxter and Alfre Woodard covered ZZ Packer.
It’s bare-bones theater, but Fox notes how everyone — the audience, actors and authors — comes away inspired. “People,” she explains, “are just hungry for good stories. Greek storytellers used to go around and tell these stories that made people feel connected. These stories keep us focused on our humanity. And that’s my goal in life. I just want to bring people into community.”
“I was walking around downtown one day and a guy asked me for a dollar,” recalls Adam Sidell, who had recently started pursuing a new passion, knitting, after making his escape from the music industry. “I didn’t have a dollar so I gave him an apple and a scarf. He put on the scarf, thanked me profusely, and told me to have a great day. It was a very simple act of giving that made me feel really good.” It was then, says Sidell, that he knew what to do with the sizable stockpile of scarves he’d accumulated: give them to the homeless during the cold holiday season. Project Knit a Scarf was born.
Sidell came to knitting and philanthropy in a roundabout way. He pounded skins for seminal L.A. art noise bands the Imperial Butt Wizards and Pedro, Muriel and Esther before becoming a talent exec for Goldenvoice and Epitaph Records. But going from musician to music-biz minion eventually proved to be so disheartening that he gave it up to pursue artistic endeavors, getting a downtown loft where he could paint and create a jewelry line. And, of course, there was the knitting.
The grassroots campaign to collect scarves for distribution on Skid Row and the Venice/Santa Monica area in December has been getting a great response, says Sidell, even from those who don’t knit but want to help distribute (for more info, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). But this thing could be even bigger. “In typical L.A. fashion, people talk a good game, but seldom do they deliver,” he notes, appealing to the scenester set, many of whom no doubt hit him up for free tix back in the day. “I dare you to do something — anything.”