Musician and poet Charlie Leeds played bass with some of jazz's greats - Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Tadd Dameron, Al Cohn and Charlie Parker. Like the latter, he fought a battle with heroin that eventually destroyed his life. Today, he is mostly forgotten, although his life personified the path pursued by many of the 1950's Beat Generation.
Beat for Sparrows, adapted from Leeds' writings by his niece Karen Schuler and Richard Miller, opens its world premiere March 31 at the Ivy Substation in Culver City. Joe Moretti directs the production, running through May 6.
In Beat for Sparrows, Leeds' niece, Karen Schuler, and Richard Miller adapted the writings of Leeds to tell the story of a man whose artistic pursuits in music, art and literature were peppered with stays in mental institutions and bouts of drug abuse. Leeds wrote the book "Tillie's Punctured Romance & The Love Song of Rotten John Calabrese" and was successful in his music, but lost everything, including the love of his life Rose, to heroin.
Former mime and Drama-Logue winner Joseph Lennon McCord (Foos Die Fast, Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?) stars as Old Charlie with guitarist Josh Phillips as Leeds' younger self. Also in the cast are Andrew Lee Barrett (Rotten John Calabrese), Laura Margolis (Rose), Gerarld C. Rivers (Noah) and David St. James (God).
Tickets are $20. The Ivy Substation is located at 9070 Venice Boulevard. For reservations, call (323) 655-TKTS. — By Christine Ehren