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Hunter Allegations, Mexican Troops Coming To U.S. Border, Mental Health Funding

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Federal prosecutors are alleging Rep. Duncan Hunter used campaign funds to finance extramarital affairs. Also, Mexico is deploying troops to its northern border in an effort to prevent migrants from coming to the U.S., county supervisors have taken new steps to address mental health, San Diego County has restored a program to assist frequent 911 callers and how Audrey II comes to life in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It was hinted at before, but now prosecutors have detailed allegations of adulterous affairs by San Diego. Congressman Duncan Hunter financed in part by campaign funds. Federal attorneys filed court documents this week outlining some of the evidence they say is part of the campaign finance embezzlement case against the republican congressman. The documents alleged hunters spent a campaign money during relationships with five romantic partners since he was first elected to Congress. Joining me as Jeff McDonald investigative reporter at the San Diego Union Tribune and Jeff, welcome back. Hi Maureen. Now the initial indictment implied that congressman hunter had engaged in extra marital affairs. So what new information did we learn from the various filings prosecutors made in court this week?

Speaker 2: 00:48 Well, we learned about everything except the identities of the women involved. Uh, three of them there unnamed individuals, 14 through 18. So they were five women. Three of them were lobbyists with whom he had professional on. Then social and personal relationships. Two of them were congressional staffers, including one woman on his own staff. So that's what we know about them specifically.

Speaker 1: 01:11 What's the connection between the spending of campaign funds and these alleged affairs as the prosecution is laid out this week?

Speaker 2: 01:20 Well, what the filing says is it, the congressman was using his campaign credit card to pay for his, uh, trips with girlfriends to hotels, to restaurants, to bars, to resorts, uh, using them for rental cars, for getaway vacations. Uh, and clearly election law doesn't allow members of Congress to use campaign donations to support extra marital affairs. So that's what, that's what the document spells out.

Speaker 1: 01:46 And what prompted the prosecution to release this information now?

Speaker 2: 01:51 Well, we can't know that, uh, except that, uh, the document does say that they worked with hunters lawyer to stipulate to some of this stuff in order to avoid putting it out into the public domain. And that, uh, either the congressman and, or has lawyers resisted that a stipulation is what it's called in legal parlance and forced the prosecutors to put it into the public record. Now, the reason they made the filing is they want to make sure that they're able to bring this, uh, these findings and these expenses into evidence at trial.

Speaker 1: 02:26 Did this potential stipulation mean that the prosecutors were negotiating or trying to negotiate a plea deal with hunter?

Speaker 2: 02:34 Not necessarily, although those discussions could be ongoing for all we know, we don't have any way of knowing that this was a negotiation specifically to prevent this information from coming out in more detail than it did in the initial indictment. What the prosecutor said in their filing is that they were working with the defense to try and preserve this uh, confidentiality and that, uh, the congressman was willing to stipulate that the spending had happened to further these extra marital affairs so they put it forward in public so that the court would be aware of their evidence and allow it into testimony at trial. There's one really interesting nugget at the bottom of this particular filing that says there's other personal information that they have yet to bring forward and they are negotiating with the congressman to keep that out of the public domain and that the congressman is negotiating a stipulation for that information that's unrelated to the extra marital affairs. So we're not clear on what that is, but there's an illusion to it. At the bottom of the, uh, the filing yesterday or this week

Speaker 1: 03:41 now. Hunter's legal team, uh, filed with the court this week as well and they requested a dismissal of the charges. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: 03:50 Yes. Uh, all of these filings were made Monday and there were 15 or 16 of them all told most of them by the prosecution, but several key filings from the defense, uh, including an outright dismissal request that the case be dismissed for lack of grounds. They also asked to recuse a couple of prosecutors that the congressman is accused of being Hillary Clinton supporters, hence the politically motivated charges that he claims in a, in public and in court papers. Interestingly, another filing requests that the trial be moved outside San Diego County and outside the southern district of California into the Eastern District of California, which is rural eastern North California. That a favored Trump in the 2016 race. They actually spell out in their motion for the change of venue requests that the eastern district is more appropriate because voters there in 2016 supported Donald Trump at a much greater rate than they did elsewhere. In the state.

Speaker 1: 04:48 How's the judge in the case made a decision about these motions?

Speaker 2: 04:52 Not Clear. Usually what happens in trials is the judge reads all these motions and then comes to court armed with the arguments. Sometimes he or she invites, uh, oral arguments to supplement the briefings that have already done filed. Other times he'll rule from the bench or she will rule from the bench. It's not clear what this judge will do come Monday. Uh, but all of these are pretrial motions that it will be adjudicated in court on Monday or, uh, and or decisions will be released about the rulings will come after Monday's appearance. So Monday's a key day for the congressman and then we'll all know what the judge decides sometime either Monday or in ensuing days or weeks.

Speaker 1: 05:35 The San Diego Union Tribune first started reporting on questionable spending by hunters campaign back a few years ago. Now, of course, it's mushroomed into this national news story with sex and scandal. But can you remind us of the fundamental issue at the heart of this case?

Speaker 2: 05:52 Right. Election law says you can solicit donations from anybody you see fit long as they're here in the United States, legally, or corporations, of course, donate money every day. Uh, that money is supposed to be used for reelection purposes or for campaign purposes, logistical expenses. Now you can spend it at hotels and restaurants if you're conducting a campaign related event. But according to the filings from the federal prosecutors, especially this week, uh, these were not campaign related expenses and some of the ones we'd reported on in previous years, you know, the garage door being fixed with campaign money or the oral surgery being paid for with campaign monies or the private school tuition being paid for with campaign moneys that appeared to be pretty classic violations of the, uh, of the federal campaign laws. I've been speaking with Jeff McDonald, investigative reporter at the San Diego Union Tribune. Jeff, thank you. You Bet. Thank you. Maureen.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Meanwhile, along the US Mexico border, the Mexican government is preparing to send 15,000 troops to its northern border to prevent migrants from coming into the u s Max. Rivlin Adler has been covering the story and joined us with details. Max, welcome. Good to be here. Tell me, why is Mexico taking this unprecedented step to keep migrants from coming to the u s

Speaker 2: 00:23 this stems from an agreement that Mexico made earlier this month with the Trump administration after a, the president threatened tariffs against Mexico. As part of that agreement, Mexico agreed that within 45 days, it would take a significant measures to deter the flow of migrants across its southern border and into, uh, the United States through Mexico. That mission has been somewhat expanded to now include it's northern border, uh, where it is now sending troops to deter people from crossing into the u s

Speaker 1: 00:56 6,500 national garden members have been deployed to the southern border of Mexico, but more than twice that amount are a deployed to the northern border. Do you know how many troops will be in Tijuana?

Speaker 2: 01:07 It's unclear right now. Although, uh, yesterday the incoming governor of Tiawana, I'm a Bonia, said that Tijuana was the highest priority for the troops that are being sent to the northern border. So we could probably expect that to be a significant amount of troops right across the border here.

Speaker 1: 01:26 Can you tell me what happens to migrants once they encounter Mexican troops?

Speaker 2: 01:31 Um, well first off they have their identification looked at, they get checked to see if they are indeed from Central America or you know any of, there's three countries where the most of migrants are coming from at this moment. Then they are transferred over to the Immigration Institute, which has been handling the asylum seekers as they stay in Mexico. At that point they're either given some documentation to stay in Mexico. A lot of them have been deported from Mexico and return to their home countries. It's really unclear what the numbers are for who gets to stay, who gets sent back to their home country and who is allowed to stay and work and a and weighed out the time it will take them to deal with their asylum claim.

Speaker 1: 02:15 I mean, and, and are those people able to seek asylum in the United States?

Speaker 2: 02:19 Yeah, I mean, this is a huge issue, right? You have people trying to cross the border, uh, at ports of entry where they're being denied a, there's a metering system in place that we've been seeing over the past few months where people have to put their names on these informal lists and wait and wait and wait. Uh, so in response, people have been crossing outside of ports of entry, hopping the fence, swimming through rivers, a swimming out into the ocean, outside of the border fence here in San Diego. You know, this is, it hasn't resolved itself. People are still coming. The flows are still quite heavy of micro of migrants coming across Mexico southern border. And at the end of the day, they're having to wait weeks, months, or even years to have their asylum claims processed. And that's if they make it to the u s

Speaker 1: 03:03 yeah. We also saw a very disturbing image of a father and his daughter who had drowned and the Rio Grande, uh, their bodies were found along the shoreline. We've heard horror stories of the conditions inside us detention centers where children are being detained. Is there any sense of how having Mexican troops at the border, uh, may mitigate the situation?

Speaker 2: 03:22 Right. So I'm the father and daughter who were in that, uh, you know, horrible photograph. They were people who had tried earlier in the week to cross at a port of entry at Matamoros and to cross into Brownsville. They were denied entry by the u s and then they took their chance crossing the Rio Grande and trying to get to the u s that way. One thing that the national guard of Mexico, which is a newly created, um, armed force has been doing is actively stopping people from entering the river. There were photographs also from over the weekend of the national guard, literally grabbing a two women and a young girl as they tried to cross the Rio Grande, um, and preventing them from doing that. So that is a new role for the Mexican armed forces to prevent people from crossing. And it's something that they have only entered into pretty reluctantly because they've resisted that for years. And in fact, the president of Mexico has said just last year that he does not want to do the dirty work for the United States when it comes to immigration enforcement.

Speaker 1: 04:25 And how is this being received again by migrants and citizens of Mexico?

Speaker 2: 04:29 Just yesterday, uh, a resident of Tijuana was complaining that Federal Police and national guardsmen had asked for his id. People are being searched when they are citizens of Mexico. So they're not really, they're not comfortable with the intrusion in their lives that the armed forces have. There's a long history of the Mexican army being used domestically, uh, in terms of going after drug cartels and things like that, that, that has done really poorly for communities across Mexico. So there's a lot of trepidation. That being said, um, in Tijuana over the past few months, there's been growing frustration over the lack of the federal government on taking action to deal with the thousands and thousands of migrants that have flooded into the city, a just corrupting daily life for the residents of Tijuana. So this is a mixed bag for them. I think it's a wait and see approach to, and especially if the border itself becomes even further militarized, it'll really make life difficult for people who have to cross back and forth every single day.

Speaker 1: 05:33 And when are the troops expected to be along the border for and for how long?

Speaker 2: 05:37 So they announced yesterday that they're going to be getting here on Friday. There's already federal police and national guardsmen who are into Ana and, um, the mission is open ended. There's no idea how long they're going to be there. Of course, the national guard, which was just created this year, by then, you know, incoming Mexican president has an open ended mission. They all will be there for as long as a, there is this migrant crisis. And then on top of that, their role is also to, um, counter rising levels of violence in Tijuana, which you know, is not going to be solved over night. Uh, so this seems like it's going to be a longterm thing. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Adler Max. Thank you. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 00:00 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm jade Hindman. I'm Maureen Cavanagh, San Diego County supervisors are taking steps to increase the number of badly needed psychiatric treatment beds in San Diego. The supervisors voted to expand the counties contract with Palomar Hospital and begin the process of establishing 24 seven crisis intervention centers across the county. Joining me to talk about this new county initiative is Luke Bergman, director of county behavioral health services and Luke, welcome to the program. Thanks so much for having me. What do the board of supervisors approve yesterday when it comes to these regional 24 seven crisis intervention centers that they want to see across the county?

Speaker 2: 00:42 The supervisors approved the expansion of crisis stabilization unit services at Palomar health from six crisis stabilization unit chairs to 12. So we're doubling the size of uh, of Palomar health crisis stabilization unit capacity. And then the supervisors also approved moving forward with planning for the establishment of two 12 chair, community based crisis stabilization units. Also to be situated in North County to address uh, urgent needs that we see there

Speaker 1: 01:18 ever since Tri city hospital closed. It's psychiatric crisis treatment center. The North county has needed an alternative. Will this expansion of the contract with Palomar hospital help that situation in any way?

Speaker 2: 01:31 We feel strongly that it will help the situation that won't entirely solve the situation. There will be additional challenges into the future, we know, but we think that the decisions that were made yesterday to support the expansion in particular of crisis stabilization unit chairs at Palomar health, uh, Escondido campuses will, will help immediate needs that we're feeling right now in the northern region of our county.

Speaker 1: 01:56 The county voted to begin the process of creating a series of crisis intervention centers starting in the North county because that's where the need now his greatest, what types of services would these 24 seven crisis centers provide? So they provide, okay.

Speaker 2: 02:12 Combination of a psychopharm pharmacological services, so medication, um, for, for a mental illness and for substance use disorders and behavioral therapeutic interventions. Um, things like motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, those kinds of things that we know work well, uh, to help people stabilize in the midst of a, of a mental illness, uh, behavioral health related crisis.

Speaker 1: 02:39 So let me ask you, with these centers only be for people brought in for observation by police or a psychiatric emergency response. Teams

Speaker 2: 02:48 lease, we'll have opportunities to drop people off at these crisis stabilization centers and we, and we think that that's a really important function that they'll, that they'll serve. But it's also really important that there'll be accessible to community members not engaged by law enforcement. So, so people can walk in if they know that they're in need of help. People can be transported by family members or members of their, their social networks who have identified a need for help and they'll be very accessible, um, to those folks as well.

Speaker 3: 03:18 What's the timeline to establish these centers? Because the supervisors called the lack of treatment beds a public health emergency.

Speaker 2: 03:26 So the timeline is one that we are addressing with urgency. Um, and that's why we will be undertaking the expansion of services at Palomar health, uh, in immediately that work is already underway and, and we should see it happening within the next few months. We should see some significant movement there. The timeline with respect to the establishment of community based crisis stabilization services. And these again are our services that would not be within a hospital, may be proximate to a hospital, but would be distinct from them. Um, is is also one that we're approaching with urgency, but is, is less certain, um, because we have to address citing issues, um, which is challenging community, uh, communities, uh, in some cases see these services, uh, as burdens instead of assets. I would argue that it's really important that we make more clear. We in the behavioral health community make more clear that you know, that where homelessness is of course a burden to communities where mental illness and substance use, uh, you know, prevalence or of course burdens to communities. These services which really effectively address these issues are assets for communities. And so as we are able to cite these services, we will move them forward as quickly as, as possible.

Speaker 3: 04:48 I've been speaking with Luke Bergman, director of county behavioral health services. Look, thank you. Thank you so much. Joining me now is KPBS reporter Alison Saint John Allison, welcome. Glad to be with you Maureen. San Diego County's lack of psychiatric emergency treatment was brought to a crisis. When Tri City hospital announced last year it would be closing it's crisis stabilization unit. Why did it say it was doing that? Well, it gave three reasons and one of them was new state laws. We're requiring them to upgrade their psychiatric facilities that would have cost millions of dollars. And I think it's important to mention here that tries city has tried for years to get a bond measure through the community to upgrade their facilities in general and it has failed, which is partly why we see Palomar with an enormous new hospital and tri city kind of struggling with it's older facilities is tri city does, didn't never get that bond measure passed in the community. Then the second reason was poor reimbursement and the third was a shortage of staff or shortage of uh, psychiatrically trained staff. Now, yesterday, the board of supervisors debated whether or not to give tri city money to build a crisis stabilization on their

Speaker 1: 05:58 campus. Can you tell us about that debate?

Speaker 3: 06:01 Yes. Well Supervisor Jim Desmond, who represents that area has, uh, talked with Tri city leaders and was trying to negotiate a situation where the county would invest $14 million to build a new crisis stabilization unit, like the ones that Lube Bergman was referring to on their campus. Um, the supervisors were not that happy with that. They cited. So for example, um, UCFD and Palomar have also faced problems keeping their psychiatric services going bought, have managed to die. And Jacob's specifically said that Tri city has fallen down on their responsibilities and, uh, that they shouldn't be rewarded by getting $14 million from the county to build new facilities on their site. So eventually the supervisors did agree to negotiate not only with tri city, but with any other hospital that would be interested in entering a partnership with them to build new psychiatric facilities on their campuses.

Speaker 1: 06:59 There did seem to be, as you mentioned from superhead supervisor Jacob, uh, sort of hostility towards tri-city and the decision that they made is tri city to blame for that by poor management. Is that, is that part of the problem?

Speaker 3: 07:15 Well this is a question. Tri City has experienced a lot of management upheavals in the last year. It is a district hospital with publicly elected board, uh, similar to Palomar but it has had some problems with its board members and the board has disagreed violently. One board member was actually forbidden to come to the meetings. They have had a high turnover of CEOs as a result. So I would say that there is an element of truth to the fact that the supervisors are questioning the stability of management at Tri city

Speaker 1: 07:50 supervisor Nathan Fletcher and assembly member Tasha Burner Horvath threatened Tri city with an audit if they don't come up with a plan to reopen the crisis center. Now has there been any movement on that score? Well, tries

Speaker 3: 08:04 city responded very strongly to that. Leanne grass, their board chair responded and said this was a, you know, uh, misuse of political power to be sending letters like that to them. That they are very committed to providing services for their local community. That they are looking for ways where they can continue to provide services. They are still providing outpatient services. And when she spoke, uh, at the board of supervisors meeting, she kind of implied that the county should be taking more responsibility in this region for mental health services and that they are also to blame for not providing enough resources. Something which I think a lot of people would agree with. And is one reason why the county has now decided to spend millions more dollars this year in its budget on behavioral health issues.

Speaker 1: 08:53 Do you think any other hospitals will be interested in negotiating

Speaker 3: 08:56 with the county to build a crisis stabilization unit? Well, Maureen, I think that's a pretty interesting question because there are some hospitals in north county that have kept very quiet in this debate, for example, in Encinitas. And uh, the question is, would they be interested in hosting such a unit? As Luke Bergman mentioned, there might be some problems getting the community to step up and say, yes, they would host these units. So it may turn out that Tri city is the only hospital that would be interested in partnering with the county on such a unit. And it's very important for the counties vision to create these new units. But I think they want to make sure that tri city is willing to help pay for the, or pay for the operations of it once it's built. In fact, I believe one of the supervisors said during this debate that you think that it's hard placing housing, new housing in San Diego County try placing a crisis stabilization unit. Exactly. And, and uh, we heard Kristen gas bar during the board meeting, putting out a call really to local elected leaders to be more open to accepting such facilities in their communities because they're complaining that they're having to send their police officers down to the county health hospital and Rosecrans. But if they don't accept units like the county is proposing to build, this will remain a stalemate. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Alison Saint John Allison. Thank you. Thank you. Maureen.

Speaker 1: 00:00 In San Diego, first responders are on the front lines of providing services for people suffering with a mental health crisis. An estimated 70% of people who frequently call nine one one have a mental health issue and that's putting a strain on the system to address this challenge. City and county officials announced this week that they are putting more money into a program that assists frequent nine one one callers. It's called rap, the resource access program. KPBS evening edition host Ebony Monet spoke about rap with an Jensen who was with the San Diego Fire and rescue department.

Speaker 2: 00:37 What can you tell us about rap? Uh, the resource access program is, is what we call rap and it was, um, started as a pilot program in 2008 and expanded in 2010 and it addresses frequent nine one one colors of the system. And roughly 1% of the population in San Diego generates almost 20% of the call volume that EMS receives. And so we have a group of specially trained paramedics who monitor the system and find people who are frequent callers. They're always vulnerable and in some way either having a social or medical difficulty and are specially trained, paramedics intervene and provide resources and connect them to resources and they become their advocate to maintain longer term services and thin Diego has a homeless crisis. We've been hearing about the ramifications of that crisis for a few years now. Is this tied into the growing homeless population in any way?

Speaker 2: 01:36 Well, with the, we have about 1400 people who would be considered frequent nine one one colors. And in that total group, about 55% of them are homeless. And, but when we moved to higher frequency of nine one one utilization, like if we look at people who call more than 20 times per year, that's about 90% home. People experiencing homelessness or, um, if we look at people who call more than 50 times per year, that's 100% of people who are experiencing homelessness. So how would frequent calls to nine one one put a strain on the emergency system? Can you, can you talk about just what that looks like? What, what's what's been happening? As I said before, 20% of our call volume is, or almost 20% is generated by frequent nine one one colors. And the, the EMS system is meant to handle that. So we can handle that.

Speaker 2: 02:26 But when we look at individuals and their experience in the nine one one system, we realized that we may not be addressing their needs the way that they need help. And so if we can adjust our approach to providing care, then we can save money for it, the community and we can also help people more effectively. And so how does, um, wrap support our emergency system? You know, the mission of rap is to help vulnerable EMS patients and also to preserve safety net resources. And it's, uh, it's uh, something that you don't have to choose between, which is nice that, you know, we can tackle both of those at the same time. Tell us more about the announcement this week. Um, what additional resources or are being put towards the, the rap program? The county has given us to part clinicians, mental health clinicians, which about 70% of our higher, higher utilizers I, you know, are suffering some from some sort of mental illness.

Speaker 2: 03:24 And so that's really helpful to us. So they, they've given us two per clinicians. And then Amr as well has also given us a two paramedics. And then we have our fire department paramedics working too. So it's a, it's a good partnership between the three entities. How does the outreach team determine who needs the help? Our paramedics are trained to find patterns in data and paramedics are required to document. There's a national database standard data dictionary that we document by and we take that database and we transform it and we, um, run analytics on it in real time and we find people who are either very vulnerable or very high in their nine oh one utilization. So the paramedics will look at this and we have, uh, a system that they run through and find people and they'll find our highest utilizers or our most vulnerable people and they'll proactively make contact with them once the, um, people in need are identified.

Speaker 2: 04:21 What kind of resources can they be linked to? The paramedics in PR, clinicians will encounter that individual and they'll go through a five point intervention cycle. And that always begins with stabilization. And um, people we'll never attach and be successful in services unless you end the immediate social, medical or mental health crisis. And so the first stage is always to make sure that they're stable and that they can think properly and that they're not hungry and that they have the proper medications for their condition. So once they're stabilized, then our paramedics will look for the transitional and longterm services. And those are just services that are in the community. But it's, it's very, you know, our system of care is, is can be complex to navigate through. And so the paramedic helps that individual navigate through those different services. And ultimately, how will this, this help that the county?

Speaker 2: 05:17 I think it helps the county, it helps the community and it helps our, um, personnel, you know, in the streets. If you want to make a first responder really stressed out, they deal with emergencies every day. But if you want to stress out a first responder, then you make them feel helpless. And so when our emergency responders encounter social situations, they don't always know what to do. And so, um, internally we hope to relieve the stress on our, our personnel. Um, and definitely we are providing better care to our patients and making sure that they're getting the right services.

Speaker 1: 05:52 That was an Jensen with the San Diego Fire and rescue department speaking to KPBS evening edition Anchor Ebony Monet.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Roger Corman's 1960 B movie, little shop of horrors became a popular musical in the 1980s and now it arrives at New village arts in Carlsbad with a slightly different look. The carnivorous plant Audrey to is usually a puppet voiced by a man, but in this production it is African American actress and singer, Ebony Muse, KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando speaks with the play's director, a Jay Knox about the creative design of the show. Hey Jay, when you decided you want to do a little shop of horrors, where did you start in terms of how you wanted it

Speaker 2: 00:34 to look? I knew that pretty much every theater goer and San Diego has seen aversion of little shop and I didn't really know exactly what I wanted to do with it, but I remember driving home from Los Angeles one day and I was listening to the little shop soundtrack and I got this vision in my head of a woman in sequence singing supper time, which is the song that proceeds Mush Nick's death. And that's kind of where the idea started in terms of generating this idea of particularly of having Audrey to be a person. But then I think more generally, I love B movies. I love movies from the fifties and sixties plan nine from outer space is one of my favorite movies, even though it's so bad and I really wanted to pay tribute to those old B movies, which are at the original little shop was a B movie, a Roger Corman Film. So a lot of the design aesthetic, a lot of the, the idea behind that kind of came from this fact that you'd watch an old B movie. You always knew as a person in a costume and sometimes the aliens were just people in costumes. So, uh, this idea of highlighting an actor in the role was really important to me going into it.

Speaker 1: 01:43 And Audrey to is usually a puppet or a prop on stage and also a male voice. Yeah.

Speaker 2: 01:48 We're doing a lot of gender bending in this show. We have Melissa Fernandez, Mush neck, and she's incredible. And we have Chris Bona is one of the urchins and Anthony Muse as Audrey to, and Ebony has just this powerhouse voice shakes the rafters every time she sings.

Speaker 1: 02:08 Yay.

Speaker 3: 02:12 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 02:15 we are having fun with some of the expectations that were challenging with this show, but it's still very much little shot. It just feels and looks different.

Speaker 1: 02:26 And tell me a little bit about the creative process of making Adri to this character that has a physical presence on stage and an actress that mixes costume and puppet.

Speaker 2: 02:37 Yeah. So we, we started our meetings with the design team. Well before the rehearsals started. It was a bit of a trial by error, but, uh, we had our puppet designer or a costume designer, our scenic designer, our lighting designer, we had everybody working together and really communicating, it was really important to me that everyone was really communicative and kept each other in the loop so that everything would feel cohesive and like it was all part of this shared world. And so the creative process to me was just entirely about collaboration.

Speaker 1: 03:08 And how did you work with ebony to create the kind of character you wanted her to be on stage? This carnivorous plant is what she is.

Speaker 2: 03:16 Yeah. So normally, you know, as you mentioned, when it's done as a puppet, the character work is all essentially we in the, in the puppets movement and in the vocal inflections, but with a human on stage, there's an added distance because now you have to believe that this person is also a man eating plant. What we talked about, we talked a lot, uh, in the early stages of rehearsal about what that means for her, my early ideas that we saw through to the end. Was that the chorus who normally just kind of float around in the background. One of the early images I had was Mutchnick being eaten and this bevy of arms coming out and pulling her into the pod, almost like vines are tentacles. And so we decided early on that the chorus was actually active participants in the, the murderous nature of the plant. They were part of the plan. But for Ebony and for all the chorus members, we said, you know more than anyone else, you are the, you rule this stage at any point you're on stage, you rule this stage, you're in control of every situation. And we had fun playing with as a person, you can do all these fun little magic moments where you know, she could snap her fingers and then all of a sudden something happens on stage and she now is in control of that moment.

Speaker 1: 04:37 Well with Audrey too, you have are kind of emerging from this big pod and it has this combination of like Las Vegas Show and Drag Queen and Gospel. Yeah. And B movie altogether.

Speaker 2: 04:51 There was a production, uh, I think last year in London that had to drag queen as Audrey, I believe, as Audrey to, to me, that those aesthetics are all just part of the camp. And part of the, the, the idea behind this as a new version, as something kind of feeling a little bit different in the beginning of the script, there's a, a warning of sorts that says, don't treat the play too campy and treat it honestly, which to me is kind of what those B movies were all about. That you see the most earnest acting and the most earnest design and desires in those old B movies. Cause people are trying their hardest. And it's very authentic to me, even as we're embracing that B movie, that authenticity, that earnestness, that heart, it was always so important. So even as she emerges in this Vegasy kind of campy Draghi show, stopping moment, the drives behind them, where it's really important for us that it was all very rooted in, in real desires and real needs and real wants.

Speaker 1: 05:56 Well that was all campy movies always

Speaker 2: 05:58 had this very kind of sincerity. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And, and, and part of that was scraping by with whatever you had on hand to IB. We have little nods to it. We have a Pie Tin Ufo we have on the larger pod. You can see these kinds of dryer to dry or duct stuff that we've spray painted. And so we're really embracing a lot of that hodgepodge quality of those, those films. And so a part of that aesthetic was, yeah, we're doing what we can with what we have. And I love that visual and it, to me, it triggers the audience think in that mode.

Speaker 1: 06:35 And also there's never a sense of wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Look, we're being funny.

Speaker 2: 06:40 Yeah, absolutely. That was really important to us as we were going in. We talked a lot about the realities of this show and the reality is particularly of casting it with mostly people of color in the, in the roles and still setting it in 1960 and what does that mean? There's a line in somewhere that screen where Audrey talks about wanting to move to a neighborhood that's fancy

Speaker 1: 07:02 mind, the little fancy like Levittown

Speaker 2: 07:11 and Levittown town, where these planned communities that as we researched them, we're like, oh, they were whites only. And so we add a little moment in that for cache who plays Audrey as a woman of color. Why would she be thinking, what would she be thinking about? Leggett town? And so we had these really earnest kind of moments and, and when Mutchnick dies, uh, Melissa has a great blood curdling the movie screen, you know, horror scream. So we, we really lean into the actual horror of it, the actual reality of the situation. But try never lose sight of the fun.

Speaker 1: 07:49 You mean the, where am I supposed to the game? That was director a Jay Knox talking with Beth Ahca, Mondo about little shop of horrors. The production runs through August 4th at New village arts theater in Carlsbad. Look for Beth story on evening edition to see what Audrey two looks like.

Speaker 4: 08:21 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 08:23 two.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.