On the acting life and the understudy; a remarkable vet at a Burbank animal shelter; and religion in America and the ‘nones’

The play’s the thing

Re “Playing role of patience,” Column One, March 23

I thoroughly enjoyed the article about the life of a theatrical understudy.

I’ve been working in the film and television industry for the last 35 years — not as an actor but as a set lighting technician — and in that time have developed a profound respect for those who suffer the trials and tribulations of the acting life. Some actors can be a pain, of course — a diva is a diva, male or female — but I’ve found most actors to be amazing, interesting people.


The lot of the understudy is particularly poignant, living a strange push-pull existence that requires mastering very contradictory emotions.

Michael Taylor

Los Angeles

Well-written story about the understudy.


You mention the understudy success of Shirley MacLaine in “The Pajama Game” and Anthony Hopkins in “The Dance of Death.”

It reminds me of the story about Leonard Bernstein, who was assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic under Bruno Walter in 1943. Walter got sick and couldn’t conduct. Without any rehearsal, Bernstein went on. He made his major conducting debut and proceeded to carve out musical history.

Just another case in which someone got an opening and then drove a truck through it.

Kenneth Joyce

San Diego

Pet-friendly and then some

Re “Vet buoys Burbank animal shelter,” March 26

It is wonderful to see that Dr. Martin Small is still serving animals in his retirement, and it comes as no surprise.


We were fortunate to have had Small as our veterinarian for the first few years of our beloved Jack Russell terrier’s life. She was the light of our lives for 16 years, and when Small decided to retire, we panicked. How would we ever find another vet with as much love, compassion, skill and good ol’ horse sense? It took us a long time, searching far and wide, to find another veterinarian we trusted.

Martin Small is a gift to our community and to the world of animals.

Lucinda Blackwood

North Hills

Religion for the ‘nones’

Re “Letting doubters in the door,” Opinion, March 25

Though his intentions may be good, Philip Clayton’s suggestion that the mainstream Protestant churches embrace the Emerging Church movement is both shortsighted and ill-advised.

With its embrace of postmodern relativism and its rejection of historic tenets of the Christian faith, emergent theology would ultimately do more damage to the church than good — indeed, it already has.


Like the attempts of liberal theology in the Protestant church before it, the emergent church is a misguided effort to make the church more relevant and appealing to those outside the faith. And although this is not in itself a bad thing, the emerging movement is simply not a viable solution.

The best thing the church can do is to return to Scriptural roots and turn away from attempts by those who wish to shape the message into something more favorable to popular culture.

Darrin Mariott


Clayton argues that the “nones” — rejecters of rigid doctrines — need a new kind of “religious space that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation and allows one to utter the word God without embarrassment.”

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. This “new” model has existed in the United States for about 200 years. It is called Unitarian Universalism. UU churches welcome all (theist, agnostic, atheist, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, humanist, pagan) who wish to engage with us in a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

Maureen McConaghy


Clayton expresses many interesting and progressive ideas about religion, but he makes one fundamental mistake.

He still sees the nonreligious as nothing more than poor lost sheep who need to be led gently back to the fold of faith. He says: “I suspect that the majority of us believe that religion … offers individuals the inspiration to be better people and to create a better nation.”

As one of Clayton’s “nones,” this is the very idea I reject.

Religious people are no better or no worse than the nonreligious, and as long as Clayton continues to believe otherwise, the “nones” will continue to ignore him and his ilk.

Jason Daly


Clayton’s Op-Ed article on rejecting religion without rejecting God reminds me very much of the faith shared by many of our Founding Fathers.

And it reminded me of the Thomas Paine quote: “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”

Tony Stengel

Los Angeles


A message to the Supreme Court

Re “Health mandate gets a hard look,” March 28

Instead of speaking of an individual mandate, it would be more accurate to refer to a “no-free-ride mandate.”

That is the real issue. Insurance officials agree that a large percentage of the population must be enrolled to make healthcare costs affordable.

Most of us can’t afford to pay for healthcare out of pocket. If we then choose not to buy insurance (or pay the compensatory fee), will we not be free-loading when we eventually need or receive healthcare?

Joseph Everson

Thousand Oaks

Why didn’t the solicitor general use Social Security and Medicare as an argument to defend the Affordable Care Act?

I am 79 years old and began paying into Social Security when I was a teenager; I began receiving it when I was 70.

I began paying into Medicare early on and was eligible to receive it when I was 65.

Fortunately, I did not need to use it to any extent until four years ago, when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and needed 40 radiation treatments — paid for by Medicare.

There are sound and reasonable justifications for having both Social Security and Medicare.

Why do we seem reluctant to put those arguments on the table to counter the broccoli and funeral insurance arguments put forth by the justices?

Are we afraid they might destroy Social Security and Medicare?

If they think the country is divided now, just let them threaten to abolish Social Security and Medicare.

Lou Rosen

Pacific Palisades

We pay taxes, your honor, to make sure the broccoli you purchase is safe to eat and does not carry harmful bacteria or banned pesticides.

We also pay taxes so that those who are less fortunate can afford to buy their broccoli through our food stamp program.

All of us need to pay into the healthcare system as it is for the good of all, unlike war, which we all pay to support whether we support a militaristic outlook on life or not.

Ernie Haas


No matter who wins this argument, American companies will be the losers. Most will still be paying part or all of their employees’ health insurance.

But most of our industrial competitors abroad are not saddled with this expense, or if they are, the taxes paid will be rebated when the product is shipped abroad.

To the American manufacturers, healthcare is a cost that can be deducted.

But its effect is less than the credit that most of our competitors offer to their exporting companies.

The solution: Utilize a value-added tax to fund it. This would finally level the playing field for our companies.

S.I. Hurme

Los Angeles

A cure for the common opinion

Get thought-provoking perspectives with our weekly newsletter.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.