Theater Around The Bay: Swell. Thanks!

We gave Barbara the day off and instead bring you local playwright Jennifer Roberts, reflecting on being thankful for that ever elusive animal… good critical feedback.

Two and a half weeks after Death Of A River in 3/4 Time was staged for the 2014 San Francisco Olympians Festival, I received a thoughtful email from an audience member. Her email came during a writing retreat and I couldn’t take it all in at that moment as my focus was on The Killing Jar (and hot tub), but I keep going back to it and becoming more and more grateful that she had been thinking about the play for this long and took the time to write me. Her letter was kind. She was interested in what the play had to say, but she was also blunt. She pointed out what hadn’t resonated with her and why. Typically, when an audience member writes to me I have one of two reactions: “Who asked you?” or “Swell. Thanks!” Usually critiques fall into the former and compliments in the latter. Hey, I’m human. My ego has an ego. But her letter of critique was swell. Here’s one reason why: she was right.

Her criticism was exactly what I knew already wasn’t working in the play (basically, I brought a hammer). Okay, now it sounds like if you agree with me, swell. If not, buh-bye. But that’s not entirely true. Not all emails that fall into the “Swell. Thanks,” reception are there because they align with my own awareness or are complimentary. In fact, I’m not always open to random emails from folks telling me what would have made my play better. If I’ve invited you to give feedback, that’s one thing, right? If I hadn’t, then I probably don’t want to hear it. “Who asked you?”

So why did I take this particular email well? I can’t say for sure. Maybe it’s because it was careful and considerate. I could tell she wanted to like the play. Maybe it’s because I know her. Maybe it’s because she, too, is a playwright, but avoided telling me how to write my play. She simply stated what hadn’t resonated and why. She didn’t offer fixes or suggestions. I respected her for that. A lot.

I wrote back and thanked her for critique.

I also let her know that I was challenging myself with this play and hadn’t gotten it to where I had hoped it would be, but was proud of it. (actually, I’m more proud of myself for attempting it). The play was problematic for me in many ways, so I decided, in the end, to let it be what it was for it’s first reading. I let her know that I doubt I’ll revise or revisit it. She responded that she was disappointed because, the subject is an important one and “one worthy of fuller treatment in your hands.”

And I agree.

However, sometimes you have to acknowledge when you don’t yet have the skills to pull off something. That’s what I learned with Death of A River. But also, if you don’t try, you’ll never acquire the skills.

I have to say, finding myself in a place of acceptance over not achieving the perfect play hasn’t been easy. I’ve always been a little embarrassed of the ones that didn’t quite hit the mark. But something has shifted for me. Perhaps it’s growth as a writer or growth as a person. Perhaps it was a blog post (I believe it was a SF Theater Pub post written by Allison Page, but I can’t locate it) that was about embracing your failures because of what they can teach you. Or, at least, that’s what I recall it saying. And I whole-heartily agree. Now.

A shift.

I still want to write a language play (on a subject I’m passionate about, while leaving my soapbox at home–it’s too heavy to lug around, anyway), and I will. Anyone who knows me knows if I set out to so something, I will do it. Eventually. I’ve already made the first step.

Jennifer Lynne Roberts is a playwright and producer and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from California College of Arts. She’s a past president of The Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco and an Associate Artist with Wily West Productions. Her latest full length play, THE KILLING JAR, was a 2014 finalist for Dayton Playhouse’s FutureFest. Find out more at http://www.jenniferlynneroberts.typepad.com</em>

Theater Around The Bay: A Thanksgiving Announcement

Happy Thanksgiving friends and fans of Theater Pub!

Whatever you do today, however you celebrate, for whatever reason, we wish you the best of everything.

And…

We’re excited to announce that on January 17th, 2015, the San Francisco Theater Pub will once again begin monthly productions!

It gets better…

We will be performing at both The Hall on Market Street, and the new PianoFight space in the Tenderloin! Performances at The Hall will be Saturday matinees, while PianoFight shows will return to the Monday and Tuesday night format of the old days. And never fear, Saturday Write Fever will continue its monthly presence at the EXIT.

More information to come, including the details of our Return Season, Llama and Beeeeeeerbear, and Pint Sized Plays V. Meanwhile…

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Thank you, everyone, for your continued support and enthusiasm for the San Francisco Theater Pub.

We’ll see you soon.

Cowan Palace: The Golden Girls Take Over San Francisco And Other Chats With Matthew Martin

On this day before Thanksgiving, Ashley thanks you for being a friend while chatting about the Golden Girls with Matthew Martin.

The Holidays are really here! And nothing says seasonal spirit like gorgeous San Francisco drag queens getting all dressed up as the legendary Golden Girls, am I right?

Yes, it’s true. For the past nine years, it’s become a local, celebrated way to enjoy the Christmas festivities. The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes are back and they’re more fabulous than ever.

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Need to see more? Understandable. You can take a sneak peek thanks to YouTube! Still not enough? Lucky for you, I had the chance to interview Matthew Martin who has been with the production since 2007. Matthew is not only the director of the show but is also starring as everyone’s favorite Southern belle, Blanche Devereaux!

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AC: Tell us about how you first got involved with this unique project. How has it developed over the years?

MM: We first did this production in 2007 at a friend’s Victorian here in San Francisco. It was a group of performer friends doing something fun together: 2 episodes verbatim with an intermission. I don’t’ think any of us foresaw the enormous popularity that would ensue. The audiences and shows grew and grew and GREW, going from various small venues to the grand old Victoria Theatre in 2011.

AC: What makes this year’s show different than past productions?

MM: This year’s show is different in that we’ve gone musical! Dorothy and Blanche are vying for attention at the Rusty Anchor, the local piano bar and break into song! We also have new sets. Of course, every year’s show is different, but the audiences are the same faithful crowds that have been growing with every season.

AC: What was the biggest challenge in rehearsing the show and getting it ready for opening night?

MM: Getting there, as with any show! There are always many variables and personalities involved with any theatrical production. Besides actors rehearsing, there are the departments of publicity, technical aspects, lights, sound, costuming, ticket sales. The costumes alone are a show within themselves! It’s a 1980s fashion show and another popular aspect of the production. Love the audience’s “what were they thinking?!” reaction to 1980s fashion sense!

AC: What was the biggest surprise you found when translating a script meant for TV to the stage?

MM: How rabid the fans are quoting chapter and verse of the original scripts and how well the comedy stands up 30 years later. Good writing remains good writing, always. A delightful surprise is the demographic appeal of the Golden Girls. EVERYONE loves them! Old, young, gay, straight, male, female. Love seeing the cross-section of people in every audience. That is the San Francisco I know and love and grew up with here.

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AC: I love the idea of bringing in celebrity guests! How have those personalities helped to influence the show?

MM: It’s always fun to have some local celebrities make a cameo appearances with the Golden Girls, but the audiences are coming to see the Fabulous Foursome!

AC: Why do you think this production does so well in San Francisco? Do you think it would have the same impact in other cities?

MM: The power of syndication makes it very appealing to everyone, here in San Francisco, and around the world, literally! It is “Very San Francisco” for sure, having 4 guys in drag playing these iconic roles, and our audiences can’t wait to come. It’s an annual pilgrimage, a true holiday tradition for many people here.

AC: Have you always been a Golden Girls fan? If so, who was your favorite character?

MM: Who doesn’t like the Golden Girls?! They are ALL my favorite, for different reasons, and it’s the interplay between the decidedly different four of them that makes it so funny and relatable! Like family members! Every Girl gets a rousing round of applause just by walking on the stage. It’s the audience’s way of saying hello and we love each and every one of you!

AC: Bang, Kill, Marry, Share A Cocktail: Sophia, Rose, Blanche, Dorothy

MM: Oh Lord. It had to…..I’d bang Blanche (myself! Haha!), I’d kill Sophia (out of seniority! She’s had a good long life), marry Dorothy (a woman with sense and experience) and share a cocktail with Rose (or 3 and get her bombed!).

AC: What kind of research goes into directing this show and did it vary from the type of research that went into getting into character?

MM: The research is in the years of watching them on television! The Golden Girls are very familiar friends, that’s part of their enduring appeal. It’s very nostalgic and like a comfort food for our audiences. People have a true attachment to the series, so we, the performers, know them as well as the audience. After playing these parts for so many years now, the actors get into their respective characters very easily now.

AC: What do you think it is about the show that still resonates the most with modern audiences?

MM: The truth of the comedy resonates with everyone! Modern audiences relate to the comedy and drama, as times change, but people don’t! The issues that they would explore on the series are the same as today. Love, friendship, old age, health, mothers/daughters, divorce, ex-husbands, companionship, annoying roommates, and people just having to live together to learn from and tolerate one another. The writers didn’t shy away from serious subject matter either. Some of the episodes were groundbreaking for their time in addressing such social issues as abortion and drug addiction.

AC: What’s the one Golden Girlsfashion statement you hope makes a comeback in 2015?

MM: God, not sure anyone wants ANY of those fashion statements to make a comeback, or maybe in the Smithsonian, behind glass! I do love the flash and dash of some of the getups, and Blanche gets to wear some hilarious outfits, but again most of the wardrobe is in the category of “What were they thinking?!” in the 1980s.

AC: Where can we catch your next show? Any big plans for the new year?

MM: We just finished filming Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte which should be released next year. We are doing another run of D’Arcy Drollinger’s hit show “Shit and Champagne” at The Oasis, the new club D’Arcy and Heklina are opening South of Market! I will also be doing a version of my solo show All Singing, All Dancing, All Dead at the new club later in January.

AC: What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?

MM: Being together with family and friends and reminded that the holiday season is a state of mind, not just a few weeks for love and laughter on the calendar. The holidays are a very tough time of year for many people, so performing in a show making people laugh and smile is a beautiful gift to give and receive!

AC: What food are you looking forward to indulging in this Thanksgiving?

MM: All of it! Of course my brother-in-law’s fabulous barbequed turkey, some sweet potato pie, and all the sides! Pecan pie, pumpkin pie…then I won’t eat for a week so I can fit into my costumes for opening night, December 4th!

AC: In ten words or less, why should we come see Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes?

MM: You will be HAPPY that you came to the show!

So with that my Theater Pub pals, I leave you with this: Thank you for being a friend.Travel down the road and back again. Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.

Be sure to check out what’s sure to be a fun and festive way to enjoy the holidays with The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes 2014 and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Come see Matthew and The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes 2014, Dec. 4 – 21, 2014 – Thurs. Fri. & Sat. – 8:00 pm / Sun. – 7:00 pm at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco! Tickets are $25 and are available at http://goldengirlssf.eventbrite.com/

Working Title: Thankful for Thanksgiving Violence…?

This week Will Leschber gives thanks.

Fall finds it’s way into the corners of our lives blowing an ever cooler breeze off the bay and we pause whatever errant projects we are working on to come together for some thanks-giving. My Thanksgivings over the years have been peppered with family (distant and close), food (pleasant and gross), friends (old and new), and good times (never too few). Also I find this time of year is wrapped up with a sensation of endings, of the curtain’s close, of the year-wheel spinning down before the new start. A mixture of celebration, reflection and bitter-sweetness always flavors this season for me. That combination is somehow my favorite. Currently, this is all enhanced by the fact that I’m in the middle of moving into the first apartment that my new family (beautiful wife and lovely daughter on the way) will call home. It’s a time of High Transition.

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Within this whirlwind, I was still able to take a brief moment to enjoy some fall entertainment. The unlikely pairing taken in within days of each other turned out to be The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 and Thrillpeddlers’ annual Grand Guignol horror plays: Shocktoberfest. Although seemingly an odd pairing, I found it interesting how both pieces of disparate entertainment used violence as a cathartic reward for the audience. Mockingjay presents it’s conflict as straightforward and serious. The wartime violence of this section of the story has a dramatic cost to the characters we’ve come to love, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t admit that the action is part of the draw. It’s what we are coming to see. (Along with the emotional character components…my wife just wants to see the lovers kiss! Except Gale…Gale sucks).

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Similarly, though presented with a much different tone, Shocktoberfest celebrates a genre of theatre that is built around rewarding the audience with a sort of climactic blood letting. In keeping with Grand Guignol’s programming history, the four varied, short plays presented within the night offered psychological and physical terror that wove in humorous work, dance, and song. I haven’t seen much like it on stage and I was surprised on how much fun I had. This dance macabre was made all the better by the group of friends that assembled to see the show. We were cautious to call it “boys night” because that indicates regularity. With adult social life being as fickle as it is, we just appreciated the shit out of the time we were given. A bloody good time.

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Thanksgiving is all about community and coming together. We journey across state lines, bus lines, car lanes, and packed planes to join friends and family. What the hell does this have to do violent entertainment, you say? I’m saying this entertainment like any other is enhanced by the company in which we see it. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful The Hunger Games is improved by my wife and her sister whispering about how much Gale sucks. I’m thankful that popcorn/franchise entertainment can occasionally be high quality. I’m thankful that diverse kinds of theatre exists in the Bay Area and in the world at large. I’m thankful that five guys can make time in their adult schedules to hang out, have a beer and have some bloody fun. I’m thankful for you too. Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Theater Around The Bay: INTO THE WOODS- A Prologue

Starting next week, Theater Pub will be running a three-part commentary panel doing a retrospective on Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s INTO THE WOODS, featuring the thoughts of Bay Area theater makers Stuart Bousel, Brian Katz, Marissa Skudlarek, Oren Stevens, and Nick Trengove, each of whom have their own special connection to the seminal Broadway musical. To whet your appetite, we’re running a review (taboo for us, we know, but this is special) of the new film version of the show, from New York based actor/dancer Tommy Stefanek (who, by the way, in 2000 originated the role of Hugo in the very first production of THE EXILED, back in Tucson). Tommy caught an advance screening of the film on Sunday, this is his response. Oh, and *#*SPOILERS*#*. 

Okay, here are my thoughts about Into The Woods and some comments about tonight because it is not often that after seeing an amazing movie I get to hear Rob Marshall, Meryl Streep, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick talk about the experience of making the film.

So, if you are a fan of the musical Into the Woods I am pretty sure that you will LOVE this movie. The film had me at the edge of my seat from beginning to end. And yes, there are some things that I didn’t like and some numbers that I missed, but overall I thought the movie was fantastic.

And as they brought up in the Q&A they were able to do many things in the film that you can’t do on stage. For example, how they filmed ‘Steps of the Palace’ was brilliant! All the special effects made you feel the magic so much more! I mean you really get to go into the woods.

Huge stands outs are the kids: Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and Little Red (Lilla Crawford). They knocked it out of the park. Meryl is even better than you are thinking she will be. And I loved Anna as Cinderella, Emily as the Baker’s Wife, Tracey as Jack’s Mom and Christine Baranski was fantastic as the stepmother. Oh, and the 2 Princes (Chris Pine, Billy Magnussen) singing “Agony” will be a laugh out loud moment for you. We were ‪#‎DYING‬. And yes, both Princes DELIVER. ‪#‎sweetbabyjesus‬

Now, Johnny Depp’s costume is the worst thing in the film. And maybe the second worst thing for me was the fact that I just wanted him to play the wolf but he was playing Johnny Depp as ‘The Wolf’ and I was just like ‪#‎overit‬. But again I am being very picky.

The Baker (James Corden) didn’t connect for me but he had awesome moments and somebody else might really like him so I will leave it at that. I just wanted him to play it more like Chip Zien, the original Baker, but that’s probably just me.

The thing that I mentioned to my partner after the film was that I just feel the original material is so perfect, every lyric, every verse – it is structured so perfectly. And when you trim (which you HAVE to do for film) you lose some of the depth. So, some of the moments near the end don’t have the impact that you need because you had to short change some of the earlier scenes.

And then some of the more “violent” moments were lessened or rather done off screen and I thought that was a poor choice. I think the dark tones of Act 2 really build when you see the Steward hit Jack’s Mom over the head which kills her. The stakes are raised immediately in that unexpectedly violent action and you need to see it. In the film they cheapen the whole moment so it isn’t as dark but I think you need the darkness…

But let me be clear I am being picky right now because the film is that good. We all remember what a piece of shit Les Mis was and this brings us right back to the Chicago days. If you’re a theater person (or not), this movie should be at the top of your list this holiday season and I think you will really love it.

It’s A Suggestion, Not A Review: Ashland Round Up

Dave Sikula returns from the wild world of Ashland.

The wife and I recently returned from a trip to Ashland. Now, this does certainly not make us unique. I’d venture to say that a good portion of my constant readers (especially those in the Bay Area) have been there, and more than once. This trip was either my third or fifth (depending on how you count). I’ve seen shows there only three times, but auditioned there twice. (It obviously didn’t take – yet. I’m determined to go back, though.) It’s odd that I’ve been there only a few times. I went to grad school in Eugene, only a couple of hours north. I just never made the effort to see anything.

There was no particular reason for this; I mean, I had no enmity against them. In fact, I had great respect for what they do, even (years and years and years ago – before some of you were even born, I’ll wager) sending them a copy of my translation of Chekhov’s The Three Sisters (getting a very encouraging letter from Jerry Turner, the then-Artistic Director).

My experiences at Ashland have been hit-and-miss. A pretty good Hamlet (with a very good central performance), one of the worst Sea Gulls I’ve ever seen (which makes me kind of glad, in retrospect, that nothing ever came of my own translation. Remind me to talk about my theories about Chekhov sometime.) On this trip, though, we were four-for-four. We saw a very good and touching production of Water by the Spoonful, a fast-paced, lively – and actually funny – Comedy of Errors, the great Jack Willis giving a towering performance as Lyndon Johnson in The Great Society, and – the whole reason for going – a damn-near-perfect production of The Cocoanuts.

Here, watch for yourself.

Anyone who knows me will know how much I love the Marx Brothers. The book I’ve read the most is Joe Adamson’s Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Sometimes Zeppo. It’s probably the definitive book on the brothers and their work. In previous installments (if not on the Theatre Pub blog, then certainly on my own blog), I’ve discussed how, prior to the current era of video on demand, moviegoers couldn’t count on ever seeing a film more than once. If it was in the theatre, you went out and saw it. If it was on TV, you made the time to sit and watch; you couldn’t even record it. Many of us combed through the TV Guide (which was essential reading) to check the movie listings and see if anything really good was going to be on. (And if it was, it was almost always at 3:00 in the morning.)

There are six and a half great Marx Brothers movies: the five they made for Paramount (The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and Duck Soup), and at MGM the first one (A Night at the Opera) and some of the second one (A Day at the Races). None of the other six are worthless (though The Big Store comes close), but, in Adamson’s words, “they were never in anything as wonderful as they were.” By the early ‘70s, I’d probably seen all of them with two exceptions: Animal Crackers (which was unavailable for legal reasons) and The Cocoanuts. In checking the TV Guide, though, I saw that, after years of waiting, it was finally going to be on. But, as scheduling would have it, it was going to be on in the middle of the afternoon on a school day.

I have no memory of how I did it, but I somehow persuaded my mother to let me come home from school to watch it. I enjoyed the hell out of it (still do), and carry that memory fondly.

By all accounts, the Marxes may have been just about the biggest stars on Broadway in the days when that was the epitome of show business. With a couple of movie-star exceptions (Chaplin and Pickford), you really couldn’t get much bigger. The thing about the brothers was that every performance was apparently barely-controlled chaos and unique from any other: one night Harpo arrived late, forgot to underdress for a quick change and ended up naked on stage; songwriter Harry Ruby marched on stage one night to demand that he be given the bathrobe he’d been promised as a birthday present; ad libs outnumbered actual lines (one night, playwright George S Kaufman was standing backstage and told the person he was talking to “Quiet. I think I just heard one of my original lines”). There was no telling exactly what would happen, but whatever it was would undoubtedly be hysterically funny.

“We’re four of the Three Musketeers”

“We’re four of the Three Musketeers”

The script for both The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers have been available for decades (I own them both), but it’s incredibly rare when someone does them – especially the former (most of Irving Berlin’s score was actually lost until the Ashland production). So when I saw they were doing Animal Crackers in Ashland, I figured I had to see it – and I ended up having one of the best evenings I’ve ever spent in the theatre. It was exactly what I wanted: full of chaos, spontaneity, ad libs, and inspired insanity. It was the next best thing to seeing the actual brothers on stage. And, on top of that, when it was announced that they’d be doing The Cocoanuts this season; well, there was no damn way I was going to miss it.

Because of my commitments to Slaughterhouse Five, we were unable to head north until the end of October. Looking at the schedule, I saw that that would be the last week of the run – and the season – so I decided we had to see the final performance, figuring that, if any performance would go off the rails (in the best way), it’d be this one. It indeed did; it was just one of those performances where I had a big stupid grin on my face for nearly three hours, just drinking in the brilliance of the writing and performances. It was one of those rare times when I went into a show with the highest of expectations and hopes, and not only where they met, but everything went to 11.

“The skies will all be blue/When my dreams come true” – and they did.

The thing I most came away with from that weekend, though, was getting a sense of Ashland. It was the first extended period I’d spent in the town, and I could really see how it’s all focused on the festival (for good reason, but still …). Everything downtown seems to have some relation to what’s going on at the theatres; that the people in town have seen the productions and can talk about them intelligently; that the stores are doing more than selling books and tchotchkes that have a “Ye Olde” vibe. There’s a real sense of pride as to what the Festival means – and does – that I’ve never felt in another city, not even Stratford-Upon-Avon. It’s a real theatre-based town and economy that made me want to work there and become part of that experience.

Downtown Ashland

Downtown Ashland

It’s something I can’t imagine in another town or city. Theatre is either a minor or nonexistent part of most peoples’ lives in the Bay Area. The people I work with don’t go (they barely go to movies, let alone live non-musical performances), and certainly wouldn’t recognize names like Sarah Ruhl or Theresa Rebeck, let alone Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams. (Hell, they barely know movies or television shows that are more than five years old.)

Now, I hasten to add, I don’t think these people are stupid or poorly educated – at least, in areas that don’t relate to the arts. It’s just that so many of our communities ignore the arts – performing and visual – that to say they ignore them is a vast minimization. They don’t know them in the way they don’t know what the best bakery in Montevideo is; it just doesn’t exist for them. That’s what was so exhilarating about being in Ashland. There was a sense that not only is everyone aware of, and pulling for, what’s happening with the Festival; it’s that it matters to them.

And realizing that was simultaneously frustrating, sad – and inspiring.

In For a Penny: Running in Place

Charles Lewis III, reflecting.

“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.”
– Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I had an entirely different entry planned for today. I’d been working on it since I’d finished my last entry. It was going to be about the labels used to identify us as artists, those we choose for ourselves and those often placed upon us. It was going to be about how those labels can simultaneously be a help and hindrance, how the definition of each label seems to change on a daily basis, how frustrating it can be to constantly be typecast as one particular sort when you have a menagerie of other sorts trapped inside you just bursting to get free. But I’m not gonna write that one; not yet anyway.

You see, like all of you, I read Allison’s most recent piece and it resonated with me. After reading it I was suddenly struck by the fact that once I’ve finished this Saturday’s performance in the Olympians Festival, I’ll be done performing for 2014. Given that I hit a stride and have been working for almost a year straight – which came right on the heels similarly prolific years – you think I’d be glad to finally have a proper break. It’s right at the start of December and the rain has finally arrived, so I can spend the final month of 2014 catching up on my reading, doing a helluva lot of writing, and binge-watching to my heart’s content as El Niño promises to finally lift us from this drought.

So why do I feel like a kid lost in the middle of an airport?

like this, but with less Wilmer Valdaramma

like this, but with less Wilmer Valdaramma

Maybe it’s because there’s nothing solid for me on the horizon. Yes, I’ll be writing in next year’s Olympians, but I’ve got nothing locked down performance-wise. Even in my “down” years, I’d have at least two or three projects for the next year set in place by December. Hell, that’s usually one of the first questions on the audition form: “Are you free this time next year?” And when those down years did come (and boy, did they), I took comfort in the fact that those few solid projects were assurance that I hadn’t been completely forgotten by the performing arts community at large. ‘Cause let’s be honest: when you go to see a friend in show after show as your Inbox fills with rejection e-mails from directors, it doesn’t take long for your mind to go from “Maybe I should find a better monologue?” to “Oh God, am I the redheaded stepchild of local theatre without anyone telling me?”

I’m the sort of person who finds it really hard to brag, so I tend to downplay even the good things that come into my life: an unexpected financial windfall; a date that goes really well; and even an audition for a company and/or director whom I admire. Even when those things do happen for me, I take a pretty Zen approach to them and try not to get too excited because I know they might not last. I don’t do that for the pure sake of pessimism, but rather to give myself a little long-term perspective.

Which is really stupid, I know, but it actually has given me the ability to brace myself for unforeseen rejections. The trade-off is that there are times – though not always, I’m glad to say – when I can’t seem to enjoy the blessing right in front of me.

The flip-side to that is a mistake I’ve made far too often: accepting work I knew I wouldn’t like just so I had something to do. Two years ago I was cast in a project that I regretted almost immediately. It was for a well-renowned local company and respected director. I got along with the cast – one member of which I knew beforehand – and a few of the backstage folks were people who I’d worked well with before. But I wasn’t fond of the script, which I had a chance to read before the audition. Furthermore, the director and I did not see eye-to-eye. At all. Apparently every little thing I did was wrong and she had an incredibly condescending way of telling me so. When I was finally able to get out of the production, it was less “Damn, I blew my chance to work with a beloved company and director” and more “This is why you shouldn’t accept every fucking role you’re offered just because you like being busy!”

A sobering lesson that I haven’t forgotten. Now whenever I feel unsure of a project, but feel I should take part anyway “just for the experience”, I have a mental crossing guard with a big “Stop” sign telling me to look both ways first.

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Last night I got to see a friend of mine perform as part of the Olympians Fest. I haven’t seen her on stage in over a year, so it was a nice surprise to watch her in action again. I’ve always admired her variety of skills and her spot-on timing. As those of us who follow her on social media know: she has a life outside of theatre. A really good life, at that. I mention that because I think our biggest fear is that when we aren’t busy on That One Thing we feel is most important, then we probably think that life is passing us by. I know I did. It took me quite a long time to think otherwise. I can’t tell the future, so I don’t know if the coming year will bring me as many projects as this year – let alone so many as artistically fulfilling – but I now know that I don’t have to worry about that yet. I’ve been given something most people would kill for: time off. Maybe I should try to enjoy it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been so busy with all this theatre shit that I’m only at the halfway point of 2666 and it’s really starting to get gruesome.

You can see Charles Lewis’ final theatre production of the year this Saturday as part of the closing night of the SF Olympians Festival. The festival runs tonight through Saturday at The EXIT Theatre. http://www.sfolympians.com.