Theater Around The Bay: Announcing Sticky Icky!

Announcing our next show!

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Urban Dictionary describes “sticky icky icky” as a phrase “used by Snoop Dogg to mean highly potent, sticky green buds.”

Sticky Icky, written and directed by Colin Johnson, is a new, highly potent stoner zom-com-pocalypse play making its world premiere! A beleaguered group of slacker survivors hole up in an abandoned bar during a violent societal collapse caused by an infectious and dangerous strain of marijuana. Join Theater Pub in this fast-paced and smoke-filled journey which begs the question, “Are you feeling it?”

Sticky Icky plays four performances at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street):

Monday, May 23 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, May 24 @ 8:00pm
Monday, May 30 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, May 31 @ 8:00pm

As always, admission is FREE, with a $10 donation suggested at the door. No reservations required, but we suggest getting there early to get a good seat and remember to show your appreciation to our hosts at the bar!

See you at the Pub!

Get there early to enjoy PianoFight’s full bar and munchies!

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Around the World with Life and Art

Marissa Skudlarek is tramping around Oxford, sending us missives of wisdom.

I embark on my longest vacation in several years, two full weeks, three wonderful cities: New York and then Paris and then Oxford. I pack light, but I do bring my laptop; despite my best efforts, there are some writing projects I need to finish, some tasks I must carry with me across the ocean.

My New York theater critic friend tells me that for a writer, there is no such thing as a non-working vacation.

Around eleven at night, my fourth day in Paris, I burst into tears due to guilt at time slipping away without me working on my writing, then dry my eyes and go to “Paris’s #1 Philosophical-Café” to sip linden-blossom tea and write for an hour before they close.

I do get some writing done when I’m in New York. I take my laptop to Shakespeare and Company on the Upper East Side (not to be confused with the more famous Parisian bookstore of the same name) and drink an iced tea and immerse myself in my work for two hours. “You’ve been here a long time! Writing the Great American Novel?” a man asks as I get up to leave. “The Great American Play, actually,” I say. He introduces himself as the theater editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: “the oldest newspaper in New York. Walt Whitman was our first editor!”

I give the man my card and think about how none of that encounter would ever have happened in San Francisco.

Before I leave for vacation, my friends at PianoFight make a video taking The Bold Italic to task for proclaiming that there are no artists left in San Francisco. I laugh, I love it, I post it on social media. I am deeply invested in the idea that there is wonderful art being made in San Francisco and that this can continue. But sometimes I wonder if I am fooling myself, being blindly optimistic instead of realistic.

I see a beautiful production of La ménagerie de verre, that is, The Glass Menagerie, for fifteen euros. When it’s over, we applaud so much our arms and hands ache; we make the actors take five curtain calls. This is par for the course at French theater productions. The profession of the actor is noble in any society, but it seems so much nobler, so much more respected, in France.

I follow Rue Racine to the Place de l’Odéon, location of one of Paris’s oldest theaters, noting that there are an awful lot of gendarmes in the vicinity, only to discover that the Odéon has been occupied by theater artists and stagehands who are protesting cuts to their unemployment insurance.

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Sara Judge, Empress of On the Spot, comments that we ought to do the same thing in this country. I say “First we would actually need job security in order to protest when they try to remove it.” Touché, says Sara.

I overhear a Quebecois theater director, looking very much the Europhile artist in stylish scarf and overcoat, talking about his career while I have lunch at a French café.

I overhear some French youths loudly discussing art and sex over beers, as French youths, or really all youths, are wont to do. “I’m getting busy with Amandine,” says one. “No, you’re getting busy with your ass!” says the other. My back to them, I listen, I take notes, I swell with delight at understanding their slangy French gossip.

Over Shake Shack burgers in Madison Square Park, an Irish fantasy novelist tells me that in Ireland, writers and artists and musicians don’t have to pay tax on the money they earn from their artistic endeavors unless it’s over 50,000 euros a year.

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Outside Shakespeare and Company on the banks of the Seine, I meet another Irishwoman, a screenwriter, whose government has awarded her a fellowship to study and research for three weeks in Paris.

I meet a bearded Englishman about my own age who’s been happily living the expat life in Paris for the last seven years, writing and editing and running a theater festival.

I mentally review my own family tree and what I know about the immigration laws of various countries. Could I get European citizenship through a distant ancestor?

I think about how it seems like everyone I know in San Francisco has a well-defined escape plan in their back pocket for when they inevitably get evicted by a greedy landlord, and how over the last year or so, I’ve started to feel like an anomaly because I lack such a plan.

I wonder if those vague daydreams of getting European citizenship are actually the beginnings of my own back-pocket escape plan.

I see how many translated books are displayed for sale in the Paris bookshops, and think with envy of all the French people who can thereby earn a living as literary translators.

I stroll up and down the streets of Paris, the wide avenues lined with Haussmann limestone buildings six or seven stories tall, and think about how everyone always freaks out about building taller buildings in San Francisco (“Don’t turn it into Manhattan!”). But what if we could turn it into, not Manhattan, but Paris?

I think about how when I return to San Francisco, I’ll return to my nasty, petty habit of mentally demolishing any one-story building I see and imagining a five-story housing complex built in its place.

I stop and look at listings in the windows of real estate agents. Despite the dollar-to-euro or dollar-to-pounds exchange rate, the prices seem amazingly reasonable – or have I merely been living in the San Francisco real estate bubble for too long? A room in a shared flat for $750 a month. A three-bedroom Oxford house for $2000 a month. A small Paris one-bedroom, yours outright for $325,000.

The brick houses of Oxford are smaller and narrower and cozier than the painted ladies of San Francisco, but most of them have bay windows, too.

Paris Métro trains come, on average, every five minutes, and I nearly always get a seat, even when I take the busiest segment of the busiest line at rush hour.

San Francisco friends message me to say that a horrible breakdown on the N Judah ruined everyone’s commute. They invite me to feel schadenfreude, and I do, but I also start dreading, truly dreading, going back to BART and MUNI.

My friend Sunil Patel, a Twitter demi-celebrity with friends in every corner of the world (it’s because of him that I had that burger with that Irish novelist), “has a nice moment” with Lin-Manuel Miranda at a book signing. I giggle to myself on a late-night, near-empty Métro train when I see Sunil’s and LMM’s tweets about this momentous encounter. I remember that good things happen and people are doing good work in the USA as well.

My friend Lily Janiak is announced as the new lead theater critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and again, I remember that despite the many difficulties facing the theater business and the journalism business, sometimes we do get nice things.

In a hipster café on the Cowley Road in East Oxford, a young man tells a friend that his band has been invited to play at a BBC Introducing gig.

In an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, another young man tells some friends about his attempts to make it as an indie rock artist and to recruit a sought-after young drummer for his band.

I try to remember when’s the last time I overheard such a conversation in San Francisco at a venue that wasn’t PianoFight.

A San Francisco friend messages me to say that she overheard two cute French people talking in a Hayes Valley café, but they were discussing how to get venture capital funding for a startup.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. For more: marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Cowan Palace: Why Closing A Show Is The Worst

As Ashley prepares for Closing Night, she reflects on the hardest parts of the process.

Back in early February, closing Middletown seemed so far away. 2016 had only just started and I was feeling both anxious and excited to dive into my first full length show in three years. Rehearsals were only just starting, lines were still new and not memorized, and I hadn’t even met the entire cast yet. It seemed like we had a long road ahead.

I’m a believer that sometimes plays find you. They grab a hold of you before you even realize it and strive to teach you something, leave you with something, before that grasp is forced to let go. It could be the language in the text, an emotion it brings out, or simply, just a shared quiet moment between you and an audience member. And so, here we are. Months later. The long road approaches its finish line. Our last four performance of Will Eno’s Middletown at Custom Made Theatre start tonight and by Saturday evening our show will be closed.

Sure. We’ll all get some more personal time to catch up on our poor neglected friend, TV and maybe get a little more sleep to dream about TV. But there’s a lot of stuff that sucks about ending a show, too. Here’s just a few things I’ll miss

1.) Justifying a dinner consisting of those delicious individual sized Sabra hummus and pretzel cups, a Quest bar, and a venti Starbucks caffeinated beverage

Oh, hummus. I think I’ll miss you most of all. Nothing compares to you. Certainly, not a bigger hummus container of the same flavor at home.

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2.) The cast and crew
I mean, duh.

3.) Big Booty
Okay, I love cast warm ups. They’re such a great way to connect with your team before you’re out together on stage and sometimes they offer enough physical activity for me to sort of feel like I’m at the gym! Big Booty. Whenever someone suggests we play it, I’m filled with an incredible anxiety and excitement that can not be matched! If you don’t know the game, look it up. It’s a crazy rush!

4.) The play within the play
There’s a lot of beautiful stuff that happens backstage. Between the very tight quarters and our large set pieces and some creaky floor boards and a big cast, there’s a delicate dance that goes on each night that the audience never gets to see. Sometimes it’s not so delicate and suppressing some of the giggles that result from those more difficult maneuvers can be a challenge but that just makes it all more fun.

The cast (and stage managers) of Middletown snuggling in the Green Room!)

The cast (and stage managers) of Middletown snuggling in the Green Room!)

5.) The constant stream of lines running through my mind
When I hear a certain word or phrase that is either in the show or reminds me of the script, I’m immediately transported to where I am when that moment of the play is happening. I know when the show closes, this feature will start to fade away as it always does, which makes my heart ache just a bit.

6.) Those moments when you’re putting your makeup and first costume on while someone else bares a life story you’ve never heard before or shares a secret.
Like I said earlier, I think plays find you. And sometimes that’s to bring new cast mates together. When I think back on this production of Middletown, I know I’ll remember those surprising moments in the girls dressing room (lovingly called, “The Boudoir” when we’re in the middle of a show) when we sat putting on makeup and someone told a wondrous story from their past or quietly offered a truly honest, bare event from their life and how it’s shaped them. Mainly we laugh together, but we’ve also created this space that allows us to explore some other colorful feelings, as well. Those moments have made me so thankful and emotional, which I think is a big lesson from Middletown and I know I’ll forever miss it.

So many feelings, only so much hummus to sustain them all.

So many feelings, only so much hummus to sustain them all.

7.) Taking a moment to dedicate each show to a past me
As part of my own personal, pre show ritual, I take a moment before each performance and “dedicate” the show to a past version of myself. To the 4 year old who told her parents she wanted to be an actress, to the 12 year old who hated looking in the mirror and longed to grow up, to the senior in college scared that she’d never be cast in anything in the real world, to the young twenty something living in NYC waiting hours just to sing her 16 bars at an audition, to the woman who moved to San Francisco on a whim, to the February Ashley who worried that it’d be impossible to manage being in a play again with a baby at home, etc. The ritual helps me to focus and be grateful to be exactly where I am.

Closing a show always makes me cry. Even thinking of closing a show gets me teary eyed. Not gonna lie, I’m probably crying as you read this. Closing a show is the worst. But the journey, the whole experience, is as beautiful and wonderful as you allow it to be. So, to the cast and crew, those that shared this story with us, and to the folks we hope to see in these final four performances – thank you. While closing is the worst, I think you’re all the best.

You can see Ashley either crying or not crying at Custom Made Theatre’s Middletown playing tonight at 7:30 and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm!

Working Title: Politics Not Often Politic & Diplomats Thrown in the Duck Soup

This week Will Leschber talks Dark Porch Theater’s The Diplomats and tosses in a little, Clue & Duck Soup for seasoning…

Politics! How much longer do we have to hear the constant barrage of political rummaging, commentary, jokes, lampooning, diatribes and all too serious sidebars? What’s that now? At least until November? Sheeeesh! Oh wait…what’s that you say? Political complaining and satire actually will continue long after that? Sheit. Ah yes, I forgot, we live in the age of the 24 hour news cycle and 24/7 social media update. So it’ll never end. But this is nothing new. Social commentary and criticism has existed as long as we’ve had civilization to criticize. I should be used to it by now. And I guess it’s not all bad… after all the rhetoric and all the online rants, I still get a 1 a.m. chuckle when a dumb Trump Meme arrives in the news feed. Feed me meme!

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It turns out strangers online actually do not care about your individual political opinions. Who knew! But, if you turn that political bent into a performance, a play or a film (maybe one that still gets play 80 odd years after it was made), well, you could be on to something there. I’m not sure what the true distinctions are between real news and fake news and comedy news and The Onion news anymore, but I will say if I can get my nightly news with a side of satire and a garnish of hilarity, I’ll take it! Political talk trickles into every aspect of our adult lives. Especially our art.

Dark Porch Theater is premiering a new play, The Diplomats, at the EXIT Theater early next month and if you are looking for a political landscape littered with jokes, this may be your jam.

The Diplomats

The Diplomats, written and directed by Martin Schwartz, is described by Dark Porch as a play which “… showcases the ways in which politics are theatrical and laughter is political.” Sounds exactly like the best way to enjoy political bumbling!

L-R Karen Offereins, Tavis Kammet, Dan Kurtz, Ryan Hayes, Margery Fairchild, Courtney Merrell. Photo by Basil Glew-Galloway.

L-R Karen Offereins, Tavis Kammet, Dan Kurtz, Ryan Hayes, Margery Fairchild, Courtney Merrell. Photo by Basil Glew-Galloway.

I had the pleasure of speaking with two fine actors featured in the show, Karen Offereins & Tavis Kammet, and wouldn’t you know, they had two excellent film suggestions to get you in the headspace of The Diplomats. Let us start with the wondrous Karen Offereins. She had this 80 plus year old classic film suggestion that remains hilarious after all these years:

I would say that that Duck Soup would be a great movie pairing with The Diplomats. The Marx Brothers type of humor and nutso situations are very much up the alley and tone of The Diplomats. Their brand of humor in general is a good fit. The farce element is a major driving force of the play, along with random acts by random characters at random times, to underline the very real and bizarre nature of diplomatic proceedings. This play is based on a true incident, and it is all at once ridiculous and frightening.

Those Marx Brothers never get old. Harpo and his evil face might be my favorite.

Those Marx Brothers never get old. Harpo and his evil face might be my favorite.

Rolling along to the next great suggestion; Bay Area actor and favorite middle school Theater teacher of all time, Tavis Kammet, had this to say for his film pairing suggestion:

“Clue…Fast paced, lots of crazy characters, an ending that’s up for interpretation…Clue”

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Always with the brevity, Tavis. I dig it. With these two comedic gold film recommendations, you can assume The Diplomats will be a pretty raucous time. Check it out!

The Diplomats runs at the EXIT Theater Thursday, May 12, 2016 to Saturday, May 28, 2016. The Marx Brothers Duck Soup, 1933, is available to rent on all the usual platforms (Google play, itunes, Vudu, etc) and Clue, 1985, can be found to rent in the same haunts…unless it’s found by Colonel Mustard in the study with the Candlestick!! …or God forbid, Mrs. Blanche White with the flames!!

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Theater Around The Bay: An Interview With Rem Myers

Meghan Trowbridge interviews Rem Myers, director of t. gondii presents the lovesickness circus, currently playing at Theater Pub.

MT: Where do you hail from and what brought you to the Bay Area?

RM: I’m originally from the East Coast but I’ve been living in SF for almost four years now. My cousin used to act out here and she recommended I come check it out. I moved here site unseen and I’ve been here since!

MT: You obviously direct – any other sides of theater you dabble in?

RM: Not really? I’ll dramaturg and produce. I used to act in college, but I haven’t since then. Sometimes I miss performing, but I’m pretty content to work behind the scenes.

MT: Are there advantages or disadvantages to directing in a bar?

RM: I enjoy directing shows in non-traditional spaces. It’s fun to work in a bar and have the actors pop out of unexpected places. Of course, working in a bar also means difficultly in finding times to rehearse in the space!

MT: What attracted you to t. gondii presents the lovesickness circus?

RM: I’ve known Kat Sherman for a few years and love her plays. I was looking for a short play to direct for Theater Pub and she sent me lovesickness. I love Kat’s language and poetry and was psyched to do a 30 minute play of hers.

MT: What advice would you give to future directors of Theater Pub shows?

RM: Cast awesome actors like I did. A week is a short time to rehearse and Jeunee, Marlene, and Soren really stepped up their game to bring nuanced and clear performances in this short period of time. It’s really all on them.

MT: What’s the show you’re dying to direct?

RM: I have a few newer plays I’m interested in working on, but I won’t name the playwrights here😉

MT: What’s next for you?

RM: A break!

MT: Any shout-outs to other Bay Area theater/performance stuff going on?

RM: Not yet!

t. gondii presents the lovesickness circus has two more shows, tonight and tomorrow. Don’t miss it!

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In For a Penny: The Early Bird

Charles Lewis III, getting the worm.

Free wine – the only reason I do theatre.

Free wine – the only reason I do theatre.

“I am glad I was up so late; for that’s the reason I was up so early.”
– William Shakespeare, Cymbeline, Act II, Sc. 3

As I continue my contemplation about the theatrical “ecosystem,” I recently took a moment to ponder the act of seeing something early. What does the audience think when they see a preview performance for a play or early screening of a film – are they hoping to see the next great masterpiece? Do they want to be ahead of the curve in bashing the next great disaster? Or are they like me in that they just want to escape from the world and were persuaded to do so by the discounted (or free) price?

Previews are a necessary evil: they’re billed as being works in progress; a peek behind the curtain of artistic evolution. This reasoning is meant to excuse what ever stumbles the production encounters in this performance (“It’ll be better in the show proper; we promise!”), but simultaneously sell the bright spots as on the verge of growing brighter (“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, folks!”). Notorious Broadway debacle Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark had the longest preview period in history with 182 pre-opening performances. You could argue that audiences and critics had their daggers out before the first curtain rose, but the show apparently showed little – if any – improvement during its run.

I opened a play last week after two preview performances. After months of memorizing lines and contemplating character motivation, I don’t have a damn clue what the audiences have thought of us so far.

With that show occupying much of my life of late, I took advantage of the rare opportunity to be part of an audience this week. This past Tuesday, I attended the Industry Night (so cool to be thought of a part of “the industry”) performance of Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners at the Magic Theatre. I knew practically nothing about the play going in, but I’d heard that Udofia is a resident playwright at the Magic and that Rotimi Agbabiaka – one of the best working actors in the Bay Area – would playing an important role. Free ticket, free wine, rub elbows with local theatre bigwigs – how could I resist?

I didn’t see the playwright herself that night, but the pre-show speech mentioned that the show is intended to be the first chapter of a nine-play cycle (Ch. 2, runboyrun, opens at the Magic on April 28) of Nigerian characters in the United States. An ambitious venture to be sure. In the “Blood and Brain” interview inside the program, Udofia explains that she “started with one play and thought [she] was done.” That one play became a trilogy which soon proved not enough.

So was I watching the start of the next theatrical story cycle – a la August Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle” or Tom Stoppard’s “Coast of Utopia”? I don’t know. Hell, I didn’t even consider the multi-chapter angle until the very end of the play. I doubt anyone else did either. All I can say for sure was that I know how I reacted to what I saw then and there. That’s what’s most important about previews: not what they represent for the future, but what effect they have right here and now.

I play to see runboyrun in early May, and my own play continues performances tonight. Just yesterday I had my costume fitting for the SF Opera (it’s a cool costume that I’d honestly wear in public, if I could). I’m tinkering over pages for my Olympians script as I mull over upcoming auditions. I’ve also recently been offered a directing opportunity that I’m seriously pondering.

In short, I have a pretty good idea as to what my theatrical future holds. That’s not going to stop me from living fully in the present.

Charles Lewis III is a writer, director, actor, and creator of the Flux Capacitor. No, you can’t see it.

Everything Is Already Something: How To Stop Getting Cast So Much, Ugh

Allison Page, providing useful information for those in need.

Follow these quick and easy steps and do away with all those pesky offers coming at you left and right!

1. Pick a fight with the stage manager! Maybe it’s about how she asked you to put away your costumes because she’s a dictator. Tell her it’s not part of your art to put your stuff away! You didn’t take that one class in college to spend your life hanging up a vintage velvet suit! That’ll show ‘er, and will ensure that you’ll not get stuck working on a show with her any time soon.

2. Demand 154 comps for a one week run. After all, you’ve got family in town, and you are the star. And sure, maybe 153 of them won’t show up, but you’ve got to hold those seats just in case. It’s your right as Titania queen of the fairies, in this all male production of Midsummer, to take up as much space with your aunts and nephews as you so choose.

3. Request repeatedly to be listed in the program as “Actor and Costumer” because you wore your own socks.

4. Give line readings to your fellow actors after each rehearsal. They’ll thank you later. Your knowledge is so vast it would be a crime not to help them, and they definitely won’t tell everyone they ever work with that you did that and that they hated it and you.

5. Tell the choreographer that you “Took a one day tap workshop with Greg, ever heard of him? Yeah he was on TV. So I can really just like fix whatever you’re thinking here. But sure, if you wanna take a pass at it, whatever.”

6. Don’t memorize your lines. It’s fine. Just get the gist of it. Same thing. You consider yourself a writer anyway. It won’t change the story at all if you suddenly shout that a bear is entering the scene. It’ll probably make it better, honestly. Art is collaboration and you’ve got things to add. To every scene. Everybody loves you once they really get it. They’ll learn someday, the poor idiots.

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7. Show up whenever you feel artistically inspired to be at rehearsal. What difference does it make if you’re on time but don’t feel moved by the spirit of theater?

8. Ask to leave whenever you feel like there might be something else you could do, like a party or a beer festival. Sure, you knew about this rehearsal 3 months ago but like…life is unpredictable.

9. Answer your phone during notes each night and then put one finger in the air like “Just a minute” and go outside, where you stay for 20 minutes.

10. Tell everyone the show is shit after the first rehearsal: other cast members, friends, family, potential audience members, subscribers, the internet.

11. Start a lot of sentences with “Well, when we did it in New York…” especially when it was actually New Jersey and 1973.

12. Purposely do some blocking wrong over and over again until they just change it to whatever you want.

13. Improvise fight choreography. So spontaneous!

14. Bardsplain Shakespeare to every person involved in the production in any way regardless of their experience level.