Cowan Palace: The Golden Girls Return To Brighten Our Holidays!

Ashley thanks you again for being a friend and spreads holiday cheer with the cast of The Golden Girls!

Happy Day Before Thanksgiving, gang! I like to imagine you’re all spending today in your yoga pants sipping on spiked pumpkin spiced lattes while watching Golden Girls reruns. But in case you’re at work or in the middle of meal prep, I have your Golden Girls fix right here. So grab a warm beverage and read on!

It’s that magical time of year again. The city is full of shoppers and light and of course, the radiant presence and spirit of San Francisco’s favorite holiday tradition, The Golden Girls live in performance. I had the chance to talk to the four stars of this year’s The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes (which opens on December 3rd at The Victoria Theatre) and their thoughts are truly hilarious, delicious, and heartfelt. A perfect holiday treat!

First, tell us who you playing in the show?

Holotta Tymes: Sophia

Heklina: I play Dorothy Zbornak, who was of course immortalized by the untouchable Bea Arthur.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Rose Nylund

Matthew Martin: I’m playing Blanche, of course!

Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy), D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose), and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls "The Christmas Episodes"; photo by Mr. Pam

Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy), D’Arcy Drollinger (Rose), and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls “The Christmas Episodes”; photo by Mr. Pam

If your character was a drink, what would they be?

Holotta Tymes: An old fashioned.

Heklina: Either a Salty Dog or a Rusty Nail. Or a Screwdriver.

D’Arcy Drollinger: A Shirley Temple

Matthew Martin: A Mint Julep on a veranda on a hot night.

Which Golden Girl captures your real life personality?

Holotta Tymes: Sophia for sure.

Heklina: Definitely Dorothy. As I am the most sarcastic person I know. Also, my joke delivery is very dry and I can deliver a withering side-eye. I’m also very much Blanche because I’m boy crazy!

D’Arcy Drollinger: Well, I was born on the same day as Betty White, so I’m going to have to go with Rose.

Matthew Martin: I think there’s a little bit of all of them in everyone, and that’s why they are so relatable to audiences, but sometimes I feel like guileless innocent Rose more often than not, and just play a slut like Blanche onstage!

If you could be stuck on a desert island with only one of the Girls, who would you pick?

Holotta Tymes: Blanche. She’s such a tramp.

Heklina: Dorothy! Definitely not Rose, she’d drive me crazy with her St. Olaf stories.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Again I’m going to have to say Rose, especially after watching “Vacation” episode 8 in season 2 when Rose takes control when they get stranded on a tropical island.

Matthew Martin: Well, I’d say Blanche but that would be myself, and Dorothy is always good company!

Caption: Heklina (Dorothy), Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose) and Matthew Martin (Blanche), in The Golden Girls "The Christmas Episodes"; photo by Mr. Pam

Caption: Heklina (Dorothy), Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) D’Arcy Drollinger (Rose) and Matthew Martin (Blanche), in The Golden Girls “The Christmas Episodes”; photo by Mr. Pam

What has been your favorite part of this year’s production process so far?

Holotta Tymes:
The casting couch. ;0)

Heklina: Well, it’s been a very bittersweet year as I miss my partner in The Golden Girls, Cookie Dough, terribly. Everything about the production is a reminder of her. But getting to work with new additions to the cast has been great.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Rehearsals have been so much fun. It’s hard to get through the scenes sometimes with all the laughing.

Matthew Martin: Lots of laughs with fun people!

What do you think will delight the diehard fans of the Golden Girls the most in this year’s show?

Holotta Tymes: The cast this year is a lot of fun; I think everyone is in for a good laugh.

Heklina: The material and the dialogue, of course. And the outfits. When you put four queens in drag as these characters it’s just comedy gold.

D’Arcy Drollinger: The set is going to be great this year!

Matthew Martin: The addition of Holatta Tymes to the cast. A great performer and person. The greatest tribute to Eddie/Cookie is going on with the show with such a seasoned performer playing Sophia.

To those who haven’t seen the show before, why is this year the perfect introduction to this San Francisco holiday tradition?

Holotta Tymes: Both episodes chosen for this year, I think, are some of the best of the sitcom. Funny and charming.

Heklina: This year is no different. There is never a bad time to attend this show and bask in the camp overload. It’s also the only show I do all year long that you could bring your grandmother to and she wouldn’t get offended.

D’Arcy Drollinger: It deals with friends, family and drag queens!

Matthew Martin: With the faithful fans flocking to The Victoria and growing exponentially year after year, anyone who hasn’t been to The Happening that the GGs is will have an onsite conversion!

What drink or snack can your fans treat you to after the show?

Holotta Tymes: Reese’s peanut butter cups

Heklina: I should say cheesecake, I know, but the truth? A cheeseburger.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Cheesecake!

Matthew Martin: A taco and a Mexican coke. Hey, we’re in the Mission.

Caption: D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose), Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy) and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls "The Christmas Episodes"; photo by Mr. Pam

Caption: D’Arcy Drollinger (Rose), Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy) and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls “The Christmas Episodes”; photo by Mr. Pam

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving season?

Holotta Tymes: My friends, family and the chance to work with such a great cast.

Heklina: To have survived another year in San Francisco! Also, to have opened Oasis.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Friends, family and drag queens! I am joining the cast for the first time this year and I am grateful to be part of such a fun SF tradition.

Matthew Martin: My family and friends and the many blessings in my life.

Where can we see you next? What do you have going on after this production closes?

Holotta Tymes: You can catch me in “Sunday’s A Drag Brunch” atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. A drag brunch with attitude

Heklina: Straight into New Year’s Eve preparations!

D’Arcy Drollinger: You can catch me in Three’s Company at Oasis as Chrissy Snow. And in June 2016 as Samantha in Sex and the City Live!

Matthew Martin: Hopefully you can see me on a beach in Hawaii whilst I’m on vacation! Our film of Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte just premiered and will soon be distributed. We are doing Three’s Company next year playing Mrs. Roper, another installment of D’Arcy Drollinger’s Champagne White Saga onstage, filming Dead Ringer with Billy Clift playing Bette Davis twins, my solo show here and there and working on other projects. Busy, busy….

In 160 characters (or less!) tell us (tweet style; so emoticons are encouraged!) why we need to come see the show:

Holotta Tymes: It’s become a new San Francisco holiday tradition!


D’Arcy Drollinger: Season 5, episode 3 The Accurate Conception. Golden Girls and cum jokes. Merry Xmas!

Matthew Martin: It’s become a SF tradition for many and always a feel-good holiday happening. The cross-section of people in audiences to me is the essence of San Francisco: male, female, gay, straight, old, young, all having a good laugh together at Christmastime.

The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes – 2015 Performance Dates are Dec. 3 – 20, 2015. Plays Thurs. Fri. & Sat. – 8:00pm / Sun. – 7:00 pm at The Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (between Mission and Capp) SF, CA 94103. Tix available at:

Working Title: The Ruhl’s of Kissing

This week Will Leschber closes his eyes and gets ready for a Stage Kiss!

My first stage kiss was with Jessica Middleton. Do you remember yours? Ah yes… First semester of college was starting off with a bang! My guess is that I got the part in that readers’ theater original play of Mother Jones because I was good at making bashful googley eyes at attractive actresses and know how to positively lose all brain function when making said googley eyes. Ask my wife, she knows!

But back to the story… so the audition called for an actor and an actress to sit, hold hands, look into each others eyes and have a conversation using only the letters of the alphabet, the ABC’s. I say A?. She says B. I say C! And so on. So I get to around P and…damn…her eyes…they are such a radiant deep shade of cedar brown…it’s like a circular forest folding in on itself and then peering into me…and oh shit…what letter is next…oh my god…did I forget the next letter in the alphabet! Why did I skip kindergarten?!


I look over at the director…no help. I look back at the Jessica just to check how much I’m ruining her audition,,, and she kindly smiles and says, “Q?”. Man, did I look like an idiot! But, apparently, I looked like an idiot who liked a girl enough to forget the alphabet when looking into her eyes. And wouldn’t you know it, we both got cast. Hooray for being young and dumb, huh!

A first kiss, a first stage kiss, they are hard to forget. We forge them into our stories and use them as touchstones pointing toward who we are and who we were. What do you remember about your first kiss? Was it gentle and sweet? Did you clunk teeth? Was it somehow not a total disaster?! Was it the best ever?

I had the pleasure of speaking to Millie DeBenedet about some of her own Stage Kiss…ing. Millie is a Bay Area actress/director/cocker-spaniel enthusiast and currently plays Laurie/Millicent in Stage Kiss, at SF Playhouse, this holiday season. And of course, while asking after perfect stage kisses, I had to ask for her thoughts on an equally romantic cinematic kiss that would couple well in that vein. She had this to say…

She (Carrie Paff*) and Millicent (Millie DeBenedet) rehearse a scene from ‘The Last Kiss’.

She (Carrie Paff*) and Millicent (Millie DeBenedet) rehearse a scene from ‘The Last Kiss’.

Stage Kiss is Sarah Ruhl’s love poem to actors. The play is utterly romantic. It reveals the twisted dynamics actors find themselves in when they wind up in a showmance. I think it’s easy for actors to confuse lust vs. love. The work of Theatre (like the game of love) requires so much risk-taking. Having a crush on one of your coworkers is inevitable. How you deal with those feelings, well…

She (Carrie Paff*) kisses understudy Kevin (Allen Darby) as Director (Mark Anderson Phillips*) looks on during auditions.

She (Carrie Paff*) kisses understudy Kevin (Allen Darby) as Director (Mark Anderson Phillips*) looks on during auditions.

DeBenedet continues…

To accompany your taste buds the following films are great pairings for Stage Kiss:

1. The Lady Eve (1941) – Because it embodies the dicey and passionate relationship between He & She. However, He is more like Barbara Stanwyck’s character and She is more like Henry Fonda.

2. Let’s Make Love (1960) – The tone is similar to Stage Kiss. However, I think Carrie Paff is a much stronger female lead than Marilyn Monroe. Another similarity is you understand the play-within-a-play idea.

3. Love, Actually (2003) – This is my unsophisticated answer. At one point in Stage Kiss, there are a couple of different love stories you could follow, similarly to Love Actually. Also because it’s a funny holiday rom-com.

Love doesn’t have to be sophisticated. It just has to make you, well… feeling something! These are all excellent choices, but my, my, if I go one holiday season without watching the glory that is Love, Actually, my heart withers a little. Good choice, I say! Now, my first stage kiss my have not lead anywhere besides a decent role my first semester at university, however, my last stage kiss was shared with my wife…so don’t shut down those showmance feelings too early. You never know where a showmance can sweep you off to. As Millie said, how you deal with those feelings, well…well that is a key part in how you continually mold who you are, and where your emotional future may go. It’s a gift.


Stage Kiss runs at the SF Playhouse until January 9. Tuesday – Thursday at 7pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm & 8pm, Select Sundays at 2pm

If you are searching for classic fare, The Lady Eve can be found for rent on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and other e-rental depots; Let’s Make Love may be a little harder to find, but I trust your savvy searching ways. And way too many copies of Love, Actually can be found in my DVD cabinet (what’s a DVD cabinet, you say?) or Netflix.


Palopoli, Jessica. “She (Carrie Paff*) kisses understudy Kevin (Allen Darby) as Director (Mark Anderson Phillips*) looks on during auditions.” 2016. Photograph.

Palopoli, Jessica. “She (Carrie Paff*) and Millicent (Millie DeBenedet) rehearse a scene from ‘The Last Kiss.’” 2016. Photograph.

Theater Around The Bay: An Interview with I Like That Playwright Gabriel Leif Bellman

Tonight and tomorrow night are your last chance to see I Like That, our November show at PianoFight. We sat down with the playwright Gabriel Leif Bellman, to learn more about this great new play!

This guy fits right in at PianoFight.

This guy fits right in at PianoFight.

TP: Where did the inspiration for this piece come from?

GB: [My partner] Sara [Judge] and I had talked about writing a play together, and it was really her push that created this. One big inspiration was a lot of time thinking and arguing about the most recent generations and how art reaches them. I’m still thinking about it.

TP: How long have you both been working on it?

GB: I guess there are two answers here. One is since the dawn of time and the other is four years. I’m very happy with where it is right now.

TP: What was the writing process like?

GB: Working on a project with another artist as a writer is a real joy. So much of writing is just you and the blank page/screen, so to be able to interact and get feedback from a living breathing human made it a unique process. Sara is a fantastic director. To be able to write something very much without limitations and see her make it come alive is very gratifying. I wrote a lot of things that I didn’t think could be done in live theater, and she figured out how to do them. She’s amazing.

TP: You’ve seen it on its feet twice now at Theater Pub. Any surprises after watching it come to life?

GB: It’s just so incredible to see the impact it has had on audience members. People have been really moved by this play, and it is sort of surprising- because you really never know. I really feel like it’s not my work at this point- but some living breathing mash-up of bodies and music and words. It’s alive. I feel connected to it, but also I’m enjoying it along with everyone else.

As a writer, I never set out to write something for an audience. I always write for myself, for what I’d like to see in my head- so it is nice when something that I find interesting/funny/sad resonates with the audience. I believe sharing work with others is part of the job of being an artist, and once you put material out there it just goes where it will. It doesn’t have to be a positive response either- I don’t actually think that the role of art is to affirm. This piece has been giving people different experiences, and I have my own experiences with it that vary from show to show. It brings up a lot of different things for me, but I don’t believe as an artist I have the right to “explain” what that experience is. I’ve been surprised by the amount of strangers who have come up to me after the shows and are loving on the play. I think it speaks to a hunger for live art and also what an important public service Theater Pub is providing.

If you come to I Like That, you can meet Siri in real life!

If you come to I Like That, you can meet Siri in real life!

TP: You have some famous cameos in the play – do those historical figures have particular significance to you?

GB: I really enjoy “modernity” and many of the characters are icons of modernism, and also they speak to a bohemian ethos that I want San Francisco to hold on to. I’m not totally convinced that there is such a thing as post-modernism, and I wanted to position them alongside that ongoing debate. Each of the characters also has significance to me personally, as I’m sure they do to each of the actors and audience members (even if they don’t realize how). We live in an age of so much information but information is not experience, so bringing these figures out of Wikipedia for a spin felt right.

TP: What is next for you?

GB: Next for me? I have a writing project I’ve almost finished, which is a compilation of short fiction that was mostly published in different literary journals and also a new longer piece that I wrote which is a comedic parody of the type of nonfiction popular social science books that have become accepted as a genre to themselves. The title for that book is “Nonfiction Fiction and Other Fiction” and I hope to finish it by the end of the year. I have another play I’m starting, and a film project, but I don’t like to talk about those things that I haven’t almost finished yet. I believe if you talk about the details of creative projects before you get them close to finished, it fills the same space as writing them would, and then they don’t exist. Also, on December 20, I will have a piece of my writing performed by actors at Stagewerx as part of Action Fiction. I have another one of those in May as well.

I Like That! has two more performances at PianoFight on Nov. 23 & 24 at 8:00pm. $5 suggested donation at the door.

It’s A Suggestion Not A Review: What’s Playing at the Roxy?*

Dave Sikula, in which the author begins to dissect his recent trip to New York.

As I start writing this, I’m sitting in my hotel room in New York, fully aware of three things:

1) I really should be in bed, since I have to pack up tomorrow morning.
2) I am going to have one hell of a time packing everything.
3) I really should be working on the work assignment I have that I hope to deal with on the plane tomorrow.

While I’m fully aware that I have what has been described as a negative approach to things, I prefer to think of it as both contrarian and snobbish (see here for my previous post on that issue). Yet, despite that rep (which could be easily proven incorrect by doing one of those stupid “here are the words I use most on Facebook” word clouds – something that just reeks to me of intrusive marketing), I found myself having a great time at eight of the ten shows (or ten of twelve, if one counts seeing Colbert and a cabaret show), and even the two misfires weren’t that bad – well, China Doll was, but that’s something to be dealt with later.

While I’m going to deal with this trip on a broader level later in the year (something I know you’ll all be waiting for … ), I wanted to do a post-mortem on what I saw.
When I plan a trip to New York, I’m lucky enough that I can usually schedule it for a long enough period that I can see pretty much everything I want to. In this case, that meant arriving on a Tuesday and leaving on the Thursday of the next week, giving me the opportunity to take advantage of three matinee/two-for-one days.

The festivities began with Stephan Karam’s The Humans. I’d seen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet a few years ago, so I was interested in seeing this follow-up. It’s a very good production of a very interesting script; that is as much about the Thanksgiving dinner that is its center as the previous play was about being Lebanese-American. The family dynamics are incisive and sharply observed, and it’ll probably get produced all over the country once designers work out how to re-invent its two-story set.

Because set designers need challenges, don't they?

Because set designers need challenges, don’t they?

Wednesday matinee: Robert Askins’s Hand to God. Another one that deserves a long shelf-life, but good luck to the actors who’ll be cast in the central role that combines puppetry with playing off one’s self with possible demonic possession and a bunch of swearing and simulated sex. Of particular interest was Bob Saget, new to the cast as a straight-laced pastor, but really quite good, but who paled – as most actors would – in comparison to Stephen Boyer’s work as the lead.

The next show was David Mamet’s China Doll, which I was starting to write about, but quickly realized that it’s going to take a whole post in itself to deal with – and that’s for next time. Suffice it to say that, when we heard about this one, we jumped at the chance to go. Granted, Mamet hasn’t written a good play since the ‘80s and Pacino isn’t what he once was, but still, the possibilities were there – especially since the notoriously phallocentric Mamet was actually allowing a woman – Pam MacKinnon – to direct. It’s a perfect example, though, of how Broadway in the 21st century isn’t what it was even 20 years ago.

This is not a still photo. This is a live feed of the action.

This is not a still photo. This is a live feed of the action.

Friday: Hamilton. We planned the trip around when we could get tickets. Now, unlike many folks, I wanted to go in cold. I had heard a little of the score (it’s next to impossible to avoid), and knew the basics of the conceit and approach. Now, while I kinda wish I’d exposed myself to the cast album (please note: not a soundtrack … ), I was floored. It was that rare occasion where, going in, my expectations were high, and the product not only met them, they left them in the dust. It’s an utterly phenomenal show and I can’t say enough good things about it. Everything you’ve heard? All true.

I was a little iffy about the next three shows; two because of my growing Anglothropism (that is to say, not buying into the idea that, just because a show has a London pedigree, it’s going to be good), and the third because it’s a dumb musical comedy. All three were brilliant though, starting with Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, directed by Ivo Van Hove (whose production of Hedda Gabler – a play I really dislike – was staggeringly good). This is an amazing production, played as the Greek tragedy Miller alluded to, muscular, tough, and no-holds-barred. The production offers on-stage seating, and I was no more than a couple of feet from the actors, so it was even more intense.

Yeah. It's that kind of a show

Yeah. It’s that kind of a show

The second of the three was by John O’Farrell, Karey Kirkpatrick, and Wayne Kirkpatrick’s musical Something Rotten!, which is that rarest of creatures – an original musical that opened directly on Broadway. I was leery, but had been told (by my wife, no less) that it was hysterically funny – and it is. It’s everything “a Broadway musical comedy” should be: smart, funny, and lively; full of allusions to other musicals and cast with actors who really know how to land the material.

The last of this troika was Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III, a “future history” play set during the early days of the reign of the next British monarch, written (mostly) in iambic pentameter and blank verse and doing all it can to take on Shakespeare at his own game. It’s a risk, but pays off mightily, with a towering central performance by Tim Pigott-Smith, but the rest of the cast comes close to matching him. A riveting afternoon.

Next was a pair of disappointments, lacking for similar reasons. The first was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, which I was looking forward to. The director, Bartlett Sher, showed an astonishing ability to wring every ounce of drama out of South Pacific, turning a war horse into a thoroughbred, and I had hopes he’d be able to repeat that magic here. While the production itself is everything one might hope – fine performances, beautiful sets and staging – the show itself just can’t match the production. I don’t expect there could be a better version of the show, but – for better or worse – its dramaturgy is locked into the early ‘50s, and musicals just aren’t written that way anymore. (Where I want numbers that delve into psychology, I got “hit tunes,” and characters who have – justifiably – been speaking in pigeon English all evening suddenly become fluently poetic when singing).

The second was Simon Stephens’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which, despite its many admirable qualities and intentions, just didn’t work for me. It’s an outstanding production, but that was the problem. It’s so overwhelming and facile that it covers up that there’s not much of a play underneath. I can’t imagine how another production of it – that doesn’t have a mammoth budget – will be able to tell the story.

Finally, I like to end my trips with something that will leave me with a glow of some sort; usually – but not necessarily – something uplifting, so I decided on Craig Lucas’s adaptation of An American in Paris, with a score by George and Ira Gershwin. From almost the opening moments, the show packed a particular punch. Given the still-fresh attacks on Paris, its start – detailing the German occupation of France and its aftermath (something the show was criticized for when it opened) – set things in a context that give it an immediacy and power that was shocking. The show itself is, well, lovely. One expects a dancy musical full of tap and “Broadway” dancing, and one gets an evening of breathtaking ballet (okay; there is one tap number … ). It’s moving and human in all the best ways – and couldn’t have been a better finale to my trip.

Boy, howdy.

Boy, howdy.

Next time: the dullness that was China Doll.

(*Nothing, actually. The Roxy was a movie theatre, anyway, and was torn down in 1960.)

In For a Penny: Of Olympic Proportions – A Pre-Post-Mortem

Charles Lewis III, getting a head start on the recap.

 “La Serenata” by George Yepes

“La Serenata” by George Yepes

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
– JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

It’s safe to say that death is not everyone’s favorite subject. It’s one thing to think of endings – fads end, stories end, meals end – but quite another to actually put it in terms of death. Death means that you end. All of your opinions fads, stories, and meals will merely vanish as your consciousness slips away into a void of permanent darkness.

Okay… now that I’ve started off on such a cheery note, I should probably tell you that I don’t intend for this to be a downer; if you want that, there’s no shortage of it in the news (particularly as it relates to recent deaths). In fact, I should say that I get it and I empathize: the sudden appearance of death (at least if it’s not your own) can be a rude awakening from the complacency of life. It’s the one thing in life about which we aren’t entirely certain; or maybe we are certain and just like the fairy tale as a way of thinking that it could only get better from here. These questions wake me up at night, too.

It’s only natural that these questions would come up in the midst of a theatre festival based on a mythology with no shortage of prominent figures who tried to cheat death. The twist is that they often found that eternal could be much worse than life ending (eternal life without eternal youth; permanently pushing a boulder up a hill; etc.). Is the end of life really more terrifying than the idea of an unchanged life that never ends?

During the opening speeches for this year’s festival, founder Stuart Bousel has frequently mentioned something that a few of us have known for some time: that the SF Olympians Festival is a 12-year experiment, making this (its sixth year) the halfway point. Last night’s shark-themed “Waterlogue” was from the point of view of someone who realizes that they’re dying. It was a funny piece, but a sobering reminder that this festival we all love will one day end, as all things do.

The thing to remember is that art doesn’t die. Artists die, artwork can be destroyed, but the affect that a work of art can have is something that can’t be measured so tangibly. What’s more, advances in technology have made it easier to both preserve art for future generations and restore works thought lost forever. For the Olympians Fest, many of the readings are recorded and photographed (I’ve often done the latter from an awkward front row seat), letting the playwrights, actors, and even those who weren’t there experience the readings as often as they’d like.

But let’s not forget the point of the festival itself. As Stuart has frequently stated: the festival is meant to be part of the development process of the, not the end. All playwrights retain full ownership of their scripts and are allowed to alter and submit them as they see fit. Productions such as Juno en Victoria, Pleiades, You’re Going to Bleed, and the upcoming The Horse’s Ass and Friends! all started as Olympians readings with their writers in the audience nervously listening to the reactions of the audience around them. From there, each writer decided “I would love to see this on its feet” and put the gears in motion to make it happen. The festival is part of the trip, it’s not the destination.

I wrote earlier this year how I wasn’t all that fond of my Year 3 script about Atlas – Do a Good Turn Daily – until the years-later feedback of others made me reconsider it. I haven’t heard a lot of feedback about this year’s Poseidon script, The Adventures of Neptune: In Color!, but the audience reaction was pretty good from where I sat. Sure, as writer/director I can nitpick 1,001 things I’d change, but that script is something I’m proud of. So proud, in fact, that I’ve resolved to expand it from a one-act to a full-length. I can’t say for certain what future these scripts will have, but it’s been a trip to bring them this far. They didn’t die at the festival.

Since this is officially the festival’s mid-life, perhaps a contemplation of the end is appropriate. Not in the morbid “Oh God, I’m gonna die, but I never went to Bora Bora!” way, but in the author-of-a-great-series-starts-pondering-the-perfect-resolutions-for-his/her-characters-so-the-story-can-end-correctly-and-not-go-on-indefinitely way. You see it coming and you prepare for the single best send-off ever. Death will certainly play an important role in next year’s festival, “Harvest of Mysteries”. In addition to plays about such Greek myth staples as Hades and Tartarus, Year 7 will also shake things up by including figures from Egyptian mythology – and those mofos were all about death!

This is probably the end of the “Of Olympic Proportions” feature on this site. It’s possible that it could pop up again and you can bet that ‘Pub writers will continue to talk about the Olympians Fest, but as I said in my first entry: I saw this as a one-year sporadically-scheduled look at one of the most popular theatre festivals on the West Coast. Having been with it since the beginning, it was my pleasure to give people a resource into what goes into said festival, from the moment a writer is accepted to the post-show drinks. Hopefully, most of the questions people have had can now be answered by clicking the “SF Olympians”, “San Francisco Olympians Festival”, and “Of Olympic Proportions” tags below.

And hey, don’t forget that this is not the end! Not for the festival (which still has six exciting years ahead of it), not for my participation in it (I’ll be writing the script for the Opening Night party), or even for this year’s festival. It continues tonight, tomorrow night, and concludes on Saturday. So come on down and raise a glass to the Wine Dark Sea, and enjoy every sip as if it were your last!

Charles Lewis III finds it hilarious that he started this feature thinking he’d never be part of the festival again. As usual, tix and info can be found as

Everything Is Already Something: Writing the TBA Awards or How the Sausage Gets Made

Allison Page, bringing you the sausage.

If you’re a theater person in the Bay Area, you probably know the Theatre Bay Area Awards show was this past Monday. You may or may not know that I wrote the script. As in, the script for the 2+ hours that is the TBA Awards Show. Last year I wrote a recap of the awards show for the TPub blog, and this year, since I’m looking at it from an entirely different angle, I’ll give you some idea of what is was like putting things together.

When I was approached to write the script, I accepted because it seemed like such a strange experience. How could I say no to that? What other chance will I have to write the script for an awards show, until Neil Patrick Harris uproots me from my tenderloin apartment and takes me away from all this, of course.

Just setting up the structure of the script (which I wrote in Final Draft) took many hours.

There are 27 categories, most of them with three tiers of recipients. There are 4 unique awards — three Legacy Awards and one Charles Dean Award. The regular awards do not receive acceptance speeches, but the Legacy and Charles Dean Awards do, so they look a bit different in the script. There were also 4 musical acts and two host monologues. The script skeleton, without ANY dialogue or lyrics, was 38 pages long. All said and done, it was 116 pages. YEAH. Each segment needed stage directions. Where are people entering? Do they cross to the podium? Do they have a body mic or a handheld? Which handheld? What are the finalists doing? Where do the recipients enter? Where do they exit once they’ve received the award? Where is the band? Does the screen come in? Does the screen go out? Is the iris open? Are there sound cues? Light cues? Curtain cues? Chairs? Tableaus? Does the host introduce the presenters? Or does the announcer do it? Because those are two different people. Where does the musical act come in? That was an exhausting list, right? It’s not even everything that needs to be considered.

Allison backstage with Rob Ready, who was recording his theater podcast Born Ready in the green room all night.

Allison backstage with Rob Ready, who was recording his theater podcast Born Ready in the green room all night.

Terminology. Everybody loves to specify their terminology. In particular, they customize it to make people feel cozy. In this case, you’re not a “nominee,” you’re a “finalist” and you’re not a “winner,” you’re a “recipient”. I get it. I definitely get it. But also, the collective brains of most people would never go to those words first, so you’ve got to correct people over and over when they say, “winner” because they’ll get it stuck in their heads and then everyone’s saying the wrong thing — or worse if you’re a writer who is easily bothered by things, which is to say if you’re a writer — inconsistently referring to people as more than one thing. If someone uses all of these words: winner, recipient, nominee, and finalist, now everyone’s wondering if there are different kinds of awards and if only they’d been nominated in that category, they could actually be a real winner.

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A cool thing about the TBA Awards is that they remind you just how large the Bay Area theater community actually is. Of the 20+ people I had to write things for, I knew…3 of them. And those three I didn’t even know very well. I will say I learned a fair amount about various theater companies and people because of all the necessary Googling and Facebook stalking I had to do. The whole thing made me paranoid to put words in anyone’s mouth that they wouldn’t say. For instance, I had some remark about “Oh I’m going to go home and drink some wine,” or some tame thing like that, and then searched through that person’s Facebook photos to see if I could find photos of them drinking a glass of wine, not to make sure they liked wine, but to make sure they weren’t sober after years of dealing with alcoholism and attending AA meetings because WOULDN’T THAT BE SO TERRIBLE?!? It would. It would be terrible. I did find photos of that person with wine and the horror of making a magnificent faux pas began to fade. Fade, not go away entirely. Strangely, it was stuff I would never have thought anyone could take issue with, that people would want to change. Humans love to tinker. That’s fine. If you’re going to take on a project like this, it’s best to be flexible because otherwise your head’s going to pop. That being said…

Oh boy. The most delightful surprise of this process was that people just do not read very carefully. I GET IT. We all have a lot of stuff to do. Shows to direct, sets to build, lines to memorize, all kinds of stuff. But the majority of things I had to take a second look at because someone had a question or request or complaint, weren’t even valid. It was just that they hadn’t read it properly. So I’m going back over the script with a fine, fine sifter looking for what they’re talking about, over and over again, and then ending up with “It’s already right.” Now 20 minutes of my life have died because they’ve been glancing more than reading. Like I said, I get that. Maybe I would do the same thing. After all, I’m the writer, so it’s my job to look at this damn thing over and over again anyway. They’re just presenting and there’s no reason they should be laboring over the thing like it’s grandma’s antique fine china.

When Legacy and Charles Dean Awards are given out, there are two speeches: a speech by the person giving the award, and a speech by the person or representative of the person receiving the award. Clearly I don’t write those, because that wouldn’t make any sense, but it also means nobody knows how long they’re going to be. I freely admit to being obsessed with timing and shortness (despite the length of this blog). I’m the creative director of a sketch comedy company. I like 20 second sketches. 4 specialty awards were given out. That means 8 speeches. 4 to give them out, 4 to accept them. Let’s say each speech is 3 minutes, that would mean 24 additional minutes are added to the evenings events. And though I was wandering around drinking cocktails during most of the show, I can tell you I saw some longer than that. There was at least one acceptance speech that was very short because the recipient (RECIPIENT, SEE, IT’S IN MY BRAIN NOW) didn’t know she was receiving an award. So it was one of those great, sincere surprise moments of “Oh my gosh, thank you!” that tends to inspire brevity. Naturally, I loved that. It’s also just nice to see someone so thankful and surprised in real time. Then there’s the host monologues. The host flew in the afternoon of the show, so all of his stuff had to come together really quickly. He worked out all his own material for the opening monologue and mid-show monologue. It made the most sense to do that for several reasons. We didn’t know each other, he was flying in day-of, and we have completely different styles of humor. I’m more of a satire guy, and he’s more of a wordplay/pun/clown guy. Both are fine, but imposing one on the other without having the time to work it out together would be foolhardy and would have given him an awful lot of alien material to memorize when he’s already got his own stuff in his brain and there’s just 4 hours from his entering the theater until the show starts.

So, because the entirety of the rest of the script was not enough work, I also wrote and directed the opening musical number, which was performed by Killing My Lobster, the company I’m co-creative director of. It was a parody of Willkommen from Cabaret, referencing various Bay Area theater stuff. It was really fun and complicated to put together. There were 12 performers, and only a few of them are singers and/or dancers. Mostly it was just funny people. Thank goodness the TBA Awards musical director came in to work with us on our vocals for an hour last week. But all said and done we got ONE rehearsal with the band, the afternoon of the show. The sort of psychological reaction of the performers when they walked out onto that big stage in that HUGE theater, was really interesting to me. It was a unique experience for them to be in a space that size. We’re used to performing in a house closer to 100 seats, and in that environment, we can totally dominate. But suddenly being in that grand theatrical arena really freaked them out for a minute. I had the sense that they hadn’t really given themselves permission to do it; that they felt they didn’t deserve it or something. After a rocky run with the band, there was a necessary pep talk in the dressing room, and once they took the stage for the actual performance, they killed. Or that’s how I feel anyway. Clearly I’m biased, but I thought it was awesome. The two most important jokes (to me) I wrote for that evening were in the opening number, and I was really proud that we got to do it.

Killing My Lobster performing the opening musical their underwear.

Killing My Lobster performing the opening musical number…in their underwear.

My goals taking on the writing of the script were thus: have a unique experience, work really hard at something no one I’ve ever known has done before, do the world’s fastest rewrites, be funny when I can, be real about certain issues within the theater community (again, when I can get away with it), make the show more entertaining and hopefully shorter than the previous year, have a good time, get a lot of drinks, wander around The Geary like I owned the place, recognize more companies/groups/people in writing and in person, and wear a cute dress. I accomplished a lot of those things. I didn’t write every single word that was said, it’s a big show and there are so many perspectives and ideas coming from everywhere that there’s no way anyone could put it together without input/ideas/edits/on stage improvising from other people. The amount of time and effort I put into this project was truly staggering. Day and night, piles of stuff building up in my apartment as I type for so long that my legs hurt from sitting. Not going places, or doing things because I have to write constantly to get it done. I couldn’t even tell you how many hours it took. A LOT. The show itself was still too long. It’s very hard to speed these things up because there are so many moving parts, but I think there are some things that can be done to make it faster the next time around. But, this is only the second annual TBA Awards ceremony and it can certainly continue to get better and smarter over time, like all things should. Like the theater community should. I’m always bored to tears when people want to talk about why they don’t believe in awards shows, or whatever their particular issue is with it. The funny thing about that is those people often have a lot to say about theater, and if they went to the awards, they’d probably notice there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of theater people all in one place on one night, and there is no better way to connect with those people and talk about what it is that we’re all doing, what we love about it, what we hate about it, what we can DO about it, how it can be better, what the future holds, and why we don’t see each other more often when we are, collectively, the present and future of the art form we care about. So, sure, you can sit at home and write an email about it or whatever ya like doing, but it’s got nothing on looking people in the face and connecting with them over your shared loving and loathing of art. Maybe you’ll even work together someday. Or at the very least, have a feeling that maybe some production choice that they made was inspired by something they really felt passionate about, and not something they were doing specifically to piss you off. Wild, I know. Listen, after all is said and done, I will have been a part of nearly 19 productions in 2015, 3 of which are even eligible for these awards, and none of which got any nominations. So that is certainly not why I go. Though someday maybe the stuff I do will count for that. We’ll see. But I go because I’m part of this whole big monster that is theater.

I have to say, the feeling of watching someone whose work you believe in take the stage, and getting to scream and shout “WOOOOOOOOO!” for them, is pretty amazing. Because you’re not saying, “WOOOOOOOOO!” you’re saying “YA’LL SEE THAT PERSON? YOU MAY NOT KNOW IT, BUT THAT RIGHT THERE IS SOMEONE YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING. WE LOVE THEM AND YOU SHOULD LOVE THEM TOO. CHECK US OUT. WE’RE OUT HERE WORKING OUR TAILS OFF JUST LIKE YOU ARE.” And that has nothing to do with winning or losing…sorry, receiving or not receiving.

Also someone held up a Black Lives Matter banner on stage and it was pretty great.

As a fun bonus, here is the entirety of the Willkommen TBA Awards opening number. (As performed by Jan Gilbert, Kyna Wise, Elaine Gavin, Ron Chapman, Sam Bertken, Justin Lucas, Griffin Taylor, Katharine Chin, Jeunee Simon, Melanie Marshall, Carlye Pollack, and Shaun Plander, with host Ron Campbell entering at the end. Two Rons, I know, you’ll figure it out.)

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome
Breadbox, Lamplighters, Mime Troupe
San Jose Stage, It’s all of the rage
Custom Made Theatre
Can you see the stage?

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome

JUSTIN. (spoken)
Oh it is so nice to see you! Good evening! Is Broadway By The Bay in the house? Oh good. Sorry about our singing. Except mine!

We Players is probably doing Hamlet at the Jack in the Box across the street. They’ll be back, they’ll be back!

It’s okay it’s just a joke.

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome

Leave your Bay Area Theatre Critic’s Circle awards outside!

KYNA. So you didn’t get as many nominations as you did last year City Lights? Hm? Forget it!

JAN. We have no troubles here. Here, life is beautiful! The Geary Theater is beautiful! Even Sean Kana’s band is beautiful!

Band is revealed.

Faultline, you’re brand new, welcome
There’s Old Hats like ACT and Magic
Cal Shakes AKA Hypothermia
Hillbarn did Funny Girl,
(spoken) Everyone did Glengarry Glenn Ross

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome
There’s OMG
and BRT

RON. So many acronyms!

And now presenting some of the nominees.

ELAINE. You mean finalists!

JAN. There are East Bay theaters and South Bay Theaters, or is it South Bay theaters and East Bay theaters? You know there’s only one way to tell the difference. Someone not from San Francisco will show you later.

KYNA. Get it, because we never leave the city!

ELAINE. You know one of my favorite things about seeing a show at Impact?

ALL. Pizza!

KYNA. Betcha they didn’t have that at the Globe.

JUSTIN. Suck it Shakespeare!

RON. And, of course, Just Theater’s amazing production of We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915.

RON passes out on stage. JUSTIN fans him, shakes him, and does various other business to get him up and moving again.

JUSTIN. He’s okay! Just keep going!

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome
Buy a drink, fluff your hair, smile
No win? it’s okay, screw it

ELAINE. Hello, Spreckles!

ALL. (still whispering)
Taste is subjective, we don’t even sing

JUSTIN. Enchante, Central Works!

Here for the party
At PianoFight
(We’re cheap!)

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!
One Man, Two Guvnors,

We’re not just vulgar, that title is real
Happy to see you,
Please applaud with zeal

JAN. One more time!

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome
We’re KML
To T…B…

They are interrupted by Ron Campbell’s entrance.

RON CAMPBELL. KML? You’re Killing My Lobster?


RON CAMPBELL. You’re not even eligible for these awards, are you?

ALL. No/well not exactly/maybe someday/a technicality, etc.

RON CAMPBELL. How did you guys even get in here?

RON. Rob Ready left the door open.

RON CAMPBELL. Go back to BATS or Big City Lights or wherever it is you guys hang out. The Sketch Comedy Festival. I’ll take it from here. Come back when you do legitimate theater.

KML winces at the word legitimate.

JAN. Hey, we premiered Hunter Gatherers! We launched Peter Sinn Nachtrieb.

RON CAMPBELL. Yeah, 10 years ago. Go on now, scoot!

KML starts to exit, sadly.

RON CAMPBELL. Where did they leave off? Sean, play me my note.

Band plays very end of song.


KML turns around, runs/slides toward RON, and they all finish the last note together.

RON & KML. Aaaaaaaa!

Some of KML basking in the afterglow.

Some of KML basking in the afterglow.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/person who is slowly recovering from the insanity of the last week, with snacks and cleaning her apartment while watching Bob’s Burgers.

The Five: The I Didn’t Go to the TBA Awards Round-Up

Anthony R. Miller stayed home from the Prom.

Hey you guys, so if you’re here for an exciting round-up from last night’s Theatre Prom known as the Theatre Bay Area Awards, you have barked up the wrong tree, because I didn’t go. But let’s be clear, I’m happy for those who did, happy for those who won, performed, presented, and whatever else, good for you, way to leave the house and wear nice clothes. These kinds of events just aren’t my thing, they just aren’t, I’ll go next year I promise, or maybe the next. However, it is not to say I did nothing last night, in fact I had quite the evening which had many highlights, and remarkably, there are five.

I Made Tacos
They were pretty good tacos too, breakfast tacos to be exact. What was most remarkable about them is that my girlfriend (also a theatre worker) and I actually sat down at the table and ate them together. We talked about our days and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a theatre-miracle.

I Made a Prop
I’m using “I” here pretty liberally. I bought the materials, and then once my beloved girlfriend was weighted down by breakfast tacos, I managed to get her to actually assemble the prop for me. She can sew better than me; seriously I would have just hot glued the thing together. It looks pretty magnificent. Curious to see the prop? Well then you will just have to come see CHRISTIAN TEEN DOLPHIN-SEX BEACH PARTY at the SF Olympians Festival Wednesday, November 18th at 8PM (also known as tomorrow.) to find out, and you should, because the cast is so darn funny.

I Watched Wrestling
Because it was Monday. Besides, it was the Quarterfinals for the WWE World Heavy Weight Championship Tournament. Priorities people.

I Cleaned My Office
My home office / large closet where the cats poop had gotten pretty bad, it had to be done. But I find sorting through 6 months of crap (figurative) on the floor is a pretty effective “look back” on the theatrical year. I went through programs of all the shows I saw, prior drafts of old scripts, yellow pads full of production notes and receipts, lots of receipts. (Remember kids, if you buy someone a drink, talk about working for them, and then end up working for them, that drink is a tax deduction.)

I Got Into the Morrissey Plays
In January, Theatrepub is presenting a night of plays inspired by and about Morrissey. I am thrilled about this because Morrissey is, in fact, my spirit animal. I mean, c’mon guys, I would have gone out last night, but I didn’t have a stich to wear. Around 7pm, with my slipper-adorned feet resting on my now clean desk, I went through my emails to discover my short play, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” got accepted. I’m pretty excited and Thankful about it and it’s about an awards show, so that kinda brings us full circle right?

In all seriousness, congrats to everyone involved, according to Twitter, it looks like it went well. I’ll go one of these years. Also, on an unrelated note, it doesn’t take much effort to realize the world is a big scary place right now, so even when it seems really hard or maybe even a bad idea, be excellent to each other. The world needs love sweet love.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer and producer, he’s not much for fancy parties. Keep up with his doings at