This week we’d love to introduce you to the writers behind our eight Pint Sized shows. We sent them a bunch of questions and they sent us a bunch of brilliance- in particular regarding question 3, which should read, “Would you say your piece in Pint-Sized was typical of what you write?” but instead read, “Would you say your piece in Pint-Sized was typical of what you?”. Unable to let anything slide, it’s kind of fascinating to watch each writer in turn take the chance to prove how smart they are. It should be noted that Duncan Wold is one member of Endgame II, a team of writers from PianoFight, and that Nick and Lisa Gentle are married, and not a two headed monster.
So what got you interested in the San Francisco Theater Pub and this year’s Pint Sized Play Festival?
Brian Markley: I’ve been a part of it since the beginning. I think it’s wonderful to have a venue for new writers (like me) to cut their teeth in such a fun and supportive environment. I loved the plays and the evening last year and knew then I’d apply this year.
Nancy Cooper Frank: I heard about the SFTP back when they put out a call for “How to Ride a Bus in San Francisco,” and they used my “Sonnet to the 19 Polk.” As an audience member, one of my all-time favorite San Francisco Theatre Pub evenings was: the Boar’s Head, the Shakespeare adaptation which used the bar setting to full advantage. On a different level, the Pint Sized plays can do that too. I also like the neighborhood feel of Cafe Royale.
Megan Cohen: I first connected with the Pub through the Bay One Acts festival in 2010; that was right around when Pub was starting, and I just happened to be meeting the Pub leadership and many of the Pub artists through the BOA festival right at that lucky moment. I had been having conversations with people like “Oh, why doesn’t San Francisco have places where we can make plays that are racuous and casual and gutsy, something like the old Caffe Cino or La Mama in New York,” which were of course the absolute crucibles of experimental theater, and they were just, you know, they were not purpose-built theaters, the work was not happening in places designed to be theaters, Caffe Cino was a restaurant, and that’s where Lanford Wilson started out as a writer. And it was free to watch, for anyone who wanted to buy a drink, like the performance was abundant and available instead of guarded and scarce, and those are great conditions in which to be a playwright. So, I’d been talking to people about wanting to make that kind of energy happen, and then suddenly, here was this venue with that kind of feeling and these people doing it, and I thought, “Oh, count me in, for serious!” I have been involved with a bunch of Pub shows since then, as a playwright and occasionally as a performer; I wrote and directed a piece for last year’s “Pint-Sized,” called The Best Things In Life Are Money, and it was so fun to do, I’m really pleased to able to be part of the festival again this year.
Duncan Wold: I know a bunch of the people involved. Plus the name sells itself.
Nicholas and Lisa Gentle: We had attended a few Theater Pub events. We were impressed by the enthusiasm and ambition of the people involved, and we really loved the feel of the Cafe Royale. The space, particularly the red couches in the middle, really appeal to us visually. We were very happy to get our work selected in the Play festival. I think our own Pint-Sized play is going to be performed at a table, not the couches, but that gives us something to aim for in the future.
Gabriel Bellman: I attended last year and a friend of mine suggested that I submit a play. I really liked the festival, and I love the idea of short form. This is kind of a boring answer, right? How about this: I’m writing this answer fully naked.
What’s your experience been like so far, with your actors and directors?
Megan Cohen: Our rehearsal process has been very much in the spirit of Theater Pub itself; we’ve had colorful, casual, sociable gatherings, in non-traditional spaces. We had our first readthrough squatting in the lobby of a fancy downtown hotel, and our most recent work was over the course of a living room evening that we’ll just say was, well, for a play about drinking, it was very, uh, “method” work. I’ve worked with Jessica Holt (the director) before and really consider her a treasured collaborator, so the chance to do something like this with her and with a handful of some of my favorite SF performers is great. I love that Pub’s lively, non-stodgy ethos helps us feel a freedom to let the process bleed back and forth between being social together and being creative together, because that’s really how you make the best stuff.
Nick and Lisa Gentle: We’ve been to one of the rehearsals, and we were very happy with what our director and actors have done. It’s a pleasure for writers to see actors make their dialogue work, and to have a director who comes up with a staging that elucidates the playwright’s intent in a creative way.
Bill Chessman: Not much experience yet. My schedule has made it difficult. I have met the director and she seems very nice and capable.
Jeremy Cole: I had a piece in last year’s festival and didn’t see it at all until performance. I loved having no idea what it was going to be like and was delighted at the result. I’m taking that same tack this year.
Gabriel Bellman: I can’t wait to meet them. I think they’re afraid of me. None of the stories about Christian Bale and me are true. Mostly.
Duncan Wold: Well… I live with my co-star, and he’s a pretty easy going guy. So I’ll say “good” so far.
Would you say your piece in Pint-Sized is typical of what you (write)?
Duncan Wold: Of what I what? What I do? Maybe what I used to do in my case.
Bill Chessman: Assuming you mean “Would you say your piece in Pint-Sized was typical of what you write?” Yes. I tend to write short pieces that I think of as cartoons (not animated cartoons, but rather like the kind you’d find in magazines or newspapers). This one definitely fits that to my way of thinking.
Jeremy Cole: NOPE. Totally outside my comfort zone. Writing something that squeezes a beginning, middle and end into a few short minutes? Yipes!
Nick and Lisa Gentle: Yes – it’s got Blasphamy, Blue dialogue, and it’s a Black comedy – the 3 Bs that we like to have in all our work.
Megan Cohen: I assume you mean “typical of what you write”? Oh, I don’t know. I probably always have a certain kind of playful attitude towards words, and a penchant for choosing language that shimmers and jiggles, but then I’m also often drawn to emotional or philosophical stuff that’s not particularly playful, especially by contrast. So, with my texts, you sometimes get this weird hybrid, so it’ll be like you’re holding a skull in the palm of your hand, but the skull is wearing a party hat. There are definitely a few of those moments in Drinking Alone. I do make the language do a lot of heavy lifting, especially since there’s no real sets or costumes in this one, the language is your whole atmosphere, your landscape, your texture. I think that’s why I’ve had a couple people be like “Oh, that line is so MEGAN,” which I better bloody hope is meant as a compliment.
Nancy Cooper Frank: I guess. This piece is part of what I call my “Alfred and Toby Plays” or, privately, “The Procrastination Cycle.” Whenever I get stuck on a longer piece I’m working on, I pull out these two characters, Alfred and Toby, who have no backstory, a one-to-ten-minute memory span, and know how to press each other’s buttons. This year Alfred and Toby have already been to NYC for a one-minute play festival. They will make their second Southern California appearance, in No. Hollywood, (Fire Rose Productions) in August. “Otherwise What” (a version without beer) will be included in the program “Lickety Skits” in the Philly Fringe in September. Another A & T piece is planned for a Play Cafe reading in Berkeley in Sept. Despite their travels, Alfred and Toby may feel most at home in Cafe Royale.
Brian Markley: Somewhat. I’m big on putting people together who don’t normally interact. I think, like in Chemistry, interesting things happen when you combine people from opposite ends of the periodic table. Here, a liberally educated female translator, with little real life experience mixes with a more experienced Nebraskan salesman. Neither is the person we want to be, but I find it fun watching them bump together on patriotism and travel. I think I like high/low, country/city match-ups.
Who are your top three influences?
Bill Chessman: Monty Python, Woody Allen, and the writers of the Carol Burnett Show, I think.
Nick and Lisa Gentle: Tom Stoppard, Martin McDonagh, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Brian Markley: Wynton Marsalis, my Mom and Tennessee Williams.
Megan Cohen: I was going to say the muses of comedy, tragedy, and epic poetry, but I forget their names so I’ll just say The Marx Brothers.
What show are you most looking forward to in the upcoming SF Bay Area theater season?
Brian Markley: The SF Olympian’s Festival II. I’m excited to see so much new work in one place.
Nancy Cooper Frank: Virago Theatre Co. at Stagewerx, Shoot O’Malley Twice.
Jeremy Cole: John Logan’s Red at Berkeley Rep.
Nick and Lisa Gentle: A Behanding in Spokane by Martin McDonagh at the SF Playhouse.
Duncan Wold: Panderfest 2011 at the new Stagewerx.
Gabriel Bellman: I would tell you, but I don’t want to burn any bridges, so let’s just say that I’m “very” excited about a “bunch” of shows, and particularly whichever one my friends are in. Of course, I particularly love a good elephant romance-mystery.
Megan Cohen: Well, I’m super excited about my first full-length production, which is called How to Love, and runs Oct 28 – Nov 24 at the Garage. If I pretended I was more excited about someone else’s show this year than I am about my own debut, I’d be full of complete bunk. You can keep up with show at my website,www.megancohen.com.
Bill Chessman: The Fringe Of Marin (in November) and Shoestring Radio Theater’s broadcast of my radio play He’s Mad, I Tell You, which will be on KUSF and the Public Radio Satellite Service.
What piece of yours would you most like to see get a “dream production”?
Nancy Cooper Frank: I’m finishing up a draft of a one-act loosely based on the life of Russian absurdist writer, Daniil Kharms (1905-1942). It incorporates his very short and very strange micro-stories. The action unfolds the style of his stories and plays, with dark humor, physical comedy, and plenty of eggs.
Gabriel Bellman: Well, I have a combination romantic-comedy spoken word play that I have been collaborating with somebody on, and I think it would be really cool if we could cast Bette Davis and Montgomery Clift, with Gavin Newsome and Willie Brown playing out of typecast.
Jeremy Cole: At the Hands of the State – a piece about the death penalty that intersperses black spirituals throughout the narrative.
Nick and Lisa Gentle: We have a piece called Metmorphosize, Mon Amour, about 3 grad students in philosophy who are maggots, discussing the implications for the question of free will of a) Nietzsche, b) Darwin, and c) the fact that they are compelled by biology to enjoy eating dung. It’s getting a staged reading in Berkeley on Sept 18 as part of Play Cafe’s reading series. We think that 3 characters dressed as big, white, puffy maggots would look great on those red couches. (Hint hint.)
Brian Markley: My next one: Customs, a Thanksgiving play at SFO with young customs staff literally weighing the future of a tech-savvy Indian immigrant with an expired visa.
What’s your favorite beer?
Jeremy Cole: What’s on sale?
Duncan Wold: Any porter will do. Nothing too hoppy please!
Nick and Lisa Gentle: Stella Artois – we don’t actually drink it, but they had so many adds for it at indie movie theaters that we figure they must be doing something to support independent film.
Bill Chessman: Guinness Stout and Blue Moon.
Gabriel Bellman: I don’t drink. That being said, I love the Black Butte Porter private 23 reserve. I love beer that thinks it’s chocolate.
Nancy Cooper Frank: Mirror Pond Pale Ale.
Brian Markley: Bell’s Amber Ale from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Megan Cohen: Free, cheap, or Russian River Brewing’s “Pliny the Elder.” In that order.
Pint Sized Plays II runs August 15, 16, 22, 29 and 30 at 8 PM at the Cafe Royale (800 Post Street, San Francisco). Get there early because we will fill up and we have to cap the audience if it gets too full!