Measure For Measure Returns Tonight!

Join us tonight and tomorrow for two more nights of Measure for Measure at the Cafe Royale at the corner of Post and Leavenworth!

And if you’re looking for something fun to do in the Richmond this Wednesday night, don’t miss Measure for Measure’s touring version, only at the Plough and Stars on Clement Street!

All shows start at 8 and are free, though we ask for a five dollar donation, and we tend to fill up so we encourage you to get there early to ensure a seat.

Don’t miss it!

Theater Conservatory Confidential #1

Today we launch a new on-going guest blog spot with Eli Diamond’s “Theater Conservatory Confidential”, a semi-monthly chronicle of this young and accomplished Bay Area actor’s first year as an NYU theater student. What will happen when West goes East for fame and fortune? Check in every other Friday to find out!

“Oh brave new world…”

As a young man growing up in San Francisco, I spent a lot of my time figuring out how to get into an acting career. I mean, everyone knows how to get into an acting career: You audition for shows, you (hopefully) get a part, you make connections, you leave. But sometimes things are not as simple as they seem. For example, how do you become a good actor? Is it just something you’re born with? Or is it something that can be taught? Is it something that it’s worth spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on? Is it something that you should consider getting a degree in? These are things that I hope to discover over the course of my college experience. But before that, I should look back on how I entered this strange, colorful, world of theatre.

Early on in my high school days, I started doing plays and musicals, as an arts credit. But where some people just stuck to the school-produced shlock, I went outside looking for some theatre. Over the course of my high school career, I performed in over 35 different plays and musicals; professional, youth, school-related, and otherwise. To put it bluntly, theatre had become my addiction. I surrounded myself with my cast-mates, former and current, and I spent every waking moment at a rehearsal for something or other. To give you an idea, I was in rehearsal/performing nonstop from May 2011-June 2012.

But then, my senior year of high school came, and the big question emerged: Where should I go to college? I already knew that I wanted to act, so I did my research, and I decided to apply early decision to NYU Tisch School of The Arts. One 5:30 AM audition, tons of paperwork, and $67,000 in student loans (kill me kill me kill me) later, and: Ta-dah! Elijah Diamond became enrolled in the BFA Acting program at the Atlantic School for Acting, a subdivision of Tisch.

From what I had heard, Atlantic seems to be a pretty big deal. It has a militant reputation, namely because they lock the doors to their classes 15 minutes before they begin. It also has a fantastic history, having been founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy. Numerous actors have been through there; actors who’s names you would recognize, but I admit to being too lazy to look up. All that I remember is that Jessica Alba went there, for better or worse.

Right now, I am preparing on leaving: Packing up my life, abandoning the world I know, and heading into the unknown. I leave for New York on August 23rd and will be filling this blog with my (legal) exploits. Hopefully, this will be full of interesting and exciting adventures. Worst case scenario: you all feel like you’re stuck in school again. But if this works well: You’ll receive an insider’s look on what it’s like to be an Acting major in the heart of New York.

Keep checking in every other Friday for Eli’s updates as he navigates his first semester at NYU.

Day of Play!

Actress and Theater Pub Artistic Director, Julia Heitner, talks about what it’s been like to bring Measure For Measure from the page, to the stage.

After 3 ½ weeks with just a few rehearsals per week, we’ll be performing an 80-min version of Measure for Measure starting tonight!

Will Hand rehearses like a champ.

I am playing Isabella, a novice about to enter a nunnery, who gets pulled into the plot when her brother Claudio (played by Vince Rodriguez) is condemned to die for knocking up her homegirl, Julietta, and so she has to go save his ass. I love Isabella’s fierceness, eloquence, and that her particular character flaw is never being able to hold her tongue. I also relate to her being a sort of outsider in the play, left to fight her own battles, always speaking her mind (no matter what the consequences, and oh- the consequences!), and clinging to an outdated moral code in a modern world. Plus, I get to say things like,

Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.
Mercy to thee would prove itself a bawd:
‘Tis best thou diest quickly.

I am excited and extremely nervous to be performing in this role and intimidated to be in the company of such talented and hilarious actors.

Linda Ruth Cardozo, Tony Cirimele and Neil Higgins intimidate Julia, just for fun.

We’ve been working hard, stress is high and after our tech/dress at Cafe Royale on Saturday, Sunday was our day of play.

Kirsten Broadbear and Tony Cirimele sure do love to play!

It was an unexpectedly sunny and beautiful day in downtown San Francisco, so we took over a space near the Children’s Creativity Carousel in Yerba Buena and started a line through, which quickly turned into an innovative outdoor run-through, turning the area into our stage/playground. Most everyone wore sunglasses, which enhanced the severity of our Provost (Tony Cirimele) and Aeschylus (Carl Lucania) and added to the devilishness of Lucio (Neil Higgins) and Angelo (Nick Dickson). I tossed a shawl over my head to serve as a makeshift nun’s habit and we were off!

As usual, Carl Lucania is asking God why he continues to put up with our nonsense.

A few passersby gathered to watch us circle around a metal globe structure, scurry up and down stairways to the raised walkway above, and, of course, spout the beautiful and hilarious words of Shakespeare. In the final scene, as I let rip at Angelo and called him names, I felt a pang of shame when I screamed out that he was a “virgin violator” while groups of parents and their children wandered past.

Passersby were even more baffled by Will Hand and Tony Cirimele talking about beheading people.

Favorite moments of the run-through include, the moment when Mistress Overdone (Linda Ruth Cardozo), no longer restrained by a tiny rehearsal venue, made a run for it when she was about to be arrested, forcing Escalus and the Provost to chase her down. Marianna (Kirsten Broadbear) put on some extra fabulous attitude as she revealed herself to Angelo during the play’s climactic face-off, and The Duke and Lucio engaged in an imaginary sunglasses-nose-pushing-clown-off.

I turned to Stuart in the middle of the final scene and said, “It’s a comedy!” and he sardonically replied, “FINALLY!”

Linda-Ruth waves while Stuart Bousel passes judgement.

We can now take this show anywhere. All our costumes fit into one trunk. All the actors could squeeze into two cars.  We’ll need this flexibility when we hit up The Plough and Stars on August 22nd, when we have to dive into a space entirely different from Cafe Royale with no rehearsal time.

The Duke Vincentio Curse: when comforting someone just makes them cry harder.

Want to book us for your birthday party? We’re also available for Bachelorette parties! Your BART ride home? You’ll love it, I promise.

Don’t miss the show, August 14, 20, 21 and 27 at the Cafe Royale, and August 22 and Plough and Stars! Showtime is 8 PM, so get there early! Admission is Free!

Don’t Miss Measure For Measure!

Opening tonight, at the Cafe Royale, at 8 PM!

Get there early to ensure a seat, enjoy some sushi and mix with the San Francisco Theater scene! Admission is FREE (with a $5 donation encouraged)!

The story follows Duke Vincentio (William Hand), who appoints Angelo (Nick Dickson) and Escalus (Carl Lucania) to run Vienna while he goes on a spiritual retreat. What neither delegate realizes is that the good duke has remained behind in disguise to observe whether his subordinates embody the same compassion he possesses. Angelo revives long dead sodomy laws that result in the imprisonment of Claudio (Vince Rodriguez), a young man who has gotten his wife pregnant out of wedlock. Claudio’s drinking buddies Lucio (Neil Higgins) and Mistress Overdone (Linda Ruth Cardozo) enlist the aid of Isabella (Julia Heitner), Claudio’s sister who has recently entered a nunnery, to convince Angelo to dismiss the charge but things take a dire turn when Angelo tells Isabella she either needs to sleep with him or Claudio will be executed. Vincentio hatches a plan with the help of Marianna (Kirsten Broadbear), Angelo’s ex, and the Provost of the local prison (Tony Cirimele) to find a way to save Claudio’s life, Isabella’s honor, and his own reputation as a benevolent monarch.

Directed by Stuart Bousel, Measure for Measure promises to be a fast-paced, thought-provoking, atmospheric romp around the Cafe Royale- the perfect way to end the summer theater season!

Give Him A Hand

Start your weekend with an interview with Will Hand, who plays the lead role of Duke Vincentio in this month’s production of Measure For Measure, opening this Tuesday at the Cafe Royale.

Will Hand didn’t provide a headshot, so we’re going with this.

So this is your first Theater Pub, right? What’s got you excited about joining the ranks of Theater Pub’s ever expanding ensemble?

I think its a sweet thing, theater in a bar. But really, while everyone knows the San Francisco Bay Area theater scene is close-knit, sometimes those threads are a little loose. Anything that works to bring us together as a community is a pretty exciting thing to be a part of.

The annual Shakespeare production is becoming a tradition, basically because we will now have done it twice. What do you think is the bee’s knees about doing Shakespeare in a bar?

Well its actually something I’ve always wanted to do. That possibility of a rowdy, raucous audience is so infinitely more desirable for me than the complacent regional theater crowd.  An opportunity to do some Shakespeare, to make it compelling, make it count, and basically do what it takes to get a room full of people interested in the imaginary event happening in the room, is my definition of doing Shakespeare right.

Anything got you worried? Is this your first time doing a show like this?

Well sure. The Duke’s a selfish young man who loves doing good. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time exploring that incongruity.  He is a very complex character, but in a very unexpected way. I want to do right by all that. Now, towards the end of the process, I’m finding the time to focus on more fundamental moment-to-moment work, but in a such a rough, informal rehearsal and performance process I think you always worry if you’ll pull it together in time, and if any of it will translate when it comes down to you running around the bar dressed as a monk.

Speaking of who you play, tell us more about the Duke.

I play Vincentio, the good Duke of Vienna. Everyone has that friend who’s always asking how your relationships are going, who is essentially a bit of a meddler. The Duke is like what would happen if that friend had a kingdom over which he had essentially Godlike authority.

And how is your first Theater Pub experience going?

Its been really great working with the rest of the cast. I did some scene studies from Measure for Measure in college,  and I had no idea what to do with the Duke. Since day one, though, I’ve been really grateful for a cast that offers up so many and such bold choices for us all to play with; every rehearsal has been an explosion of new Duke flavors. Stuart’s also a master of bookwork, which meant that we really hit the ground sprinting.

Measure for Measure is an unusual choice for any theater venue. Why do you think this play is a challenge, good or bad, for any theater company?

We’ve talked a lot in rehearsal about how, invariably, this play is used as a launch-pad for ideological expression. I remember what Stuart Bousel said in one of the early rehearsals, “Everyone wants all of Shakespeare’s comedies to be Midsummer.” Fact is, some of the dude’s plays are about couples who’re just trying to make it work. You’re going to see a lot of hurt feelings before the night is over. Life’s not all cherries, and foursomes in the forest. Sometimes its a sex-comedy between a Nun and a Prince dressed up like a Friar, and you just gotta learn to deal with it.

What do you hope the audience will get from Measure?

I hope they grapple with the capacity for forgiveness demonstrated in the play.

What’s your favorite beer?

Brother Thelonius Ale. Part of the profits go to the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz. You can get pie-eyed and be charitable, all on the same tab. How cool is that?

So if they do get a liquor license at the Cafe Royale, what’s the first cocktail you plan to order at Theater Pub?

Love’s Labour’s Lemondrop. Two Gin…tle…men of Verona?

Don’t miss Theater Pub’s Measure for Measure, playing four nights at the Cafe Royale (August 14, 20, 21, 27) and one night at the Plough And Stars (August 22), always at 8 PM, always for free.

Hi-Ho, The Glamorous Life: Re-thinking Tweet Seats

Marissa Skudlarek takes a break from her whirlwind life to ponder the ever-controversial Tweet Seat. 

Want to know how cool and glamorous I am? Some of the most fun I’ve had recently was the Friday night I spent alone on my couch watching the Olympics opening ceremony. My enthusiasm was enhanced partly by the large glass of Cabernet in front of me, and more by the fact that as I watched, I carried on a Twitter conversation with the equally glamorous @WayBetterThanTV and @Tullie23 (a.k.a. playwright Megan Cohen and director Eileen Tull. Perhaps you saw their work in the Pint-Sized Play Festival?)

In fact, I had so much fun that evening that I began to rethink my position on “tweet seats” in the theater. Advocates of tweet seats claim that they will make the audience feel more connected to the show. Increasing spectators’ level of engagement and sense of participation will create a more memorable experience. I used to regard this argument with skepticism, but that was before I joined Twitter and spent a Friday night live-tweeting with friends. And guess what? I’m pretty sure I did feel more engaged and connected to the Olympics ceremony because I tweeted through it! So was I justified in being against tweet seats?

When I first heard of tweet seats, I thought they were just one more sign of the decline of civilization. Yes, even though I belong to the “millennial” generation that tweet seats are supposedly designed to attract, I thought they were a dreadful idea, a conduit for rudeness and selfishness. If the purpose of theater is to immerse yourself in a work of art, tweet seats were the antithesis of that. Twitter encourages snarky humor, and it can take a lot of mental energy to figure out how to get your point across in 140 characters. Wouldn’t tweeting spectators care more about their own cleverness than about paying attention to the show?

But after enjoying myself so much while tweeting the Olympics, I’m willing to concede that live-tweeting can make an audience member more engaged or invested in what she is watching. At the same time, I’m not sure if that is enough reason to make tweet seats a regular part of theater.

The Olympics opening ceremony was a massive televised event; as such, it was practically designed to be live-tweeted. How can you show the Queen and James Bond jumping out of a helicopter and not expect people to tweet the hell out of it? But plays, by and large, are not written or staged with Twitter in mind. Perhaps, in the future, some playwrights and directors will make theater that specifically seeks to engage with Twitter as a medium and invites that kind of audience participation. But if a play is not designed for Twitter, you may disrespect the artists’ work by inviting audiences to live-tweet it.

The sheer global spectacle of the Olympics ceremony and the attendant flood of thousands of Tweets means it’s highly unlikely that any of the participants would see what I had written. Thus, I didn’t have to worry about the effect of my tweets on the artists or athletes. But theater, particularly indie theater, is a small, local endeavor. If a theater sponsors a “Twitter night,” you just know that the actors will run backstage as soon as the show is over to read what the audience is saying about them – perhaps they’ll even do that at intermission! While getting this kind of immediate feedback could be useful, it also has the potential to dismay or dishearten. At the very least, actors may feel compelled to alter their performances in order to garner better mentions on Twitter – and that seems like a dangerous path to go down.

Moreover, Twitter is geared toward the quick ‘n’ quippy. As a result, we have less of a filter when we live-tweet than when we engage in other forms of writing. This can lead to some great impromptu witticisms, but also to tweets that, a day later, seem too rude or judgmental or just plain unfunny. Again, I worry that it could be damaging for theater artists to read such unfiltered reactions to their work. You could say that Twitter provides the “raw, honest” feedback that artists need – but I do not believe in making a virtue of rawness. And besides, are tweets always honest? Don’t people sometimes tweet things they don’t actually believe, in order to make better jokes?

So, because of the inherently live, local, intimate nature of theater, I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of tweet seats. Part of me dislikes claiming this exception for theater, because I sometimes think that we modern theater artists are overly invested in the uniqueness of our artform, forgetting that most people see it as just one entertainment option among many. If people enjoy live-tweeting other forms of entertainment, why should theater be any different?

Still, I’d be more likely to support a relaxation on tweeting at the cinema than at the theater. Like the Olympics ceremony, movies are large, global events, so a critical tweet of a movie will have far less potential for injury than one of a play. But then how do you tweet while wearing 3-D glasses? This problem, unfortunately, is yet to be solved.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. If you want to be in the know next time she live-tweets an event, follow @MarissaSkud.

There Are No Small Parts…

This month will feature the Theater Pub debut of three well-known Bay Area actors: Linda-Ruth Cardozo, Tony Cirimele and Vince Rodriguez, playing the three supporting parts in our production of Measure For Measure. Proving there are no small parts, only small actors, Linda-Ruth, Tony and Vince talk about what it’s like to step into their first Pub roles  and breath life into these small but essential character roles.

So this is your first Theater Pub, right? What’s got you excited about joining the ranks of Theater Pub’s ever expanding ensemble?

Linda-Ruth: I’m excited about the community atmosphere coupled with professional level performers. And the nice folks. I feel very welcome.

Vince: Not only is Theater Pub a group that produces work for artists who have an insatiable thirst for cool and relevant projects, but the demographic they reach out to is sexy, young and willing to re-envision classics in a modern way. It’s exciting to be a part of that.

Tony: The most exciting part about joining Theater Pub is that they asked me. No nerve-racking audition, no tension-filled callback, just an email saying, “Tony, we like your style. Bring some of that over to our motley crew of drunken theater-goers.” Also, the opportunity to wear RenFest clothes in public appealed to me greatly.

Tony Cirimele: what a guy!

The annual Shakespeare production is becoming a tradition, basically because we will now have done it twice. What do you think is the bee’s knees about doing Shakespeare in a bar?

Tony: First off, unlike this question, Shakespeare has no unnecessary ’20s jargon. Secondly, Shakespeare in a bar is great because it takes his work back to its roots. Shakespeare was first performed for groundlings, people who were dirt-poor, weren’t paying attention to the show, and would often yell things at the performers, much like your modern day alcoholic theater patron. Shakespeare is not just for the scholars, it’s for the people who can’t afford War Horse tickets.

Vince: It’s funny you bring up “groundlings” because I like to think of the audience as “grinders”: people who take the time to do their work AND appreciate the finer things in life, like exploring the depths of the human soul. Although the majority of people are content dealing with the nine-to-five stress, I think we give people who want it the chance escape the myopic and mundane.

And when the text is edited effectively, as it is done here, the kernel and bloom (am I mixing metaphors?) of the story become accessible to a modern audience and then the actors make it fun by playing amidst the audience in a comfortable, informal place, so all the pretentious element is stripped away and the potential for genuine enjoyment increases.

Anything got you worried? Is this your first time doing a show like this?

Tony: This is definitely my first time doing a show where the audience is encouraged to drink excessively.

Linda-Ruth: I’ve done dinner theatre before, so I’m okay with it.

Linda-Ruth Cardozo: Everything’s Under Control

So who do you play in Measure for Measure, and what do you like about the part?

Vince: I play Claudio, a character who has sex with a girl he fully intends to marry and gets thrown in jail for it. Kind of wack right? Some say “test the bicycle to make sure it works for you” but back in the day this wasn’t exactly kosher with the law. I’m excited about this role because he’s like any twenty-something trying to do well and then something bad happens. We’ve all been there: desperate for success and trying to make things work but the world is working against us.

Linda-Ruth: I play Mistress Overdone, the bawd. I like that she can be feisty, sexy and funny. We’ll see how I do.

Tony: I play the Provost, who runs the local prison. Provost, by the way, is his occupation, not his name. It’s like having a character named “Officer” or “Warden”. It’s a little demeaning that he is defined by his job and not by who he really is, but such is the laziness that is the Bard. My favorite part about playing the Provost is that he is the only normal character in the show. Everyone else is working in the heightened reality that is a Shakespearean comedy, but the Provost is a just an average guy trying to do his job and get through the day.

Measure for Measure is an unusual choice for any theater venue. Why do you think this play is a challenge, good or bad, for any theater company?

Linda-Ruth: Measure for Measure is a challenge because I think we don’t know what to think of it. The characters are not clear cut bad or good. The Duke is good, but a little perverse. Angelo is a hypocrite, but still sympathetic. Isabella’s attachment to her virtue at the price of her brother’s life seems ridiculous. This, I guess, is why it’s called a “problem play.”

I think what throws people is that Measure for Measure is a comedy that deals with dramatic events. Really dramatic. There are executions, broken engagements and bastard children involved, not really “ha-ha” funny. Most productions tend to toss away the comedy in favor of the more dramatic moments, or they just don’t get the jokes (It’s 400 years old, they can’t all hold up.) What we’ve done with this production is really play up the comedy while still respecting the more serious subject matter. After all, the best comedies are the ones with the occasional dramatic moment. We’re also throwing in just a little bit of audience participation. Not too much, but just enough to keep things light.

What do you hope the audience will get from Measure?

Vince: For me, this show is about power, and as the audience sips their drinks and embarks on this journey with us I hope they think about who they relate to and why. Often we find ourselves walking past someone near a BART or Muni exit and think, “Never will I find myself like this” or worse saying something out loud to the effect of: “No I can’t help you today”. Theater allows for one to take themselves out of their set of problems and worries for an hour and a half and feel for people who aren’t related to them. This is empathy y’all! If we were all slightly more empathic imagine how much more pleasant our human-to-human interactions would be. Isn’t that legit? I’m going to answer for all of us and emphatically say “YES.”

Vince Rodriguez: Here To Feel

Linda-Ruth: I just hope they’ll laugh.

I would love to see our audience get a newfound appreciation for the play. It’s one people tend to gloss over when discussing Shakespeare and I hope people will walk away from this and say, “Oh Measure for Measure? Great play. I saw Theater Pub do it and it was fantastic.

What’s your favorite beer?

Tony: Finally, something I can answer. A nice cool reasonably priced Guinness in the tallest glass you can find. I did a play a few years back that was set in Ireland, and I got pretty much all the free Guinness I could hope for. Now they got me hooked on the stuff. It’s great tasting, plus you get that great nod of approval from your fellow bar patrons when you order it. A silent nod that says “You drink Guinness, I like that in a man. You’re hired.”

Vince: My favorite beer is Imperial. It’s a Costa Rican pilsner. As a Costa Rican I have to represent properly. If you haven’t tried it-add it to your list! You can buy it at BevMo!

Linda-Ruth: I hate beer.

Do you know the bar is trying to get a liquor license?

Say whaaaat? I think that’s super sweet.

Tony: Mazel Tov!

If it happens, what’s the first cocktail you plan to order at Theater Pub?

Linda-Ruth: Scotch and soda.

Vince: I’d have to go with a Makers Mark and Coke. I like my Whiskey.

Tony: Anything you have to set on fire to drink.

Don’t miss Theater Pub’s Measure for Measure, playing four nights at the Cafe Royale (August 14, 20, 21, 27) and one night at the Plough And Stars (August 22), always at 8 PM, always for free.