An Interview With Sang Kim About Pajanuary

Sang S. Kim, writer, director, actor and widely-know comedic-talent-about-town, took some time to answer a few questions about the upcoming Theater Pub event, Pajanuary, which will be happening on Monday, January 21st.

We know you’re not stranger to Theater Pub, but this is your first time running a Theater Pub event, isn’t it?

That’s right.  Hopefully won’t be the last.

What’s been the best part?

Getting to hang out with my uber talented friends and boss them around.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Uber talented friends are also uber busy.  Trying to coordinate schedules is like trying to get monkeys to roller skate.

How did you get hooked up with this job?

I think I was the most sober person in the room [at the Retreat] so yeah… joke’s on me.

Tell us more about Pajanuary. First off… what is a Pajanuary?

You’d have to ask Maria Leigh, who I think came up with the actual word Pajanuary (editor’s note: yes, indeed, it was Maria Leigh, at the 2012 Theater Pub retreat).  We also thought up Pajamuary with an “M” but then we’d have to offer Jam and that would get too messy.  Anyway, I’m more of a perserves man myself.

Your press release mentions that it is a night of “comfort theater”- want to be more specific?

During the meeting where this idea formed, Ashley Cowan pointed out that most suicides happen in late January.  From that wondefully cheerful thought, we came up with Pajamas and Bedtime Stories because statistically speaking, most suicides don’t happen in pajamas.  Wait… what was the question again?

I mean, he looks comfortable, doesn't he?

I mean, he looks comfortable, doesn’t he?

What do you think are some of the highlights of the evening?

Re-imagining the stories you grew up with while cuddled up next to your nearest and dearest with a drink.  Also – anyone who hasn’t had time to get into Harry Potter will probably never have to after that night.

Your press release also says people should wear their pajamas- will you be in pajamas?

I’m ordering them online as we speak.  Word of advice – do not google leather pajamas.

Do bathrobes count as pajamas?

Sunil Patel is coming in hospital scrubs so anything is pajamas after that.

What remains, to this day, your favorite bedtime story?

No joke – the Bible.  Floods, Fratricide, and giant Fishes.  It has everything a confused child wants to hear right before he falls asleep.

Don’t miss PAJANUARY, this first Theater Pub of 2013, playing one night only on Monday, January 21, at 8 PM at the Cafe Royale. The event is free with a suggested five dollar donation at the door. And don’t forget, our friends at Hide Away Blues BBQ will be there too, so come hungry!  

Theater Conservatory Confidential: The Home Stretch

Eli Diamond navigates his first Christmas Break back home.

“It’s only been a semester, but already I feel college has done a number on all of us.”

My dear friend Michelle said this to me during lunch the other day, and it took me a while to realize what she meant. I had seen numerous college folk since I’d returned from school, and to me, Michelle seemed exactly the same. A little more confidence maybe, but more or less the same girl who I sat next to for four years in high school. I was really surprised though, by one of my friends.

This friend, who shall remain nameless, spent her last year with me driving around, occasionally smoking weed or drinking, and partying. When I called her up and we agreed to meet up, I was ready for some more insane adventures that all high school kids dream college kids experience everyday. Instead, I was greeted by a girl who decided to go substance-free, hated parties, and was on her way to becoming a frugavore (only eats raw fruits and vegetables. Vegan to the nth degree).

We talked for a bit about how college really isn’t the fantasy that high schoolers think it is; about how the party life is a kind of a lame substitute for real life. We both were semi-partiers in high school, and spent lengthy periods looking forward to college frat parties, but now, nothing could really disgust us more. To us, college is where you learn to be a social human being, not where you walk around passed out drunk people who are almost certainly going to be taken advantage of.

Some of our friends also spent time living the high school fantasies that they never had, only to discover that it really was not worth the wait. These experiences are what changed us. The realization that college is not some dreamland really brought us back to reality. And I feel that’s the change that Michelle was talking about. We all feel real to each other now. College is a different world for each of us, and we all have our stories right now about how we may have had that “one crazy party”, or that “god-awful teacher”, but the thing is, we’re relating in a way that high school students often fail to do.

Of course, I still do treat some of my friends the exact same, because in the end, I’m still Eli, and they’re still whoever they were. We connect on that high school level, but the distance has allowed us to connect deeper. I’ve heard it said that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and I concur.

Falling With Style: Ceci n’est pas une blog-post au sujet de Les Mis

Helen Laroche starts the new year off with some big questions.

A month or so ago, I learned that my childhood sitcom Boy Meets World was in talks to receive a spin-off entitled Girl Meets World, about the daughter of the original main character (Cory). Whenever I think of this show, I think of a particular conversation between Cory and Mr. Feeney. I remember the meaty part this way:

Cory: How do you know you’re good?

Mr. Feeney: How do I know I’m good, how do you know you’re good, or how does one know one’s good?

In hindsight, it doesn’t seem like something I should have remembered for so long. I don’t even really remember how Cory responded. But I think my middle school self had never entertained the possibility of choosing one’s own metrics for success, and so she thought this was worth hanging on to.

Fast-forward a decade: this short Boy Meets World exchange came to my mind again the other day after I posted my thoughts about the Les Mis movie.

I was unhappy about a lot of things, but most consistently and specifically, the attention to detail in the singing. I’m not just talking about the tone and style (which, yes, I disliked) but the backphrasing and general disregard by the performers for the way the music was written. Some people, mostly music majors, agreed with me, but the majority of the responses indicated that the music was “good enough” for people less picky than I. Some people went a step further and called me snobbish for bemoaning the things I did.

I bring this up not to incite more conversation about Les Mis, but to ask a question that I’m having trouble posing without sounding snobbish. Do we have an obligation to teach audiences what truly ‘fine’ art is, as opposed to something that’s just “good enough”? Are there circumstances where “good enough” is just that? My sense is that the marketing and artistic departments of a theatre would have different things to say about that, to say nothing of film companies.

What are your thoughts — not on the movie, dear Lord, but on the idea of elevating the audience to the level of the art vs. making something that the average Joe can enjoy?

Cowan Palace: Stories, Magic, and a Lesson in Life Savers

Ashley Cowan shares her love of bedtime stories and a family favorite tale.

Once upon a time there lived a girl who loved stories. Spoiler alert: it was me.

From a very early age, I fell in love with fairy tales, bedtime books, and the magical words that lent themselves to my imagination. Children between the ages of 2 and 6 are said to be in a stage of child development that can be the most suggestible making them incredibly receptive to their environment. Which makes bedtime stories told during that time even more influential; those tales will root themselves in their subconscious and continue to play. And as a child fortunate to have been introduced to many stories, I can attest to their legacies kept alive in my mind.

Luckily, I grew up in a household with natural storytellers. My mother is an educator and my father worked for the state of Connecticut as a disability claimer. Both had the opportunity to observe a variety of people on a daily basis. But the bedtime stories I treasured most were the ones about travels they had experienced. My mom was born in Portugal and my dad has been to more places than any group of people I’ve ever met combined. My favorite fascination was hearing about the years he spent living in rural African villages. I would beg my father almost every evening to tell me one of those stories (sorry Mom, you had some good ones too but how can you compete with that?).

And so I’d love to share a Cowan classic. It’s a true tale told much better by my father who lived it but here goes… My father, John, traveled through Africa on a path few may have been able to replicate. With only a backpack as a companion at times, he lived each day without a defined route. He was young, blond, and adventurous. Often, because he looked so different than some of the people he encountered, a variety of details about his background would be assumed. He once stayed at a village where the people called him “doctor” because he had a medical bag on him with very basic items (toothbrush, Band-Aids, etc.) and when they had asked him to ease their aches and pains he had administered painkillers from a small bottle. My father came upon the leader of the group who had seemed wary of him. And in a bit of a panic and after not finding much left to offer him, he handed the man the only thing he had left. One of the old Life Saver candies from the bottom of the bag. The man accepted it by immediately consuming the round colorful piece. The sweet treat proved to be a real item of interest as the man proceeded to ask my father for another with a bright smile. The Life Saver lived up to its name. He then declared that my dad was made of magic and to further thank him he gave him a simple gold bracelet. My father was reluctant to take such a gift but they all insisted and branded him with a piece of their home. That bracelet has never come off my dad’s wrist. Not after all the near death experiences he’d tackle later in his travels, or his wedding day, or even through any future medical procedures. It’s a representation of his countless adventures and the relationships that can form between strangers and he’s promised to remember that forever.

My father joins this effort to continue sharing experiences and stories; a timeless practice that has been recounted throughout human history. Within these tales are lessons of survival and morality. Bedtime stories can be an insight into a wide variety of human characteristics and behaviors. It appears that even a thousand years ago, we were still creatures capable of both gruesome violence and beautiful enduring faith that good can win out over evil. Be it for entertainment, education, religious purposes, we continue to invent the heroes, villains, and magic to reflect the pieces of ourselves we want to be remembered.

I once heard that truly wondrous stories happen to those who tell them and within each passed tale is a piece of magic just waiting to introduce itself to a new listener. So I hope you’ll join us for Pajanuary on Monday, January 21 as we revisit the land of wonder and imagination where so many of our beloved bedtime stories live. Get those pajamas pressed and look forward to spending the night between once upon a time and happily ever after.

Ashley Cowan is a writer, director, actress, and general theater maker in the Bay Area. She’s got lots of stuff to say, most of it pretty entertaining, so follow her here at https://twitter.com/AshCows.

Call For Directors For The February Theater Pub!

Annie Paladino, who is producing HEART PLAY(S) for SF Theater Pub in February, needs directors.

The evening is a curated collection of many different interpretations of a single text, “Heart Play” by Heiner Muller. Annie is looking for awesome people to direct/choreograph/stage/make/whatever-you-want-to-call-it the different iterations — that’s where you come in!

Here’s the quick project summary:
This project was originally instigated and led by Jessica Chayes (now of The Assembly in NYC). Very simply, it’s an evening of multiple different versions of the (very) short play by Heiner Muller, “Heart Play”. Here’s the entire text:

1: May I lay my heart at your feet.
2: Only if you don’t dirty my floor.

1: My heart is clean.
2: That remains to be seen.

1: I can’t get it out.
2: Do you want me to help you.

1: If it’s not too much trouble for you.
2: It’s my pleasure.
I can’t get it out either.

1 begins to cry.

2: I’ll operate
What else is my pocket knife good for.
We’ll have it out in no time.
Persevere, don’t despair.
There. We’ve got it.
My, but it’s a brick.
Your heart is a brick.

1: But it only throbs for you.

 
The performance will take place one night only, on February 18th. Like all Theater Pub shows, it’ll be in a bar — at Cafe Royale in San Francisco. The idea is to have each piece work as site-specifically as possible, so that we have a whole bunch of little theatrical blips throughout different areas of the bar.
 
And here are some more details:
  • Annie is looking for between 5 and 8 different iterations for the evening. I’m particularly interested in teams of two directors interested in working on the same piece. But if you want to go solo, that’s cool too!
  • There are only two rules for each director (or directing team):
    • You must use the text in its entirety (though not necessarily all at once, and not necessarily in that exact order, or with that exact character breakdown) — but also, no additional text.
    • You must stage your piece site-specifically in the bar. In fact, this should be a major component of your vision.
  • You can be in your own piece, or cast actors (or even not have any, if that’s the shape your interpretation takes) — it’s totally up to you.
  • GO BIG OR GO HOME. Because 5 really similar stagings of this text would be really boring. The goal is to be as outrageous, surprising, and specific as possible.
  • On that note — we would love to have some interdisciplinary work represented here! If your vision takes the form of dance, music, puppets, film, toy theater, that’s fantastic.
Sound good? If you’re interested in participating as a director/leader/whatever, please email me the following by FRIDAY (that’s January 11):
 
Who are you? (short bio/resume would be cool)
Summary of your vision
How many performers, and do you have anyone in mind?
Where in the bar (a few options are fine)? (go visit Cafe Royale if you’ve never been there!)
What’s the design/aesthetic/look/sound/smell of it? (but keep in mind there’s no budget!)
 
Interested directors should e-mail theaterpub@atmostheatre.com

Announcing Our January Theater Pub!

Pa-January! – A Night of Bedtime Stories

The holidays are over but 2013 is now here with a New Year of Theater Pub!

With winter still ahead of us, we’re inviting everyone to cozy up in Café Royale for a Pajama Party and a night of Bedtime Stories.  We’re talking grade-A comfort theater, with stories old and new, a lullaby or two, crayons and coloring and of course booze – just like elementary school!

This Theater Pub will be brought to you by the Letter T for Talent, including Stuart Bousel , Megan Cohen, Jeremy Cole, Ashley Cowan, Jaime Lee Currier, Sang S. Kim, Dan Kurtz, William Leschber, Carl Luciana, Brian Markley, Jan Marsh, Karen Offereins, Sunil Patel and Marissa Skudlarek,

Pajamas are optional but whimsy is not. That said, if you come in your pajamas, we’ll totally enter you in a raffle to win a prize!

It all happens on January 21st, 2013 at the Cafe Royale in San Francisco! The show starts at 8, but get there early to support our friends the Hide-Away BBQ, who will be bringing pop-up deliciousness! Admission is, as always, free, with a suggested donation at the door!

Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicky Weinbach brings his new musical ever closer to opening night.

We are currently in our last month of rehearsals for Made in China. With that said, tickets for Made in China are now on sale here and at madeinchinamusical.wordpress.com/tickets. Get your tickets now, and visit our Facebook page here for a promotional code to receive $5 off a general admission ticket for opening weekend. We also have a new poster design (below) from artist Andy McKeegan.

All business aside, the last couple of weeks have been a little tough, scheduling-wise what with the holidays and what not. But, we are headed in the right direction. We’ve accomplished a lot so far but still have a good amount of work to do. Tomorrow, we have our first sitzprobe (rehearsal with the singers and orchestra without blocking). I’m hoping the rehearsal moves pretty smoothly. The sitzprobe for the staged readings went pretty fast back in April, so this one should be pretty good, too.

I don’t have too much to say this time around. The cast is certainly working hard, and their effort is showing. The quality with which they sing at a stand still now needs to be applied to when they’re actually moving. It’s always a little trickier to sing your best when you’re performing choreography, which is why breathing as much as possible helps so much. The musical director for a production of Into the Woods in which I performed during my senior year of college told me once that Broadway singers breath a lot. They breath all the time because they’re moving a lot as opposed to opera singers who pretty much stand still the whole time. I suppose that’s when it’s more important to follow good technique. For musicals, you want to do your best to hit the notes well while still moving. Thus, breathing a lot helps a lot. Perhaps, this isn’t the best advice to reveal over the Internet, but it’s what works.

Anyway, I hope to see all you readers at one or more of the performances of Made in China. Buy your tickets now, and enjoy this really cool poster (again, below). Until next time!

MadeInChina_MF

Hi-Ho the Glamorous Life: Theater (Ir)resolutions 2013

Marissa Skudlarek kicks off the 2013 Theater Pub blog with some New Year’s resolutions. Let us know what yours are!

I thought I’d begin the year by making some theater-related New Year’s Resolutions, but it’s proving harder than I anticipated. It’s not that I’m bad at keeping resolutions. Indeed, I take my promises and commitments very seriously. No, it’s that I can’t decide what resolutions to make in the first place. I write plays for the same reason that Tom Stoppard does: because “writing dialogue is the only respectable way of contradicting yourself.” And this neurotic brain of mine enjoys contradicting and questioning itself at every turn. How can I make a New Year’s resolution, when as soon as I do, I wonder if I should’ve have resolved to do the opposite? How can I indulge in the black-and-white thinking that resolutions require, when daily life often requires more nuance and flexibility?

All the same, there are things I want to accomplish, ways I feel I could be a better writer and theater-maker and person in the New Year. So, herewith, my contradictory and self-negating Theater Resolutions for 2013.

I will try to get more sleep. That’s a good resolution for anyone to make, you might think – but what does it have to do with theater? Well, this life of running around town seeing plays can take its toll, dahling. And I’m not just talking about wrinkles and undereye circles. No, the most insidious thing about being perpetually fatigued is that it leaves you unable to appreciate the art you’re seeing – which is, ostensibly, the reason that you’re so busy in the first place. The artists have worked hard on their production. The least I can do is be attentive and alert when I see it.

BUT… I will not turn down invitations and opportunities. I believe in saying “yes” far more often than I say “no,” and in trying to do and see as much as possible. Some of my favorite memories and most interesting experiences in 2012 came from accepting invitations and opportunities that had been extended to me. I may have sacrificed sleep in order to do these things, but they were worth it. In 2013, I don’t want to miss out on something amazing because I’ve made a needlessly rigid commitment to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

I will go to plays with an open mind. If you work in theater and see fifty or more shows a year, theatergoing can sometimes feel like an obligation rather than a joy. You can go to theater because it’s entertaining or go because it fulfills your spiritual needs, but either way, you shouldn’t be going just out of a sense of duty. In 2013, I want to approach each play that I see as if it had the potential to change my life. Being well-rested will help with this. Moreover, I will endeavor to turn off the jaded, cynical part of my brain at the same time as I turn off my cell phone.

BUT… I will keep a high standard for excellence. Being open-minded and optimistic when attending theater should not equate to loving everything that I see. One can be fair-minded and critical without being reflexively snarky. Sometimes I yearn to find pleasure and delight in everything in the world – I think I’d be happier that way. But perhaps the greatest pleasure of all lies in being blown away by a work of art after seeing a lot of mediocre stuff. The contrast makes it all the sweeter.

I will try new things. I have lived in San Francisco for four and a half years, and feel like I’ve kind of settled into an artistic comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I am immensely grateful to have found a group of friends and fellow-artists who support me, challenge me, and encourage me to grow. But that also means that it’s time for me to spread my wings a bit, and try to work with companies or artists that I have not worked with before. I’ll be on the lookout for unfamiliar submission opportunities and projects. The last thing I want is for the projects I do in 2013 to look exactly like the projects I did in 2012.

BUT… I will not abandon what I love and value. As I said, I had a lot of great adventures in 2012, and vowing to try new things should not be misinterpreted as a vow to rip everything up and start again. There are definitely experiences from last year that I am keen to repeat, and collaborators that I hope to continue working with in the future. Furthermore, my quest for novelty shouldn’t lead me to betray my core values and instincts. If one of my new projects turns out not to be a good artistic fit for me, I hope I will have the courage to abandon it.

I will not write my Theater Pub column the night before it’s due. If I’m holding myself to a high standard of excellence – and trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour – I shouldn’t write my columns in a mad Wednesday-night rush.

BUT… um, guess what I’m doing right now?

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. Find her online at marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.