(Belated) Tuesdays With Annie: STOP. COLLABORATE AND LISTEN.

Annie is very sorry that this post is not, in fact, appearing on Tuesday — she was too busy washing sunscreen out of her hair.

I got back last week from a whirlwind trip down and back up this looooooong state of California, to work on a solo performance in progress by Joshua Tree artist-in-residence Gedney Barclay. I came back exhausted, invigorated, awe-struck, inspired, existentially-minded, and, most of all, pondering the nature, value, and conditions of collaboration. Like with my last few posts, this week primarily I want to open dialogue and hear from you. So let me start with my own fragmented thoughts from the last few days:

Collaboration, by definition, requires at least two entities. I would also argue that the separate identities of these agents must be more salient than the collective identity of the group in collaboration. But surely this isn’t always true — what are the exceptions?

It’s pretty clear-cut that Gedney and I are separate entities. I am an actor-director-producer-SM based in San Francisco, who tends to work with several different companies; Gedney is a Philadelphia-based director-actor, who works primarily with her own company, No Face Performance Group.

But at the same time, there was a tiny fragment of our collaboration this weekend that felt less like a collaboration and more like a reuniting. Not to get too sappy about it (TOO LATE), but this piece marks our 20th collaboration as theater artists — the first of which was when we were both 9th graders. In the almost 12 years since then, we have had many actor/director collaborations, a few actor/actor collaborations (my Varya notably cockblocked Gedney’s Arya in a 12th grade production of The Cherry Orchard), and various other relationships, from director/dramaturg to actor/stage manager.

I don’t quite know how to explain the difference, but my instinct is that is has something to do with translation. In short, for Gedney and me, there’s no translating needed. Generally, in any artistic collaboration, you’ll spend some amount of time translating. Not that you’re speaking literally different languages (though sometimes that may be the case too!), but rather you have differing (or even contradictory) language to describe an emotion, a mood, an action, a meaning, or a style. Often due to culture, training, idiosyncratic imaginations, generational differences, or something more nebulous (ZEITGEIST??), these disconnects in communication can be agonizing, particularly when one or more parties fail to recognize what is happening. You’ll leave rehearsal in a huff, frustrated that your actors just CAN’T take direction/your director just CAN’T give intelligible directions/your assistant stage manager just CAN’T get that prop on stage at the right time.

And so in many ways, speaking the same language (so to…speak…ah shit) in a collaboration is GLORIOUS. It’s luxurious and feels effortless and is, frankly, just ridiculously efficient. I was able to give Gedney notes like “in this last text you have a tic, I think it’s lifting the left side of your mouth” or “don’t let the foot die,” and she could ask me questions like “is this folding too whiskey dick?” and we both understand each other 100%.

But at the same time, I’ve really come to value and appreciate these little acts of translation in collaborative relationships. Sometimes you have to resolve them almost by brute force, or sometimes you come to an elegant third option that you both understand, but most of the time, in my experience, the result is synergistic, a greater, more surprising, more original and interesting product that either of you would have arrived at alone. I frequently think about a particular scene from Cutting Ball’s production of Pelleas and Melisande (for which I was the Assistant Director), which was singled out by many reviews as a highlight of the show. The director had a very clear idea for the scene, but he handed it over to the choreographer first to work on. Her proposal was very different from his idea, and they each greatly preferred their own version of the scene. The final version, however, was a muddled cocktail of these two singular visions — not a clean synthesis, but almost a patchwork quilt of two very different styles and aesthetics. And it WORKED.

I don’t have any answers here. I don’t know if one collaborative mode is inherently better than another. I don’t even know if I can coherently define “collaboration” without two dozen caveats. And all I’ve done here is ramble (per usual). So as always, I turn it over to you. I don’t even have a clear question in mind, but just want to hear thoughts, experiences, and musings. What is the nature of collaboration to you, in your experience? What value does collaboration offer for you, in your work? And under what conditions does collaboration occur, or what are the necessary conditions for fruitful collaboration?

Rehearsal photo from Via Negativa

Rehearsal photo from Via Negativa

Annie Paladino is an actor, director, producer, and stage manager. You still have time to catch her on stage in Ragged Wing Ensemble’s Time Sensitive, and you can always find her on Twitter @anniepaladino.

Theater Conservatory Confidential: And Your Prize Is Work

Seeing as it’s been a while since I last wrote about the work, I decided to do a brief summary of my largest projects right here. The work-load has most definitely increased this semester to astronomical proportions, with all of us doing at least 7 scenes this semester, alongside all of our papers and other homework. My scenes have all went pretty well, with a few rough edges here and there, but nothing I can’t really polish off with the knowledge I’ve been given.

The first scene we did was a scene dealing with a character’s temperament. Using our knowledge of the play, we’d analyze the character’s temperament to make a better choice in action for the scene. For this scene, a friend and I made a decision to do Rabbit Hole, and, although we ended up rehearsing the scene for upwards of 40 hours, we constantly had it rejected by our teacher, up until the final run-through, which our teacher said was astounding. It was interesting using temperament work to study the character, because, I feel like at first it made me act more of a basic archetypical character, rather than an actual person.

The next scene we had to do was a scene with an external. An external, through Practical Aesthetics, is any accent, disability, or thing that needs to be added on top of all the work. For this, I did Dublin Carol, using the externals of drunkenness and Irish-ness (in other words, just being Irish, my teacher joked). This scene was quickly rehearsed and finished, and we had it run-through and fixed in record time.

Not as fast as our multiple-person scene though, which is exactly what the name describes it as. For this, we learned how to do scenes with more than two people, using other people as tools to get our objective from the person our test was in. It was rough, but the scene from Children’s Hour proved to be strong material for us to use, and after about 30 minutes in class, we never had to do that scene again.

In my Script Analysis class, I have been working on a ten minute scene from Shining City, which has quickly become the bane of my existence. We have brought it into class 4 times now, and been shut down each and every time. I need to discover a truer form of guilt in myself in order for the scene to work, and not just spout defensiveness, which the scene can quickly devolve to if not done well.

In Repetition, we had to find a historical figure we loved, write a monologue as them, dress ourselves, act out the monologue, and improvise a question and answer session afterwards. I chose Emperor Norton (homeless guy in San Francisco thought he was Emperor, city played along with him, fun stuff) and my class seemed to love it. Every moment I performed that was gleeful and exciting.

The other scenes I’m working on and will be putting up before the end of the year are excerpts from Breakfast Club, American Psycho, Clue, and Dog Sees God. I’m really excited for all of these and these have all held strong places in my heart. Almost makes me regret leaving. Almost. On the other hand though, the last time I was really inspired at NYU was in a Meisner and Strasberg class, so who knows? Maybe I’ll find something else somewhere.

Hi-Ho The Glamorous Life: Someone Had to Throw a Bomb

Marissa Skudlarek unpacks the luggage, la-la-la…

On Monday April 15th, around lunchtime here on the West Coast, the bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I saw the headlines, kept the breaking news feed open in my internet browser. I watched the shaky footage of the explosions, with the Boston cop saying “This is fucked up ovah heah.”

And then I recalled that I was producing a show that night at Theater Pub, and quickly reviewed the script of Orphée in my head, wondering if the day’s events would lend any moments in the play an unintended resonance. I realized, with a jolt, that in the first scene of the play, Orphée says “Someone had to throw a bomb.” He’s speaking metaphorically, of course – he’s expressing his belief that the artist’s duty is to “throw a bomb, create a scandal, [provide] one of those storms that refresh the air.” Nonetheless, I wondered if it was appropriate to include that line in performance, on a day when real bombs (not metaphorical ones) had been thrown. Would it upset the audience? Would it prejudice them against the character of Orphée?

I emailed the director, Katja Rivera, and the actor playing Orphée, Andrew Chung, to say I was thinking of cutting the line. Both of them responded that they’d prefer if I left it in, and, upon reflection, I decided that they were right. If we left the script as is, we’d make a statement that art cannot be constrained or cowed by terrorism. And if our audience was mildly scandalized, so be it – one of the messages of Orphée is that true poets do not fear scandal and death. If we cut the line, I realized, we’d betray the spirit of Jean Cocteau. And the terrorists would win.

And really, why should I be afraid to leave the “Someone had to throw a bomb” line in the play when, all around me, people were doing far braver and bolder and more provocative things with their art? For the 2012 Olympians Festival, Stuart Bousel wrote a play (Twins) based on the myth of Artemis and Apollo killing Niobe’s twelve children – and then the Sandy Hook school shooting occurred the day before Stuart’s staged reading. Stuart didn’t cancel the reading, though he did warn the audience that the play dealt with a difficult and sensitive subject. Perhaps some people stayed home rather than see a play about the murder of children; perhaps a few people were offended. But many of the people who did go see the reading found it incredibly cathartic and moving. No Olympians Festival show has ever made people weep the way they did at the reading of Twins that night. Art needs to tell difficult truths; otherwise, it’s just pabulum.

I attended some of the 2012 Olympians Festival readings with the man who is now my boyfriend. The festival must’ve made quite an impression on him, because a few weeks later, he wrote me an email telling me about a dream he’d had:

I dreamed that we were at the Olympians Festival and the city was in panic because  the gods were coming to punish us for blaspheming them. “But we didn’t blaspheme them,” I protested. “Oh, but we did,” you said, turning to Stuart, “in so-and-so’s play and in what’s-his-name’s play too, really.” You turned back to me and nodded slightly. You seemed not the least bit concerned and Stuart had his usual air of interest and mild amusement. Your body language suggested that this was part of the writer’s life: sometimes you win trophies, sometimes you inspire blogs, and sometimes ancient gods come to punish the city, and that’s just how it is.

I was flattered that he was dreaming about me, of course, but even more flattered by the way that I appeared in his dream. I liked how the dream-Marissa had the artistic and moral courage to say “An artist must be permitted to write whatever he wants, even if he blasphemes the gods and attracts divine retribution.” These sentiments also seemed to tie in nicely with Stuart’s Theater Pub blog post about artistic courage (otherwise known as “the post with all of the Lord of the Rings in-jokes”), which appeared the same week my boyfriend had this dream.

In real life, I may not yet have the courage of Eowyn the Shield-Maiden, or of Orphée the poet who faces an angry mob, or of the coolly nonchalant figure in my boyfriend’s dream. But I’m trying to be braver and more honest in my work this year. I’m trying to live up to that ideal.

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

Everything Is Already Something Week 5: If You’re Sexy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands

The scene opens on Allison Page, in a spotlight, swiveling her hips like a drunk chimpanzee and winking too hard with her right eye. She’s wearing a lot of lipstick and shimmying her shoulders with too much gusto. The director appears:

DIRECTOR: Allison, I said “be sexy”, not “make everyone seasick and uncomfortable.”

ALLISON: I thought that was the same thing…?

DIRECTOR: Well, it’s not.

Allison is replaced by Super Sexy Blonde Woman as the lights fade to black.

Sorry, Allison, but you've been replaced.

Sorry, Allison, but you’ve been replaced.

Welcome to my nightmare. I’m a 28 year old woman and I don’t know how to be sexy. I’ve got the parts in the right places. I’ve got all the makings of a lady, and none of the swagger of a confident, sexified female. I am most assuredly not bringing sexy back.

Now, hold on, I’m not some shrinking violet. I’m a strong woman, with strong ideas, very little fear, I’ve worked my way up and through all kinds of things and I’m tough as nails…but that whole sexy thing…I can’t take it seriously. So much so that I’ve been known to burst into laughter during intimate moments, make jokes at THE WORST POSSIBLE TIMES, and a plethora of other embarrassing idiosyncrasies I’ll spare you now. I don’t dance sexy, or talk sexy, or act sexy in my daily life. And when asked to be sexy? It’s like if Roger Rabbit were trying to act like Jessica Rabbit. Just doesn’t look the same, does it?

So, what is sexy, anyway?

Sexy Possibility #1 

I feel like mystery factors into it. I am so unmysterious, people probably think they know everything there is to know about me in the first 5 minutes of speaking to me. I lamented about this to a friend at one point (let’s call her Belle)

ALLISON: I think I’d do better with this guy if I knew how to be mysterious.

BELLE: Yeah, you totally have to Bo Peep it!

Belle is, of course, referring to the classic tale of Little Bo Peep, who has lost her sheep:

And can’t tell where to find them;

Leave them alone, And they’ll come home,

Wagging their tails behind them.

So basically, in this case, the best tactic is to be super mysterious, causing someone to think you might be more interesting than you let on, so that they’ll chase you down instead of you chasing them. Quite a theory…that I’ll never get the chance to really try because I find it impossible.

Sexy Possibility #2

“Sexy is being confident!”

Alright, well, I’m pretty confident…ABOUT EVERYTHING EXCEPT MY ABILITY TO BE SEXY.

Ain't nobody got more confidence than Allison Page.

Ain’t nobody got more confidence than Allison Page.

Sexy Possibility #3

Dictionary.com says of the word “sexy”: “sexually interesting or exciting; radiating sexuality: the sexiest professor on campus.”

I really don’t have time to become a professor. And last I checked I’m only radiating perfume. At least it smells good.

Sexy Possibility #4 AKA My Biggest Fear

It’s some intangible IT factor that cannot be harnessed by someone who does not clearly possess it already. You’ve got it or you don’t got it. Like one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld; Elaine is at a job interview, and the employer is talking about Jackie O.

EMPLOYER: She had such…grace!

ELAINE: Yes! Ahhh, grace!

EMPLOYER: Not many people have grace.

ELAINE: Well, ya know, grace is a tough one. I like to think I have a little grace. Not as much as Jackie O. –

EMPLOYER: You can’t have a little grace. You either have grace or you don’t.

ELAINE: Okay, fine, I have no grace.

EMPLOYER: And you can’t acquire grace.

ELAINE: Well, I have no intention of getting grace.

EMPLOYER: Grace isn’t something you can pick up at the market.

ELAINE: Alright, look, I don’t have grace. I don’t want grace. I don’t even say grace, okay?!

She doesn’t get the job, in case you were wondering. Just replace the word “grace” with the word “sexy” and replace Jackie O. with Scarlett Johansson and that’s the imaginary conversation I have with the imaginary man in my head any time I need to be sexy.

This is on my mind right now, because I’m rehearsing to play a sexy-ish character. I mean, she’s no Scar-Jo, but she’s got this sort of vixen-y, sexually free, comfortably seductive mindset and she knows how to get her man when she wants to. Some days I have a better handle on that aspect of her. If I think too much about specifically what to do with my body, I get bogged down in the details of how I walk or what shapes my mouth may be making. The less I think about it, the more I focus on the hunky man in front of me, the sexier I’m able to be. Which I guess makes sense…you’d never think someone was sexy if they were busting their balls to act sexy, would you? No, that’s too desperate, there’s not enough Bo Peep in it.

Oh man, there’s that Bo Peep again! Maybe my Bo Peep is that I need to not think about how to be sexy, but why I’m being sexy. And the why is easy – it’s because she’s falling in love. Now there’s something to which I can relate! There’s nothing sexier than the rush of being in the beginning phases of falling desperately in love with someone, when everything they say or do is interesting, when you’re just dying to be closer to them than you’ve ever been to anybody because you have no reason to believe that they’re not ABSOLUTELY THE BEST THING EVER. There’s a nervous energy that gives way to sexy at the right moment. And even the nervousness can be sexy, because your affection is peeking through.

Alright, Scar-Jo, maybe I don’t exactly exude “come hither” quite the way that you do, and maybe I don’t have it all figured out just yet, but I’ve still got some love tricks up my sleeve.

Wait, do sexy people wear sleeves?

Watch Allison Page do her best “come hither and stay hither” in The Custom Made Theatre Co.’s production of PRELUDE TO A KISS opening May 21st. You can even get tickets to that show right here https://app.ticketturtle.com/index.php?ticketing=tcmtc. 

Announcing Our Next Night Of Theater Pub On May 20th!

This May, Cafe Royale transforms into THE PUB FROM ANOTHER WORLD, an interdimensional crossroads where theater is not bound by the constraints of reality. It is a world where time travel is possible, where unicorns exist. From the minds of eight Bay Area playwrights—including a four-year-old girl featured on Boing Boing (http://boingboing.net/2013/03/02/horrorsf-play-by-a-four-year.html)—come imaginative tales of everything from superheroes to surrogates, monsters to mad scientists, and other flights of fancy. This night of staged readings will be talked about for all eternity by those afflicted with immortality, so don’t miss it! Or you may find yourself stabbed by a psychotic nanny.

This strange brew of stories was concocted by Timothy Kay, Audrey Kessinger, Sang Kim, Allison Page, Sunil Patel, Bridgette Dutta Portman, Kirk Shimano, and Marissa Skudlarek. The intrepid troupe of actors includes Giovanna Arietta, Sam Bertken, Andrew Chung, AJ Davenport, Colleen Egan, Caitlin Evenson, Paul Jennings, Timothy Kay, Dan Kurtz, Meg O’Connor, Sunil Patel, Peter Townley, and Olivia Youngers.

The wormhole will be open for one night only: Monday, May 20, at 8 PM at the Cafe Royale. Admission is free and no reservations are required for this journey, but we recommend you come early for the best seats. Hyde Away Blues BBQ will provide food for all human guests.

And for an exclusive glimpse at what’s in store, come to the special Preview Reading on Sunday, May 12, at 3 PM at the Borderlands Cafe (870 Valencia St)!

Pansy Blog #3: A “Pansy” Progress Report!

Evan Johnson updates us on his show as it steadily moves towards production.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

The “Pansy” Progress Report continues and we’re thinking happy thoughts!

Pansy Program Print Ad

At a production meeting a couple weeks ago, Rene Vasquez (NCTC’s lovely and smart publicist) was talking with Ben Randle (Director of “Pansy”) and myself about various things we could do to “engage audiences and invite participation”, especially after the performance ends, which is when all the juicy stuff is still sinking in (hopefully). We talked about dressing up the lobby space to allow for after show discussions to happen, which would be kinda cute…maybe a wall that people pin their stories onto, or a giant image that might somehow invite participation..Since our show deals so much with queer history and it is happening during Pride Month, it was a good conversation to have.

We also discussed inviting 6 Guest Speakers to come see “Pansy” and open some topics for greater dialogue, live, onstage, following the performance. Doing so, we thought, might contextualize the piece with factual accounts and jumpstart even more intergenerational dialogue. At the meeting, I got really excited about this prospect.

Side note: I started working as a Barista at Spike’s Coffee in the Castro in 2009. Since then, I’ve become more curious about history, about my time now, about queer lineage and the city I live in. The shadows here. Small chit chat while making lattes can add up over time and I know there’s a lot of rich CONTENT that I can now give to queer storytelling and queer playmaking because of it. I thank Spike’s’ owner Mike Delgado, for keeping me around this long and supporting me artistically, SO MUCH. I interviewed customers from Spike’s while writing “Pansy” and I know that the person I’ve turned into since moving to San Francisco (Evan 2.0?) is certainly due to my time at Spike’s shootin’ the shit and being social.

At the tail end our our meeting, Ben, Rene and I compiled a list of local queer legends (our dream list) and I’ve already begun contacting people. Actually, as of today, we have 5 of the 6 slots filled and we will be releasing all 6 of our Guest Speakers’ names once we have the full list confirmed. 🙂

In other news, our photo shoot with nightlife photographer Cabure Bonugli (Shot in the City) was splendid – his photographs are so rad and appropriately sleazy and we couldn’t be happier with our flier art by Ernesto Sopprani! The image I shared above, was cooked up for an ad space in NCTC’s current production’s program! Stay tuned for more images!

In the coming weeks I will be meeting more with Rene and Ben to flush out the details of the Guest Speakers and how we’re going to structure that, promote the concept, etc. Also, we need to capture some video soon (for the video segments), we’ll be getting the fabulous Zack Kasten involved with that. Like I’ve previously mentioned, Zack’s work is so closely aligned tonally with the “Pansy” text and story, we’re just so thrilled to be collaborating with him.

I am also busying myself with line learning (7,700 words!) in preparation for when we start officially rehearsing the play mid-May. A 5 week intense rehearsal schedule like you’ve never seen! I’ve got lots to do and I’m just trying to keep swimming…er..flying! At the moment..I think I’ll make a sandwich.

Hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful San Francisco weather! Stay tuned for more updates as we prepare for the big World Premiere Run of “Pansy” June 14-29th at New Conservatory Theatre.


P.S. Holler at me! I’m on Twitter! @EvanLJohnson

Cowan Palace: The Write Stuff

Ashley Cowan shares thoughts from her journal as well as offering a few suggestions to make you a better writer.

When I was kid, writing creative stories was sort of a guilty pleasure. It wasn’t something I told my friends (because I would have been teased… more than I was already) but in my free time, I’d go to town writing pages about anything from the inner lives of those on the Oregon Trail (the game) to the secret workings of kids who were way more popular and had somehow missed adolescent’s awkward hazing process of braces, glasses, and growing out your bangs. Which, by the way, if those were the three parts in a nerdy triathlon, I would have been a serious competitor.

As I grew up, I continued to treasure my English assignments over most subjects but managed to keep the interest to myself. I actually developed a fear of sharing my work with others because it made me feel incredibly vulnerable and exposed. So mostly, I kept my words hidden in various notebooks and journals.

The first time I shared my work with an audience was thanks to Theater Pub. It was their second show ever and it featured a more bitter examination of Valentine’s Day (conveniently playing a day after the romantic holiday itself). I read from my legit, very personal diary, things I had never planned to share with anyone (leave it to you to get it out of me, Theater Pub). But ever since that experience, I’ve been able to continue facing that fear and move on to the other hurdles of declaring yourself a writer.

Very recently, I decided to try and submit something for Theater Pub’s highly anticipated Pint Sized Festival. Not only did I wait until the last minute to choose what to write but I also misread the three character maximum rule and wrote something with four characters in mind.  Leaving me to hurry home from Monday’s fun performance and scramble to put something resembling my idea together into a play before midnight.

But it’s my own fault. I have mastered the art of distracting myself each time I try to get some work done. Whenever I should be writing, I suddenly become quite interested in doing things like cleaning out my closet or reading the latest gossip on past Bachelor contestants (will Sean and Catherine make it?!). And if you’re anything like me, maybe you’ve thought of some similar excuses. So I thought it may be fun to look into some of the habits of some more well-known writers; perhaps we can all gain some wisdom and advice in the form a gentle list of suggestions to get back in the world of written words.

So here we go. Without further ado, here are five suggestions to become a better writer.

Write Something Everyday

That’s right, lazy bones. If you want to be a writer you actually have to write. You wouldn’t run a marathon without prepping a bit, right? Maybe doing some stretching or whatever? It’s similar. Just take it from the pros; Stephen King vows to write ten pages every day. No matter what. Ernest Hemingway aimed for at least five hundred words. You don’t have to write about nightmare clowns or develop a famous alcohol issue (though, I’m not stopping you) but consider it a good push.

Change Your Position

Literally. Now, maybe you’re most comfortable at a desk but who’s not a fan of lying in bed?! And for some writers, like Truman Capote, they claim to be a “completely horizontal author”. George Orwell, Edith Wharton, Winston Churchill, and I’m sure many others, also shared a love of the good ole writing in bed routine. While you’re there for your next catnap, why not try documenting a thought or two?

Turn Off The Internet

Yeah, okay, I know you can’t actually turn off the Internet worldwide but you can do yourself a favor and disable it from time to time. From the mind-suck of Facebook to the endless array of new articles (but seriously guys, do you think Sean and Catherine have what it takes?!) it’s easy to become distracted. When Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants she said she would dedicate a few hours a day to work in a small, cramped private space devoid of distraction. If the online pull isn’t an issue for you, perhaps investigate other new ways to help your concentration. It could be turning off the TV or locking yourself in a padded room, whatever. Make focusing a priority.

Cherish The Small Stuff

Get those short stories done! Write that ten minute play! Before you can tackle the next great masterpiece; try to complete those projects that seem to be constantly left on the backburner because of their petite size. Mark Twain did it! He was a travel writer and journalist before he went on to write any material that would later be dissected by high school students everywhere. Besides, completing shorts gives you the wonderful opportunity to really know your story and make it solid.

Write Because You Love It More Than Your Journal

Don’t get me wrong – I love journaling. It’s how I survived my teenage years. And it’s a great way to keep stretching those writer muscles because it keeps the habit thriving. But consider writing for other people. Keep it personal (I’d love to read your gossip) just keep potential readers in mind. Push yourself to get those thoughts out from hidden inside your Lisa Frank binder to a larger interested audience.

Neil Gaiman once said, “Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.” It’s not the easiest thing to love but know you’re in a welcoming community of fellow minded folks and if you fall, there are a bunch of us already down who can soften the landing… as we pick each other up again in search of flight.

What’s your typical writing routine? Any practices you’d like to share? Have you heard any interesting Sean and Catherine news? Please, leave us a comment!

Tuesdays With Annie: Too Many Hats

Annie Paladino needs to organize her hat collection.

I’m one of those people that everyone tells you not to be. It says so right at the bottom of this post: “Annie Paladino is an actor, director, producer, and stage manager.” I’m a wearer of many hats—and I refuse to specialize.

Particularly in the small/indie/fringe/DIY/experimental/whatever-you-want-to-call-it theater community, we all try on different hats from time to time. Some fit well but maybe we hate the weird feather sticking out of the top. Some are totally absurd and fall over our eyes and we trip and stub our toes. Sometimes we’ll find one that we love, and we add it to our permanent collection.

Well, I’ve got a large and very poorly compartmentalized permanent collection. I tend to have all hats readily available, so I can swap them out at a moment’s notice. And sometimes they all look the same in the dark, and I’ll later realize I’m wearing a different hat than I thought I had grabbed.

Before this admittedly awful metaphor gets away from me entirely, let’s talk about my current hat-crisis. Which is really just the latest iteration of one of the most reliably recurrent crisis of my career as a theater artist.

Annie wearing her Actor hat (also, an actual hat)

Annie wearing her Actor hat (also, an actual hat)

It concerns my two favorite (and most well-worn) hats: Actor and Stage Manager. As I’ve been telling anyone who will listen this week, it boils down to this: When I’m an actor, I love the rehearsal process. But as soon as it gets to tech week, I instantly wish I were stage managing. And the converse is true too: I don’t really like stage managing throughout a rehearsal process, but as soon as tech week hits, I’m in fucking heaven.

The unfortunate result of this is that as an actor in tech week, I can get…intense. What I absolutely love about stage managing is having control—I want all mistakes to be only my fault, and all solutions to be of my devising. And so I try my best to find little things that I can have some amount of control over. Trying to figure out a prop transition? Done. Need to eat a cupcake onstage in <20 seconds? Awesome—I’ll spend my morning off baking gluten-free, pink, spongy cupcakes. There’s going to be a weird butoh-esque makeup design? I am all OVER that shit. (And there’s another hat…)

Last night in the 30 minutes between our first full run with tech and our first preview, one of my Time Sensitive castmates suggested that what I’m really missing when I’m not stage managing is the thrill of solving unforeseen problems. She’s 100% right—I’d just never realized it so clearly before. I LOVE being presented with a problem, particularly a problem with no apparent solution, and one that must be solved NOW.

I know that there are lots of other hat-hoarders in the Bay Area, and I’ll turn it over to you (you know who you are) in the comments: do you have a hard time choosing between your favorites? Tales of hat-related existential angst? Have at it, dapper folks.

As for me, a little over a year ago, I made a conscious decision to step away from stage managing for awhile. I had been stage managing almost continuously for a couple years, and while I continued to enjoy it, I found myself deeply missing the artistic fulfillment of acting or directing. I am glad I made that decision, but reliably, every time tech week rolls around, you can find me looking longingly at the lightboard, or maybe quietly checking off my own personal preset list back stage (likely to the annoyance of the actual stage manager).

PS. Time Sensitive opens Thursday—check out www.raggedwing.org for tickets and more details.

Annie Paladino is an actor, director, producer, and stage manager. She doesn’t like wearing actual hats. Find her on Twitter @anniepaladino.

Katja Rivera: Reigning Orpheus Interpreter Of The Bay Area

We’re doing a double post today because Orpheus is part of a pair and so is our director du jour, Katja Rivera! She’s not only directed tonight’s Theater Pub, but also directed the recently opened EURYDICE at Custom Made Theater Company. We wanted to know what it’s like to have the same story so much on the brain and with a headshot this charming we think you’ll agree there’s always room for quality time with Katja.

Seriously. How can you not live this smile?

Seriously. How can you not love this smile?

So, how did you end up with your hands full of Orpheus and Eurydice?

Ah, synchronicity. Marissa Skudlarek had been working on her translation of Orphee at the same time I was working on Eurydice at Custom Made, so she thought it would be fun to have me do both.

And how did you get involved with this reading?

Lovely Marissa asked me. I had directed a play of hers at last year’s Pint Sized Festival (“Beer Theory”), and she felt I’d be a particularly good match. How could I say no?

What do you consider the major differences between Sarah Ruhl’s version of the story and Cocteau’s?

Ruhl uses the myth to explore the grief she’s experienced since her father’s death, and really, to get a chance to spend some more time with her pops. It’s poetic, visceral. It reminds me of of Alice in Wonderland. Cocteau’s version explores the myth surrealistically, and focuses more on the relationship between Eurydice and Orphee. And it has a happier ending.

Is there anything that stands out to you as a real strength of Coctaeu’s vision?

The element of magic and carnival, which in a full production would be a blast to explore.

What are some of the differences between directing a reading and directing a show?

Oh my goodness. Readings are instant magic. You throw your instincts at the piece and–go! A show you’ve got a longer period to let the collaboration stew and get rich. I’ve loved watching how Jessica Rudholm’s performance in Eurydice has become more and more nuanced.

We noticed you are using some of your custom made cast (Jessica, Jeremy Parkin, Stefin Collins) in this reading- any particular reasons behind that?

They are good, reliable actors who fit the roles. And I loved hearing echoes of lines from Eurydice as we rehearsed Orphee. My own private joke.

What’s next for you? Any more trips to the underworld in your future?

Next, I am directing at Playgrounds Best Of Festival opening on May 11. And the I am going to Washington DC to see my daughter graduate from law school!

When enjoying a dramatic reading at the Cafe Royale, what’s your favorite thing to get from the bar?

Ginger Beer!

Don’t miss Orphee, for one night only, tonight at Cafe Royale at 8 PM! And dont’ miss Eurydice, playing all month at Custom Made Theater Company!

Don’t Miss Orphee Tonight!

In anticipation of ORPHEE tonight at Theater Pub, we are re-running Ashley Cowan’s post from a few weeks back, which like Eurydice, mysteriously vanished from the site. Enjoy!

A Semi-Charmed Kind of Afterlife

It seems like there’s a certain fella who’s become pretty popular around the Bay Area lately; lending well to the Greek Mythology trend that’s invaded the theater scene. Along with the success of Custom Made Theatre Company’s hit: EURYDICE (currently running) and now his own play, Orpheus/Orphee is having a pretty good spring in San Francisco.

And why shouldn’t he? Known as a pretty gifted musician with a talent for words, Orpheus would have probably been voted “Most Charming” all four years of art school. And he’s continued to inspire artists throughout the years; appearing in poems, operas, films, plays, paintings, and countless teenage diaries. Considering he’s known as the only person in history who convinced the underworld to permit his temporary visit to bring back his love, I think he’s earned his fame. And he’s the inspiration for Jean Cocteau’s ORPHEE which just so happens to be Theater Pubs April offering to the gods.

Taking on the divine contribution with a sassy twist is fellow columnist and playwright, Marissa Skudlarek who has translated the play for April 15’s staged reading. And leading its direction is Katja Rivera who has become an Orpheus expert after also directing EURYDICE at Custom Made Theatre Company.

To get you in the spirit of the French (and no, I’m not going to kiss you, you pervs) retelling of the Greek gem, here are just a few things to get trés excited about regarding this production of  ORPHEE (other than because it’s tax day and you need a distraction from the IRS): ORPHEE was written in 1925 and produced a year later. Jean Cocteau was 37 and said that for the first time in his career, after feeling like he was struggling to strike the right artistic balance, Cocteau finally felt like he had found his purpose. That’s a big deal, friends! You should come for that alone!

The play begins with Orphee, Eurydice, a move to the countryside in search of stimulus, and a talking horse. Sadly, no, it’s not Mr. Ed but it’s still quite clever and fun.

Orphee becomes rather consumed with his new horse friendship and Eurydice can’t help but be a little irritated.  And so she smashes windows. Because that’s the obvious thing to do. Which employs a handy repair (spoiler alert: he might be an angel) man to help maintain the house. Before there were angels in the outfield, they were hanging out with Eurydice!

Maybe this doesn’t quite sound like the Greek myth you’re used to. Fair enough, this play came two years after the Surrealist movement interpreted danced its way through France. But don’t worry, Eurydice still dies! And Orphee stills descends into Hades under the condition that he can only bring back his wife if he agrees not to look directly at her. Otherwise, she’s a goner.

Cocteau described the play as “a tragedy in one act and one interval”. The French sure have an interesting way with words! But the piece certainly seems to capture a more complex nature; weaving elements of humor punctuated by surreal situations. You’ll laugh, you’ll emote, you may walk about of Cafe Royale with a French accent.

Oh, and maybe I should also take a moment to mention another update from the traditional story: Death is a beautiful woman in an evening gown who travels through the mirror to spend time in both the living world and the dead.  That is some deep stuff.  It’s a notable narcissistic intent that reflects humanity’s understanding of life and death. We may literally want to discuss it for hours.

April 15 may be Tax Day but the evening is reserved for Theater Pub! The passage to the afterlife starts at 8pm at Café Royale. So grab a bite from Hyde Away Blues BBQ, a cold brew, and come be charmed by ORPHEE. No reservations necessary and we are a free event, but get there early as we tend to fill up quick!