Don’t Miss Your Last Chance To See Shooter…

…and the rest of the Bay One Acts, which close this weekend!

Meanwhile, checkout this review, which includes a nice nod to “Shooter” and director Rik Lopes!

http://theatreplaybyplay.com/brevity-is-the-soul-of-the-bay-one-acts-festival/#.UkSK5YasjTo

“Shooter” by Daniel Hirsch, directed by Rik Lopes, and featuring Melvin Badiola, Randy J. Blair, and John Lowell, will play, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, October 3 and 5 at the Tides Theater in San Francisco. To find out more about this show, and all the great shows that will be a part of this cornerstone event for the San Francisco Bay Area Theater scene, check out http://bayoneacts.org/.

It’s A Suggestion, Not A Review: Runnin’ on Empty

Dave Sikula is running on empty… but the blog is still full.

There comes a time in the life of every actor when the lines just won’t stick. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s a subconscious dislike of the material, maybe it’s a lack of time, maybe it’s just being tired.

I’m currently in rehearsal for a show – and am trying not to succumb to the awesome reality that we open in a week – and I’m having a horrific time remembering my lines. (The blocking is another issue; the stage manager’s frustration at me is palpable.) It’s not the material – which is very good indeed – so the other factors must be (and indeed are) in play.

As I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before – but am just too damn lazy to check – in my youth, learning lines was simplicity itself. I could pretty much read through a page, learn it more-or-less photographically, and have it down in no time at all. It’d take maybe a couple of hours to learn even the longest script. As I’ve grown older, though, either my brain is full or (more likely) just old and unwilling to take on new knowledge which it knows it will need only temporarily. It’s not that this old dog can’t learn new tricks – I just started a new job (this will come up again in a moment, so consider this foreshadowing) and am having no trouble learning the things I’ll need to do for there. But I’ve been looking at this script for weeks and having the damnedest time getting the dialogue to stay in my head.

Lack of time? Well, I’ve got time to write this – and don’t think I’m not thinking “Y’know, I really should be going over my lines …” as I type. (I can feel my stage manager sending me thought waves compelling me to do so.) But with the new job? Well, I get up, head off to the salt mine, toil for eight hours, battle traffic to get to rehearsal, do that work, come home, finally get a bite to eat at 11 pm or so, watch some television (usually all I have time for is Letterman, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert), and, in the twinkling of an eye, it’s 2:30 and I’ve got to go to bed in order to start the cycle all over.

So that brings us to the “too tired” part of our list. If I’m lucky, I’ll get six, maybe six-and-a-half hours tonight, which is nowhere near enough for a boy my age. Even if I try to squeeze in the lines (in more than one sense), as I close my eyes to try to keep from cheating and looking at the page, I find myself drifting off to Dreamland.

And, yet, somehow (including disappearing at the office in order to find someplace to run lines), I’ve found myself able to learn, oh, a good 70-80% of my lines. I probably know them all well enough to paraphrase my way through the script, but given that the director is also the writer, he’d probably notice (yet another danger of having writers direct their own scripts; they know the text too well for the actors to fake it …).

Now, fortunately, our next real rehearsal isn’t for a few days, so I’ll have a wee bit of extra time to keep learning – if I don’t fall asleep. Unfortunately, that next “real rehearsal” will be our first tech. In the larger sense, I’ve got a week and I know I’ll be there (after a train wreck of a rehearsal just three nights ago, I knew that that was the worst is was going to be – and if I make the same progress in the next three days that I made the previous three, I may well know everyone’s lines …).

I’ve never missed the deadline – sure, I’ve gone up or gotten lost (who hasn’t?). But I’ve never been completely at a loss. Well, there was that one performance of “Private Lives” when I jumped seven pages. My scene partner gave me one of the most single most panicked looks I’ve ever seen on a stage. I realized what I’d done and she gave me a cue that put us back on track. We looped back to where I’d gone wrong, skipped over the dialogue I’d delivered about ten minutes previous, and moved on. And there was the five-character musical I did when the entire cast went up simultaneously. None of us had the least idea where we were.

Fortunately, it was the one moment in the show – the pretty dreadful “Whispers on the Wind” (never heard of it? Wish I hadn’t …) – where it was slow and lyrical. After about an hour – well, more like 45 seconds – someone said something that sparked someone else to say something else, which sparked something else, and pretty soon, we were back on track.

In neither case, the audience never noticed a thing. They never do.

Well, occasionally they do; like the performance of “Anything Goes” that was interrupted by a dog wandering onto the stage. That they noticed. But going up? Mistakes in blocking or business not coming off as planned? Nah.

So the short version of all of the above – now he tells us! – is simple. It’s never too early to start learning your lines. It’s not possible to get too much sleep. (I’m reminded of Paula Poundstone’s line about baby-sitting and the difficulty of trying to put her charges to bed: “Can you imagine there was ever a time in your life when you didn’t want to sleep?”) And most importantly, while you young whippersnappers may laugh now at the possibility of having trouble learning lines, trust me; your time will come.

Most of you probably don’t remember Johnny Carson anymore, or know him only vaguely, but I remember how he used to make a lot of monologue jokes about Forest Lawn cemetery. Then one day, he got a note from the folks who ran Forest Lawn. It read, “Just remember, Mr. Carson. We will have the last laugh …”

One last note: I saw “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Berkeley Rep this week and can’t recommend it highly enough. Anyone who’s done Durang knows how deceptively difficult he is to do. This cast makes the impossible look easy; hitting all the right notes and balancing the Chekhovian laughs with a surprisingly touching ending. I was actually a little misty-eyed as it ended (though I didn’t stand, you can rest assured). By all mean, go see it.

Falling With Style: My Failed Attempt To Pursue My Dream Was The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done

In the final installment of her column, Helen puts a bow on her experience of jumping off the corporate ladder to pursue a full-time career in the performing arts.

I started this column a year ago to document my journey towards becoming (in my own words) “employed full-time by the arts.”

Over the course of my investigative process, I did a lot of studying (notably, at ACT’s Summer Training Congress and with Theatre Bay Area’s ATLAS program). I tried a number of styles of performing, from cabaret to children’s theatre, readings to fully-staged productions. I tried my hand at professionally manning other parts of the production: I stage managed; I music directed; I assistant directed. And I even dipped a toe in the waters of arts administration and development at one of the largest Equity theaters in the Bay Area.

Throughout much of this time, I held one or more part-time jobs to ensure a flexible schedule. And to be frank, I would have been financially under water without my partner’s help and encouragement.

Ultimately, I found that the goal I’d set for myself was counter to my true desires. Once my avocation became my vocation, it was more stressful than enjoyable: I could no longer choose projects purely out of enjoyment. I noticed myself wearily considering jobs for their paycheck or resume-boosting potential.

Something was definitely rotten in the state of Denmark, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it better — how to describe what I really wanted. And, wrong as the goal I had in front of me might have been, I didn’t want to give up on it — not after I’d sacrificed so much to go after it.

The answer hit me right in the gut when, at one of the ATLAS sessions I attended, Velina Brown said she practices “heart-centered acting.”

It bopped me on the nose when, through TBA connections, I sat in on TheatreWorks’ auditions and saw sublime work from Equity and non-Equity actors alike.

It goosed me when, thanks to the Theater Pub collective, I finally attended my first Saturday Write Fever and listened to a dozen just-written monologues (and even performed one myself).

And it razzed me right up close in my face when I was asked out of the blue to participate in a reading of The Fourth Messenger with Equity and non-Equity mega-talent all around me.

Now — bruised, sore and one step closer to enlightenment — by George, I think I’ve got it. It seems my ambition is to become a heart-centered actor, and in doing so, create superb art (regardless of my union status, my performance frequency, my ‘type’, or any other malarkey).

My focus for now is on step one of my journey towards heart-centered acting: developing a practice of heart-centered living.

****

Now, in these last moments before this column comes to a close and my voice rejoins the continuum, I’d like to thank Stuart Bousel for the many jolts of artistic inspiration and introspection he’s provided me: this column, his own tome-like blog posts (can something be tome-like if it’s only in digital form?), Saturday Write Fever, and SF Olympians, to name a few. Thanks for being a creative catalyst for so many people, Stuart.

Helen Laroche (www.helenlaroche.com) is an artist currently living in San Francisco. She bruises easily; probably a B12 deficiency. You should see the other guy, though. She continues to write at www.sayshelen.com and she always loves a good story.

Everything Is Already Something Week 16: The Pitter Patter of Absolute Terror

Allison Page contemplates theater babies.

There’s not much I’m afraid of – sure, I don’t enjoy flying very much, I tend to avoid strange men on the sidewalk after midnight, and I don’t often play with needles I’ve found on the ground – but for the most part I’m ready for a lot of life’s challenges…except for arguably the most ‘natural’ of those, if you’re a lady – MAKIN’ THOSE BABIES.

I went back home for a wedding recently, and the topic turned to child bearing.

Some Girl: I mean, I want to have kids, but it HAS to be before I’m 30. I mean, I don’t want to be like an old mom.
Allison: I’m 29.
Some Girl: Well…you know what I mean.

Naturally, the gears start turning and I think, “She’s right! I have to make a decision about this! This baby cave in my guts is not going to be functional forever!” – but that kicks off so many other thoughts. My life is extremely hectic. Often times I leave for work at 9:30am and don’t return (except maybe to change clothes) until after midnight. I run from work, to a rehearsal, to a writers’ meeting, to a show on a fairly regular basis. What happens to my careers? That must sound so selfish, I realize that. And then that thought leads to “Well if I’m that selfish, I just shouldn’t even have the little buggers!” which leads to “But…what if it’s the best choice I can possibly make? What if, like people say, it’s the best thing I ever do?” which leads to “I suppose I could still write if I had a/some kid/s, but would I have to give up performing?” which leads to “Well, I have friends who are actors and have kids and they’re still at it,” Which leads to “ Yeah, but they perform significantly less frequently now.”

And about the time that I was falling down the rabbit hole, I found out that my sister-in-law is pregnant. My brother is having a kid. This is not something I ever imagined. Then I realized…oh God, I’m going to be an AUNT! What do aunts have to do? I’m so far away! They’ll probably send it here to hang out with me for a week when it’s 7 and I won’t know what to do with it! It’ll go home swearing and talking about terrible things that I accidentally let slip! It’ll burn down their house when it gets back! OH GOD, I’M CALLING IT, “IT”! That’s terrible! And then I realized I’m Auntie Mame. I am, aren’t I? I don’t even like musicals! How did I become Auntie Mame?! Wait…Auntie Mame is pretty cool right? I’d hang out with her. It doesn’t matter – the point is, either way, the topic keeps being brought to the forefront.

The Ghost Of Alison Future

The Ghost Of Alison Future

When I was a kid, my best friend was the girl who lived next door to me, just down the country, dirt road. Our whole lives I was always falling desperately in love with someone or other. I’ve always been too romantic for my own good. She was very focused on her studies and turned down every guy who even looked in her direction. It was pretty common for our group of friends to say that I’d be the first to get married, the first to have kids – all the sentimental stuff, while they would be busy achieving something or other. So imagine my surprise when one day she meets a guy, marries him, and they have a son. It all happened so quickly. In fact, at her wedding, I was dumped in a text message so I got drunk, danced with every man in the room and left. So while she was doing the most adult thing ever, making a commitment to a man for the rest of her life – I was doing a drunken interpretive dance to Katy Perry’s Hot ‘n Cold while everyone in the room watched. And now, just like my sister-in-law, she’s pregnant! AGAIN! I’m beginning to feel like everyone thinks I’m delaying my adulthood just to be a self-centered actor. I’m not even going to say that they’re wrong. Because, really, who knows? What I DO know is that children terrify me. I don’t know how to talk to them, I’m scared I’ll say something sarcastic that they won’t understand and they’ll think I’m serious and they’ll freak out. I guess I’ve probably held a baby, like…once. What if I have no maternal instinct? What if I’m just a horrible monster?! Cut to me sitting at a bar a couple of months ago, when the topic turns to offspring…

Allison: I really don’t know whether or not I want to have kids, I’m up and down about it all the time.
Allison’s Friend, to the group at large: OMG can you imagine Allison having children?!?!

Artistic rendering of Allison's fictitious offspring

Artistic rendering of Allison’s fictitious offspring

So apparently I’m not the only one who isn’t sure I can do it. I change my mind about it every day. I flip flop over the subject, turning it around in my mind, trying to see if there’s anything there I haven’t thought about yet. But I still just don’t know. What if I’m not cut out for it? What if my selfish desire to make people laugh, or make people think by being part of some moving piece of theatrical art isn’t best for some…tiny human being? Will I just give that up and let it go? Will that make me bitter? Or will I be bitter if I’m 70 and there’s no one to carry on my legacy…if I ever had one? More importantly – when will I be able to afford an apartment with an actual bedroom in it?

Performers with or without offspring – please feel free elaborate on your own feelings about this adorable, tiny-faced topic.

You can catch Allison tomorrow (Thursday, September 26th) at Booksmith in the Haight as part of Shipwreck, for which she has written something filthy that children should never hear.

Working Title: The Unexpected Routine

Will Leschber gives us his second article in an on-going series of comparisons between local theater and the endless horizon of the film world.

One free evening last week, I had the chance to catch one of the many running shows in this years SF Fringe festival. Beforehand I asked the opinions of friends in the Bay Area Theatre scene in an effort to find a show of quality. This was my local equivalent of checking Rotten Tomatoes. Neither of these methods is by any means fool-proof but they do usually provide a general gauge of quality that can help point one in the right direction. I settled on “Serving Bait to Rich People”, a one woman show about a bartender in a high-end sushi restaurant.

S_F_Fringe_blog_image_#1

While very entertaining with quite the charismatic performer, this Fringe Festival entry by Alexa Fitzpatrick was more stand-up comedy than a traditional play. Here was a challenge. Since there were no theatrical design aspects, this unexpected routine made for a hard comparison when attempting to dissect at how the tools of the Theatre stack up against the tools of Film.

The story elements could easily be drawn upon for comparison but is that enough? Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film Waitress might make a great juxtaposition. 2005’s Waiting… starring Ryan Reynolds may well work if we were to draw upon the comedy instead of highlighting the romantic entanglements. Then again since this is a stand-up comedy story why not talk about last year’s Sleepwalk with Me that focuses all about the process of an up and coming stand up comedian, Mike Birbiglia. All of these films are worth checking out but in the end none of them seemed exactly right for a side by side assessment. However, this presented an opportunity to take step back and look at a different aspect of what made the evening a unique theatrical experience: short form theatre.

The prevalence of short form theatre in the Bay Area may not seem quite the unique thing, but ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a short play and when was the last time you saw a short film in the theatre? We are graced with a number of short form play festivals here: The SF Fringe Festival, Bay Area One Act Festival, The San Francisco Olympians Festival, Pint Size Plays to name of few. All of these showcase short plays in part or in full. These can be premium in and out experiences. They don’t waste time. They showcase a lot of talent. And if you don’t care for the piece, it’ll be over soon. The access to short form film, on the other hand, is entirely different. A theatrically released short film is quite a rare thing. You get the occasional Pixar short that is released to the masses but mostly wide release short films are relegated to the arena of animation tacked on to a larger full length feature.

pixar_short_films_blog_image_#2

Short film is simultaneously harder to see and easier. Viewing one on the big screen is uncommon but one can find a myriad of them online. But then does that change the film watching experience into something else if we can only access what we are watching at home on a computer screen? I think it does.

Watching theatre live is intrinsic to the experience. Similarly, something is lost when you take film out of its natural environment. I’m not saying that there is no place for film outside of a movie theatre. Obviously films need a life outside the big screen. But I am saying that viewing film outside of a movie theatre alters the experience. I think it a shame that it’s so hard to find short film in theatres. Every year creative teams win Oscars for making a live action or animated shorts but who is ever able see these things? The Oscar Nominated Short Films are normally bundled together during Oscar season and released in a limited theatrical engagement. It’s a wonderful change of pace to see high quality short film on the big screen. I recommend it.

Oscar_shorts_2011_blog_image_#3

In the business of film, the main-stream market for this is almost non-existent. No one makes money off short film so they are left to the internet. Just like in short form theatre, short films can be a brilliant experience. Take a chance, seek them out.

Don’t Miss “Shooter” At This Year’s Bay One Acts Festival!

Just wanted to share a haunting shot (no pun intended) of Theater Pub’s contribution to this year’s Bay One Acts Festival, “Shooter.”

A scene from "Shooter", featuring Melvin Badiola, Randy J. Blair, and John Lowell, photo by Christopher Alongi

A scene from “Shooter”, featuring Melvin Badiola, Randy J. Blair, and John Lowell, photo by Christopher Alongi

“Shooter” by Daniel Hirsch, directed by Rik Lopes, and featuring Melvin Badiola, Randy J. Blair, and John Lowell, will play, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, September 25, 27, 29 and October 3 and 5 at the Tides Theater in San Francisco. To find out more about this show, and all the great shows that will be a part of this cornerstone event for the San Francisco Bay Area Theater scene, check out http://bayoneacts.org/.

Higher Education: Drop And Give Me Twenty

Barbara Jwanouskos is back in grad school and telling it like it is…

It’s been a hard week… and I still have one more full day.

This week our advisor arranged something special for us since he was taking an out of town workshop for librettists, which he had been commissioned for. It was a week of writing assignments that ranged from long and arduous to short, but still intense. He called it “bootcamp week”.

Ugh… It feels like boot camp.

On the first day, we walked into our 9:30 class and were given a piece of paper with instructions and a poem. We were told that this week, the class period would be a “silent” workshop and that we should disconnect our computers from the internet. I believe everyone had a slightly different assignment, but mine was to think of the most intense scene in my thesis play and then to write a monologue for my main character where she says exactly what she’s thinking and feeling – and she does all this for at least two pages straight. Oh, and I had 15 minutes to do so. Go.

I think I got about two pages in, but didn’t finish. Then, came the next sheet of paper. This time I was to think about my thesis play and have each character tell the story in their own unique voice. I was given til the end of class to complete it. That was about two and a half hours of straight writing. I didn’t finish that one either – I guess my characters had a lot to say about the events of my thesis play because I got about three characters in (of my five character play) and then the class was done.

Oh, believe me, I was writing the whole time. It was pretty intense, but somehow a lot of what came out helped me access parts of my play that I had no idea about. It helped me understand the nuances of the characters and what they saw as important and how they felt about it. My fingers were flying and afterwards, my hands were certainly aching.

That was Day One.

On Day Two, we were all dreading what was going to happen. We were told that even though we didn’t have class, we still would have emails giving us assignments for those days. We speculated that it was another three hour block of writing our thesis play. What we got was an email saying to not write at all – to not even think about our plays, just draw a picture of the play. “Or, better yet, set your alarm for 4 AM and then draw a picture of your play.”

What?! Ugh…

Well, I really wanted to see what this would bring up – if anything. So, I tried the 4 AM version. I went to bed late that night trying to work on other assignments and chatting with my long-distance boyfriend, since late at night is the only time that aligns with both our schedules and our time zones. I set my alarm – it was probably around 1:45 AM already when I did so, and put a notebook and a pencil next to my bed. I was going to make this as easy as possible for myself. There was no way I was going to get out of bed looking for all these materials at 4 AM.

My picture involved lots of squiggly lines and stick figures. It’s the last scene of my play. All of the characters are in shock. There were lots of unhappy faces on the stick figures. I used a dim, little nightlight in order to vaguely see what I was doing, but after I felt like it was complete. I fell back asleep, only to be woken up at 7 AM again to get to playwriting class on time.

Ugh………….

Day Three. We get our poem of the day and our next assignment in silent workshop. It’s to re-write our thesis play in a completely different style. Go.

Well, I wrote the whole time, but I had to laugh. About a page into this super stylized new thesis play, I realized that “Actually, all this would be better if it was sung…” So, I added a note to the top of the play, “All this should be sung.” And so, now my kung fu play about aggression is an opera?? Out of nowhere? How did that happen?!

I mean, it’s not like I’m going to keep everything I write or discovered this week, but writing in a different style freed me up to again see things that I hadn’t noticed before. It was the same story, but just told different. Told from a different angle. Told with a different aesthetic.

In song, I felt like my characters could say exactly how they were feeling. They could say exactly what wasn’t fair or right about the situation they were in. They could become nostalgic and relate to each other with just a simple word. I heard the repetition of their phrases, almost like a musical riff coming back and looping itself. It sounded very important at times, and not so much at others.

I ended up finishing that play – though we were given til midnight to finish the new version. I felt like maybe it should have been longer – it was only about 28 pages, but it felt hefty and complete. I figured I’d just go with that feeling and not worry about what I thought it should be. Just let it rest.

Day Four, our assignment was to cut our new version down to one page. I found it not too difficult to get it down to eight pages, and then it became an intense battle of wits. Do I need this line or this line more? What about this stage direction? Can’t I just change the margins??

I finished up only to realize I had to go back into it because two characters had no lines. Man! What does that say! But, now everyone has at least one line. I have to say, though, I’m now identifying a problem I have with this thesis play – and that’s that I have a character that doesn’t really have a purpose except that he’s new and that’s how I get exposition out. I’m sorry, MAC! I will give you a better role! I’ll figure out a way to make you count! Don’t worry!

Ugh…

I still have one more email waiting for me. I’m not so much dreading it, but I’m exhausted. Sure, there were other projects that came up this week that made it particularly difficult what with the sleep deprivation and jam-packed schedules, etc. All I can say is at least I tried.

What is that Buddhist saying? “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.” Hard work feels good. And it’s essential really.

I certainly feel accomplished with what I’ve pushed myself to achieve in my writing practice this week. It was inspiring to see that I could go deep and just like that write a new play (or opera). I have to remember that. Because sometimes even a sentence feels like a chore. I guess my lesson was: who cares how it feels? Just do it. You’ll get something out of it.

So, now Day Five is here. I’m curious what the email brings…