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!

“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

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 ( 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 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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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!


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…

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Script Evaluation 101

Marissa Skudlarek reveals what she looks for in a good play.

Earlier this week, a friend emailed me asking: “I am really curious: what do you look at when evaluating a play script? Are there any books you recommend on this? I’d like to glean some of your knowledge.”

(I know that people think that advice columnists make up the letters they respond to, and that I’m probably inventing a story about “a friend emailing me” in order to have a subject for this week’s column. But I assure you this is 100% true. I can hardly believe it myself, but I do have friends who write to me asking to learn the secrets of script analysis. What can I say? It’s a nice life.)

What follows is a modified version of what I wrote back to my friend.

In many respects, I feel like evaluating plays is the same as evaluating any other kind of narrative-based art (books, movies, etc.). No one feels like they need to have special qualifications or training in order to write a movie review on IMDB or a book review on Goodreads, and if you feel comfortable doing that, you should also feel comfortable evaluating plays. Maybe that’s one reason that, on my blog, I discuss plays, books, and movies according to what I feel like writing about that day — rather than limiting myself to one type of art.

I am very fond of Roger Ebert’s First Law of Film Criticism, which states “A movie is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it.” The corollary of this law, then, is that a critic’s job is to determine whether the movie (or book, or play) accomplishes what it sets out to do. If it’s a comedy, did it make you laugh? If it’s a suspense thriller, were you on the edge of your seat? If it’s a vehicle for a star performer, does it allow that performer the best opportunity to showcase his/her chops?

But perhaps there’s an even more basic question than “did the work of art accomplish what it set out to do?” That question is, “Did it hold your interest from start to finish?”

Ask and answer these two questions, and you’ll have an elementary method of distinguishing good plays from bad ones. To distinguish really excellent plays from merely competent ones, additional questions are needed. “Does the play accomplish something I’ve never seen before? Does it say something important about the world and/or display thematic complexity?”

Of course, evaluating a script isn’t exactly like evaluating a book or a movie. For instance, movies are a more visual medium than theater, so film critics often forgive a movie if it has a weak or silly story but stunning visuals. It’s much less easy to get away with that in theater. In my opinion, the strength of theater lies in complex characters, well-structured storytelling, and the back-and-forth of dialogue — and a good play will take advantage of that. Thus, I’m not very fond of plays that mostly consist of monologues or narration; if you want to do that, maybe you should write prose fiction instead of drama?

You asked for book recommendations; my favorite book for this kind of thing is Backwards and Forwards by David Ball. It’s so short that you can read it in an evening. But it gives you a very clear idea of how to read a play and determine if it’s well-structured or not. In Ball’s opinion, a play is a series of actions, and everything in it must propel the story forward. Good plays will have plots that proceed stepwise, each action kicking off the next; bad plays will be full of unmotivated events or red herrings. Ball’s theories also offer an explanation for why I am annoyed by excessive use of monologues or soliloquies. I don’t mind monologues that advance the action or bring the character to a new place — in that case, the monologue is dramatic and necessary. But I feel that many monologues exist merely because the playwright is in love with the sound of his own voice and wants to write something “lyrical” or “meaningful.” Cut those monologues out, I say — and David Ball would say that, too.

If you’re serious about learning how to evaluate plays, one additional skill you’ll need to develop is a sense for what will work well onstage, rather than on the page. There are plays that play better than they read — and plays that read better than they play. I recall enjoying Sartre’s Dirty Hands as a work of literature, but the script is so long, with so many extended philosophical conversations, that I suspect a theater audience might get bored before the end. Meanwhile, big scenes that involve lots of different characters can be very confusing to read, but clear and lively onstage (with the right cast and director). The “silent” Act II of Noises Off is a pain to read — a long list of stage directions describing how all of the characters pop in and out of the set’s many doors — but, staged, it is one of the funniest scenes in all of theater.

One caveat that applies to all of these tools and methods for judging plays is that they work best for traditional, realistic scripts, or, at the very least, scripts that attempt to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. These rules may not apply to the most experimental or avant-garde plays — although I believe that even an experimental play should accomplish what it sets out to do and hold your interest, right? I was on the Cutting Ball Theatre’s literary committee the first year it ran its competition to seek new experimental plays. So many of the scripts that we received struck me as dull, meandering, and humorless. The only submission that I really enjoyed was a play called Sidewinders, by Basil Kreimendahl. This script was definitely experimental in terms of language, character, and ambitions (it’s a Wild West, gender-queer riff on Waiting for Godot), but it also told a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and made me laugh out loud while doing so. Cutting Ball is producing Sidewinders this fall.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright, arts writer, and all-purpose opinion-slinger. Find more of her thoughts on plays, books, and movies at or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Cowan Palace: The Woman Behind BOA 2013

Ashley Cowan asks Sara Staley a thing or two about BOA’s Program I and II.

It’s been a busy week for the Bay Area theatre scene. With plays opening, auditions on the horizon, and new works being brought to life, it’s a fun time to play for this artistic community’s team. The Bay One Act Festival officially began its run over the weekend and behind that magic is Producing Artistic Director, Sara Staley. Sara kindly agreed to answer a few questions in the midst of the excitement.

First things first! How did you first get involved with BOA (Bay One Acts Festival)?

I first directed for the Bay One Acts Festival in 2008 for Three Wise Monkeys Theatre, which is now just the name of the non-profit organization that is connected to BOA, and that founded the festival. The festival was helmed by Richard Bernier (who passed away in 2010), and held at the Eureka Theater for many years.

Out of all the many hats you’ve worn being involved with the festival in the past, which has been your favorite?

As Producing Artistic Director for the first time in this BOA go round, I really enjoyed the process of selecting plays (with the help of my BOA Lit. Committee), coming up with an engaging and dynamic line-up for both BOA programs, and then having so many great “page to the stage” moments during final dress rehearsals. And it’s all because of this talented and dedicated BOA 2013 company.

How is this year different than BOA festivals of the past?

We have a new venue at Tides Theatre and many of our 13 Producing Partner theater companies, directors, playwrights, actors and production staff are involved in BOA for the very first time. We have new to the bay area theater companies on board, and we have BOA actors like Siobhan Doherty and Brian Trybom, who are directing for BOA for the first time. So there is a mix of old and new, different but the same.

What is something about this year’s festival we may not know? (Keep in mind, a lot of us have done our fair share of facebook stalking and would love a juicy scoop!)

Well, for you Theater Pub beverage lovers, Rob Ready stocked our concessions at Tides Theatre, so we are ready to serve you. AND we have Kirsten Broadbear covering a lot of BOA bases with graces as my Festival Coordinator AND she’ll be running concessions for Program One AND understudying TWO roles in TWO plays on Thursday in Program TWO. So get your tickets now because they are only $13 (shameless plug).

Cheers to that, those are my favorite plugs! Now, everyone always wants to talk about women in the industry, am I right? And how there continues to be a lack of opportunity for us lady-folk. As a woman in charge of a huge theatrical festival, do you have any observations or words of wisdom to share on the topic?

Well, I can say that I am proud of the diversity of BOA 2013 across the board from playwrights, to directors, cast, to our production team, which does happen to be all female. I feel like opportunity should be given to those who want to do engaging or innovative work, or tell a story that needs to be told, or support artists and community in a positive and productive way, regardless of their gender, color, or sexual orientation.

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve encountered while working on this show?

There was a surprising connectedness in the themes of the plays, and I had to see both programs open this weekend and I had to see the work on stage to really see those common threads come to the surface. There were obvious theme connections that drew me to the 13 plays in BOA 2013, but there was another connection that formed between direction, vision, risk taking, vulnerability, humor, fear, loss, and magic that connected the programs together in way that was pretty unexpected for me. You’ll have to come see both programs of BOA 2013 to find your own connections. 😉

In ten words (or less), what can we expect to see at this year’s festival?

Thirteen new plays, thirteen theater companies, one BIG BOA 2013.

Many thanks to Sara for giving us a moment of her time! Between a stocked concessions stand, new plays, and ultimately, a celebration of Bay Area theatre, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to be a part of BOA 2013. Now running through October 5 at the Tides Theatre (533 Sutter Street, San Francisco). For more information, check out: or

Randy Blair Talks Shooter!

Randy Blair, who is one of three actors in “Shooter”, talks about the play, his process and creating a role in the next Theater Pub show.

Give us a brief impression of who you are, in a hundred words or less.

A 27 year old actor who studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York for three years, and moved to San Francisco to shoot a feature film, Super Hero Party Clown.

Randy Blair: Super Hero Party Clown

Randy Blair: Super Hero Party Clown

Is this your first time working at BOA? What’s that like? If it it’s not your first time, what brought you back to such a unique festival setting?

Yes this is my first time working with BOA and the experience is great, I love being on stage.

You’re the first people to appear in a production of Shooter- what’s the best thing about “creating” a role this role as an actor?

To be the first is great, there is no comparison to another actor who may have done the role before. you get to put your stamp on it, and that takes a little pressure off.

Are there any challenges?

How fast time flies during the rehearsal process! And learning with other actors and directors is great, you learn from one another, but it’s always an adjustment.

What’s been a particularly interesting element of this rehearsal process?

There are always challenges no matter what type of play your doing, an actors job is never done.

This piece is constructed in a way that is sort of like a dance where the dancers are unaware of each other yet connected. Excited by where this can go.

Shooter is an ensemble piece. How does being in an ensemble piece differ from, say, playing a lead in a show, or having a “minor” role?

The responsibility for each actor is the same for any piece, you have to be prepared; you have to know the play inside out. Knowing the play and knowing the other actors lines will help you know when to catch a dropped line and keep the momentum going.

Do you get a chance to see the other shows in the Festival this year? Anything got you excited besides your own?

I’m looking forward to all the shows! I am always excited to see new theater!

What about in the upcoming theater season in general?

American Buffalo at the Aurora!

What’s next for you?

Looking for the next job!

“Shooter”, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, opened this past weekend on September 15, and will continue to play September 19, 21, 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