Theater Around The Bay: Announcing “Don’t Fall Asleep!”

You spend a third of your life unconscious and paralyzed. If that doesn’t concern you, you should join us in September for Explore the Trope: Don’t Fall Asleep! a new show by Christine Keating, directed by Sydney Painter.

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Act One, Hag-Ridden, uses folklore-inspired monologues to tell the tales of hags who condemn writers to die if they fall asleep, succubi who control men and impregnate women while they slumber, and witches who take sleeping peasants for joy-rides.

Act Two, Alien Abduction, adapts a classic pulp novel short story into a flashy, old-timey radio play about alien abductions.

Act Three, Sleeping Around, incorporates multi-media elements to tell the story of a person who believes they are sleeping soundly…until their phone records tell a different story.

Why do we sleep?
What happens when we sleep?
What CAN happen?

The show plays four times, only at PianoFight and is FREE (with a five dollar suggested donation).

Monday, September 21, at 8 PM
Tuesday, September 22, at 8 PM
Monday, September 28, at 8 PM
Tuesday, September 29, at 8 PM

Don’t miss it!

It’s A Suggestion Not A Review: Burnin’ Down the House – Part III

Dave Sikula, keeping promises, making history.

Okay, so after two long digressions, we’re finally (almost) here.

Come with me back to Thursday, December 14, 1978. To appreciate my actions, you have to realize that I’ve been reading Superman comics since I was three. I taught myself to read with them, so when the prospect of a serious big-screen Superman movie presented itself, there was no way I was going to miss it. Now, remember, we’d finally the summer blockbuster era, so I expected long lines. While nowadays, a movie like that would open with a midnight show kicking off opening day, the first show then then was scheduled for something like 8:00 am Friday morning. Anticipating those long lines, I drove up to Hollywood, expecting to sit or stand in line at the Chinese Theatre all night.

Well, imagine my surprise to get to Hollywood and find – no lines. I had three choices: drive back home and come back extra early the next morning, sit on Hollywood Boulevard all night by myself, or pull off to a residential street and spend the night sleeping in my car. Being young and stupid, I chose the last, waking every couple of hours to drive by the theatre and make sure that a line wasn’t forming. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.)

It was about this crowded.

It was about this crowded.

The sun rose around 7 a.m., so I decided enough was enough and drove to the theatre, parked in the lot behind the Max Factor building across the street (soon to play a major part in this narrative), and bought my ticket. Long story short (too late!): I loved the movie then and still do. Sure, it has plot holes and problems a-plenty, but the strengths – and Christopher Reeve’s performance – outweigh the weaknesses.

Fast forward to what must be Sunday, January 7th. My sister is home for the holiday. I’ve caught a cold and don’t feel great, but she decides she wants to see Superman. I don’t feel well enough to drive (and despite what a lousy driver my sister has always been, when you go somewhere with her, she drives), so she gets behind the wheel, I get in the passenger seat, and up the freeway to Hollywood we fly.

Now, my sister being who she was, she decides that the best way to handle not only the drive, but the movie as well, is to smoke a joint on the way there. I, being sick, pass (and never really did like smoking dope; it mainly gave me a sore throat). We get to the theatre, park in the Max Factor lot, buy tickets for the last show of the evening (10 p.m.?), and see the movie. We have a great time, leave the theatre, and head for the car.

This is where the fun starts.

We get to the car, and, in her altered state, she can’t find the keys. We look in the car, and, because of the darkness of the garage, can’t really see inside, but can tell they’re not in the ignition. After a discussion of a few moments, she thinks she might have dropped them on the floor of the theatre. We go back to the Chinese, and find that, in the time it’s taken to walk across Hollywood Blvd. twice and discuss losing the keys, the theatre’s been locked up as tight as a nun’s knees. The staff had disappeared like they’d been abducted by a UFO.

Crickets, tumbleweeds, and us

Crickets, tumbleweeds, and us

We marched back to the car. Still no sign of the keys. Back to the theatre. We started pounding on doors, hoping that, despite the way it looked, someone might be there. No answer.

I got the idea to start prowling around, hopeful that maybe there might be some way inside. In those days, the Chinese was, more or less, a free-standing building, with parking lots on both sides, so the auditorium doors were right out in the open. (In the decades since, those areas have been developed and there are buildings on both sides.) I tried a couple of the exterior doors, and lo and behold, one was ajar and we were able to slip into the lobby.

It was mostly dark inside, but illuminated enough that we could find our way around. The auditorium itself, though, was as black as Dick Cheney’s heart. I wondered if there was any way to turn on the house lights, so poking around behind the concessions stand, I found a circuit breaker box. I started flipping switches, hoping that one of them might illuminate the theatre, but nothing happened. Lobby lights went on and off, and I have no doubt the front of the building lit up like a pinball machine, but nothing in the auditorium. (I ended up figuring the house lights must have been controlled from the projection booth.)

What to do? We knew – or, at least, suspected – that those keys were in the house somewhere. I was suddenly hit with an idea. I knew generally where we’d sat, and would know specifically because there’d been a sticky Coke patch on the floor. Since we hadn’t thought to bring a flashlight, there was only one solution.

Taking my sister’s lighter (remember the joint?), I found a giveaway newspaper in the lobby, trod gingerly into the auditorium, using the poor illumination the lighter provided. When I got to the approximate location of our seats, I rolled up the newspaper and lit it like a torch. Like an angry villager, I waved it around until I found the Coke slick and verified that the keys weren’t there.

Did you look there?

Did you look there?

By this time, the flames were getting pretty close to my hand, so I blew out the torch, dropped it, and stamped it out to the best of my ability. Resignedly, we left the theatre and figured that, since the keys were nowhere else, they had to be in the car.

In the forecourt of the Chinese were payphones, so we called AAA and told them that we were locked out of the car. We were told that a tow truck would be there presently, and, in one of those once-in-a-lifetime miracles, not only was a truck there in less than five minutes, it was followed almost immediately by a second truck.

We explained the situation to the driver, met him across the street at the garage, and with a flick of his wrist and his slim jim, the car door was opened, and, lo and behold, the keys were there on the floor of the driver’s side where my sister had dropped them.

We got in the car, started it, and drove away into the night. The entire trip home, though, I insisted on keeping the radio on KFWB, the all-news station, because I fully expected to hear a breaking news bulletin that the Chinese Theatre was engulfed in flames and that arson was suspected.

Obviously, it didn’t.

But that, at long last, is the story of how I nearly burned down Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

In For a Penny: A Decade in the Making

Charles Lewis III has a ten year check-in.

Paul Addis business card (edited)

“You must learn some of my philosophy.
Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”
– Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

I didn’t know who Paul Addis was when I auditioned for him in 2007. I wasn’t at all familiar with his acclaimed body of work, nor his then-recent infamy as “The Burning Man Arsonist” (which sounds redundant when you say it aloud). All I knew was that after two years after returning to acting – following some collegiate disillusionment – I wanted to get back into theatre and accepted invitations from whomever responded back on Craigslist.

The audition was in the back of some former storefront in SoMa. I can’t recall any other auditioners, but a woman escorted me to a back room where he sat on a ratty mattress with his personal effects were scattered about. He was pretty antsy and kept saying he had to “lay low” because “they’re still out to get me.” In hindsight, I might have just left, but I was eager to get on stage again and there was something about the guy that made me keep listening.

He wanted me to do a play about a drug-addled paraplegic vet who falls for a prostitute. I don’t think I read it well, but he said he really wanted me to do it. He gave me his business card and said he’d be in touch really soon. Then… nothing. My messages and phone calls weren’t returned and I put it out of my mind.

It wasn’t until years later that I found out the reasons he never got back to me were 1 – he went to prison for two years; 2 – upon release he staged a brand-new one-man show; and 3 – that he’d killed himself.

2007 was also around the time I happened upon Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl. I was walking through the Comics / Graphic Novels section of a bookstore and found it by happenstance. I nearly finished it in a single sitting.

I really wish I’d had the chance to see Marielle Heller’s stage adaptation, because I couldn’t imagine anyone turning the book’s heartbreaking narrative into something seen live. When I auditioned for a film of the same name in 2013, I figured it was just a coincidence. I knew Marielle’s sister Emily from her stand-up shows, but figured the name “Heller” must also be coincidence. So imagine my surprise when I found myself cast in the book-turned-play-turned-film. That’s how I wound up in Alameda at 1am ad-libbing dialogue about The Catcher in the Rye.

I was invited to the much-talked-about premiere at The Castro, but missed it because I was in tech. I did stop by the after-party. When I finally saw the film myself last week, I could only stare at my name in the credits and wonder “How the hell did this happen?”

My cast & crew t-shirt from the wrap party.

My cast & crew t-shirt from the wrap party.

I have no idea how Paul’s show would have turned out; maybe another clichéd “hooker with a heart of gold” story, maybe something truly moving. But as I look back, it remains one of the more interesting “What ifs?”. He was the sort of “outlaw” I wanted to work with at the time, the way Marielle’s adaptation is the sort of thing I like doing now.
This marks ten years since I decided to give acting another try. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe in Destiny (all is predetermined and choice is an illusion), but I do believe in Fate (the right set of circumstances aligning at just the right time). With the Diary film now playing and Burning Man about to start, I found Paul’s card and knew this was the right time to take stock of those ten years.

Given the choices I’ve made, is my career exactly where I want it to be? No. But it’s more accomplished than I’d ever expected.

Everything Is Already Something: Bear In Cave Must Sleep Now

Allison Page’s body is on strike- it knows what it did!

Actually, she’s just taking a day off after having helped close PINT SIZED V last night, where she made her triumphant return as the Bear Bear.

If Allison was a bear in real life… this is the bear she would be:

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We’ll be back tomorrow with our regularly scheduled programming. In the meantime, everyone take a nap or something. It’s summertime.

The Five: Things Smart People Told Me

Anthony R. Miller checks in with some good advice.

Hey you guys, so full disclosure; I am not famous, nor am I a wildly successful theatre producer. I’ve done Ok, but one thing is for sure, I’ve worked with and learned from some amazing people. Over time and throughout my adventures, these people have bestowed upon me various nuggets of knowledge. I want to recognize that it might be a bit audacious of me to make a “Tips for success list”. So think of this as “Tips to Not Fail Completely” or “Tips to Do Reasonably Well.” As usual, there are five.

“Know Thy Tree”
Basic, but a rule I still follow. Don’t pick a project beyond your means. Instead, tailor your projects to the resources you have. Know what’s possible, know where to push. I recently wrote a fog machine into a script. Why? Because dramatically it made sense, it served the story and also because I have one, and I really want to use it. I have bent this rule once or twice, I have also seen projects that should have been beyond their means, but the show was re-worked to fit their resources. Sometimes this can be very cool; but it helps if you are brilliant. Know what you have to work with and build your ideas off of that.

“Nobody Needs to Know What You Really Think of Them”
This isn’t as cold as it sounds. This not to say “Pretend to be nice” or “Be fake”, being disingenuous is not the point. In the context of the original conversation, I was venting about a particular person who was very hard to work with. I expressed how badly I just wanted to tell this person how terrible they were in a big dramatic fashion. So what I think it means is simply “Don’t Be Drama”. If there’s somebody you’re working with that drives you crazy, deal with it. Nothing lasts forever in theatre and before you know it, you both will have moved on. At that point you can just not work with them, or find a way you can. But save the dramatic speech where you tell them every awful thing you’ve been storing up, it won’t work. You will have to play nice because it what’s best for the project as a whole. Also, no one likes a yeller.

“Assume You Are Not The Smartest Person in the Room”
Also known as “Shut Up and Listen” or “Hire Brilliant People and Get Out of Their Way” and “Don’t Mansplain”. I know this one to be true because every time I have not followed it, the results were pretty god awful. Theatre is problem solving and sometimes the damnedest people have the perfect solution. I have been part of more projects that have done well when everyone involved felt listened to. Don’t micromanage, hire people you trust will do a good job and then let them their job.

“At Some Point in Your Career, you will stop and ask yourself; ‘What the Fuck Am I Doing?”
When I first heard this, I laughed. It was a funny thing to say, and I didn’t realize its importance at the time. Not until the moment came. I was working for a theatre company full time and for a while it was a fantastic opportunity. I got to meet all sorts of people and bay area artists, every day I was in the middle of the craziness of start-up theatre. I had a lot of jobs there, very few of them artistic. A big part of my job was just being a facilities manager. I just kind of fell into it, and I was working for a theatre for a living, so I went with it. After a few years the magic was gone, I felt demeaned, disrespected and taken for granted. After years of work, I will still getting stuck with the most undesirable jobs. Nobody really recognized me as artist and all my time and energy was being given to someone else’s vision. Now the thing about this place is the theatre was in bad shape and had a few holes in the ceiling. Eventually the holes got big enough for Pigeons to get inside of the theatre. So on any given day there would be a gang of pigeons just hangin’ out onstage. Getting rid of the pigeons was my job. This was my life. After one exhausting bout of pigeon chasing, I sat down for a moment only to get up realize the worst had happened. I sat in pigeon shit. There I was, 33, not happy, and with pigeon shit on me. That was the moment it happened; I thought to myself “What the fuck am I doing?” Things had to change. Not long after that day, I gave my notice and had a big reorganizing of priorities and promised myself the only theatre I would ever chase pigeons out of would be mine. My life has changed for the better in so many ways because of it. My point is, a moment will come when you ask yourself if this is the place you should be. Take that moment seriously.

“Hard Work Will Always Beat Talent That Doesn’t Work Hard”
I realize that sounds like something you would tell a football team but hear me out. I am constantly inspired by all the brilliant artists living and working in the Bay Area. Part of that inspiration comes from just how less brilliant I am than all of them. And that’s not meant to be self-deprecating, but I try to be honest with myself, I have a modicum of talent and it’s easy to be a little intimidated. But I’m here to tell you, being marginally talented shouldn’t stop you if you have the passion and a good idea. Just work harder, work twice as hard as the most talented person you know. I will always take the hard worker that’s pretty good over insanely talented people who are lazy. Outwork everyone, keep your head down, and don’t be a dick. Good things will come if you work harder than everyone else.

Again, none of these tips have brought me fortune and fame, but have yielded many positive things in my life. Any success I do experience comes from heeding this advice. And full disclosure, I have broken all of these at some point, it doesn’t work out.

Anthony R Miller has a lot going on, you can get more info on those things at http://www.awesometheatre.org and http://www.sfolympians.com

Theater Around The Bay: PINT SIZED V IS HERE! (Part 2)

We’re back tonight with more PINT SIZED! Today we introduce you to this year’s directing team, Stuart Bousel, Neil Higgins, Colin Johnson, Claire Rice, Gabe Ross, Sara Staley, Sam Tillis, Alejandro Torres, and Meghan Trowbridge, here to tell you all about the perils and pitfalls of creating some of the best bar theater around.

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How did you get involved with Pint-Sized, or if you’re a returning director, why did you come back?

Sara Staley: I really enjoy site specific theater and shows that play with the audience’s focus. . I directed a couple of pieces for Pint Sized back in 2010-11, and I think the “finish a beer during the play” parameters given to playwrights who submit are great. It’s really fun watching this festival come together and to see how audiences respond to the work. Fits right in with Theater Pub’s good, casual, beer, and theater thing. I’m also a fan of short plays and festivals that showcase new, local work, or bring together the Bay Area theater community in different ways. And I’m a company member at PianoFight, so it’s great to get the opportunity to stage something in our fabulous new bar/cabaret space for the first time.

Alejandro Torres: I recently worked on a production with several folks involved in Pint Sized and the SF Theatre Pub. They needed an additional director last minute and approached me, I was thoroughly honored and the rest is history.

Stuart Bousel: I run Theater Pub, so I volunteered to direct if Marissa needed me to. She did.

Gabe Ross: I asked Stuart about it. He told me to ask Marissa.

Neil Higgins: I’ve directed for Pint-Sized a couple years now and it’s always a fun summer project.

Sam Tillis: First time at Pint-Sized! Marissa sent me an email saying, “We got this Star Wars play, and I hear you’re a total nerd, so…?” And I was like “Hell yes!”

Colin Johnson: I came back because I think Theatre Pub is doing some of the most interesting performances in SF. The layout of the bar and the interactive nature of the shows create a very fun, collaborative atmosphere. I’ve done several projects with TP in the past and will always look for an excuse to come back.

Claire Rice: I love Pint-Sized. I’ve directed in previous Theater Pub and Pint-Sized shows and there is so much energy and enthusiasm. The audiences are boisterous and the productions are fun. And there’s a little thrill I get every time the audience cheers when an actor chugs their whole pint. It just feels freeing to be among people who are happy to be exactly where they are.

Meg Trowbridge: I don’t know how to quit you, Pint Sized! I’ve directed a piece in every Pint Sized production, and when the Beer Bear and Llama returned this year, I leapt at the opportunity.

Meghan Trowbridge

Meghan Trowbridge

What’s been the most exciting part of this process?

Sam Tillis: As with a lot of directing, reading the play for the first time and thinking This is awesome, I could totally direct this is a special treat. And, of course, assembling a cast. And rehearsal, naturally. Alright. I give up. Every part is the most exciting part.

Neil Higgins: The script I’m directing is centered around a song I haven’t thought about in 15 years, so that’s been a fun walk down memory lane.

Meg Trowbridge: Reading the new scripts for the Beer Bear and Llama, and watching Allison and Rob slide back into those roles.

Alejandro Torres: The rehearsals (or the laboratory) and staging theatre in a bar for the first time.

Colin Johnson: Finding naturalism and nuance in a show which requires drinking and screaming over people.

Stuart Bousel: I have a piece that is very much a moment- just a moment in the bar- and so it’s all about subtlety. Which doesn’t always translate well in Theater Pub. The audience has to really listen to get what is going on. Luckily the piece is very short, so it doesn’t test patience and what patience it does require is quickly rewarded. I think it’s a very clever piece, and very real, and I’ve cast three actors who are all “coming back” to theater after a long time away, and there is a realness about them which I love and think lends itself well to the piece. Also, it’s always great when Theater Pub gets to be a place where people return to this art form.

Claire Rice: Opening night. Wondering if it’s going to work. If the audience will like the show. If we’ll have thought out all the variables. Shows like this have so many moving parts and waiting for all the magic to click into place is exciting.

Gabe Ross: So far; answering this questionnaire. But hopefully staging it will be good too.

Gabe Ross. Twice the Fun.

Gabe Ross. Twice the Fun.

What’s been the most troublesome?

Neil Higgins: Scheduling! It’s always scheduling.

Gabe Ross: Having to replace an actor who dropped out.

Stuart Bousel: I also had to replace actors. But I like the ones I found!

Sara Staley: Casting! I got the short recurring vignettes type piece in the festival this time, which I enjoy for the immediacy and challenge of directing five super, short pieces in a truthful way. But it’s been more difficult to cast and rehearse using actors already cast in other pieces in the festival.

Sam Tillis: Scheduling rehearsals is a bitch.

Meg Trowbridge: The knock-out, drag-out fights between Rob and Allison. Such divas…

Claire Rice: There isn’t anything more troublesome about Pint-Sized than any other ten minute festival. It comes back to the moving parts issue. Where it gets tricky is the audience. All that alcohol, all those glass containers, all the excitement…let me just say I’m glad that we don’t have a balcony any more.

Colin Johnson: Finding naturalism and nuance in a show that requires drinking and screaming over people.

Alejandro Torres: I’ll keep you posted, so far smooth sailing. 🙂

Alejandro Torres

Alejandro Torres

Would you say putting together a show for Pint-Sized is more skin-of-your-teeth or seat-of-your-pants and why?

Sam Tillis: Skin-of-my-pants. I’ve lost so much pant-skin in the last couple weeks…

Colin Johnson: More seat of the pants, because you need to be able to roll with punches, bob and sway with circumstance. It’s not an act of desperation, which what I think of when i hear the phrase “skin of the teeth”. It may be a totally wrong interpretation of the term, but I see Theatre Pub as an act of ever-changing theatrical endurance.

Alejandro Torres: Seat of your pants, because I’m so excited!

Gabe Ross: Seat-of-your-pants. “Skin-of-your-teeth” sounds a little more painful. “Seat-of-your-pants” sounds a little more wild and crazy. Pants is a funny word.

Stuart Bousel: I have this weird fear/obsession with teeth, so I’ll go with “seat of your pants” because I want to associate Pint Sized with fun, uncomplicated things.

Claire Rice: Seat-of-your-pants. I think it’s the nature of the beast. High energy, high adrenaline , but also there’s a lot of last minute thinking that goes into directing a piece in a working bar. A lot of working with the environment that you have.

Neil Higgins: Seat-of-your-pants. I have nice teeth and I want to keep them nice.

Meg Trowbridge: Seat-of-your-pants, IMHO. You make decisions as you go along, and change it up regularly, based on how your piece fits with the other pieces of the night. You have to be flexible. Seat-of-your-pants is the name of the game.

Sara Staley: There’s definitely gonna be some skin and teeth involved in pulling it off, but a sharp cast ready to learn roles quickly, and a cracker jack Pint Sized producer this year has really helped.

Sara Staley.

Sara Staley.

Fuck, Marry, Kill, Bay Area actors, go!

Sam Tillis: Nopenopenopenope. Nope.

Sara Staley: The Llama and the Bear.

Alejandro Torres: In keeping with my hedonistic ways… Fuck.

Gabe Ross: All of them, none of them, just the tall and good looking ones.

Claire Rice: Tonight? Well, if you say so. (Sound of a zipper going down.)

Stuart Bousel: Fuck: Oh that list is so long. Marry: Megan Briggs. As far as I’m concerned we’re pretty much already married. Someone should let her know, though, maybe? Kill: Oh that list is so long.

Meg Trowbridge: Ummm – to keep it simple, I’ll go with historic Pint Sized producers because they are actors, too! Fuck: Julia Heitner (because obvi). Marry: Marissa Skudlarek because our home library would be top-notch. Kill: Neil Higgins BECAUSE IF I CAN’T HAVE HIM NO ONE CAN! (Editor’s Note: Marissa Skudlarek accepts your marriage proposal, Meg)

Neil Higgins: You mean in that order? Well, one of my life goals IS to be a black widow.

Neil Higgins.

Neil Higgins

No, but seriously, who out there would you love to work with?

Neil Higgins: Oooooh! No one. Black widows work alone.

Claire Rice: ( Sound of zipper going up.) Oh. Uhm…Well this is awkward. But seriously I just finished working with Marie O’Donnell and Indiia Wilmott for Loud and Unladylike and they were amazing actresses. I’d love to be able to work with them again soon. I don’t know if Elaine Gavin is looking to act, but she’s wonderful. Melissa Keith is also super talented. I feel like I should name some dudes too. Dudes like Jason Pencowski, Neil Higgins, and Nikolas Strubbe are all actors I completely enjoy watching.

Meg Trowbridge: I can’t wait to work with Ellery Schaar, who is directing my Olympians play this year!

Stuart Bousel: I’m actually in the middle of casting Six Degrees of Separation over at Custom Made and as usual I’m excited by all the great actors I get to choose from. I’m always trying to find a way to keep building relationships with actors I know and work well with, and also to keep new blood flowing in. The beauty of a large cast show like Six Degrees is that it can allow for both quite easily.

Alejandro Torres: Anyone creating intriguing stuff with a gregarious attitude.

Sam Tillis: You. That’s right. I would like to work with you, humble reader. Let’s do lunch.

Gabe Ross: Maybe you?

Colin Johnson: The list grows the more people I meet. I want Stuart, I want Allison Page, I’m very excited to be working with Claire Rice on Terror-Rama 2, I constantly develop awesome collaborations with the good people of Shotz. I would like to collaborate with some of the amazing performers up at the Circus Center. And I hope beyond hope that Breadbox will let me play with them at some point.

Colin Johnson

Colin Johnson

What’s next for you?

Sara Staley: Directing a reading of Oceanus by Daniel Hirsch and Siyu Song for the SF Olympians Festival this fall.

Neil Higgins: Olympians! Woot!

Stuart Bousel: Running Olympians. DICK 3 here at Theater Pub. Other stuff I feel like I’m not supposed to talk about.

Alejandro Torres: Saving up money to produce some fun theatre in 2016.

Gabe Ross: ATLAS Directing program. Performing in John Fisher’s next opus at Theatre Rhino in November which has yet to have an official title.

Colin Johnson: I’m writing a full length play for this years SF Olympians, I work on the monthly Shotz shows (second Wednesdays at Pianofight). Also in the early stages of directing TERROR RAMA 2: PROM NIGHT, along other upcoming projects through Thunderbird and Playground.

Sam Tillis: I’ve got a theatre company! We do science-fiction/fantasy plays, like the one I’m directing for Pint-Sized but full length! Check out our website at quantumdragon.org.

Sam Tillis

Sam Tillis

Meg Trowbridge: For Killing My Lobster I am writing for the August show, and directing the September show, and head-writing the November show. My still-untitled-play inspired by the ancient god Pontos will premiere at the Olympians Festival on Nov. 21.

Claire Rice: (Sound of a zipper going down.) No but seriously, I’m planning next year’s Loud and Unladylike Festival, which will again be produced by DIVAfest, and I’m writing for Terror-rama along with Anthony Miller which will have a reading October 12 at Piano Fight.

Claire Rice

Claire Rice

Last but not least, what’s your favorite beer?

Alejandro Torres: Racer 5, pairs well with whisky.

Sara Staley: Just went to Portland and drank a lot of beer last month, and so my new summer favorite is Deschutes Brewery’s Fresh Squeezed IPA, which you can also find in SF, yum.

Sam Tillis: Root beer.

Gabe Ross: Any amber ale. I like Gordon Biersch Marzen, and Fat Tire, and Red Seal. I also like Shock Top which is more of a Belgian Style white ale I think? I like beer, but I’m not a beer afficionado.

Claire Rice: I’m digging Bison beers right now. Chocolate Stout and the Honey Basil.

Neil Higgins: I’m more of a cider guy. But I do enjoy a nice, cold Singha.

Meg Trowbridge: I don’t really have a “favorite” as I’ll drink them all, but I do always scan a bar to see if they have Alaska Amber Ale… something about it has got me hooked.

Colin Johnson: SPEAKEASY.

Stuart Bousel: I need to get more serious about giving up gluten so… sauvignon blanc.

The Pint-Sized Plays will perform two more times: August 24 and 25 at 8 PM at PianoFight, 144 Taylor St, San Francisco. Admission is FREE, but if you like what you see, throw $5 in when we pass the hat. For more information, click HERE!

The Real World Theater Edition: An Interview with Evangeline Crittenden

Barbara Jwanouskos brings us an interview with the mind behind a new musical being developed in the Bay Area.

This week I had the honor of interviewing local writer and performer, Evangeline Crittenden about the new musical she created along with composer, Nick Rattray, called Philia. I have always been fascinated by musicals and the use of song in theatrical performances, so I was very much intrigued when asking Evangeline her thoughts on process, especially as it pertains to incorporating music into the world of the play.

For more information on Phila, check out their website at http://www.philiasf.com/#about-marquee where you can find videos and previews of the songs, themes, and inspiration behind the work.

Barbara: How did you get involved in theater? And specifically writing musicals?

Evangeline: I’ve been doing theater since I was a wee one. I grew up primarily acting but I’ve come to realize that actors often are puppeted around the stage, exploring themes that other people project on them, rather than themes that they are interested in exploring for themselves. I want to have my voice heard, and I want a say in what I create.

Musicals specifically? I’ve always loved music and singing. If you look at human history, it’s actually strangely anomalous of our current time to divorce storytelling from song. Mostly, these two things have gone hand in hand. But, modern musicals are, for me, largely disappointing. There is a certain plastic aesthetic that I find emotionally impermeable, and the style of the music doesn’t resonate with me. Philia is my first fully-fledged musical, in a more conventional sense, but every project I’ve ever directed has used music in some form. Music touches deeper parts of story and emotion that are often untapped by words alone. (When I saw Banana, Bag and Bodice did Beowulf at Shotgun Players, I realized how rad a play with music can actually be.)

Evangeline Crittenden and the composer Nick Rattray, performing an excerpt from the show at Tuesdays with Writing, a monthly salon for new works, hosted by Elena Marx at the Clock Factory in Berkeley. Photo credit: Wesley Newfarmer.

Evangeline Crittenden and the composer Nick Rattray, performing an excerpt from the show at Tuesdays with Writing, a monthly salon for new works, hosted by Elena Marx at the Clock Factory in Berkeley. Photo credit: Wesley Newfarmer.

Barbara: What was the inspiration behind Philia and what drew you to wanting to explore it in this medium?

Evangeline: Philia is based on a short story by Traci Chee, entitled “Philematophilia,” which was published in her short story collection Consonant Sounds for Fish Songs. Traci had the idea of connecting and collaborating with various artists (filmmakers, illustrators, etc.) to create work that was connected to and inspired by her stories. When she told me the premise of “Philematophilia,” I fell in love. It’s brilliant: a young woman’s magical kisses transform everyone she meets, but she gets labeled and criticized for kissing too many people. Traci called it a kind of “King Midas” story; a magical ability to transform or alchemize one’s surroundings ultimately backfires.

I love the story because it shines a light on the paradoxical reality that transformation can drive people away from each other, even if that transformation occurred through their relationship. I also love that Traci’s story is divided into smaller sections with different ‘philias,’ or loves for things. But if you look up these words, many of them are pure invention, based on words for fears (or, ‘phobias.’) I am deeply inspired by the idea that our language supports articulating fear but not love.

I wanted to make this project a musical rather than a regular play because the imagery in the short story is colorful and variegated and fanciful. It skips from fairytale imagery to a modern high school to a dream world; this, to me, demanded music in order to be fully embodied in performance.

Barbara: How is writing a musical different (or the same!) as writing a new play?

Evangeline: Writing a musical is tricky because the collaborative effort of writing is spread between more than one mind. In working with the composer and lyricist for the project, Nick Rattray, I have been grateful to discover how many ways our artistic values overlap. But we had many necessary conversations about how to best weave the music through the story, and what function the music serves in a given scene.

Barbara: What has been your process of creation with your collaborators?

Evangeline: Perfect segue! So, the process started three years ago, and I began by simply adapting the text of the short story for the stage. I cut certain parts, added others, and re-arranged the order, but the bulk of the text (aside from the lyrics, which Nick wrote) was Traci’s words. She handed me the story wholesale to make whatever I wanted out of it.

Then, in the summer of 2014, I began adding more scenes (and Nick added more songs) to expand the story and more deeply explore the scenes. We performed this version of the show as a workshop and received a lot of useful audience feedback. Through this, Wesley Newfarmer (the Associate Director) has been there to offer critique and to direct the scenes I’m in. (I perform in the play as the Witch, an omniscient, narrator character.)

I have spent the past year honing the script with Traci’s dramaturgical help and continued input, and listening to various drafts of Nick’s songs. We began rehearsals with a somewhat finalized script in June, and have continued to refine it through the rehearsal process.

Barbara: Anything in the process of creating the piece, performing during Fringe, or the staged readings that was a challenge? An opportunity to explore something you didn’t necessarily think of initially?

Evangeline: The challenge has been for me, choosing which direction to go: do I succumb to my desire for the abstract, or do I tell a clear story? The very first version of the play, at Fringe 2013, was fragmented and abstract, mimicking the patchwork tone of the short story. As I’ve moved forward, however, a clearer narrative has emerged. I never would have imagined this. But, in deepening the characters, it became clear that narrative was a way for the audience to invest more deeply in the story.

Barbara: What are you looking forward to most about this production?

Evangeline: Seeing the cast take ownership of the world of the play, and enrich it with their own rich imaginations. (We’ve been running for two weekends already, and it’s already happening!)

Barbara: Any advice for others that would like to write new musicals?

Evangeline: Hah. Um, find people who speak your language, who love the same things you do. If your collaborators understand where you’re coming from, you’ll have the freedom to stumble and experiment, which is a necessary part of the process.

Also, allowing ample time for workshopping is crucial. This project took three years to develop, and if we’d tried to do it on any shorter of a timeline, it just wouldn’t be as rich and complex and developed as it is. Music takes time to create, plays also take time, and it takes time to find effective ways to meld them together.

Derricka Smith (currently playing Helena) and Tim Silva (who was in the first two versions of the show). Photo credit: Wesley Newfarmer.

Derricka Smith (currently playing Helena) and Tim Silva (who was in the first two versions of the show). Photo credit: Wesley Newfarmer.

Barbara: Any shows around the Bay Area that you’d like to shout out or check out?

Evangeline: I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m excited about Trixxie Carr‘s performance at NCTC, Salome, Dance for Me. It looks like it will be imaginative and sensual, and I’ve met her once and she seems rad.