In For a Penny: Dead Men tell No Tales

Charles Lewis contemplates the Great Beyond.

“Death Found an Author Writing His Life” (1827) by E. Hull

“Death Found an Author Writing His Life” (1827) by E. Hull

“I’ve got my own life to live
I’m the one that’s going to have to die
When it’s time for me to die
So let me live my life the way I want to”
– Jimi Hendrix, “If 6 was 9”, Axis: Bold as Love

Funny thing about writing a play about death: it makes you think a lot about dying. Who knew? And if you want to get technical, the play in question isn’t actually about death, but the lack thereof. Let me explain…

I’m writing the Opening Night Party play for this year’s SF Olympians Festival. You may or may not recall that last year I occasionally dedicated this column to exploring the development process of said festival. If so, you may also recall that my final entry, “A Pre-Post-Mortem”, attempted to take an optimistic look at death, a frequent topic in a festival revolving around Greek mythology. Many Greek myths look at death not as the end of the journey, but rather the beginning of the next journey. For them, death wasn’t something to be dwelt upon – for lack of a better term – as it is today. Still, they acknowledged it as an inevitability and possibly one step closer to achieving greatness.

The Egyptians are a different story all together: everything was about death. EVERYTHING. Perhaps that’s not fair – it may be more accurate to say that they were about life, which they felt continued after death. But that doesn’t change the fact that quite a lot of those lives were spent in preparation for their inevitable deaths. And when they did die, everyone took notice.

Remember, these were once decked out in shiny Tura Limestone.

Remember, these were once decked out in shiny Tura Limestone.

So when writing for a Greek mythos fest that’s now added Egyptian gods for good measure, it’s no surprise to find death at every turn.

Except, of course, in my play. The script (working title: It’s a Fucking Dylan Thomas Poem!) is about characters for whom, shall we say, death is not a problem. No matter how much harm they inflict on themselves or each other, they never need to worry about shuffling off this mortal coil. It’s not quite a Tuck Everlasting situation, but they live lives (that they believe are) without consequence. Well, when you live your life knowing you can get away with anything, you’ll eventually ask yourself what the point of living is. And what’s the point of asking that question if you’re never going to die?

Naturally I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about dying. Not taking my own life – when you’ve known as many people as I have who attempted suicide right in front of you, it kinda puts you off the idea – but just what will or won’t be said when I’m gone. It’ll be completely out of my control, but that doesn’t stop me from contemplating what would be said, if anything at all. As I’ve been tinkering with this script over the past few months, I began to notice that whenever I’d seriously start to write notes or dialogue, a celebrity would die. (Not my fault, I swear!)

Such high-profile deaths inevitably lead to a lot of fawning eulogies, as well as some scathing posthumous criticisms. For me, the most interesting comment came after Prince’s death. With no legal will specifying the division of his $300m estate, Time asked Snoop Dogg if he’d made preparations for his family. He doesn’t. “I don’t give a fuck when I’m dead.”

As much as I disagree with the callous way a multi-millionaire refuses to make sure his family is protected once he’s gone, I have to say that I admire his response. He seems to understand the way the futility of worrying about something that will be completely out of his control. Though I don’t agree with how he does it, I like how he accepts the fact that he only has control for a finite amount of time, then everyone will be on their own.

Of course, it’s still Snoop Dogg, so he was probably high off his ass when he said it.

The problem with never wanting to talk about death is that it makes you unprepared for it. What both confounds and fascinates me about the characters I’m writing is that they’re unprepared for what life has in store when death never comes. They have to find reasons to keep living because it’s the one thing they’ll always do. What does that do to a person’s sense of health, spirituality, or ability to form lasting relationships?

I’m not quite sure, but as I keep writing, they’ll find out or attempt to die trying.

Charles Lewis III want you to celebrate life and art by contributing to this year’s Olympians Festival Indiegogo campaign. His script will be read during the Opening Night party on Sunday, October 2nd.

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BETTER THAN TELEVISION: Episodes That Breathe and Fart Returns Tonight!

More posters from Meg Trowbridge, enticing you to tonight’s continuing of Better Than Television!

Return to PianoFight tonight and tomorrow night to see the thrilling Season Finales of your new favorite shows!

Watch the thrilling conclusion of the emotional juggernaut:

smoking gun

Shed a tear with…

Meloncholy Cheese copy

And, of course, you’ll want to know what happens to…

POWher Shark

You’ve got two more nights of entertainment that’s way better than the NBC Thursday night line-up. Tonight and tomorrow night, 8:00pm, only at PianoFight!

Theater Around the Bay: Announcing the 2016 Pint-Sized Play Selections

We are proud to announce the lineup for the 2016 edition of Pint-Sized Plays, our annual bar-specific short plays festival!

From over 45 submissions from Bay Area playwrights, we’ve chosen the following scripts:

Julie Kopitsky’s Bat Mitzvah by Jake Arky

Polling Place by Gabriel Bellman

Bar Spies by Alan Coyne

Don’t I Know You by Elizabeth Gjelten

Where There’s a Will by Tanya Grove

Angel of Darkness by Shirley Issel

Why Go With Olivia by Caitlin Kenney

Beer Culture by James Nelson

No Fault by Christian Simonsen

Cemetery Gates by Marissa Skudlarek

In addition, we are pleased to say that Pint-Sized 2016 will see the return of Rob Ready as the Llama (in a new “Llamalogue” by Stuart Bousel), and that due to popular demand, we have added a fifth performance!

 

See the Pint-Sized Plays on August 15, 16, 22, 23, and 29 in the PianoFight bar space!

Cowan Palace: I’m Not Good At Goodbye

It’s Ashley’s last blog as a San Francisco writer! Feelings!

I’m not good at goodbye.

Truly, I’m terrible. Airports, season finales, and sometimes even finishing a sandwich can make me weepy. Whenever I start to think about having to say “goodbye” to something, my stomach immediately starts to feel like it’s being raked alongside a pile of old leaves and I can almost hear the tears in the back of my eyes high-fiving each other over their power and fighting to take control of my face.

Last night when I attempted to write this blog, I was so overwhelmed I literally put a blanket over the emotions and myself, turned the lights off, and made myself go to bed early. It’s just too many feelings! I teared up reading Will’s blog yesterday and wasn’t sure what more I could lend to the discussion of saying goodbye to this city we’ve called home, this place where we’ve so willingly invested our hearts.

I also want to puke my brains out every time I realize that I won’t be able to properly thank all the people that have been a part of my story here. I wish I had enough hours and resources to find each one of you that’s been a part of this crazy, theatrical, city adventure and express my gratitude. To the directors who gave me a chance and a role, to the castmates who became my friends and family, to all the roommates and sublets across the Bay Area who gave me a place to store my knits and emotions, to all the boys I had silly crushes on who gave me stories to share and pushed me towards my now husband, to the jobs that allowed me to survive as an artist, to the people who read words I wrote, to the city itself for lending its heart to inspiration, creativity, and community. I’ll never be able to thank you all enough.

I hope that when I leave though, you’ll continue to take care of each other the way I wish I could do; that you’ll fight to be kind, you’ll give shy new kids a chance to make a mark, you’ll forgive those that may have wronged you and forgive yourself for holding on to heavier things longer than needed, that you’ll say yes to stuff that seem scary, that you’ll dust off your rose colored glasses and attempt to see the world as a hopeful romantic every so often, that you’ll log miles walking this beautiful landscape thinking through a new idea or practicing your lines, that you’ll try as many new foods and experiences you can get your hands and mouth on, and that you love, love, love all that you can while you have the chance.

And how do I love you all exactly? Well, with adorations, fertile tears, with groans that thunder love, with sighs of fire, duh! (I obviously stole that from Shakespeare and Viola’s line but since I had the chance to be her for a whole summer 6 years ago, I don’t plan to return it.)

So thank you, San Francisco Theater Pub and all of you. I love, love, loved my time here. And since I’m not great with goodbye, I’ll just say, I can’t wait to say hello to you all again.

Ashley Bridge copy

Here’s Ashley a few months after she moved to San Francisco, already fighting back the tears!

 

Working Title: That’s All One, Our Play is Done…

This week Will Leschber bids farewell to the Bay …

Since this is the last blog entry I’ll write while I’m still in the Bay Area, we are going to change up the format, as one is wont to do when times are a-changing. Call it indulgent but I’m confident anyone out there can sympathize with a time of transition.

I’m not sure where to begin. How to sum up the closing of a chapter that has redefined one’s life? We all know that ruminating swell of indigo emotion that accompanies a transition. Whether it be closing a show, semester’s end, season’s shift, a graduation tassel turn, a job change, an impending parting, or a big move: There is a particular bittersweetness reserved for such occasions. As you my know, dear readers, my wife (fellow blogger, beautiful Ashley Cowan of Cowan Palace fame) and I are moving out of the Bay Area. We are journeying due east to see what dreams may come on another coast. Endings lead to new beginnings and the bittersweet feelings remain…

I’ve never been fully satisfied with the term bittersweet. The blanket term of bittersweet doesn’t lock down everything encapsulated in the leaving of a phase of life. There needs to be a term that rolls the jumbled entirety of emotions that may appear in the garbs of… excited to start a new era, anxious about the uncertain future, melancholy for all things left behind, joyful for optimistic possibilities, wistful of times gone by, thoughtful of all the 525,600 minutes that made up each year passed, hopeful for a bright road ahead, cognizant of the fact that these are the last days of disco. The juxtaposed opposing emotions somehow simultaneously crossing vast plains and wide trains of thought.

The Radiant Indigo Fade...or Crimson Wistful Waveaway...the new "bittersweet" should more resemble something of that ilk. If only wordy!!

The Radiant Indigo Fade…or Crimson Wistful Waveaway…the new “bittersweet” should more resemble something of that ilk. If only wordy!!

I knew that feeling when I moved out here 5 years ago. I travelled west to be with the one I love and to move towards a future in a new place and a bright space. I found a small place in the indie theater community here in the City which meant the world to me. Being a part of a living, breathing, evolving beast of creative theater forces was exciting.

12th Night cast copy

Living in a city where every street felt paved with history and character, the light and the dark. Working exhaustive long hours at huge party events from the rolling hills of Napa to the wet cliffs of Monterey where I would not get to attend the affluent galas but I would get to tear down the billowy tents and bright lights afterwards. Living in the middle of the socio-economic divide. Watching the 3am moon kiss the San Francisco skyline from the autumn avenues of Treasure Island in the middle of the Bay.

Treasure Island Living copy

Winking at the final sunset on the roof of our 2nd apartment as we moved into the last apartment we would have in the City. Seeing theaters close their doors when landlords decided they could get more rent. Performing Rent! Performing Shakespeare from bars to redwood forests. Performing my wedding vows in front of 150 of my closest friends and family on a day that could not have been better. Experiencing my first child come into the world and knowing joy unlike any other. Making last plans and saying goodbye… all these things are wrapped in that opalescent mass that color the experience of leaving.

San Francisco U Turn copy

I know anyone who has lived in this tumultuous time and hurly burley place will hear the echoes of my experiences within their own.

I don’t know how to properly put into words the feeling that I know the decision to move on is the right one, yet a part of me will feel as though they never got enough time here. The truth is I am past the point of being able to live and breathe the City. To experience a place fully one needs time and the means to do so. Too often I’ve found myself busy with the act of getting by and being an bill-paying adult to truly enjoy this glorious place. So much of living in the Bay Area within the Theater scene or otherwise feels so transitory and impermanent. But that is the way of all things. The edge of impermanence is just sharper here. Outside all of the sharp edges, I can say in all cliche, I will leave some of my heart in San Francisco. I am so grateful to have known the people I have known. I am so thankful to have been part of the projects of which I was a part. To Theater Pub, to theater goers, to the blog readers, to the bay, to the City, to all co-workers, to the friends I’ve made, the the daughter I made, to love that never fades…thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

…Be seeing you.

I leave you with a little Shakespeare and a little rock ‘n roll bard named Tom Petty

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.
~Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act V, Sc 1

It’s time to move on
It’s time to get going
What lies ahead I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, babe,
The grass is growing.
It’s time to move on
It’s time to get going…
~Tom Petty, Time to Move On, Wildflowers

Theater Around The Bay: Better Than Television- Episodes That Breathe and Fart- Premieres Tonight!

Artistic Director Meg Trowbridge made some stunning posters to help promote tonight’s exciting new show!

It’s the season premiere of your new favorite shows! Come to PianoFight at 8 to watch the thrilling SciFi nerdiest:

Space Bitch

Fall in love and then have your heart ripped out with the Rothschild family on:

All My Feels

And help Griff and his trusty pup solve another crime by tuning into:

Griff Lomax

There are no re-runs, you cannot DVR these, and even if you still had a VCR and VHS tape, you couldn’t record it! Come binge-watch these fantastic shows with your favorite people! This week’s cast features:

Scott Baker
Danielle Gray
Becky Raeta
Cassie Rosenbrock
Jeunee Simon
Indiia Wilmott
Marlene Yarosh

With host Megan Cohen and Musical accompaniment by Paul Anderson.

With such a talented crew, you know this will definitely be BETTER THAN TELEVISION.

Monday, June 20 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, June 21 @ 8:00pm
Monday, June 27 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, June 28 @ 8:00pm

It’s free, though we happily accept donations to pay our actors!

Everything Is Already Something: How To Stop Getting Cast So Much, Ugh

Allison Page, providing useful information for those in need.

Follow these quick and easy steps and do away with all those pesky offers coming at you left and right!

1. Pick a fight with the stage manager! Maybe it’s about how she asked you to put away your costumes because she’s a dictator. Tell her it’s not part of your art to put your stuff away! You didn’t take that one class in college to spend your life hanging up a vintage velvet suit! That’ll show ‘er, and will ensure that you’ll not get stuck working on a show with her any time soon.

2. Demand 154 comps for a one week run. After all, you’ve got family in town, and you are the star. And sure, maybe 153 of them won’t show up, but you’ve got to hold those seats just in case. It’s your right as Titania queen of the fairies, in this all male production of Midsummer, to take up as much space with your aunts and nephews as you so choose.

3. Request repeatedly to be listed in the program as “Actor and Costumer” because you wore your own socks.

4. Give line readings to your fellow actors after each rehearsal. They’ll thank you later. Your knowledge is so vast it would be a crime not to help them, and they definitely won’t tell everyone they ever work with that you did that and that they hated it and you.

5. Tell the choreographer that you “Took a one day tap workshop with Greg, ever heard of him? Yeah he was on TV. So I can really just like fix whatever you’re thinking here. But sure, if you wanna take a pass at it, whatever.”

6. Don’t memorize your lines. It’s fine. Just get the gist of it. Same thing. You consider yourself a writer anyway. It won’t change the story at all if you suddenly shout that a bear is entering the scene. It’ll probably make it better, honestly. Art is collaboration and you’ve got things to add. To every scene. Everybody loves you once they really get it. They’ll learn someday, the poor idiots.

200_s

7. Show up whenever you feel artistically inspired to be at rehearsal. What difference does it make if you’re on time but don’t feel moved by the spirit of theater?

8. Ask to leave whenever you feel like there might be something else you could do, like a party or a beer festival. Sure, you knew about this rehearsal 3 months ago but like…life is unpredictable.

9. Answer your phone during notes each night and then put one finger in the air like “Just a minute” and go outside, where you stay for 20 minutes.

10. Tell everyone the show is shit after the first rehearsal: other cast members, friends, family, potential audience members, subscribers, the internet.

11. Start a lot of sentences with “Well, when we did it in New York…” especially when it was actually New Jersey and 1973.

12. Purposely do some blocking wrong over and over again until they just change it to whatever you want.

13. Improvise fight choreography. So spontaneous!

14. Bardsplain Shakespeare to every person involved in the production in any way regardless of their experience level.