Cowan Palace: The Golden Girls Take Over San Francisco And Other Chats With Matthew Martin

On this day before Thanksgiving, Ashley thanks you for being a friend while chatting about the Golden Girls with Matthew Martin.

The Holidays are really here! And nothing says seasonal spirit like gorgeous San Francisco drag queens getting all dressed up as the legendary Golden Girls, am I right?

Yes, it’s true. For the past nine years, it’s become a local, celebrated way to enjoy the Christmas festivities. The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes are back and they’re more fabulous than ever.

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Need to see more? Understandable. You can take a sneak peek thanks to YouTube! Still not enough? Lucky for you, I had the chance to interview Matthew Martin who has been with the production since 2007. Matthew is not only the director of the show but is also starring as everyone’s favorite Southern belle, Blanche Devereaux!

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AC: Tell us about how you first got involved with this unique project. How has it developed over the years?

MM: We first did this production in 2007 at a friend’s Victorian here in San Francisco. It was a group of performer friends doing something fun together: 2 episodes verbatim with an intermission. I don’t’ think any of us foresaw the enormous popularity that would ensue. The audiences and shows grew and grew and GREW, going from various small venues to the grand old Victoria Theatre in 2011.

AC: What makes this year’s show different than past productions?

MM: This year’s show is different in that we’ve gone musical! Dorothy and Blanche are vying for attention at the Rusty Anchor, the local piano bar and break into song! We also have new sets. Of course, every year’s show is different, but the audiences are the same faithful crowds that have been growing with every season.

AC: What was the biggest challenge in rehearsing the show and getting it ready for opening night?

MM: Getting there, as with any show! There are always many variables and personalities involved with any theatrical production. Besides actors rehearsing, there are the departments of publicity, technical aspects, lights, sound, costuming, ticket sales. The costumes alone are a show within themselves! It’s a 1980s fashion show and another popular aspect of the production. Love the audience’s “what were they thinking?!” reaction to 1980s fashion sense!

AC: What was the biggest surprise you found when translating a script meant for TV to the stage?

MM: How rabid the fans are quoting chapter and verse of the original scripts and how well the comedy stands up 30 years later. Good writing remains good writing, always. A delightful surprise is the demographic appeal of the Golden Girls. EVERYONE loves them! Old, young, gay, straight, male, female. Love seeing the cross-section of people in every audience. That is the San Francisco I know and love and grew up with here.

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AC: I love the idea of bringing in celebrity guests! How have those personalities helped to influence the show?

MM: It’s always fun to have some local celebrities make a cameo appearances with the Golden Girls, but the audiences are coming to see the Fabulous Foursome!

AC: Why do you think this production does so well in San Francisco? Do you think it would have the same impact in other cities?

MM: The power of syndication makes it very appealing to everyone, here in San Francisco, and around the world, literally! It is “Very San Francisco” for sure, having 4 guys in drag playing these iconic roles, and our audiences can’t wait to come. It’s an annual pilgrimage, a true holiday tradition for many people here.

AC: Have you always been a Golden Girls fan? If so, who was your favorite character?

MM: Who doesn’t like the Golden Girls?! They are ALL my favorite, for different reasons, and it’s the interplay between the decidedly different four of them that makes it so funny and relatable! Like family members! Every Girl gets a rousing round of applause just by walking on the stage. It’s the audience’s way of saying hello and we love each and every one of you!

AC: Bang, Kill, Marry, Share A Cocktail: Sophia, Rose, Blanche, Dorothy

MM: Oh Lord. It had to…..I’d bang Blanche (myself! Haha!), I’d kill Sophia (out of seniority! She’s had a good long life), marry Dorothy (a woman with sense and experience) and share a cocktail with Rose (or 3 and get her bombed!).

AC: What kind of research goes into directing this show and did it vary from the type of research that went into getting into character?

MM: The research is in the years of watching them on television! The Golden Girls are very familiar friends, that’s part of their enduring appeal. It’s very nostalgic and like a comfort food for our audiences. People have a true attachment to the series, so we, the performers, know them as well as the audience. After playing these parts for so many years now, the actors get into their respective characters very easily now.

AC: What do you think it is about the show that still resonates the most with modern audiences?

MM: The truth of the comedy resonates with everyone! Modern audiences relate to the comedy and drama, as times change, but people don’t! The issues that they would explore on the series are the same as today. Love, friendship, old age, health, mothers/daughters, divorce, ex-husbands, companionship, annoying roommates, and people just having to live together to learn from and tolerate one another. The writers didn’t shy away from serious subject matter either. Some of the episodes were groundbreaking for their time in addressing such social issues as abortion and drug addiction.

AC: What’s the one Golden Girlsfashion statement you hope makes a comeback in 2015?

MM: God, not sure anyone wants ANY of those fashion statements to make a comeback, or maybe in the Smithsonian, behind glass! I do love the flash and dash of some of the getups, and Blanche gets to wear some hilarious outfits, but again most of the wardrobe is in the category of “What were they thinking?!” in the 1980s.

AC: Where can we catch your next show? Any big plans for the new year?

MM: We just finished filming Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte which should be released next year. We are doing another run of D’Arcy Drollinger’s hit show “Shit and Champagne” at The Oasis, the new club D’Arcy and Heklina are opening South of Market! I will also be doing a version of my solo show All Singing, All Dancing, All Dead at the new club later in January.

AC: What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?

MM: Being together with family and friends and reminded that the holiday season is a state of mind, not just a few weeks for love and laughter on the calendar. The holidays are a very tough time of year for many people, so performing in a show making people laugh and smile is a beautiful gift to give and receive!

AC: What food are you looking forward to indulging in this Thanksgiving?

MM: All of it! Of course my brother-in-law’s fabulous barbequed turkey, some sweet potato pie, and all the sides! Pecan pie, pumpkin pie…then I won’t eat for a week so I can fit into my costumes for opening night, December 4th!

AC: In ten words or less, why should we come see Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes?

MM: You will be HAPPY that you came to the show!

So with that my Theater Pub pals, I leave you with this: Thank you for being a friend.Travel down the road and back again. Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.

Be sure to check out what’s sure to be a fun and festive way to enjoy the holidays with The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes 2014 and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Come see Matthew and The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes 2014, Dec. 4 – 21, 2014 – Thurs. Fri. & Sat. – 8:00 pm / Sun. – 7:00 pm at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco! Tickets are $25 and are available at http://goldengirlssf.eventbrite.com/

Everything Is Already Something Week 40: Sorry I Didn’t Go To College Pt. 2

Allison Page, going back to school. Sort of.

Sorry guys, I still haven’t gone to college.

A little over a year ago I used this blog as a platform to tell the story of my first 4 1/2 years in San Francisco, being poor – really, really poor – and trying to find work that paid enough to feed myself and pursue my artistic life. That was harder than it could have been because, uh…I didn’t go to college. As you may have figured out.

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A lot has happened since I wrote it and I’ve been meaning to write an update. Now here we are, in August 2014. ’Tis the season for people to go back to school, so it seems only fitting to talk about it now. Lack of education has also been rearing its ugly head lately. January 31st I was laid off from the cushy job I enjoyed for two fleeting years and which pulled me out of poverty and sleeping on floors. It wasn’t just me who lost a job. 314 or so other people were laid off the same day I was. It was a strange day to say the least. Aware that some people seemed to go into conference rooms with a manager and then immediately exit, looking like they had just had lobotomies, meant that whatever happened in that conference room wasn’t something I wanted to happen to me. I tried not to make eye contact with the manager in hopes that if I were about to be laid off/get a lobotomy and he didn’t look me in the eye, he would forget and I’d get to stay there/keep my brain function. When I got an overly gentle tap on the shoulder, I knew what was going to happen. I was losing my job. No one wants to lose their job, not so much because that job won’t be theirs anymore, but because that means now you have to go find another one, and you remember how much work it was to get this one.

They pretty much looked just like that.

They pretty much looked just like that.

I’m sure everyone was feeling a little overwhelmed and worried when they were given the news. The whole building felt tense. The people being laid off were shocked and sad, and the ones not being laid off were some combination of not being sure they wouldn’t still get the ax by the end of the day, and trying not to look happy that they were spared because that would make the sad people hate them. I couldn’t help but feel a little different. The truth is that most, if not all, of the other people who got laid off, will probably end up with the same position at a similar company. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had new jobs waiting. Job poachers wait outside that building when news of a layoff starts to spread. They have business cards and yell out “ARE YOU AN ENGINEER? WE NEED ENGINEERS!” So many people leave with their belongings and a possibility of future employment at the same time. These jobs are what they do for a living – the thing they know the most about. The thing for which they went to college and are passionate about. But I got my job there (game writer/narrative designer – basically the person who creates the fiction of a video game) based on a number of lucky things coming together. I have no educational background in that, or really anything else apart from the time I spent in cosmetology school in my home town’s technical college, from which I didn’t graduate. Otherwise I’ve just been acting and writing my entire life without proof that someone showed me how to do it. And you better believe none of the job poachers were outside the building shouting “ARE YOU AN OUT OF WORK WRITER AND FORMER HAIRSTYLIST WITH NO EDUCATION AND A COMEDY AND THEATER BACKGROUND? WE NEED THOSE.”

All I could think was “Well, Allison, say goodbye to making any money. You lived on easy street for two years. That’s amazing. Now say farewell to the sweet life and say welcome back to the hustling days of yore, because you’ll never have it this good again.” In my mind I went from rags to really, really nice rags back to rags again. And I had all these plans for the future. I was going to produce my own full length play. I had intended to just save up and pay for it. Now I would have to think about a fundraising campaign during a time when I wasn’t sure how I’d be making regular money for my own expenses. The good news is, I got a good severance package. Good enough that I decided to not pursue a job immediately and instead devote my days to writing. Doesn’t that sound magical? I thought so.

But I couldn’t write shit.

Most days I stared at my laptop in dismay and worried about the future. This was not helped by everyone always asking “What are you going to do in the future?!” (Thanks, EVERYONE IN MY ENTIRE FAMILY) After a few months of sitting on my couch eating sad sandwiches, or drinking an entire pitcher of sangrias in the union square sun, something weird and unexpected happened. I became Co-Creative Director of a theater company. I threw myself into it head first. It’s been crazy, exhilarating, awesome, and only slightly complicated. “Now,” I thought, “It doesn’t matter that I don’t have a degree. I already have the job!” Well…yes and no. The Managing Director, while working on funding strategies sends me a text:

He: “Hey, where is your undergrad degree from?”
Me: “I don’t have one.”
He: “HA! Ok. Just trying to make us all sound more qualified for this grant.”

Ah-HA! It’s come back around. Now it may be a granting issue? Even though the company has been around for 18 years and in the few months the other Co-Creative Director and I have been in charge we’ve gotten more done than most people would think could happen in a year? What if we didn’t receive some kind of funding because of my lack of a degree? Ohhhh that would be a bad day. I’d have to pour a pitcher of margaritas down my gullet just to swallow the shame pill. I haven’t heard more about this since he brought it up, so I’m going to take the pleasant road and assume he didn’t send the grant and a receive a response that just said “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA YOU’RE SO DUMB, GO TO THE DUMB STORE, WHERE YOU’LL FIND LOTS OF CLONES OF YOURSELF HAHAHA.”

The theater community in general is pretty chock full of people with fancy educational backgrounds. And it’s the same with the specific group of people with whom I most frequently associate and collaborate. I’m the quaint loose cannon from the middle of nowhere who has never used Viewpoints and hasn’t read The Cherry Orchard. It’s actually amazing to me sometimes that my friends in the arts are…my friends in the arts. They actually listen to me sometimes, which in light of the stuff I’ve never studied or cared about, is kind of crazy. (Cut to next week when they’ve all read this and decide “Yeah, why do we listen to her anyway?”)

I’ve also managed to land myself a steady stream of freelance writing gigs. Mostly working on scripts for web commercials. Hey, it keeps me from getting evicted.

Actually, that’s my biggest piece of advice to both college students and life students. Not that I’m prone to giving advice. Anyway: don’t beat yourself up for making a living. I’m still just as dedicated to my artistic pursuits as I’ve ever been (possibly more so) and I don’t feel bad about using my skills to pay the bills. It doesn’t make me a hack or a sellout – not in my eyes, anyway, but feel free to call me either of those if it makes you feel good. I think It just makes me an adult who knows that to be able to nail my artistic endeavors, I gotta eat lunch. Many of the artists (theatrical and otherwise) I respect the most, have other jobs to keep them afloat in this workaday world. On the upside I think it gives us a broader view of life.

I know, I hate myself for using this picture too.

I know, I hate myself for using this picture too.

I could sit at home and torture myself into writing all day, or I could go out into the world and have experiences worth writing about. Even if that means I’m writing jokes about the effectiveness of a certain kind of Bleach®.

So, how do I feel about not going to college, a year later? I feel pretty good. I feel just like people who did go to college in that I can’t predict the future. But I feel prepared to deal with whatever that future holds. Even if it means I end up selling shoes or sweeping chimneys…hey, are chimney sweeps still a thing? Maybe they bring that up at Harvard. Damn.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/co-creative director in San Francisco and you can find her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage

Everything Is Already Something Week 36: The Day The Theatre Died

Allison Page gets serious for a moment. Not really.

It’s hard out there for an artist. It’s even harder out there for a company of artists. If you were a theater company, and standing in a room with a bunch of other theater companies, I would get up on a collapsible stage and say, “Everyone look to your left. Now everyone look to your right. Some of these people will not survive the next few years.” and everyone would either go “Oooooo.” or “Uh oh” or roll their eyes, or laugh awkwardly, knowing it’s true. The theater community has been shaken up even more than usual lately. Intersection For The Arts, San Jose Rep…there are more fatalities and you’ve seen and read about them, I’m not going to go on about who they are, the point is – we’re dropping like fucking flies over here. And I really hate saying this, but the more I think about it, the less surprised I am.

Remember Vaudeville? No? Oh, that’s because it’s been gone since the early 1930s. People didn’t want to consume their entertainment the same way they had been, and with movies easily accessible everywhere, Vaudeville fell out of the interest of the public.

The ONLY Theatre In Los Angeles!

The ONLY Theatre In Los Angeles!

In a twist of fate, movies took the same blow they had dealt to Vaudeville when television came into play. People could be entertained in their own homes for free, and movies became a less frequent event in the lives of many. With the improvements made to all-things-internet, many people now don’t even bother with traditional television and watch things directly from their computers, tablets, phones, or have the images grafted directly to their eyeballs for all of eternity, or however the hell a google glass works.

I love theater, and I don’t think it’s dead, but I do think it has moved back into its parents’ basement much to the chagrin of the entire family. I feel frustrated that it can almost never sustain itself without resorting to asking for lunch money which it then uses to buy case after case of Miller High Life.

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I hate that even the most successful theater in the area, a theater with lots and lots of seats, shows and actors imported from New York and wherever else, still has to fundraise huge amounts of money (recently $100,000…a number I can’t even think about) to make things happen. But I guess that’s something that brings up a discussion about whether or not theater is both an art form AND a business (regardless of non-profit-ness). A business which requires yearly (or more frequently than that) gigantic gobs of money in the form of donations, doesn’t sound like a particularly well-run business to me. And I hate the thought of always scrambling, wondering if you’ll be open the next season, and knowing that if you don’t raise X amount of money with your elaborate Kickstarter campaign of relatively meaningless perks and rewards, that things could get very sticky for you and yours.

Maybe that sounds harsh, I don’t know. I feel frustrated with the state of things lately. I hate begging for money. More than that, I hate needing to do it. I hate that this thing that can bring a little happiness and magic to a bunch of lives all at once, doesn’t seem valuable enough to pay for itself. Obviously costs in the bay area aren’t helping anything. When I started a theater company in Minnesota, I did get a grant. A one time grant which was, I believe, around $1,000. I used it to buy a lot of basic things which we used to build a stage, build a set which could be moved around to create a different set, and generally to get things going. That’s the only grant I ever applied for. After that, I used the money earned from each show to put up the next one (supplemented by some of my own cash, for which I would try to reimburse myself later). I did that for five years. A theater company existing for five years having received only one grant? That’s pretty fucking great. But that would be really hard to make happen here. The cost of just renting the space in which to perform for a few days is more than the entirety of the grant I received in 2003.

Perform in our great new Abandoned Asylum - er - Brand New Theater Space for only $7,200 a week! WHAT A STEAL!...Extra $2,000 if you need someone to operate the light board. And you definitely need someone to operate the light board because it's made out of bones.

Perform in our great new Abandoned Asylum – er – Brand New Theater Space for only $7,200 a week! WHAT A STEAL!…Extra $2,000 if you need someone to operate the light board. And you definitely need someone to operate the light board because it’s made out of bones.

When Kickstarter became a thing, artists went bananas. Finally, a great way to crowdsource funds to make your dream happen. It was a revelation. Initially I think it felt like an amazing way to make someone’s biggest, most long-awaited aspiration come to life…and now it’s everyone’s biggest aspiration THIS MONTH. So instead of feeling like we’re supporting a one-time artistic dream project, it feels like everyone wants us all to pay for every single thing that they do. It’s overwhelming. I should mention that I contribute to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns all the time. When I see a project I like, or when a frequent collaborator or friend is working on something, I donate to it. But I’m definitely starting to feel like it’s going to be too much at some point. Particularly when the numbers start ticking up and up and up. I miss the scrappy days of yore. Scrappiness is a trait I really admire in others, and something I try to exercise in my own life. The pilot episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, shot by the guys who thought it up, was made for a famously small amount of money. Depending on who you ask, it was somewhere between $85 and $200. Meanwhile, I know a guy who just tried to crowdsource $60,000 for his independent film. I’m not suggesting he should make it for $200, but I am suggesting that $60,000 might be too much to as your friends to pay for. And as it turns out, I’m right. Because his campaign was unsuccessful and his donations added up to only $5,000 and because it was done on Kickstarter, I’m assuming that means he got a whopping $0. And this was a campaign which included some moderately fancy names.

I don’t know. This feels like a time of change and uncertainty in the performing arts. I’m not sure what the next chapter holds for us. I will continue to support the projects I care about (for example, the SF Olympians Festival, which supports the work of over 100 artists every year: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/san-francisco-olympians-festival-v-monsters-ball ) but I wonder what funding for theatrical projects will look like in even two years. When will people start to feel maxed out? Is there a better way to do this? Are we making things too big, too complicated, too expensive for their own good? For their own sustainability?

I don’t have the answers, but I am working on them in relation to my own projects in the next year. I’m spending lots of time and energy trying to find a way to not spend every available dime, and to be a nimble creator of nimble things. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t have any other choice. Money doesn’t grow on fake trees even if you spend $10,000 to build them.

Allison Page is an actor/writer/director, and Co-Creative Director of Killing My Lobster. You can find her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage. 

Everything Is Already Something Week 32: The Chubby Ingenue – Livin’ In An Actor’s Body

Allison Page is 100% Allison Page.

When I was 21 I got my first paid acting gig. It was summer stock. This meant I got to escape the flat plains of Thief River Falls, Minnesota and spend a couple of months living on the flat plains of Bemidji, Minnesota about 2 hours away from my home town. It was a serious adventure. I had never really been away from home. I was still living with my parents at the time and I couldn’t believe I got to be somewhere – ANYWHERE else, and get paid (pretty well, I remember thinking at the time) to do the thing I loved most. A lot happened while I was there. It was a huge growing experience for me. And I don’t mean in the easy, happy way (does that exist?) I mean in the hard, confusing, wait-a-minute-what way. I was pretty insecure anyway, and I was suddenly both insecure and alone. Well, surrounded by strangers, which is eerily similar to being alone. We were put up in college dorms. I had my OWN ROOM! This was thrilling to me. I didn’t go to real college so this is the only dorm experience I ever had. I could do anything in there! So what did I do? Probably read half a book or something, but mostly I took diet pills.

Dessert? I couldn't possibly. I'm soooo fuuuuull.

Dessert? I couldn’t possibly. I’m soooo fuuuuull.

I know, “Ewwwww, that just got really real.” Right? I remember feeling pretty strange and awful when I bought them at the fine Bemidji Walmart, but I bought them all the same. I distinctly remember them being red. I covertly took them several times a day before, during, and after rehearsal. They made me unbearably jittery. I didn’t drink coffee back then, but I can now equate it with how I would feel if I had three cups of Philz Mocha Tesoro, which is to say MICE IN MY BONES! I’m sure I was also eating something. I don’t remember it, but I doubt I would have stopped eating entirely.

I'm the one with my hands crossed serenely behind my back

I’m the one with my hands crossed serenely behind my back

The opening scene is Veta on the phone with someone or other, so she has a couple of lines, and then I was supposed to enter and say something probably stupid. Then I would exit, and enter, and exit, and enter what seemed like a million times very quickly. The second week of performances, the pills really started to affect me. I was feeling pretty unsteady and the jitters were at an all-time high. Someone had ordered Little Caesar’s Pizza backstage, so everyone was feasting away before showtime. The set-up for that theatre is particularly unique/treacherous for the actors. In order to get backstage to make your entrance, you’ve got to go from the downstairs dressing rooms, up a rickety metal spiral staircase, and outside — yes, like outside outside, and go through the door to the backstage area. So it’s nearly showtime, everybody’s doing whatever they do, and I decided to have a slice of pizza. I quickly gobble it up. Actors start up the awful spiral staircase. I decide to wash any potential pizza grease off my hands, so I’m a little behind the pack but the spiral staircase is a one-person-at-a-time kind of thing anyway. I come out of the bathroom and everyone’s already up and outside. I take a step onto the staircase and I suddenly feel like I’m dying. My head is spinning, my stomach is churning and I know the pizza inside me is not long for this world. I run back to the bathroom and evacuate the pizza by way of my mouth. This takes a couple minutes.

The show is about to start. I hear an urgent voice through the door, “ALLISON?! Are you in there?! The curtain is going up! WE’RE WAY PAST PLACES! It’s starting like RIGHT NOW!” I come barreling out of the bathroom, as much as you can barrel after you’ve just puked your guts out, and head for the spiral staircase as a headset-wearing man tugs on my arm. I tiptoe up the stairs, which is actually the only way you can do it in heels because the stairs are made like grates. There are a bunch of holes in them and high heels immediately get stuck. (By the way, if you ever come across the architect who designed that staircase, tell him to go fuck himself from me.) I wobble outside and then through the backstage entrance. The curtain has already gone up, the show has already started, and my poor co-star has already been improvising a one-sided phone conversation for a while now. I run on and try to say my line like a person who hasn’t just puked and isn’t out of breath. I manage to spit the words out and exit as I’m supposed to…sort of. My jitters are out of control, and as I’m exiting the stage I immediately twist my ankle and fall on the floor. Another headset-wearer runs over and drags me to a chair. Someone else runs to get ice for my ankle. Then I realize I have to go on again. I hop on one foot over to the entrance, then enter, walking completely normally, say my line and exit, immediately collapsing again. This happens several more times in the first act. During the break that the woman playing Veta and I get while the doctor scenes are happening, she sits next to me.

VETA. Where the hell were you?

ALLISON. I was in the dressing room…throwing up.

VETA. What’s this ice for?

ALLISON. After I threw up, I twisted my ankle.

VETA. (leaning in and whispering) You’re pregnant, aren’t you?

ALLISON. What? NO! I just…the pizza didn’t agree with me!

VETA. …You’re pregnant.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t pregnant. But she thought I was for the duration of the run. I eventually quit taking the diet pills. I just didn’t see how I could keep it up. It’s no secret that lady actors often resort to things like that, because they think that if they aren’t super thin and gorgeous (as if being super thin is the only way to be gorgeous) they’re not going to get work. And if they do get work, it’s not going to be the work they want — which is to say the elusive romantic lead. The ingenue. The ideal of feminine perfection. The waif who can make a perfect apple pie, and never eat a slice. That’s not me. I don’t think that’ll ever be me. I’m pushing 30, so I really only have like 5 years of that left anyway, so what’s the point?

And, yes, I can go on to blather about how I’ve gotten more rewarding parts because I’m NOT that type, which is totally true. But to me the hilarious part is that I still got those roles. I am at my technical fattest right now. Like, right this very second, I’m the most out of shape I’ve ever been in my entire life. And in the last couple of years, while I’ve been at my least waif-ish, I have gotten the majority of my romantic-y roles. I find that endlessly entertaining. My weight has always fluctuated a shitload.

The elusive Thin Allison. May she RIP. Unless she comes back to life. Skinny Zombie Allison sounds great.)

The elusive Thin Allison. May she RIP. Unless she comes back to life. Skinny Zombie Allison sounds great.)

And yeah, I’m trying to get rid of some of that right now because I don’t feel particularly healthy. And yeah, I’m about to go on a crazy cleanse so I can try to shoehorn myself into a bridesmaid dress next month. And yeah, there’s a role next year that I’d like to be thinner for, but I’m more realistic about these things now. And, I think, most importantly – I don’t measure my ability or appeal as an actor on whether or not I’m the skinniest person in the room. I’m still a good actor. Or at the very least, I’m still the same actor I would be if I weighed 108 pounds. For better or worse.

An actor’s body is part of their tool-kit. (ugh, what a gross sentence) And on-camera acting is its own kettle of fish — that I would rather fry and eat with a vat of tartar sauce — but in general, I try not to hold myself to impossible standards.

Except…when I do. Ya know, nobody’s perfect. Pass the lettuce.

Allison Page is an actor/writer/comedian and newly minted first female Co-Creative Director of Killing My Lobster in its 17 year history. You can find her on twitter @allisonlynnpage or eating pie at home.

Cowan Palace: How To Make Actors Definitely (Maybe) Want To Work With You Again

Let’s be honest, actors can be real flakes sometimes. But Ashley Cowan has some thoughts on how you can encourage them to like you and commit to working with you again. Or at least avoid some of the mistakes Allison Page presented in her last blog.

When I read Allison’s last blog, I let out a whole lot of “mmmmhmmmms” and “that’s right, girl”s. Because apparently, I’m a sassy grandma. Werther’s Original, anyone? Anyway, I found myself feeling pretty worked up by her points because each and every one of them struck so close to home. Guys, we are better than this! Allison knows it, I know it, and you know it.

Last week Allison served up some advice. This week Ashley serves up... salad? Oh, and I guess appreciation.

Last week Allison served up some advice. This week Ashley serves up… salad? Oh, and I guess appreciation.

So to try and balance my frustration and not immediately leap off the Golden Gate Bridge in an act of dramatic expression over some of those poor theatrical habits, I thought, why not make a list of theater practices gone right? Because there’s a reason so many of us are willing to wade through the muck. Sometimes there are some truly great producers/directors/general theater makers who deserve more recognition.

1.) I ENJOY IT WHEN YOU FEED ME: Well, we all know I love food. But I’m obviously not the only one. It goes a long way when someone thinks to bring a little snack to a rehearsal or before a performance. Considering most of us aren’t doing shows for the money, these food items are often enough to say, “hey actor, I appreciate you”. And at the end of the day, feeling appreciated can be everything. Next time you’re organizing a reading or rehearsal, remember that a little bite can go a long way. And for me, it’s often made a world of difference.

Here's a treat I once made my cast. No need to nerd out like I did but I like to think those weird little owls helped make our rehearsal a little more memorable!

Here’s a treat I once made my cast. No need to nerd out like I did but I like to think those weird little owls helped make our rehearsal a little more memorable!

2.) REJECT ME LIKE YOU MEAN IT: I get that we can’t all get a personalized rejection each and every time we audition for something when we don’t make the cut. Thankfully we have froyo for that kind of pain. And perhaps it’s unprofessional of me to encourage it but whatever, this is a fairly intimate community. We’ve got a lot going on here and we all have a lot of feelings. Sometimes, after spending hours preparing, traveling, and giving it all you’ve got at an audition, the rejection can be a real bitch. It’s softened my blow, ever so slightly, by the folks who reached out to genuinely acknowledge me as an individual and thank me for my time rather than simply sending out a mass generic email. I’ve appreciated this rather rare occurrence in the past but more than anything, being kind goes a long way and everyone who walks into your audition room will thank you for it.

3.) RESPECT THE SCHEDULE: It’s just the worst when you’re called to a rehearsal for hours on end and not used. Granted, I’ve worked on knitting several scarves in the process but overall, if you don’t need me, I’d rather be binge watching some reality show at home. But when you get a team who can organize a schedule thoroughly and honestly, with respect to everyone’s time, well, that’s just so great! Your actors are more likely to give you focused work that leaves them feeling excited and productive because they won’t feel like their precious trashy TV time is being wasted.

4.) THROW A CAST PARTY: Nothing promotes company spirit like getting your cast and crew together to enjoy spirits… and each other. For me, the biggest successes in this area were the folks who threw an event at the beginning of the rehearsal process and a celebration to conclude it. People like feeling like they’re a part of something. Ariel sang a whole song about it. So a big cheers to those of you for making events like this happen and giving us a moment to party together!

5.) HELP US FEEL PRETTY: Anyone who says they don’t have a moment of insecurity before a show opens is either a liar or an idiot. Most of us have small budgets and tiny crews to help put on large productions. The producers/directors who have remained calm in front of their actors and reassured them that things are fine have certainly earned my approval. We don’t want to hear you bitch, we want to feel confident our show is in good hands. Voice your appreciation for your actors. Give them constructive feedback and acknowledge their successes. If you can do all that along with keeping steady, confident control of every situation, you’ll continue to make our “I want to work with them” list.

6.) DELEGATE LIKE IT’S YOUR JOB (SPOILER ALERT: IT’S YOUR JOB, HOMIE): We all know great shows can be ruined by poor leadership and management. Have a huge tech heavy show? Well, then yes, you probably need a stage manager. Have a dance scene? Well, then get someone in here who knows how to move besides your actress who’s dabbled in Zumba at the local YMCA. The shows I’ve been a part of who succeeded assigned jobs for the entire process of the production and clearly defined those positions to interested applicants before moving forward. Wow, that’s a good idea. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to ensure that person is capable and up for the responsibility. It’s amazing what having a strong team can do to helping your show surpass its potential.

7.) MAKE IT ABOUT MORE THAN BUSINESS: One of my favorite parts of being involved in a show is getting the privilege to bond with a new, unique group. The directors who have encouraged their casts to check in with one another before getting to work and reward each other with positive feedback at the end of the rehearsal are truly giving their team a great support system. You’re strengthening trust and building friendships beyond the text of the play. People feel invested in not only the work they are creating but each other. It’s awesome and I thank you for making this positive effort a presence in your rehearsal.

 I'd much rather be rehearsing with you than watching this dummy! Most of the time...

I’d much rather be rehearsing with you than watching this dummy! Most of the time…

Just with anything else, your experiences are what you make of them. And if you can promote a good one, you’re doing something right. Thank you to the producers/directors/general theater makers who welcomed me, made me feel appreciated and valued, and established a space for creativity to thrive. I know it wasn’t easy but I’d trade countless evenings with the TV to work with you again.

Everything is Already Something Week 31: How to Make Actors Never Want to Work With You Again

Allison Page has some sage advice for producers, directors, and pretty much everyone else out there making theater. Of course, I may have to write one now called, “Actors: Why You Should Never Be Cast Again.”

ATTENTION: This is a public service announcement. If you do any of the following things, it may inspire actors not to work with your theatre company again in the future. Seriously. Actors may be meat puppets, but the USDA has standards, and so do we.

1) NOT CONTACTING THE ACTORS WHO WEREN’T CAST: Oh, come on. It’s 2014. Take the 5 minutes and email the actors who gave time to your project before the project even started, and tell the miserable bastards that you’re not using them. This coming from someone who usually forgets about whatever the project was until she hears about it again. Recently, that was not the case. There were very few people at the callback and I had the distinct impression that I was seriously being considered for more than one role. Naturally, I waited around to find out about it. *Crickets* *Crickets* and then they announced the cast online without ever telling the actors who weren’t cast about it. NO. DO NOT DO THIS. This isn’t your high school drama department. You aren’t pinning a list up on the wall so Susie Shithead can see if she got the coveted role of Chorus 2. Remember that actors are trying to plan their schedules just like you are – they want to know if they should take something else that comes along or be in your awesome show.

2) NOT CLEANING THE COSTUMES: Ew, stop it. It’s not the job of the actors to clean their costumes. It just isn’t. Especially if you have a costumer. If the costumer says “Um, I don’t clean costumes.” Then you need to take care of that by either A) Being sure that the costumer knows that IS part of their job, if it is or B) Making other arrangements or C) Being up front with the actors and saying that they will have to take care of their own costumes from the beginning. I don’t love this for several reasons (the actors might not know how to properly care for their particular costume and/or the fabrics it’s made of, they might be idiots and forget a costume item at home, etc.) but if no one else is going to be cleaning them, everyone should know that in the beginning, not after weeks of having a filthy costume and asking “WHYYYYY?” to everyone and getting no answer because you don’t feel like addressing it.

3) LETTING THE TECH SIDE GET AWAY WITH MURDER: You can appear to be a great producer, but if your stage manager or lighting or sound tech or costume person is a total douchebag – it’s going to reflect poorly on you. And what’s going to be waaaaayyyyy worse is if you don’t do a damn thing about it. If you hear about someone either being bad at their job or treating other people – the people who are trying to make your damn show come together – like shit, you need to intervene. Lighting tech who passes out in the booth in the middle of the show so the lights don’t come up? HI, SAY SOMETHING.

You're cute and everything, but could you take a sec to get out of bed and bring the lights up? I've been giving my monologue in total darkness and I tripped on the fake guillotine center stage. Thx.

You’re cute and everything, but could you take a sec to get out of bed and bring the lights up? I’ve been giving my monologue in total darkness and I tripped on the fake guillotine center stage. Thx.

Costumer groping the actors? STOP IT. More than anything – just pay attention. And if someone comes to you with a real problem (not a “my M&Ms are all supposed to be blue” problem) – listen and act if necessary. Don’t avoid the problem, it won’t go away. And don’t punish the people who’ve raised the issue in the first place. That’s completely ridiculous. If you show that you don’t care enough to do anything about the issues with your staff, that’s not going to look good to anybody. And actors talk.

4) DISAPPEARING: No cast is an island. Say your show is up and running – good for you! Now say it’s even been extended – WOW, THAT’S SO GOOD! Now say that because it’s been extended, it’s been running for weeks and weeks and weeks and no representative of your company has checked in with the cast, stage manager, or anybody. If we’re out there breaking our butts X amount of times per week, and not making much money to do it, it would be nice if someone checked to see if we’re still alive. Or if we had to tape our costumes back together backstage. Or if there’s something in the show that stopped working.

Okay, so this cast in on an island, but even they weren't alone because the smoke monster was hanging out, too.

Okay, so this cast in on an island, but even they weren’t alone because the smoke monster was hanging out, too.

These things happen all the time and a company’s total absence from their show after opening allows standards to fall rapidly in all kinds of areas. Maybe on Broadway this isn’t such an issue, but when you’re gettin’ $150 for several weeks of performances…well, you know. Stuff can happen. Just check in, that’s all. We’re doing this show at your company, maybe remind us of that by existing occasionally after the second week’s run. Doesn’t have to be every night (and probably shouldn’t) but some feeling that we’re not floating out to sea, abandoned, would be nice. Being able to call you like you’re a hotline isn’t as good as you just showing up once in a while.

5) FIGHTING IN FRONT OF THE CAST: Um, we’re right here. We can hear you. And see you. Because we’re in the room. Take it outside, or wait until after rehearsal. This also applies to aggressively second-guessing the director’s direction. It’s really uncomfortable if the producer/artistic director/whatever comes in, watches a scene, and turns to the director – in full view of everyone – and says “Why are you making them do that? That is stupid. This is all wrong.” over and over again while the director looks like a sad puppy and the producer proceeds to re-block and change every scene while the director watches, helplessly. If you’re choosing a director, hopefully it’s someone you trust. Hopefully it’s someone you actually want to direct your show. If changes need to be made because you don’t think something is working, talk to the director about it before shoe-horning the show they’ve been working on by sauntering in and pointing your finger for three hours only to disappear for two weeks, come back and do the same thing. Embarrassing the actors’ leader in front of them isn’t exactly going to solidify their confidence in him/her/zir is it? Working together to fix issues – YES. Parading your authority around – NO.

Actually, this looks intriguing. Go ahead and fight like this. I'll watch.

Actually, this looks intriguing. Go ahead and fight like this. I’ll watch.

6) SAYING WEIRD STUFF ABOUT ACTORS’ BODIES: “You’re too flat-chested! This bigger-chested person is totally going to upstage you because you can’t fill out your costume the same way! HAHAHA!” – (an actual thing I’ve heard said) NOOOO WE DON’T SAY THIS. Just say you want a different costume. Say that one’s not working. That’s cool, costumes don’t work all the time. Don’t make it weird. You don’t know how many times that person has heard something like that before. Just say things you would say to a fellow human being. Shouldn’t be too hard. The actor didn’t do anything wrong by putting the costume on. Just tell the costumer to get a different one and explain what you want out of it.

7) REEEAAAALLY LONG AUDITIONS: Dude. Just split it up into two days. There are 147 of us in the lobby. That’s too many. We’ve been here for 3 hours and haven’t read anything. You’re only stressing yourself out by constantly feeling rushed and staring out at a sea of bored/expectant faces. Split it up and ensure that you’ll have the time to consider everyone you’re seeing, and that the actors can concentrate on trying to show you what they’ve got, instead of worrying that someone stole their purse in the lobby or feeling like they have no reason to be there. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, yo.

Listen, I know a lot of these sound like “Oh, God, OBVIOUSLY.” – actually, I hope they all sound that way. They shouldn’t be surprising. But, as always, I wouldn’t have to bring it up if it hadn’t happened. A LOT. These are all very real things. I love working in independent theatre. I really do. But because we’re small/mighty instead of big/mighty we have to work a little harder, with a smaller staff to make things happen. This shouldn’t mean that you cut corners on being a human. Again – PAY ATTENTION. I mean, feel free to not take any of these things seriously. What do I care? But just know that actors talk to each other all the time. We know if your company is a shitshow of disorganization and misplaced priorities and though you may think actors are a dime a dozen, there might be one dime you want who doesn’t want to work with you when you want them.

Allison Page is an actor/writer/person in San Francisco. You can follow her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage.

Get To Know Some of the Actors of the Pint-Sized Plays!

Who doesn’t love actors? They’re charming, they’re pretty, and if they’re in Pint-Sized you can see them for free! We took a moment to catch up with a few of them and ask some get-to-know you questions so that everyone heading out to see the Pint-Sized Plays this month would have a jumping off point should they find themselves suddenly next to an actor before, during, or after the show. Enjoy!

What do you love best about theater pub?

Matt Gunnison: The casual, fun atmosphere and an audience that’s there to have a good time.

Sunil Patel: I love that Theater Pub is a casual, free theatre experience that is still very high quality and is produced by very talented people. I love it the most when it makes use of the space in interesting ways, seating actors at tables or having their voices boom down from the balcony above.

Sarah Moser: I love getting to hang out with some of the most talented and most gorgeous human beings in the history of the universe.  And also beer+theater=world peace.

What’s your favorite moment in this year’s Pint-Sized?

Matt Gunnison: Scripted?  Nicole Hammersla: “Awkward silence!”  Unscripted?  Ray Hobbs and Duncan Wold’s dueling baseball caps.

Sunil Patel: I don’t want to spoil it, but there is a line in Endgame II that is one of the greatest things that has ever been said in the English language. I also love all of Nicole Hammersla’s expressions during English for the Romantically Challenged.

Sarah Moser: My favorite rehearsal moment was our first rehearsal for Drinking Alone.  Megan Cohen was kind enough to let us rehearse at her family’s temporary pad in North Beach.  We drank beers, rehearsed in a living room, played with a pet bunny, stood on the porch and talked about Dumbledore, and generally wallowed in our chemistry. My favorite performance moment is watching Megan Briggs’s amazing face in Listen.

What attracts you to a character as an actor?

Matt Gunnison: Dynamism.  Seeing that character change and grow, becoming someone different as a result of their circumstances and choices.  Getting to play those moments of the character stepping onto new ground.

Sarah Moser: I like visceral language that kicks you in the gut.  Also, I like characters who are loners, who aren’t quite coloring inside the lines.

Sunil Patel: I am never attracted to my character as an actor. That seems like it would make for a very awkward time in the bedroom, so I think we should just be friends.

What’s a role you’ve always wanted to play?

Sarah Moser: Oh man.  Right now, I would really, really love to Kayleen in Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph or Cassy in Clementine in the Lower 9 by Dan Dietz.

Matt Gunnison: I was always more interested in trying out different types (the hero, the villain, the comic relief, etc.) and the many different versions of each.  A character descending into madness would be a thrill.

Sunil Patel: I feel a strong connection to Guildenstern in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Or is it Rosencrantz? I can never remember.

Who is your favorite actor?

Matt Gunnison: There are too many good actors to narrow it down, but I’m really fond of Kevin Spacey and Gary Sinise for drama, and John Lithgow and Christopher Lloyd for comedy.

Sarah Moser: My favorite actors are Ben Whishaw and my aunt Barbara.  I also love watching local actor Omoze Idehenre.

Sunil Patel: Any actor who can make me forget that I’m watching an actor.

What show are you doing next, or what Bay Area show do you most look forward to this season?

Matt Gunnison: A staged reading of Roy Conboy’s My Tia Loca’s Life of Crime at SFSU’s Studio Theatre on September 17, the SF Olympians Festival at The Exit in October, and–of course–more Theater Pub!

Sarah Moser: I’m excited to be part of the adventure that is turning Megan Cohen’s one act, A Three Little Dumplings Adventure, into a FULL LENGTH PLAY and life experience.

Sunil Patel: I will be playing a thieving heroin addict in Megan Cohen’s Orion as part of the San Francisco Olympians Festival. I am looking forward to Megan Cohen’s full-length play, How to Love, as I presume it is some of sort of theatrical instruction manual. I just love Megan Cohen. Isn’t she great?

What’s your favorite thing to order at a bar?

Matt Gunnison: A new beer that I wind up liking.  Or a vodka tonic if I feel like I have to look classy.

Sarah Moser: It changes all the time.  But I do love me some Jack Daniels, neat.

Sunil Patel: Rum and Coke, hold the rum.