Theater Around The Bay: Looking Back/Looking Forward On Saturday Write Fever 2015

Megan Cohen, Sam Bertken, Andrew Chung, and Jeunee Simon, our Saturday Write Fever team, bring you a year-end article that lets you play along at home!

Every month, SATURDAY WRITE FEVER takes over the EXIT Cafe for a pop-up theater festival of world premiere monologues written and performed that night. Anyone can sign up to write or to act at our free event which welcomes new faces alongside stalwart regulars, every 2nd Saturday. It’s a sandbox, a workout room, a way to show off to your date, cheaper than seeing “Star Wars,” and above all, it’s actively creative. People come to SWF to make real live homegrown performance, together, with and for each other. So, together, we’re gonna make this blog post!

Fill out this list of words, then plug them into the spaces in the blog post below… just as you would when playing a game that rhymes with Mad Bibs, Bad Libs, or Sad Glibs!!!

Print and play, or to play online instead, follow this link to a site that has some ads and stuff but automates the whole whammy. If you feel like giving us all a gift, post your favorite phrases in the comments below, and have a wonderful holiday.

Now…. LET’S DO THIS!!!

NOUN #1: ______________
ADJECTIVE #1: ______________
NOUN #2: ______________
NOUN #3: ______________
ADJECTIVE #2: ______________
PLURAL NOUN #1: ______________
CELEBRITY: ______________
PLURAL NOUN #2: ______________
FOOD: ______________
VERB #1: ______________
VERB #2: ______________
ADJECTIVE #3: ______________
NOUN #4: ______________
PLURAL NOUN #3: ______________
PLACE: ______________
ADVERB: ______________

December 2015 was our THIRTIETH bout of “Fever.” That’s so many fevers, y’all. That’s so many monologues, at an event where up to 16 pieces are created per night. If I had to guesstimate, I’d say that’s a whole ______[NOUN #1]_____ of monologues.

Our event has grown to have a hosting staff of five: Writer/director Stuart Bousel, actor/writer/mangenue Sam Bertken, actor/hero Andrew Chung, writer/villain Megan Cohen, and actress/goddess Jeunee Simon. To add to the mix of heroes, villains, performers, and artsy-types, the next co-host to join the team should be a ______[ADJECTIVE #1]______ kind of ______[NOUN #2]______.

The EXIT Cafe at 156 Eddy St in San Francisco, CA is our home, a friendly spot with beer, snacks, and a cabaret stage about the size of a ______[NOUN #3]______.

The cafe is part of the fabulous EXIT Theater complex, a longstanding SF arts hub which has several performance spaces hosting some of the best indie theater in the city, including the San Francisco Olympians Festival, the SF Fringe Festival, and performances ranging from ______[ADJECTIVE #2]______ burlesque to stand-up ______[PLURAL NOUN #1]______.

Every month, we have a new theme for the writing prompts. Our 2015 themes included “Where Pies Go When They Die,” “Some Romantic S**t,” “Two Good Things,” and “Spies Have Feelings Too.” Maybe in 2016 we’ll do a night themed around ______[CELEBRITY]______, ______[PLURAL NOUN #2]______, or ______[FOOD]______.

SWF is co-produced by the EXIT and SF Theater Pub. On January 9th, we’re doing our first ever official crossover with another branch of Theater Pub! To tie-in with Theater Pub’s moody-songster-inspired festival “The Morrisey Plays” (playing at Pianofight in January) our first 2016 Fever theme is “F**K MORRISEY!,” a night of monologues based on lyrics copped from the arch nemesis of Moz himself: the never-to-be-trifled with Violent Femmes! The Violent Femmes are the best because their music was used on the soundtrack of “My So-Called Life.” I love that show. Sometimes I think I’m an Angela, but really I’m more of a Rayanne, you can tell by the way I ______[VERB #1]______.

Because SWF is free and monthly, there are plenty of chances to come catch the fever with us next year! It’s easier than learning to ______[VERB #2]______ and just as ______[ADJECTIVE #3]______ as a ______[NOUN #4]______. Come on by, let’s make some art, some memories, and some ______[PLURAL NOUN #2]______. The only reason to miss us in 2016 is if you’re dead or trapped in ______[PLACE]______.

Yours ______[ADVERB]______,
Megan Cohen and the Saturday Write Fever All-Stars

Theater Around The Bay: Don’t Fall Asleep Opens TONIGHT!

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.

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?

Featuring Andrew Chung, Danielle Ishihara, Freddy Merlos, and Jeunée Simon.

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!

Theater Around The Bay: A WAKE opens TONIGHT!

awake

Fuck death. When it takes those we love, why grieve and let it win? Instead, we celebrate! Our good friend Angie has passed. Let us honor her with a party. Join us for an evening of drinking as we remember our fallen family.

A Wake is an immersive piece featuring a series of events occurring throughout the PianoFight! bar. We encourage you to move as if you’re just out to drink, and experience the night unfold around you.

Written by Rory Strahan-Mauk in collaboration with the actors. Starring Ed Berkeley, Andrew Chung, Danielle Doyle, Ira Jones, Sophia LaPaglia, Juliana Lustenader, Cara McKelvey Phillips, Michelle Navarrete, and Samantha Schmitt.

The show plays four performances at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street)

Monday, June 22 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, June 23 @ 8:00pm
Monday, June 29 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, June 30 @ 8:00pm

As always, admission is FREE, with a $5 donation suggested at the door. No reservations required, but we recommend getting there early to get a good seat and remember to show your appreciation to our hosts at the bar!

Come early to PIANOFIGHT to try out their great new dinner menu!

See you at the pub!

Theater Around The Bay: We Open Tonight!

Opening Tonight: On the Spot, a night of 10 minute plays written in 24 hours! Six playwrights will be selected on March 5th, and put “on the spot” the morning of March 13th to write a 10 minute play that must include a line of dialogue, prop, and set piece all provided by Theater Pub. Their scripts are due the morning of March 14th. Six teams of actors and a director will rehearse and stage these brand new works at PIANOFIGHT the last two Mondays and Tuesdays of March.

Our six playwrights (five, plus one team of two!) for the evening are Jake Arky, Gabriel Bellman & Sara Judge, Rachel Bublitz, Barry Eitel, Seanan Palmero, and Madeline Puccioni!

Our six directors are Mike Fatum, Neil Higgins, Christine Keating, Charles Lewis III, Rem Myers, and Sam Tillis!

Our fabulous acting company is Xanadu Bruggers, Andrew Chung, AJ Davenport, Jan Gilbert, Annabelle King, Michelle Navarrete, Annette Roman, Carole Swann, Jess Thomas, Meg Trowbridge, Steven Widow!

The show plays four performances at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street):

Monday, March 23 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, March 24 @ 8:00pm
Monday, March 30 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, March 31 @ 8:00pm

As always, admission is FREE, with a $5 donation suggested at the door. No reservations required, but we suggest getting there early to get a good seat and remember to show your appreciation to our hosts at the bar!

Come early to PIANOFIGHT to try out their great new dinner menu!

See you at the Pub!

Theater Around The Bay: Writers, Directors and Casts Are In For On The Spot!

Coming to Theater Pub this March: On the Spot, a night of 10 minute plays written in 24 hours! Six playwrights will be selected on March 5th, and put “on the spot” the morning of March 13th to write a 10 minute play that must include a line of dialogue, prop, and set piece all provided by Theater Pub. Their scripts are due the morning of March 14th. Six teams of actors and a director will rehearse and stage these brand new works at PIANOFIGHT the last two Mondays and Tuesdays of March.

Our six playwrights (five, plus one team of two!) for the evening are Jake Arky, Gabriel Bellman & Sara Judge, Rachel Bublitz, Barry Eitel, Seanan Palmero, and Madeline Puccioni!

Our six directors are Mike Fatum, Neil Higgins, Christine Keating, Charles Lewis III, Rem Myers, and Sam Tillis!

Our fabulous acting company is Xanadu Bruggers, Andrew Chung, Steven Danz, AJ Davenport, Jan Gilbert, Annabelle King, Michelle Navarrete, Annette Roman, Carole Swann, Jess Thomas, Meg Trowbridge!

The show plays four performances at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street):

Monday, March 23 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, March 24 @ 8:00pm
Monday, March 30 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, March 31 @ 8:00pm

As always, admission is FREE, with a $5 donation suggested at the door. No reservations required, but we suggest getting there early to get a good seat and remember to show your appreciation to our hosts at the bar!

Come early to PIANOFIGHT to try out their great new dinner menu!

See you at the Pub!

Theater Around The Bay: So Much Going On At Theater Pub!

TONIGHT!

Final performance of H/D: A Symphonic Romance In Space!

Tonight, Theater Pub invites you to emerge from stasis to travel through the vast expanse, seeking music, violence, and romance in the outer limits of the cosmos! This Theater Pub transmission explores instinct, evolution, and technology through a reading of original monologues and adapted text from 2001: A Space Odyssey, set to a live soundtrack.

This transmission brought to you through the mind of Tonya Narvaez and cinematic musical stylings of Storm Door. Featuring Stuart Bousel, Xanadu Bruggers, Andrew Chung, Neil Higgings, Dan Kurtz, and Meg Trowbridge.

Final Show TONIGHT, Monday, February 23, at 8 PM at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street)

February Theater Pub

As always, admission is FREE, with a $5 donation suggested at the door. No reservations required, but we suggest getting there early to get a good seat and remember to show your appreciation to our hosts at the bar!

And don’t forget- you can even get dinner at PIANOFIGHT!

AND SPEAKING OF PIANOFIGHT…

Theater Pub Returns To Duke It Out In PianoFight’s ShortLived Competition!

Big news! PianoFight’s audience-judged short play competition, ShortLived, returns to San Francisco next month and Theater Pub will fighting for the chance at the glory!

Featuring five season rounds, Theater Pub will be competing in round two with Ashley Cowan‘s play “This Is Why We Broke Up”, which will be directed by Charles Lewis III and performed by Andrew Chung, Caitlin Evenson, Dylan Pembleton, and Kitty Torres. The romcom explores one couple’s rocky relationship in the present and past through their drunk decisions on a quest for love. It will be performed Thursday, March 12th at 8pm, Friday, March 13th at 8pm, and Saturday, March 14th at 5pm and 8pm against five other short plays.

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The winner will move on to the Championship Round and the second place finisher will return to compete in the Wild Card Round (for a second chance at a place in the final round). And the stakes are high! Not only are we fighting for bragging rights but the winning play receives $5,000! That could buy a ton of booze.

So we need you! Yes, you. If you love Theater Pub as much as we love you, you’ll come support this awesome and fun competition and vote our play forward! The power’s in your hands.

AND DON’T FORGET…

We’re still looking for folks to join us for…

ON THE SPOT
A Night of Brand New Works by Emerging Playwrights!

Seven playwrights are put “on the spot” and given 24 hours to write a new ten minute play. They are assigned two-four actors, a director, and given a line of dialogue, a prop, and one set piece they must incorporate into their script. TheaterPub will produce these plays at PianoFight’s incredible new venue on March 23, 24, 30 & 31.

Are you a playwright looking to challenge yourself? Are you a director who is quick on your feet and full of ideas? Are you an actor who likes performing in bars? Then this show was MADE for you!

If you’re interested, please email Artistic Director Meg Trowbridge (thesingingwriter@gmail.com) with the following information by March 1st:

Name
Contact info
Resume/Headshot
Desired roles (playwriting, directing, or acting- or combination)

Confirmation you are available on the following days:
Rehearsals: March 14, 15, 21, 22 (12pm-6pm),
Performances: March 23, 24, 30 & 31 (6:30pm-10:00pm)

We’d love to see some new faces on stage or on the page, so if you have a friend you know who is looking to get involved with us, please forward them this post!

See you at the Pub!

Announcing: H/D: A Symphonic Romance In Space!

February Theater Pub This February, Theater Pub invites you to emerge from stasis to travel through the vast expanse, seeking music, violence, and romance in the outer limits of the cosmos in H/D: A Symphonic Romance in Space. This Theater Pub transmission explores instinct, evolution, and technology through a reading of original monologues and adapted text from 2001: A Space Odyssey, set to a live soundtrack. Actors will trade roles throughout the night and audience members can throw their name in a space helmet from which we’ll draw a limited number of names to fill out the cast, making every performance unique.

This transmission brought to you by San Francisco Theater Pub, through the mind of Tonya Narvaez and cinematic musical stylings of Storm Door. Storm Door is, at its core, a band formed out of the mutual fandom between Matt Herman and May Oskan. They describe their music as “Cinematic soundscapes at the altar of analog toneworship. Melodic songspells whose ethereal execution recount the vivid textures of your dearest spacedreams. The optimist’s soundtrack to a dystopian future.” Featuring Meg Trowbridge, Xanadu Bruggers, Andrew Chung, Neil Higgins, Stuart Bousel, and Dan Kurtz.

The show plays three performances:

Monday, February 16, at 8 PM at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street)
Saturday, February 21, at 2 PM at THE HALL (1028 Market Street)
Monday, February 23, at 8 PM at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street)

As always, admission is FREE, with a $5 donation suggested at the door. No reservations required, but we suggest getting there early to get a good seat and remember to show your appreciation to our hosts at the bar!

Don’t forget – you can get brunch at THE HALL (including bottomless mimosas) and dinner at PIANOFIGHT!

See you at the Pub!

Theater Around The Bay: Happy Boxing Day!

Happy Holidays Friends and Fans!

We hope you’ve been having an excellent holiday season!

Boxing Day seemed like the perfect time to announce some more exciting news about this upcoming year, which includes the return of Theater Pub’s producing side! Maybe it’s because Founding Artistic Director Stuart Bousel is such an unapologetic anglophile, or maybe it’s because we hope this news will knock you out- with happiness!

A new year should always bring changes and we’re happy to announce that James Grady has been formally made Theater Pub’s official Music Director. James is originally from Scottsdale, AZ, but has called San Francisco home since 2008, and has firmly established himself in the local music and theater scenes. His first music directing gig was the 2011 Theater Pub holiday spectacular, a concert version of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. The following year he music directed and sang the role of Roger in Theater Pub’s RENT. Most he was the music director of Kristin Hersh’s RAT GIRL, adapted for the stage by Stuart Bousel. Other credits include playing guitar in the band of Custom Made Theatre’s production of NEXT TO NORMAL, performing in the house band for several Killing My Lobster shows, and playing the role of Roger in RENT at Altarena Playhouse.

Another great change: our longest running Theater Pub columnist, Marissa Skudlarek, not only took on running our Twitter account this last year, but has agreed to wear the crown of Pint Sized Tzarina! This means she’ll be running the long anticipated PINT SIZED V, so if you’re a writer, director, or actor, keep your eyes peeled for chances to get involved with this year’s festival! Marissa is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. She is a frequent collaborator of Theater Pub, which produced her short plays DRINKING FOR TWO and BEER THEORY in the 2010 and 2012 PINT-SIZED PLAY Festivals, respectively. Theater Pub has also afforded her opportunities to write heroic couplets in praise of props masters (ODES OF MARCH), translate and produce a Jean Cocteau play (ORPHEE), do silly things while dressed in a fake beard and a toga (CONGRESSWOMEN) or reindeer antlers and smudged mascara (CODE RED) — and, of course, to write her biweekly column “Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life.” Since moving to the Bay Area in 2008, Marissa has also been heavily involved with the San Francisco Olympians Festival, which commissioned her full-length drama PLEIADES in 2011 (just produced this past year) and her first screenplay, APHRODITE, OR THE LOVE GODDESS, in 2012. Marissa’s other full-length plays include DEUS EX MACHINA (Young Playwrights Festival National Competition winner, 2006), MARGINALIA, and THE ROSE OF YOUTH (Marilyn Swartz Seven Award, 2008). Her shorter plays have been produced by Un-Scripted Theatre and the San Francisco One-Minute Play Festival; and she has worked in a literary/dramaturgical capacity with Cutting Ball Theater, the Bay One-Acts Festival, and Portland Center Stage. Marissa grew up outside of Portland, Oregon, and double-majored in Drama and French at Vassar College.

Megan Cohen will continue to run Saturday Write Fever along-side Stuart Bousel, and we are pleased to say we have formally taken on three co-hosts to assist with keeping one of San Francisco’s most beloved monthly theater events fun and friendly! Sam Bertken, Andrew Chung, and Jeunee Simon have all been a tremendous part of Saturday Write Fever for the last year, helping out and subbing, often times carrying an evening on their own. We couldn’t be more pleased to welcome them to the “official” Theater Pub family and look forward to another year of getting the audience writing and acting on the stage of the EXIT Cafe!

And now for our biggest announcement!

A new chapter for Theater Pub means an opportunity to restructure and change the way we do things in order to plan for a longer, better, more sustainable future. In practical terms, this has meant the hiring of two new Artistic Directors, each of whom will be helping four months of the next calendar year, working to continue Theater Pub’s tradition of generating smart, exciting, daring work while upholding our impeccable standards of inclusivity, opportunity, and fun. We are excited beyond expressing to announce that Tonya Narvaez and Meghan Trowbridge have agreed to take on these roles and we can’t wait to see what they’ll bring to the Pub!

Tonya Narvaez is a writer and actor originally from the Midwest and southern California, where she studied Theatre Arts at California State University, Long Beach. She is currently the Production Manager for Loud and Unladylike and writing a piece in the San Francisco Olympians Festival VI: Wine Dark Sea. She’s worked with a number of Bay Area theater companies, including: Battle Stache Studios, Awesome Theatre Company, Thunderbird Theatre Company, No Nude Men Productions, Custom Made Theatre Company, Sleepwalkers Theatre, The Mess, and Guywriters.

Meghan Trowbridge is a playwright and singer living in San Francisco, CA. She writes for SF’s premier sketch company Killing My Lobster, Berkeley’s playwright incubator Playground-SF, the science and culture webzine Mathom House, and Good Morning, Good Morning: a collaboration of misfits. Her plays have been produced by the SF Olympians Festival, FoolsFURY, and Inkblot Ensemble under her pen name Meghan Kathleen O’Connor. She is a proud member of the comedy improv team Chinese Ballroom, performing regularly around the Bay Area and beyond (like Sacramento). She has worked with TheaterPub since it’s inaugural season, and lubs this company very much.

To find out more about our current (and past) staff, you can always check out the bios (and sexy head shots) on our San Francisco Theater Pub Team page.

Happy Holidays and we hope you will join us in the new year for the three performance run of SATYR NIGHT FEVER, a bawdy comedy by Annette Roman and Bryant Turnage, directed by Greg Young and featuring Tony Cirimele, Annabelle King, Genevieve Perdue, and Karl Schackne! The show plays Saturday, January 17, at 2 PM at THE HALL (1028 Market Street), Monday, January 19, at 8 PM at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street), and Monday, January 26, at 8 PM at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street). As always, admission is FREE, with a $5 donation suggested at the door.

See you at The Pub!

The Stuart Excellence In Bay Area Theater Awards for 2013

Stuart Bousel gives us his Best of 2013 list. 

Three years ago I decided that I wanted to start my own Bay Area Theater Awards, because my opinions are just as legitimate as anyone else’s, the awards I give out are as valuable as any other critical awards, (recipients of the SEBATA, or the Stuey, if you prefer, get nothing but my admiration and some free publicity), and also because there’s a fairly good chance that I’ve seen a lot of theater the usual award givers haven’t seen. The best thing about the Bay Area theater scene is that there is a huge diversity in the offerings, and so much on the table to begin with. No one person can see it all, and therefore it’s important to share with one another the highlights of our time in the audience seat, if only to create a greater awareness of what and who is out there making stuff.

Also, there are some people who think I don’t like anything, and I feel a need to not only prove them wrong, but to do so by expressing how much of the local color I do love and admire, as opposed to just pointing out that the reason they think I don’t like anything is because I generally don’t like *their* work (oh… I guess I did just point that out, didn’t I?). Normally I post these “awards” on my Facebook page, but this year I decided to bring them to the blog because the mission statement of the SEBATA is pretty in-line with the mission statement of Theater Pub, and having come to the close of an amazing year of growth for the blog, it now has a much farther reach than my Facebook page could ever hope to have. Congratulations SF Theater Pub Blog- you just won a Stuey.

Anyway, because I am a product of the generation that grew up with the MTV Movie Awards- and, because I’m the only person on the voting committee and thus can do what I like- I have decided that my categories are purely arbitrary and can be stretched to allow me to write about anyone I feel like. The two limits are 1) I can’t give myself an award (though I can have been involved in the show on a limited level) and 2) I won’t go over thirteen (though there may be ties for some awards). Because seriously, how (more) self indulgent would this be without either of those rules? Oh, 3) I won’t give out awards for how bad something was. I’m here to be positive. And chances are those people were punished enough.

To all my friends and frenemies in the Bay Area Theater Scene… it’s been a great year. Let’s you and me do it again sometime. Well… most of you.

And now, presenting the Fourth Annual Stuey Awards…

BEST THEATER FESTIVAL
“Pint Sized IV” (San Francisco Theater Pub)
Pint Sized Plays gets better each year, and it’s honestly one of two things I actually miss about working at the Cafe Royale (the other is the uniqueness of doing Shakespeare there, which for some reason works in a completely magical way I wish it worked more often on traditional stages). This year the festival was put together by Neil Higgins, who did an amazing job, and I think we had some of the best material yet. The evening as a whole felt incredibly cohesive, with a theme of forgiveness and letting go, archly reflective of our decision to leave the Cafe Royale, and I think incredibly relevant to a lot of our audience. We knew Pint Sized could be very funny, and very socially pointed, but I’m not sure we had ever conceived of it as moving and this year it was, thanks in no small part to our writers (Megan Cohen, Peter Hsieh, Sang S. Kim, Carl Lucania, Daniel Ng, Kirk Shimano and Christian Simonsen), directors (Jonathan Carpenter, Colin Johnson, Tracy Held Potter, Neil Higgins, Charles Lewis III, Meghan O’Connor, Adam L. Sussman) and actors (Annika Bergman, Jessica Chisum, Andrew Chung, AJ Davenport, Eli Diamond, Caitlin Evenson, Lara Gold, Matt Gunnison, Melissa Keith, Charles Lewis III, Brian Quakenbush, Rob Ready, Casey Robbins, Paul Rodrigues, Jessica Rudholm). The evening would start off with a magical performance by the Blue Diamond Bellydancers, whose combination of skill and spectacle got our audiences excited for what was to come. As we moved through the pieces, each by turns funny and poignant, each in some way or another about finding something, losing it, letting it go, and then coming back stronger, you could feel the audience grow warmer and closer each night. By the time Rob Ready gave the closing monologue, fixing each audience member in turn with a smile, you could feel everyone really listening and you could hear a pin drop in the room, and that’s saying something for the noisy by nature Cafe Royale. I think a lot of love went into the festival this year, and not just because it might be the last, and the product of that love was real magic and like the best theater- you had to be there. And if you weren’t, you really missed out.

BEST SHOW
“The Motherf**ker With The Hat” (San Francisco Playhouse)
I saw a lot of decent, solid, well done theater this year but I had a hard time connecting to a lot of it, which was rarely a flaw with the show and probably had more to do with where I was/am as a person (lots of change this year). Then again, something about really good theater is that it can get you out of your own head and into some other world, for a while. Towards the end of the year, I saw three shows I really really liked: “Crumble, or Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake” at Bigger Than A Bread Box Theater Company, “Peter/Wendy” at Custom Made Theater Company, and “First” at Stage Werx, produced by Altair Productions/The Aluminous Collective and Playground. Still, San Francisco Playhouse’s production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s “The Motherf**ker With The Hat”, directed by Bill English, was probably my favorite show of the year. Who knows why it has an edge on the others? Maybe because as someone who spent most of their childhood weekends in New York it seemed oddly familiar, or maybe it was the deft handling by the universally excellent cast (Carl Lumbly, Gabriel Marin, Rudy Guerrero, Margo Hall, Isabelle Ortega) of the complex relationships and dialogue that Guirgis does so well, or maybe it was just refreshing to see such a simple, honest play in what, for me, was a year characterized by a lot of stylistically interesting but emotionally cold theater. There is something very passionate, scathing, bombastic and yet also humble and forgiving about Guirgis’ work that I think makes him such an important voice in modern American drama and English’s production brought all that out with an easy grace. The show really worked, and got me out of my head, and when I went back to my life I felt much better for the journey. What more can you ask of a theater experience?

BEST READING
“Paris/Hector” (San Francisco Olympians Festival)
I attend a lot of readings every year, and run a reading festival myself, so I’ve come to greatly value a really well done reading. This year, the award goes to director Katja Rivera and writers Kirk Shimano and Bridgette Dutta Portman, whose pair of one acts about the pair of Trojan princes Paris and Hector made for one of the best nights of this past year’s San Francisco Olympians Festival. Part of what I loved about it was that in one evening we saw the amazing variety the festival can offer: Kirk’s play was a comedy with a poignant moment or two, while Bridgette’s was a faux-classical drama- written in verse no less. Though the writers are the center of attention at the festival, credit really has to be given to Katja Rivera, who as the director of both pieces, made many simple but effective choices to highlight the best elements of both works and utilize the talents of her excellent cast: Yael Aranoff, Molly Benson, Jeremy Cole, Mackenszie Drae, Allison Fenner, Dana Goldberg, John Lennon Harrison, Michelle Talgarow, Alaric Toy. With the combined excellent story-telling of the performers (including beautiful and surprising singing from Yael, Molly and Dana), the thoughtfulness of the scripts, and the cohesiveness of the whole, this night of the festival stood out best in what was a consistently strong year at the Olympians.

BEST SHORT PLAY
“My Year” by Megan Cohen (Bay One Acts Festival)
Megan Cohen’s “My Year” is the kind of thing I wish more short plays would be: dynamic, personal, and complete. In a sea of short plays that are really fragments, or meet-cute plays, it’s always lovely to see something with a beginning, a middle, and end, and full-formed characters having actual interactions and not just feeling like Girl A and Guy B, thrown together by the whimsy of the playwright to make a point (though of course, the right playwright can pull that off- which is why so many people try to ape it). A friend of mine described “My Year” as “A fun little 90s indie film on stage” and my reaction when watching it was “Oh, Dear God, convince Meg to let me write a companion piece to this!” because let’s face it: at least a third of what I write is a 90s film on stage. My own vanity aside, what I loved about this play (directed by Siobhan Doherty, starring Emma Rose Shelton, Theresa Miller, Nkechi Live, Allene Hebert, Jaime Lee Currier, and Luna Malbroux) was that it felt constantly on the move, while still being mostly composed of intimate moments between a group of women at a birthday party. Like a lot of the theater that I really loved this year, it also just struck a personal chord, watching this young woman (Emma Rose Shelton) trying to enjoy the party her friends have thrown for her (though she doesn’t like surprise parties) despite there being no food and a random stranger (Theresa Miller) who worms her way in only to turn out to be the troublemaker she’s originally pegged for. Megan’s writing had its usual combination of smart and sentimental, but whereas a lot of her other work heads into absurdity and/or extreme quirkiness (not that this is bad), “My Year” stayed very grounded and found its meaning in that effort to stay grounded, making what might be a quiet little play in anyone else’s oeuvre, a nice change of pace in Cohen’s. The final moment, where the characters howl at the moon because what else are you going to do after a shitty birthday, felt like a communal sigh even the audience was in on, probably because we could all relate to Shelton’s character, and while having always loved and admired Meg’s work, this is probably the first time I related to it so wholeheartedly.

The Peter O’Toole Award For General Awesomeness
Linda Huang (Stage Manager, Tech, Box Office, Everything)
You know how the Oscars and Tonys give out Lifetime Achievement Awards for people whose contribution is so massive that it would kind of be criminal to pick one work or contribution so instead they just get an award for basically being themselves? You know, like how Peter O’Toole got that award because at some point somebody realized that he was pervasively brilliant and always in fashion and therefore easily forgotten because things like “Oh, well, he’ll win next year” often times factors in to who we recognize, meaning things like reliability and consistency do not? Well, for the first time ever in the history of the SEBATAs, I’m creating The Peter O’Toole Award for General Awesomeness and giving it to Linda Huang, without whom, in all seriousness, I believe that small theater in San Francisco would probably grind to a halt. Earlier this year, I got recognized by the Weekly as a “Ringmaster” of the theater scene, but frankly I (and people like me) could not do what we do without having Linda (and people like her) constantly coming to our aid despite being paid a fraction of what they’re worth and half the time being forgotten because what they do isn’t in the immediate eye of the audience. Linda is a total gem of the theater scene. She wears many hats, though she’s probably best known for running light boards, and one of my favorite things when attending the theater is running into her, usually working in some capacity I previously was unaware she was qualified to do (note: Linda is qualified to do everything). What I love best about Linda (aside from her cutting sense of humor and tell-it-like-it-is demeanor) is her incredible generosity: she does so much for local theater and rarely gets paid, and even when she does get paid she often says, “Pay me last.” A true team player, and one we don’t thank enough, especially as she’s the only person who seems to know how to get the air conditioning in the Exit Theatre to work.

BEST BREAK THROUGH
Atticus Rex, Open Mic Night In Support of the Lemonade Fund (SF Theater Pub/Theater Bay Area Individual Services Committee)
I never expected to include a note about someone who performed at an open mic/variety show, but I wanted to shout out to Atticus Rex, a young performer who literally made his performance debut at the San Francisco Theater Pub/ISC fundraiser for the Lemonade Fund this year. A last minute replacement, Atticus and a friend performed some original hip-hop for our audience of mostly performance professionals and their friends, and despite the formidable crowd and the first time nerves, he basically killed it. Even when he made a mistake it worked: he’d call himself out, apologize, and start again, somehow without ever missing a beat. His lyrics are very tight and poetic, and the contrast between the power in his words and his humbleness at approaching and leaving the stage works so well you’d almost think it was an act- except he later confessed he’d never performed live before, and it couldn’t have been more sincere. With genuine hope he never loses his sincerity, while also continuing to grow his confidence and experience, I wanted to take a moment to say congratulations once again, and thank you for reminding us all what it looks like to really take a risk onstage.

BEST CHEMISTRY
Genie Cartier and Audrey Spinazola (Genie and Audrey’s Dream Show, SF Fringe Festival)
What’s potentially cuter than “Clyde the Cyclops?” Very little, but these two ladies and their breathless, funny, and surreal little clown show come dangerously close to giving Clyde a run for his money, and it’s the only show I saw at the Fringe this year that I wished my boyfriend had also seen. Bravely straddling the bridge between performance artists and acrobats, this collage of monologues, poems, jokes, mime, clowning, puppetry, stunts, music, and children’s games, is like watching two hyper-articulate kids on pixie sticks go nuts in a club house, but only if those kids had an incredible sense of timing and arch senses of humor (not to mention very flexible bodies). I’ve never been a huge fan of circus stuff (I like it as an accent, sometimes, but as entertainment on its own it doesn’t tend to hold my interest long), but I think I’d be a fan of anything that had these two women in it. Their ability to play off each other is the key to making their show work, and when you watch it you have that sense of being let into the private make-believe world of people who have found kindred spirits in one another. It’s an utterly magic combination and from what I know of other people who saw it, it basically charmed the pants off everyone. Or at least, everyone who has a soul.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR
Ben Calabrese (Apartment in “Crumble, or Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake”)
I saw a lot of great performances by men this year (Sam Bertken in “Peter/Wendy”, Tim Green and Gregory Knotts in “First”, Paul Rodrigues “Pint Sized Plays IV”, Will Hand “Dark Play”, Casey Robbins “Oh Best Beloved!”), but this one really took my breath away (though since Sam Bertken actually got me to sincerely clap for fairies in Peter/Wendy, he gets a second shout out). Ben’s role, which is to literally embody the voice of a neglected apartment, is the kind of role that could either be the best thing about the show, or the worst. Luckily for Bigger Than A Breadbox’s production of “Crumble, or Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake (written by Sheila Callaghan), Ben rocked it. Bouncing around the stage, dive bombing the furniture, all the while spouting, eloquently, Callaghan’s beautiful and complex monologues, Ben was so utterly watchable it was impossible not to buy the conceit of the role, and so moments when he has an orgasm from having the radiator turned on, or turns his fingers into loose electrical wires, don’t seem ridiculous, but made immediate and total sense. It’s usually not a compliment to tell an actor they did a tremendous job being an inanimate object, but what Ben did so well was illustrate that a home, while not “alive”, does indeed have a life to it. And if that life occasionally fixes the audience with Ben’s particular brand of “scary actor stare” why… all the better.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS
Brandice Marie Thompson (Georgia Potts in “First”)
Oh, this was a tough one. As usual, the actresses of the Bay Area are kicking ass and taking names no matter what their role, and my decision to pick Brandice above the rest is because I think she best exemplified that thing which so many actresses have to do, which is take a relatively underwritten role in a play about men and turn it into a rich, believable character who somehow manages to steal the show. Evelyn Jean Pine, who wrote “First”, is a fantastic writer and she writes women and men equitably well, and due credit must go to her for the creation and inclusion of this character in a story mostly about male egos, but in a lesser capable actresses hands, this role could have been annoying, or forgettable, or purely comical, and Brandice avoided all of these traps while making the character utterly charming at the same time. The truth is, her arc became much more interesting to me than that of the main character, and I think a strong argument could be made that “First” was just as much about Georgia as it was about Bill Gates. Director Michael French no doubt had a hand in this too, but in the end it’s a performer who makes or breaks a role and Brandice’s ability to combine mousy with spunky with unexpected and yet thoroughly authentic character turns was deeply satisfying to watch. Georgia kicked ass and took names, because Brandice does. Runners up: Melissa Carter (“Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake”, Bigger Than A Breadbox), Allison Jean White (“Abigail’s Party”, SF Playhouse), Sam Jackson (“Oh Best Beloved!”, SF Fringe Festival), Courtney Merril (“Into the Woods”, Ray of Light), Elissa Beth Stebbins (“Peter/Wendy”, Custom Made Theatre Company).

BEST FUSION THEATER PIECE
“Nightingale” (Davis Shakespeare Ensemble/SF Fringe Festival)
This little gem at this year’s fringe festival was adapted from the myth of Philomel by Gia Battista, with music by Richard Chowenhill, directed by Rob Sals (with Battista), and staring Gabby Battista, April Fritz and Tracy Hazas as three remarkably similar looking women who each take a turn playing the heroine of a bizarre fairy tale (all the other characters in the story are played by them as well). Dance, pantomime, narration, song and traditional theater techniques all came together in a way that was astonishingly clean and charming in its simplicity. The black and white aesthetic used to unify the look of the show and performers gave the whole thing a quality both modern and timeless, and in its gentle, dreamy tone the sharp elements of social commentary and satire often seemed more brutal and impactful. Of everything I saw at the Fringe this past year, which included a number of excellent works, this piece has stayed with me the longest.

BEST SOLO SHOW
“Steve Seabrook: Better Than You” by Kurt Bodden (The Marsh)
I saw a lot more solo performance than usual this year (including works by Annette Roman, Laura Austin Wiley, Alexa Fitzpatrick, Jenny Newbry Waters, Rene Pena), and realizing how good it can be is, in and of itself, kind of a miracle because I used to say things like, “Theater begins with two people” and “If Aeschylus had wanted to write sermons he wouldn’t have added Electra”. Kurt’s show was not created this past year, it has a long history, but I only saw it in its most recent Marsh incarnation and I’m hoping he’s been able to find ways to keep it going (his Facebook feeds indicate this is so). A satire of motivational speakers and the cult of self-improvement, “Steve Seabrook” manages to be so much more by combining satirical fiction with moments of the kind of personal monologue (still fiction) that permeates solo shows. The result is a sense of development, of a story (Steve’s) unfolding in real time while another story, (Steve’s Seminar) plays itself out over the course of a weekend. Playing off the convention of a backstage comedy (we see the seminar, then we see Steve when he’s not “on”), Kurt’s brilliance as a performer is evident in the seamless transition from one to the other, again and again, carrying a throughline that shows us not only why Steve buys into his mantras, but why any of us buy into anything we’ve come up with (or adopted from someone else) to keep us moving through life’s ups and downs. At once very funny and cutting, while also moving and real (and yes, fuck it, kind of inspirational), Kurt’s show also gets a nod for its fantastic takeaway schwag: a keychain light with Steve’s name on it, with which every audience member is encouraged to shine their light in a dark world.

BEST DIRECTOR
Rebecca Longworth and Joan Howard, “Oh Best Beloved” (SF Fringe Festival)
“Oh Best Beloved” got a lot of attention and deservedly so- well acted, well designed, it was a genuinely fun piece of theater. Perhaps most deserving of being singled out in the project, however, are director Rebecca Longworth and partner Joan Howard, who share credit for conceptualizing the show (in which Joan also played a part and had, in my opinion, the single best moment in the show), and who lead the rest of the company in adapting the material from Ruyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories”. Anyone who saw the show could easily see that it had about a million moving parts, and Longworth and Howard’s ability to keep all those plates spinning on a small budget and under the strict conditions of the San Francisco Fringe Festival (they literally put up and pulled down a full set with each performance) is worthy of award in and of itself, but the level of commitment and craft they were able to pull from their design team and performers was equally as impressive. Everything about the show, even the parts that didn’t work as well as others, felt thought through and done with panache, making this ambitious and unique experience a delightful jewel in the SF Fringe Festival’s crown.

BEST DESIGNER
Bill English, “Abigail’s Party” (SF Playhouse)
Scenery in general doesn’t do much for me. I enjoy good scenery, but the best scenery should kind of vanish into the background, in my opinion, and be something you barely pay attention to. As a result, I’m often just as happy with a blank stage, or really well thought out minimal set, as I am with a full one, so long as the play I’m watching is good. That said, every now and then I will see a set I just adore, and this year it was Bill English’s set for SF Playhouse’s “Abigail’s Party”, by Mike Leigh, directed by Amy Glazer. Basically a living room/dining room/kitchenet combo, this fully realized “home” was very well crafted as a place, but more importantly, it really worked as a place where people lived. The 70s style was at once present without being overwhelming, evoking the time period without looking like it was a homage to the time period, or a museum dedicated to 70s kitch. I mean, it honestly reminded me of numerous homes I’d played in as a child (I was born in 1978) and all the wallpaper looked like wallpaper in my parents’ home before my mother completely re-did the house in 1990 because “we can admit this is ugly… now”. The amazing thing about English’s set is that it didn’t seem ugly, in spite of being made up entirely of patterns and colors we now find appalling. He made it all work together, the way people once did, and the final result was simultaneously comfortable and dazzling. I remember thinking, waiting for the play to begin, “I could live here.”

And last, but not least, every year I pick…

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE EXPERIENCE TO WORK ON
“The Age of Beauty” (No Nude Men Productions/The Exit Theatre)
I had taken a break from directing my own work, but with this nine performance workshop I allowed myself to re-discover that, as much as I like directing plays by others, there is nothing quite as satisfying as feeling like I’m telling a very personal story of my own and having the final say on how that happens. Of course, such experiences are only rewarding when you get to work with great actors, and I was lucky to have four amazing women (Megan Briggs, Emma Rose Shelton, Allison Page, Sylvia Hathaway) who were willing to go on this adventure with me, always keeping stride as I made cuts and changed lines, memorizing a mountain of material in Emma and Sylvia’s case, and crafting subtle characters who had to be both different from each other and relatively interchangeable at the same time. When I had a hard time articulating what I was going for, they would nod and smile and then show me what I meant by doing it better than I could describe it. When the show opened by the skin of its teeth it had one of those minor miracle opening nights, where even though you’re just a tiny bit unprepared (all my fault, I kept changing the script), it somehow all comes together and really works. Over the course of the show, as their performances grew and refined (our final two nights were simply perfect), I was able to see what flaws still remained in the script (two pages, middle of scene of scene two were cut the day after we closed), and any writer of new work will tell you that’s the best experience you can hope for on a first production. Shout outs to my awesome design team Cody Rishell, Jim Lively and Wil Turner IV! “The Age of Beauty” helped restore some of my lagging faith in the theater process, and made me commit to doing more of my own work in the coming year.

Stuart Bousel runs the San Francisco Theater Pub blog, and is a Founding Artistic Director of the San Francisco Theater Pub. You can find out more about his work at http://www.horrorunspeakable.com.

Theater Around The Bay: From Theater Pub to the Castro Theater

Another Theater Pub success story, Christian Simonsen describes the journey of his short script “Multi-Tasking” as it went from stage to screen.

In July of this year, my short comedy play “Multitasking” was produced as part of Theatre Pub’s Pint Sized Plays IV at the Café Royale. My play (indeed, the whole festival under producer Neil Higgins’ guidance) was a huge success… although oddly enough, the compliment I heard most often from audience members was: “your play was my father’s favorite!” which is an interesting niche audience to explore.

Pint Sized Plays is a site-specific festival; all of the stories have to take place in a pub. My script was a farce about two strangers, Eric and Kathy, waiting for a blind date and job interviewer, respectively. Just as they start a mild flirtation, a yuppie woman, Tess, bursts in on them, and hilarity ensues.

A coworker from my day job, Michael Laird, had come to see my play. He said he liked it a lot… but then, I thought, that’s what coworkers are supposed to say. Near the end of September, Michael reminded me that he was a part of the local film collective called Scary Cow. He had already paid his dues working on the crews of several films in different capacities, and he now felt ready to make his own. “Would you be interested in letting me produce ‘Multitasking’ as my first film?” I thought about it for a while— who am I trying to kid, I immediately said Yes!

Pre-production begins.

Michael’s plan was to knock the film out real quick: find the easiest location, use the same actors, shoot it in one afternoon “sometime this weekend or the next” while the actors still had their characters (and lines) in their heads, download it to a yet-to-be –determined editor, give the editor three or four days, bing-bang-boom, we have a film we can enter into the Scary Cow Film Festival at the Castro Theater. The deadline to submit was October 19th.

I was hesitant. I told Michael it seemed unlikely we could pull it off that quickly. He shrugged. “Why not try?” If everything doesn’t all come together, he added, we can just regroup, and try again later. “If we miss the Festival, it can still be on YouTube!” He had a point, and I realized, not for the first time, that “hesitant” is too often my natural state. I asked Michael if he planned on directing it, but he said no, he wanted to focus on producing. In other words, he wanted to take on all the unglamorous dirty work, including picking up the tab… really, how could I say no?

I then suggested myself as the director. “Do you have any film directing experience?” my new producer asked. “Sure, I studied filmmaking in college!” I did not bother to mention that back when I made student films, Jimmy Carter was still President, and I had no clue how to access the camera on my cell phone.

So I got the gig (that’s what we used to say back in the ancient ‘70s). But then I thought about what an impressive job the stage director Jonathan Carpenter did with my script in the Pint Sized Plays production. (I was even more impressed when I later found out that Jonathan and his cast only had one rehearsal together before Opening Night!) Did I really want to submit the actors to a brand new director with such a rushed schedule? And where in tarnation would I find the [REC] button on these modern computer chip camera gizmos?

Michael agreed that it would be awesome if we could get Jonathan to direct. So I set about contacting him and the three actors: Andrew Chung (Eric), Lara Gold (Kathy) and Jessica Chisum (Tess). Everyone was excited to do it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one in the Bay Area interested in them; their dance cards were all filling up fast. So we had to find one full day in the next two weeks where the key participants, producer Michael, director Jonathan and the three actors, were all free. (I did not count myself in that lofty group because they already had my script, so really, if I got run over by a bus at that point, the show would still go on).

Via Facebook / email / texting / carrier pigeon, we found the one window where we were all free: Sunday October 13th.

Perfect. Now, where would we shoot? The script’s original setting was a pub, per the Pint Sized Plays script submission rules. But for the film, I rewrote the location as a coffeehouse (it’s the only change in the script I made). Using a real coffeehouse on such short notice was problematic. You never know if business owners are going to get cold feet at the last minute, and renege on their promise to allow you to shoot on their property. Michael, ever the cheerful optimist, said that the living room in his new apartment was fairly large… if he got the right tables and chairs, it could probably pass as a small corner of a coffeehouse.

He had a good point. Michael’s view was always that this film would be more like a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch, as opposed to a full blown film with realistic locations, etc. Although it would still be “cinematic” (using camera angles and editing to help convey the story), the main focus would be on the script and the acting, with just enough “production values” to sell the idea of the setting. In other words, we were okay with a living room that sorta kinda looking like a coffeehouse.

So, we had a time, and a location! With those variables locked down, and my script in his hand, our big shot producer Michael could go to the next Scary Cow meeting and pitch our project, and collect a crew. As soon as he recruited Alisha McMutcheon as our Director of Photography and Camera Operator, Michael set up a meeting so Jonathan and I could meet her once before the shoot.

Before the meeting, I asked Jonathan if it would be okay if I story boarded potential shots for the film. Story boards are drawings of the different camera compositions that will be shot; they basically look like a comic book version of the film. My compositions would be suggestions only. But if Jonathan liked them, it would free up his time to coach the actors. He agreed, so I created three sets of shots, four shots each. The first set was the Must Haves: the shots we definitely needed for the film to make any kind of narrative sense. The second set was the Nice to Haves: these shots would add enough variety to keep the film from looking too “stagey”. The third set was the Luxuries: in the unlikely event we were ahead of schedule, we could shoot those to make the film, as Stanley Kubrick would say, all fancy schmancy (okay, only I would say that).

One page of my storyboard artwork. Hey, I never said I was a Renaissance Man.

One page of my storyboard artwork. Hey, I never said I was a Renaissance Man.

We had a great meeting! Alisha obviously knows her stuff, and came across as a real team player. Everyone liked my story boards. I promised to avoid the stereotype of the neurotic scriptwriter by staying in the shadows and letting Jonathon run the shoot. And Michael promised to feed us breakfast and lunch! (Now that’s a producer!)

Michael started bringing more people on board that he had worked with on other films. Before we knew it, we had a film crew.

Then the bad news came from actor Jessica Chisum. In order to secure a major part in a stage production of Macbeth, she had to drop out of our shoot (this is not the first time William Shakespeare has stolen good actors from me. That guy’s a Prima donna!).

We had to find a new actor quick. It was decided that Jonathan alone should recast the part. Since he had the most experience with local actors, he would know which ones would most likely have the best chemistry with Andrew and Lara. Not to mention which candidates could learn their lines the fastest (my script was very dialogue heavy).

There is an invisible point with any theater or film production, where the momentum of everyone involved has taken it past the “what if?” stage, and it becomes its own animal; a living, breathing entity that seems to tangibly exist. At that point, any problem that comes up (such as losing an actor) seems to be one that was made to be solved. This project had reached that stage. That didn’t mean that this film was guaranteed to be made (living creatures can still die at any time). What it meant was that our director could confidently entice top notch actors on short notice with a “real project”.

In just a few days, Jonathan was able to snag Helen LaRoche. I knew the name rang a bell, so I googled her. Sure enough, back in 2012 I saw Helen give a moving performance in Stuart Bousel’s emotionally complex play “Artemis and Apollo or Twins”. I had made a mental note at the time that I wanted to someday work with her. Score!

Three days before the shoot, I meet Jonathan for coffee so we can discuss any issues about the script before his one and only rehearsal with the actors. I would not be at that rehearsal. With such a tight schedule, the actors cannot be subjected to a two-headed dragon; they need just one leader guiding them. The shoot was now Jonathan’s baby.

On the morning before the shoot, Jonathan had his two hour rehearsal with all three actors. He phoned me afterwards. He was very happy.

Production begins.

At 9:00am on the morning of the shoot, Jonathan, Alisha, myself, and the rest of the crew arrived: Tom Morrow the Gaffer, Ben Gallion the Production Assistant and Stuart Goldstein the Still Photographer (we lost our sound guy, so Alisha did triple duty). We did most of the set up before the actors arrive at 9:45am. Michael was the only person who had met everyone before today.

 I believe Michael told his roommates he was "having a few friends over."

I believe Michael told his roommates he was “having a few friends over.”

In the world of live theater, cast and crew work together for a long enough period of time to become a family. Granted, that “family” more often resembles the House of Atreus than the Little House on the Prairie… but whether they are stabbing each other or laughing together, they still know each other. In film production, you are usually thrown together with a group of mostly strangers, with a very narrow period of time to complete the production. Lucky for all of us, Michael chose everyone well. We worked together beautifully.

Director Jonothan Carpenter checks the monitor to frame a shot.

Director Jonothan Carpenter checks the monitor to frame a shot.

I was given the task of maintaining the script log, meaning I took down any notes Jonathan had on all of the shots recorded. What I noticed doing this task was the unique challenges film actors have. I know the common sentiment is that live theater separates the men/women from the boys/girls; while I would generally agree with that, film acting has its own challenges. Films are almost always shot out of order; so every time there is a new camera shot, the actors must realign themselves to a totally new place on their character arch. For instance, the final camera angle covered the characters Eric and Kathy at the first two pages of the script, and then at the very last two pages. After the beginning was shot and the director yelled “cut”, actors Andrew and Lara had to make a drastic change from being cuter than a box of kittens to looking like refugees from a Kafka story. You could see the immediate transition of time in their body language alone.

Our cast!  Andrew Chung, Helen LaRoche, Lara Gold

Our cast! Andrew Chung, Helen LaRoche, Lara Gold

Thanks to everyone’s’ professionalism, we got all twelve shots we wanted, plus one extra, an epilogue we all thought up during our lunch break.

Post-production begins.

Evan Rogers was recruited by Michael to edit our film. Editing is an art form all its own. In fact, it is the creative aspect of filmmaking that most separates cinema from live theater. An editor can make or break a film, so I was a little concerned that the whole post production of “Multitasking” would be in the hands of someone in another city that I never met (to this day I haven’t met him). But Michael vouched for him, and I read an email where Evan said he loved my script (I can be a tad vain).

And besides, Evan had almost four whole days to edit our six minute film before the October 19th deadline. No problem. Until there was a computer glitch, that caused the downloading of the files to take an entire three days. Which meant Evan had one day to edit. With Stuart Goldstein designing the Titles and credits, somehow Evan finished the entire edit in time to burn the DVD and summit it to Scary Cow on October 19th, before the 5:00pm deadline!

“Multitasking” was part of the Scary Cow Film Festival in November. It was a dream come true to hear a full crowd at the Castro Theater laughing at a comedy film I helped create.

So, here is the staged version (starting at the 12:25 mark).

And here is the filmed version.

Thanks to the creative input of all the artists involved, both versions manage to be totally faithful to my script (not a line of dialogue was ever changed).

Yet at the same time, they are distinctly different from each other.

Although I would like to think they are both, you know, funny.

Where are they now?

I feel very lucky that my script was produced in two different mediums, both times with such loving care. Here’s what all of the talented cast and crew members are up to now:

Andrew Chung is currently performing in Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida” at the Impact Theatre through December 15th. Lara Gold is developing her own company, Exposure Theater, which will specialize in documentary and autobiographical theater. Helen LaRoche is work shopping Miranda Jones’ new musical, “The Precipice”. Jessica Chisum has joined the cast of Boxcar Theatre’s immersive drama “The Speakeasy” which opens January 10th.

Michael Laird, Alisha McCutcheon, Ben Gallion, Stuart Goldstein and Tom Morrow are donning multiple hats on upcoming Scary Cow films. Evan Rogers is now a VFX artist at Guerrilla Wanderer Films.

Jonathan Carpenter is returning to his hometown of Boston to develop several new projects with old thespian colleagues, but he did promise he would someday return to us.

Both Neil Higgins and yours truly have been commissioned to write new plays, “Echidna” and “Scylla” respectively, for The San Francisco Olympians Festival V: Monster Ball in 2014.

And of course all of us are available for future projects!

It takes a village to make a six minute comedy.

It takes a village to make a six minute comedy.



All photos by Stuart Goldstein.