Working Title: Pint Sized Recommendations…or One Llama to Rule them All

This week Will Leschber discusses Pint Sized Play Festival film pairings with Stuart Bousel, Emma Rose Shelton & Rob Ready.

Reflecting on this year’s upcoming Pint-Sized Play Festival has led me to realize what I miss about being at university. The constant consumption of new things and new ideas is the lure, and, of course, those things are generally missed. But the crux, the essential thing that I pine for, is the structured ascension. You feel as if your path is laid before you and that you are constantly improving and growing as you walk down the road towards knowledge…or maybe the road was just leading to semester’s end. Either way, it’s easy at times in our daily lives, our daily grinds, to feel stagnant and/or circling or floating with less aim than we used to know in the past. There is an absence of hope in aimlessness. But the powerful thing is that we are all moving forward, and the trick is to remind yourself that your constant road can be one that ascends, if you mind the way. Nothing like an annual event to rock us back to reflection…or maybe drinking like we are college kids!

Of all the pints, in all the bars, in all the world…you had to laugh into mine.

Of all the pints, in all the bars, in all the world…you had to laugh into mine.

It is time again for the Pint-Sized Plays. This jovial event comes but once a year and it is glorious. A fruitful fun evening that turns over a handful of laughs in the time it takes to finish a beer. This may not obviously link to an evening of what you may call ascension… but many things can be found in the swirls of a pint glass. The quick cycle of the night is part of the allure. If this play isn’t for you, finish your beer and worry not, for another play is 10 minutes away…and maybe another beer too. 😉 Our constant companion in the years that we’ve seen Theater Pub’s Pint Sized Plays has been the Llama. His pint consumption knows no bottom. His wisdom knows no limits. And his beard is just spectacular.

rob-ready-llama

The three pillars of this year’s Llamalogue who I had the pleasure to speak with are Stuart Bousel, Theater Pub’s Executive Director, Bay Area Ringmaster and playwright of the infamous Llamalogues; Emma Rose Shelton, all-around wonder woman and director of this year’s “Llama VI”; and of course, Rob Ready, Artistic Director of PianoFight and the amazing aforementioned bearded Llama himself.

To get you in the headspace of the Llama (oh God NO…you say…don’t worry, it’ll be OK…this will all wear off in the morning) and the Pint-Sized Plays in general, we have three recommended film pairings to play along with the festival’s themes and schemes.

Lets start with the the Rob-a-Llama recommendation…ready, steady, drink and go!

The Apartment, the 1960 classic directed by Billy Wilder and starring the splendid Jack Lemmon and stunning Shirley Maclaine… To move up the ladder at work, Lemmon lets executives use his apartment for their affairs… hilarity and heartbreak ensue. It’s kind of a similar aesthetic and tone [to our dear Llama]…Lemmon does a ton of over-the-top physical comedy in the role while also coming off as a grounded, fully-fleshed-out person with a big heart. Most of the film is really funny, but there are parts that just tear at your heartstrings. And I think that’s roughly what the Llamalogues aim to do.

The Apartment foreign

Well said, and great recommendation! Now let’s hear what Llamalogue director Emma Rose Shelton has to pair with the indomitable Llama…

Groundhog Day, the 1993 Bill Murray comedy classic… There’s something about Bill Murray’s character coming back each time needing to learn the same lesson and just failing miserably at it. Something about him trying to figure his shit out while being lovably melancholy and self-loathing reminds me of our Llama.

God I love that Punxsutawney Phil. Don't drive angry. Don't drive angry!

God I love that Punxsutawney Phil. Don’t drive angry. Don’t drive angry!

OK, last but not least since this is supposed to be the length of a beer…a slowly nursed beer. Let’s get to Stuart Bousel and close this mother out. Bousel brings to the table a beautiful and less well-known film…but boy is it a treat.

Sally Potter’s Orlando, 1992… Sally Potter, perhaps one of the most underrated filmmakers in the world, is one of my favorite directors, and her film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is, like the source material, many many things. For me, the film is about finding your place in the world, and not just the world, but time itself, coming to terms with the infiniteness of human experience but also the limited scope of any one life, including your own. Or in less fancy speak: it’s about accepting your own mortality, and by doing so, finally beginning to really live. It’s no big secret Theater Pub is coming to an end this year, though Pint-Sized may continue. Will the Llama continue with it? I rather hope so. But I have already decided it won’t be me writing it anymore. So this last Llamalogue is my kiss goodbye to this incredible, rewarding, and demanding period of my life that I’ve loved living through and am also looking forward to having behind me so I can move on to other things. As the angel sings at the end of the film, while Orlando and her daughter watch: I am being born, and I am dying.

orlando-1look-1

That rounds out this pint. I promise the night of Pint Sized Plays at PianoFight is hugely entertaining and there will be more laughs and guffaws than bittersweetness…but like any good night of entertainment the presence of both light and dark will be in attendance…or possibly ascendence.

The season’s change is upon us, as it ever is. Soak it in. It goes fast. This is the last Llamalogue as we have come to know it. Come out, have a beer, a laugh and nod to see the shadow of the Llama pass. You know what they say about a Llama who sees his shadow…or maybe that is something else. This shadow pint is for you, Llama.

pintsized3

Editor’s note: our Pint-Sized Tzarina, Marissa Skudlarek, points out that this is the first year of Pint Sized where we have THREE one-person shows. Says Marissa:

Three of the 11 plays in this year’s Pint-Sized Play Festival are one-person shows. In addition to the return of the drunken llama played by Rob Ready, a beloved character who has appeared in every Pint-Sized Festival since 2010, we’re telling the stories of two women who are on the brink of major life changes. There’s the title character of “Julie Kopitsky’s Bat Mitzvah” by Jake Arky: at the age of 36, Julie has finally earned the right to call herself an adult by the standards of her Jewish faith. And there’s Meredith — or should we call her Olivia? — in Caitlin Kenney’s “Why Go with Olivia?”, a woman who’s preparing to cut ties with her old life and start anew.

Julie, the Llama, Meredith… they’ve all been around the block a few times. They’re adults, thirtysomethings, with histories and backstories and opinions. And yet they don’t always make the right choices, especially when pints of beer are involved. They are brash, opinionated, and very fun characters, but they’re also all seeking meaning and fulfillment in their own ways. I know, that sounds like a lot to ask from a proudly self-proclaimed slut who gets drunk at her own Bat Mitzvah, or a woman whose quest for a new life means turning her back on everything that came before, or a boozy llama who started out in 2010 as an absurdist sight gag. But it also happens to be true.

Don’t Miss Pint Sized Plays VI, playing 8/15, 8/16, 8/22, 8/23, 8/29, 8 PM, only at PianoFight! 

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Working Title: The Move, The Packing, The Thrush and The Woodpecker

This week Will Leschber barely makes it out of his moving truck to speak to Custom Made Theatre about The Thrush & The Woodpecker.

Hello there dear readers! You all are a dedicated bunch. I gotta give you props. Not only are you here now reading away, but we even tried to trick you all by saying that the last Working Title blog entry was a goodbye blog! Well, as you may know, it was a farewell Bay Area blog but it is not the last Working Title blog, no siree bob blog… we can’t trick you! Tricks are for kids. Let’s keep this party going from across the country!

So I can’t tear myself away. Even after the 3500-mile journey from San Francisco to Phoenix to Austin then Kansas and on to Connecticut in a 26’ box truck towing a car, even after unloading a ridiculous amount of moving boxes, even after getting my bearings and loosing sleep and battling landlords and praising new daycare workers and thanking in-laws and parents…even after all that, I can’t tear myself away from San Francisco indie theater. You guys deserve the best. So I have a few more suggestions to help wet your whistles and prep your brains as you dive into the new offerings from Bay Area theater.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Brian Katz, Artistic Director at Custom Made Theater about The Thrush & the Woodpecker, a new play by Steve Yockey that has its rolling world premiere beginning in a few short weeks. If you think that driving cross-country with a dog and a dad sounds dramatic and surprising, that has nothing on this revenge play. Starring local legend Stacy Ross, Shotgun Players Company Member Fontana Butterfield, and hot up-and-coming actor Adam Magill (Berkeley Rep’s Macbeth, SF Playhouse’s Stupid Fucking Bird), The Thrush and the Woodpecker tells the engaging story of a mysterious stranger who arrives to turn the world upside down for Brenda Hendricks and her son Noah, who’s recently returned from college unexpectedly. What avian secrets lie in wait?! We’ll see…

The Thrush and the Woodpecker copy

I asked Brian Katz the best film to pair with the new and unusual Thrush/Woodpecker and like a good Artistic Director, he offered up the question to his wonderful production team to get a myriad of opinions. Here’s a sampling of recommendations:

Kitty Torres (costumer) suggests: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. Since the play and the film definitely share the same levels of obsession and deceit.

Liz Ryder (sound) concisely recommends: The Birds!

Leah Abrams (Custom Made Theater Company’s Executive Director) offers up: The 2006 thriller Notes on a Scandal because its two female characters strike me in a similar way, a mix of perfectly normal/really off-kilter in their own way. AND Hitchcock’s The Birds. I think it’s the film that terrifies me most – there’s the obvious havoc wreaked by said birds, and also just that sense of the supernatural invading seemingly normal people in the real world.

The Birds copy

With the uncanny, supernatural, deceitful, unnerving recommendations Thrush/Woodpecker sounds to be quite an intriguing experience. The play opens August 4th and runs until August 20th. More info can be found at www.custommade.org.

Theater Around The Bay: WHAT THESE TWO ARTISTIC DIRECTORS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THEATER PUB WILL BLOW YOUR MIND AND YOUR PANTS

The AD interview you’ve all been waiting for: Tonya Narvaez and Meg Trowbridge ask the tough questions.

MT       Are you as uncomfortable using the title Artistic Director as I am? Do you say it in a funny voice like I do?

TN        I’ve totally been able to say it! But I think that’s because I started the year blissfully unaware of what it meant. I definitely do try to say it as quickly as possible, because if I take my time announcing my title it feels like it’s going to make me seem self-important and bore the other person to actual death.

MT        Like, for real, I can’t say it in a straight voice. My go-to voice is pretty muppet-ish. Hopefully after a few more productions it will roll off my tongue with a little more grace and authority.

muppets4

I’m Artistic Director for San Francisco Theater Pub – wocka wocka wocka!

TN        How are Theater Pub shows of today different than in years past?

MT        Well, to start, PianoFight’s space is a completely different beast than Royale. This year’s shows have only scratched the surface for ways we can utilize the bar space. Also, all of our shows having four performances is radically different. Theater Pub used to be a pop-up event and now we have 12 mini-productions. I feel like the last four shows we produced were where we started taking more risks and hitting our stride.

TN        I completely agree. We’ve had a bigger focus on new work as well! We still include classical work in the year, which is always relevant to the here and now. But overall, our work has been coming straight from the community.

MT       What has been your best moment this year?

TN        Honestly, there have been great moments throughout, but I have to say my best moment this year was the last performance of February’s H/D: A Symphonic Romance in Space. It was the first show I put on as AD, as well as the first Theater Pub show I’d ever written or directed. I was constantly worried that I’d forgotten some major component. I also changed the staging before almost every show because I was still learning how to work in the space. In the end, a lot of friendly faces showed up to the last night and it felt like all the pieces really came together. It had a tiny spark of that Theater Pub magic.

 

HD

Beautiful art for H/D: A Symphonic Romance in Space by Cody Rishell

MT        I loved each show I worked on (I allowed myself to sing U2 in a show – it’s been a good year), but I loved seeing the bond between the cast of I Like That. Sara Judge did her magic and brought this cast together to perform a very ambitious script. The play was wonderful, but I enjoyed watching the cast interact, hang out after the shows, and message each other funny inside jokes on Facebook even more. I had very little to do with this, BT-dubs.

 

GOOD CRAIC

Meg Trowbridge casts a spell on the Theater Pub audience with her singing in Good Craic

TN        Any surprises about how the year played out?

MT        I think we both felt, at times, that this year was a bit “seat-of-our-pants.” So, I was surprised to look back and see a pretty well balanced year of programming. We had comedy, drama, one-acts, experimentation on stage, and a ton of new work. I think it set a tone for our 2016 season to be ambitious and varied – and we shall see how that unfolds! How about you?

TN        Yes, I feel like every show was full of new surprises! The biggest surprise of all was that we did it and it was good. *High five* But more seriously, we began the year doing 3 performances a month at two venues. One was brunch at The Hall on Market Street. After a couple of shows there, we realized it just wasn’t a good fit for either of us. PianoFight gave us the space to expand our offerings to 4 nights, and thus our current schedule was born. It was a great surprise, because we now have a singular home with roots in the community.

MT       What’s one thing you have learned after putting on four shows?

TN        I’ve learned how to be an AD. Seriously, I learned so many lessons via trial and error this year. It was growing pains. During one show, I took more of a backseat and just let the show happen, asking whether anything was needed along the way. For some shows, that can work. My AD senses weren’t honed enough yet to realize this wasn’t one of those shows. Obviously the show still went on, but it definitely could have gone a lot smoother for all involved if I had a tighter grip on the reins from the start.

MT:       For me, I learned it never gets easier to ask people to donate their time and energy for a stipend that solely depends on the generosity of the audience. Even if we do well, by SFTP standards, it never feels like enough. THANK YOU to all the actors, writers, and directors who put on wonderful shows for love more than anything.

AUDIENCE

Thank you to our actors, writers, directors, and fantastic audiences

TN        What has been the hardest part of this year? Stuart already said it’s been a bumpy year so we can be honest here. What sucked?

MT        Well, the first is always the hardest. Putting up On the Spot definitely gave me some grey hairs. There were a lot of moving pieces, and we hadn’t rebuilt our community enough to get the numbers that I wanted. That being said, it went pretty well – sodomizing a youth with a banana and all!

TN        Hah! For me, the hardest part was also one of the most exciting parts. I produced A Wake by Rory Strahan-Mauk, which was unlike anything Theater Pub had ever done before. It was very exciting, but there were some moments where it was unpredictable and it went a bit off the rails! The show happened almost all at the same time and throughout the entire space (the stage, bar, bathroom, and even outside in the Tenderloin). There were so many moving pieces, and so many opportunities for failure, and (as we discovered) so many opportunities for passerby to be confused and think they were witnessing real life instead of a play. We made it through the other side, and the audience was into it overall, but I think the show was definitely ahead of its time for us.

MT       After a year on the job, what’s your dream show for Theater Pub?

TN        This is such a hard question. It’s set up for you to name a play that already exists, and to outline your plan for that play. But I kind of feel like I’m living my best life right now, as far as the plays I want to put on. For February I’m writing a fictional Lisa Frank origin story, Over the Rainbow. In May we have Colin Johnson’s Sticky Icky, a story about slackers holed up in a bar during a societal collapse caused by an infectious strain of marijuana. In September we have Savannah Reich’s amazing comedy Stupid Ghost, which features a ghost dance number. I truly don’t know what else I could want out of 2016.

MT        I know this is my question, but I have no idea. I guess my dream play is a new play for a small cast (2-4 actors, maybe) and maybe it could be in the round? We could put some audience up on stage? I dunno. I think I need to read more books about being an Artistic Director.

TN        What else have you spent your precious time on this year?

MT        Oh man, what was I thinking this year?! I jumped head-first into KML’s madness, and had the pleasure of directing two shows, head-writing two shows, and writing for several. It’s such a fun group of people and I’ve had a blast pulling my hair out balancing that with SFTP. I also wrote a full-length for the Olympians Festival this year and had to balance being a member of the Monday Night Playground pool while Theater Pub was first kicking off. Yeah, 2015 was IN-SANE. Oh, and my improv team Chinese Ballroom are my home away from home. Check out our monthly shows at PianoFight, kicking back up in February!

TN        This year I was Production Manager for DivaFest’s Loud & Unladylike. I’m writing about Christine Jorgensen in this year’s Loud & Unladylike, which will be read at Pianofight in mid-July! I also wrote and directed the opening party play for the San Francisco Olympians Festival. This year I am writing a one-act about Osiris, Cyrus, which will be read at the Exit Theatre on October 21. I also started seeing a therapist again, which I seriously recommend to anyone in the arts.

MT       What are you most excited about for 2016?

TN        I am so excited about our entire year! I look at the lineup and it brings me so much pride and joy. I’m also super stoked to check out Saturday Write Fever, and can’t wait to see what the bloggers have up their sleeves.

MT        I am stoked about all the musicals booked for next season! What has gotten into us?! I’m a musical-geek, so this is basically becoming my dream job. ❤

DRINKS

Here’s to another year

 

Hit by a Bus Rules: Mind Your Panel

Alandra Hileman just emerged from her cocoon of tech week only to discover that she’s actually a moth, dammit.

Considering that my column is called “Hit by a Bus Rules,” writing about the topic of breaking the rules should have been easy, right? I mean, I sort of already did that in my second ever post when I talked about what a terrible job I do of adhering to the titular rule. And there are so many other great theatre rules to talk about, including but not limited to:

*The Ten-Block Rule (don’t talk about the show you just saw/worked on until you’re ten blocks away from the theatre)

* The Cough Drop Rule (unwrap your lozenges BEFORE the play starts or the actors are
allowed to suffocate you with your own crinkling cellophane)

* The Two-Hat Rule (you should, if at all possible, never be doing more than two jobs on any one production)

I wanna talk about that last one for a minute. Because, like keeping my Master Book organized, I’m really bad about minding my panel and only doing the job assigned me. And it’s not always my fault, but it’s still a problem.

The last shows I worked, a two-show rep festival, hired me as the stage manager. In the course of the production, I also ended up doing a massive amount of scenic painting, creating or hunting down some small props, helping photograph the show, and co-heading the scenic changeover…all of which you will note are not jobs generally ever done by the stage manager. I’m in a similar situation on my current show, where I helped paint the set, helped the costumer do some alterations, play the drums (no, seriously), and am responsible for setting up/striking the set along with the Artistic Director of the company (who is also the Production Manager, built and painted half the set by himself, and is acting in the show).

Now, in both these cases we’ve been fortunate enough to have incredibly dedicated designers and cast members who have also helped pick up the slack, but look at this. The exception to the rule has now become the rule itself, and that’s a little frightening to me. The idea of the two-hat rule is to keep everyone from being overworked-and-underpaid, or just generally from going crazy. But at the same time, when you’re in a situation where you love the show and you want it to be perfect and there just aren’t enough hands on deck, you break your own rules just to make it happen. And I’m pretty sure there’s not a single person reading this blog who wouldn’t also break this rule in a heartbeat, even at the expense of some degree of their sanity, in order to get a show off the ground.

So the long-and-short is that I’ve spent every night for the last week in John Hinkle Park in Berkeley loading bonsai trees and drums and bags of bedsheets into a shed at 12:45am so that this fantastic production of Much Ado About Nothing produced can happen, and as a result I completely forgot that I had a blog due so at the last minute I turned the entire thing into a shameless plug. It’s free, and guys, it’s so, so good. Please come. Maybe bring me some bug spray and a whiskey and I’ll tell you more about the rules we’ve broken on this show.

Alandra Hileman is drumming for…er, stage managing TheatreFirst’s “Much Ado About Nothing” running Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm in John Hinkle Park through October 4th and it’s 100% totally free. Check out more info at http://www.theatrefirst.com/

Theater Around The Bay: A Day in the Life of Artistic Director Meg Trowbridge

We’re opening a new show tonight, so we figure it makes sense to look back on our last show one last time. Artistic Director Meg Trowbridge shares what it was like to helm the first BIG show of the new Theater Pub season.

March 23, 2015: Opening Night of On the Spot

I awake in the middle of the night to the crash of cymbals.

I awake in the middle of the night to the crash of cymbals.

6:30am
Wake up, Meg. Come on. You can hit snooze, but you know those nine minutes of extra sleep are just a cock-tease. Just put your phone in front of your face, open Facebook, and you’ll be wiiiiiide awake. Good, good.

I wake up to go to the gym with my husband and neighbor – one of the few habits I kept from wedding-preparation. I consider skipping. I mean, I am opening a show tonight. I should probably get as much sleep as I can. Alas, my brawny trainer is like a siren on the craggy rocks. I go to him and my body weeps.

8:45am
Breakfast. The most important meal of the blah blah blah. I shovel eggs in my face and check email – the conference call I’m supposed to be on today gets pushed to 5:30pm. I’ll be at the theater by then. That’s fine, that’s fine.

10:45am
Obsessively continue to check emails, awaiting a fire that needs to be put out. Instead, I read encouraging email from a director about tonight’s show – Neil Higgins is a real mensch.

12:00pm
Head up to the Haight for some needed items for the show. I stop into the sunglasses shop to get some mirrored aviators for the play I will be performing in. I pop into the organic grocery store to pick up some bananas. 10 is enough, right? Let’s see, they use four in the first play, one in the second… we need a peel for the fourth… Fuck it, I’ll get 16 bananas.

3:30pm
Post to Facebook that the show opens tonight and YOU SHOULD ALL BE THERE. (Thanks for being there.)

5:00pm
Buy a load of single condoms at Super Discount for SEX EDNA. (True story: the guy gave me a condom discount for the arts.)

5:30pm
Get on the conference call and discuss ways to make tech people funny while also writing down the show order and banana break-down.

6:30pm
Actors arrive. We all nervously go over our lines and sip on beers.

7:00pm
Get encouraging text from Artistic Director Tonya Narvaez and feel warm and gooey inside. ❤

7:30pm
Manning the donation table. My other Theater Pub crew are manning the Olympians ship, so I am flying solo tonight. At this time, I realize I haven’t eaten since breakfast. It’s cool. I’ll eat after the show. Pfft.

8:00pm
Lights up! Music down! I walk on stage and introduce the evening’s show.

And it goes off without (almost) a hitch! There may have been a few misplaced set pieces, a banana may have ended up inside a kick-drum, but the audience liked it! The actors knew their lines! We had fun!

Putting together this show involved an enormous learning curve. Theater Pub has changed a lot since moving to our kick-ass new venue, PianoFight. We have four nights a month to put on a show. This means we can be ambitious and risky. We’re dreaming big, and we know it’s only going to get better from here.

Oh, and I had the dinner of champions that night: beers.

It’s good to be an AD.

But I still see bananas in my dreams...

But I still see bananas in my dreams…

Don’t forget- we have a brand new show opening tonight and playing the next two weeks, only at Theater Pub!