Theater Around the Bay: All the Theater Pub News that’s Fit to Print

Marissa Skudlarek is wearing her news-reporter fedora (and not her columnist cloche) this Thursday.

The year is still young but it’s already been very kind to Theater Pub and many of its affiliated artists.

Theater Pub in the media!

Writer Beth Spotswood and photographer Gabrielle Lurie attended the penultimate performance of The Morrissey Plays and then wrote this wonderful feature article about it for the San Francisco Chronicle! We’re thrilled that Theater Pub is now described, in print in the local paper of record, as “creating an atmosphere more reminiscent of 1960s Greenwich Village than 2016 Tenderloin” and targeting “pop-culture-savvy, intellectually snooty theater kids.”

Travel bloggers Shine and Isis of Let’s Go Travel Show, a new web series, attended January’s Saturday Write Fever and filmed it for inclusion in their series! We haven’t seen the footage yet, but keep an eye out on their web page http://www.letsgotravelshow.com/.

Theater Pub artists creating new work!

The Custom Made Theatre Co. has just announced the writers participating its inaugural Undiscovered Works play-development program, and three of them have Theater Pub ties: Dan Hirsch (author of “Shooter,” Theater Pub’s contribution to the 2013 Bay One-Acts Festival), Marissa Skudlarek (longtime Theater Pub columnist and “Pint-Sized Plays” tsarina), and Kirk Shimano (author of Theater Pub’s shows “Love in the Time of Zombies” and the upcoming “Portal: The Musical”). Congratulations!

Meanwhile, the three women writing plays for the 2016 Loud and Unladylike Festival, which commissions new works about lesser-known historical women, also have Theater Pub connections: Skudlarek once again, plus “Hit By A Bus Rules” columnist Alandra Hileman, and Artistic Director Tonya Narvaez. More info is available at http://loudandunladylike.com/. Remember that Tonya is also writing and directing our February show, the Lisa Frank fantasia Over the Rainbow!

Opportunities for actors and directors!

Theater Pub founder, Stuart Bousel, will be holding auditions on February 24 and 25 for his production of Paradise Street by Clive Barker, which is happening at the EXIT Theatre (co-hosts of Saturday Write Fever) in December 2016. This is an especially good opportunity for actors who’ve been working on their British Isles accents — the play features Liverpudlian, Cockney, Scottish, Irish, and time-traveling Elizabethan characters! 5 roles for men and 4 roles for women are available. For more information and to sign up for an audition slot: https://www.facebook.com/events/513349952159221/.

Sooner in time and closer to home, our own Sara Judge is still seeking actors and directors who are interested in being a part of Theater Pub’s March show, On the Spot! This is our twist on the ever-popular “24-hour theater festival.” Writers have 24 hours to write a ten-minute play based on a given prompt, actors rehearse with a director for just one week, and the show performs at PianoFight on March 21, 22, 28, and 29! For more information and to sign up: https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/how-to-get-involved/.

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Working Title: The Unexpected Routine

Will Leschber gives us his second article in an on-going series of comparisons between local theater and the endless horizon of the film world.

One free evening last week, I had the chance to catch one of the many running shows in this years SF Fringe festival. Beforehand I asked the opinions of friends in the Bay Area Theatre scene in an effort to find a show of quality. This was my local equivalent of checking Rotten Tomatoes. Neither of these methods is by any means fool-proof but they do usually provide a general gauge of quality that can help point one in the right direction. I settled on “Serving Bait to Rich People”, a one woman show about a bartender in a high-end sushi restaurant.

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While very entertaining with quite the charismatic performer, this Fringe Festival entry by Alexa Fitzpatrick was more stand-up comedy than a traditional play. Here was a challenge. Since there were no theatrical design aspects, this unexpected routine made for a hard comparison when attempting to dissect at how the tools of the Theatre stack up against the tools of Film.

The story elements could easily be drawn upon for comparison but is that enough? Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film Waitress might make a great juxtaposition. 2005’s Waiting… starring Ryan Reynolds may well work if we were to draw upon the comedy instead of highlighting the romantic entanglements. Then again since this is a stand-up comedy story why not talk about last year’s Sleepwalk with Me that focuses all about the process of an up and coming stand up comedian, Mike Birbiglia. All of these films are worth checking out but in the end none of them seemed exactly right for a side by side assessment. However, this presented an opportunity to take step back and look at a different aspect of what made the evening a unique theatrical experience: short form theatre.

The prevalence of short form theatre in the Bay Area may not seem quite the unique thing, but ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a short play and when was the last time you saw a short film in the theatre? We are graced with a number of short form play festivals here: The SF Fringe Festival, Bay Area One Act Festival, The San Francisco Olympians Festival, Pint Size Plays to name of few. All of these showcase short plays in part or in full. These can be premium in and out experiences. They don’t waste time. They showcase a lot of talent. And if you don’t care for the piece, it’ll be over soon. The access to short form film, on the other hand, is entirely different. A theatrically released short film is quite a rare thing. You get the occasional Pixar short that is released to the masses but mostly wide release short films are relegated to the arena of animation tacked on to a larger full length feature.

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Short film is simultaneously harder to see and easier. Viewing one on the big screen is uncommon but one can find a myriad of them online. But then does that change the film watching experience into something else if we can only access what we are watching at home on a computer screen? I think it does.

Watching theatre live is intrinsic to the experience. Similarly, something is lost when you take film out of its natural environment. I’m not saying that there is no place for film outside of a movie theatre. Obviously films need a life outside the big screen. But I am saying that viewing film outside of a movie theatre alters the experience. I think it a shame that it’s so hard to find short film in theatres. Every year creative teams win Oscars for making a live action or animated shorts but who is ever able see these things? The Oscar Nominated Short Films are normally bundled together during Oscar season and released in a limited theatrical engagement. It’s a wonderful change of pace to see high quality short film on the big screen. I recommend it.

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In the business of film, the main-stream market for this is almost non-existent. No one makes money off short film so they are left to the internet. Just like in short form theatre, short films can be a brilliant experience. Take a chance, seek them out.

Don’t Miss “Shooter” At This Year’s Bay One Acts Festival!

Just wanted to share a haunting shot (no pun intended) of Theater Pub’s contribution to this year’s Bay One Acts Festival, “Shooter.”

A scene from "Shooter", featuring Melvin Badiola, Randy J. Blair, and John Lowell, photo by Christopher Alongi

A scene from “Shooter”, featuring Melvin Badiola, Randy J. Blair, and John Lowell, photo by Christopher Alongi

“Shooter” by Daniel Hirsch, directed by Rik Lopes, and featuring Melvin Badiola, Randy J. Blair, and John Lowell, will play, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, September 25, 27, 29 and October 3 and 5 at the Tides Theater in San Francisco. To find out more about this show, and all the great shows that will be a part of this cornerstone event for the San Francisco Bay Area Theater scene, check out http://bayoneacts.org/.

Randy Blair Talks Shooter!

Randy Blair, who is one of three actors in “Shooter”, talks about the play, his process and creating a role in the next Theater Pub show.

Give us a brief impression of who you are, in a hundred words or less.

A 27 year old actor who studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York for three years, and moved to San Francisco to shoot a feature film, Super Hero Party Clown.

Randy Blair: Super Hero Party Clown

Randy Blair: Super Hero Party Clown

Is this your first time working at BOA? What’s that like? If it it’s not your first time, what brought you back to such a unique festival setting?

Yes this is my first time working with BOA and the experience is great, I love being on stage.

You’re the first people to appear in a production of Shooter- what’s the best thing about “creating” a role this role as an actor?

To be the first is great, there is no comparison to another actor who may have done the role before. you get to put your stamp on it, and that takes a little pressure off.

Are there any challenges?

How fast time flies during the rehearsal process! And learning with other actors and directors is great, you learn from one another, but it’s always an adjustment.

What’s been a particularly interesting element of this rehearsal process?

There are always challenges no matter what type of play your doing, an actors job is never done.

This piece is constructed in a way that is sort of like a dance where the dancers are unaware of each other yet connected. Excited by where this can go.

Shooter is an ensemble piece. How does being in an ensemble piece differ from, say, playing a lead in a show, or having a “minor” role?

The responsibility for each actor is the same for any piece, you have to be prepared; you have to know the play inside out. Knowing the play and knowing the other actors lines will help you know when to catch a dropped line and keep the momentum going.

Do you get a chance to see the other shows in the Festival this year? Anything got you excited besides your own?

I’m looking forward to all the shows! I am always excited to see new theater!

What about in the upcoming theater season in general?

American Buffalo at the Aurora!

What’s next for you?

Looking for the next job!

“Shooter”, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, opened this past weekend on September 15, and will continue to play September 19, 21, 25, 27, 29 and October 3 and 5 at the Tides Theater in San Francisco. To find out more about this show, and all the great shows that will be a part of this cornerstone event for the San Francisco Bay Area Theater scene, check outhttp://bayoneacts.org/.

Director Rik Lopes Talks “Shooter” And SF Theater Pub at BOA 2013.

Rik Lopes, a frequent collaborator with the San Francisco Theater Pub, talks about directing this year’s contribution to the Bay One Acts Festival. A dramatic and challenging piece, “Shooter” looks to be a real unique part of this year’s festival, and just in case you didn’t think it would be a serious piece of art, Rik sent us this amazingly serious headshot.

Rik Lopes: Director, Actor, Writer... CK1 model?

Rik Lopes: Director, Actor, Writer… CK1 model?

Okay, so, tell the world who you are in 100 words or less.

I have been making theatre in some form or other since I was 10 years old. I have been actively involved in the San Francisco theatre community since 2007, having come back to my senses after a goodly long hiatus. I am an actor, director, and playwright, but not necessarily in that order.

This isn’t your first time working with Theater Pub, is it? What have you done with us in the past.

I have appeared in several readings, including Hamlet and Cheese on Post, The Memorandum, and The Shunned House. I was also very fortunate to direct both the pint-sized scene and full production of Brian Markley’s The Nebraskan And Sam.

This is your first time at BOA, correct? What’s that like?

Indeed it is. I have often been regaled by friends with stories of how much fun BOA is and am excited to finally be a part of it. I must say, I am very impressed by the sheer vastness of it all. I went into the project expecting to direct a really cool show and quickly learned that I would also be making friends with theatre companies from all across the city.

We know why producer Brian Markley picked this play, “Shooter” as the TP contribution to BOA, but what drew you to the piece?

I am always drawn to the dark horse pieces. BOA is generally assumed to be a collection of comedic pieces and I was very glad to discover “Shooter”. I was immediately drawn to the serious and dark nature of it. I am also a big fan of tight spaces filled with people who never actually interact with each other physically. It’s a fantastic challenge for a director.

It’s your first time working with Daniel Hirsch, the writer. How involved is he in the process?

I first met Dan at the general auditions and was impressed with him right away. He is very open to my ideas and continued to rework the script until the very end. He’s a super talented guy and I’m very pleased to be partnering with him to bring this show to life.

What’s turning out to be the biggest challenge in directing a piece like this, and in a festival setting?

I have to say that I tend to veer toward the minimal as a director. The less “stuff”, the better. Let the text speak for itself, that is. Part of me wonders if such a pared down show will fit harmoniously with the other pieces, especially if we have an audience expecting a bit more of a belly laugh.

What’s the greatest asset?

If we pull this off, the simple, dressed down concept may very well be our best asset as well. It can really be a standout.

How is this show still a Theater Pub show, despite not being performed in a bar?

One of the greatest things about Theater Pub is the immersive element and the chance to take advantage of unconventional staging and blocking. There’s a remarkably wide angle on the lens, so to speak, and you can really play with that. With “Shooter”, it’s as if we have jumped into the mirror world of Theater Pub. We have three very strong personalities who each inhabit a stiflingly small space but experience it in their own time. The audience sees three different stories unfolding at once.

What else at the festival are you most excited to see?

I’m really looking forward to “Break Of Day”. It’s a solid script with a great cast. I know Bryan Trybom as an actor and have always loved him on stage. I’m excited to see him direct.

“Shooter” will play, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, September 15, 19, 21, 25, 27, 29 and October 3 and 5 at the Tides Theater in San Francisco. To find out more about this show, and all the great shows that will be a part of this cornerstone event for the San Francisco Bay Area Theater scene, check out http://bayoneacts.org/.

Founding Artistic Director Brian Markley On Theater Pub at BOA 2013

The summer is almost over and we’re getting ready for our third collaboration with BOA, the Bay One Acts festival. This year’s project, Shooter, is being helmed by founding artistic director Brian Markley, who answers some questions for us today on the blog. Check back every Monday for the next month or so to find out more about the play, the festival, and the people behind this important annual SF Theater scene event.

First off, for those who don’t know, what is BOA?

BOA is one of the best indy theater collaboration in the Bay Area, and it’s entering its 12th year putting on a two week program of new local plays, all produced by small local theater companies.

How did Theater Pub get involved with BOA?

This will be our third year since (former Founding Artistic Director) Ben Fisher got us involved back in 2010. As a fellow community-minded theater company interested in widening our circle further and also bringing in fresh talent to Theater Pub, it’s an obvious partnership.

What drew you to pick “Shooter” as this year’s contribution by Theater Pub?

Both the director, Rik Lopes, and I were drawn to this piece immediately. It’s emotionally true, really insightful, and feels ripped from today’s news (without being just an “issue” piece). Also, I wanted to meet Daniel Hirsch (the author) after seeing he’s bound to become a successful playwright.

When and how did Rik Lopes come into the process?

I’d worked with Rik before, first as a fellow actor in an AtmosTheatre production of Alice in Wonderland, where aside from his amazing performance as the Mad Hatter, I was super impressed with his insight, maturity and communication style during rehearsals, helping the entire production and building more community among the actors. When I wrote a short piece for Theater Pub’s Pint Sized festival in 2011, I immediately asked Rik to direct. He’s sensitive and badass at the same time, and I think that kind of describes “Shooter” too.

What’s your involvement as the producer?

Not that much really. I’m procuring rehearsal space, tracking the budget, attending production meetings to be sure we’re turning things in on time. It’s the least artistic connection I’ve had to a project, but I’m happy to see such a good product coming together with Rik and Daniel and the cast.

What’s got you excited about bringing this piece to an audience?

I think it’s important, besides being a well-paced, explosive piece of theater. I hope people talk about it in the lobby or at the bar afterwards. I talked to my girlfriend about it for an hour after reading it for the first time.

What else at this year’s festival are you excited to see?

Without checking back on all the great pieces I’ve read, off the top of my head I’d say: Ben Fisher’s piece, because I’m following his whole career as a lesson, and Tracy Held Potter’s piece, because it’s hilarious on paper and I can’t wait to see it with costumes.

What the best thing about working in a festival environment? 

Feeling the family vibe. Among other examples, Quinn (Whitaker) at Wily West is stepping up to provide all the furniture for the run, and Tides Theater (whom I hadn’t met until our first production meeting) stepped in quickly to provide an awesome venue when plans changed for the initial choice. It’s fun to sit around a table where every company wants the same project to succeed, instead of competing for eyeballs and publicity.

How is a Theater Pub show still a Theater Pub show, no matter where it’s done?

Our shows have always appealed to more than the standard ‘professional’ theater-going crowd and this is no exception. Also, I expect our shows will always be followed by discussions over beers and our widening (thanks to BOA) circle of friends

“Shooter” will play, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, September 15, 19, 21, 25, 27, 29 and October 3 and 5 at the Tides Theater in San Francisco. To find out more about this show, and all the great shows that will be a part of this cornerstone event for the San Francisco Bay Area Theater scene, check out http://bayoneacts.org/.

Introducing The Writers of Pint Sized Plays IV! (Part Three)

We’re continuing our series of profiles of this year’s writers and this time we have two very old friends who have been contributing to Theater Pub for years: Megan Cohen and Sang S. Kim. Both prolific and highly respected local writers, Sang and Megan have been strong supporters of Theater Pub throughout the years and so we’re very excited to have them be a part of the festival this year. In some ways, they also have an unfair advantage on everyone else when it comes to this interview- namely because they’ve already done it before!

So how did you hear about Theater Pub’s Pint-Sized Play Festival and what possessed you to send something in?

Sang S. Kim: I hear about Theater Pub all the time. Every social gathering, the two things that come up are Pint Size and Olympians. It’s the Equinox and Solstice of the Bay Area theater community. It’s like your life is measured in relationship to these events.

“How old’s your kid?”
“Two Pint Sizes and half an Olympian.”

What possessed me to submit? The spirit of Carol Channing. I know she’s still alive but that’s how awesome she is.

Megan Cohen: I’ve had a play in every Pint-Sized Festival so far– this is my fourth Pint-Sized Play. You’d think I’d be over the format by now, but I’m not! After writing a monologue (“BEEEEAAR!”) for last year’s festival, where it’s just one character hanging out at a table, I wanted to swing the pendulum way in the other direction and do a sweeping epic with a lot of action and movement, and see how far I could push that in the Pub setting. A situation only gets old if you stop trying new things.

What’s the hardest thing about writing a short play?

Sang Kim: Who say’s its hard. It’s not hard. Have you ever ridden the BART between Oakland and Embarcadero around midnight? A lot can happen in 10 minutes or less.

Megan Cohen: Remembering that it’s a short play, not a small play. It doesn’t have to be about small ideas or small themes, and it doesn’t have to be simple or cute. You can give the audience a real experience, a complex experience; you can make those ten minutes important.

What’s the best thing about writing a short play?

Megan Cohen:They’re easier to get produced. We’re all working with such limited resources in the arts, and it’s really a huge financial investment for a company to rehearse, produce, and promote a full evening-length play; one major failure can pretty much bankrupt a small theater company, and even if they survive, it can damage their reputation and credibility. Short play festivals are cheaper, faster, and more casual, and they usually draw an adventurous audience who don’t mind if they haven’t heard of the writer, the director, or the actors before, which means companies can take risks on new and emerging artists. It’s still really competitive to get a short script chosen for production, (there are so many playwrights in the world!), but it’s much less competitive than getting a long script accepted. So, the best thing about writing short plays is knowing that they’re easier to get produced, and there’s a better chance the play will get to an audience instead of sitting in a drawer.

Sang Kim: I like to get in late and leave early. This is not good advice outside short plays though.

Who do you think is a major influence on your work?

Sang Kim: David Ives. He really ought to sue me for how much he influences my writing.

This is Sang S. Kim, David. Remember His Face.

This is Sang S. Kim, David. Remember His Face.

Megan Cohen:Right now in general, I’m actively trying to steal as much as I can from David Lynch, Alan Ball, and JJ Abrams. I’ve read too much Shakespeare for that influence not to be present in everything I write; same goes for Tom Stoppard; same goes for Sondheim; couldn’t turn those formative influences off if I tried. This specific play, “The Last Beer In The World,” is an Arthurian grail quest written in rhyme. So, obviously, you’re gonna get some Monty Python in there!!! We’re talking about a whole tradition of quest stories behind this kind of format, though, which are like 100% absorbed by all of us through cultural osmosis, even if we’ve never read any Arthurian literature on purpose. Star Wars? Yeah. Harold and Kumar? Sure. Some book I read as a 12-year-old about flying cars? Probably.

If you could pick one celebrity to be cast in your show, who would it be and why?

Megan Cohen: I always say (you can check, it’s on my website at MeganCohen.com) that all the roles in all my plays are written for Madeline Kahn. I would love to see her as all three roles in “Last Beer!” If you mean a living celebrity… Michelle Obama. Imagine the publicity, plus you just know she’d be so nice to work with. Anyone who says they don’t want Michelle Obama in their play is lying.

Sang Kim: Daniel Day Lewis. He’s absolutely wrong for either a college kid or grandmother but I would just love to watch him prepare for the role.

What is a writing project you are currently working on?

Megan Cohen: I am prepping my solo adaptation of Homer’s “Odyssey,” and I hope you will come see the first sneak peek of it at the SF Olympians Festival on Nov 8th! I’m going to perform it myself, as a kind of bard from the very-near future, as though I’m speaking to you from tomorrow about one of the oldest stories humans have ever told! The Olympians showing will be an evening-length “highlight reel,” but I’m working towards eventually creating a 12-hour durational piece where I tell the entire story, beginning to end, over the course of a single waking day! It’s all in rhymed verse! It’s a very long-term project! I’m calling it “A Totally Epic Odyssey!” I’m very excited! You can tell how excited I am by all these exclamation marks!

Sang Kim: Finishing these 10 Questions. I’m really close to spending as much time on these questions as I did writing my Pint Size submission.

What’s next for you?

Megan Cohen: Yeah, you can get in on my NEXT thing at BetterThanTelevision.Com. I’m building a “transmedia” story experience where a GHOST haunts your SMARTPHONE for the month of October, leading up to Halloween. I’ve got a great cast, and I’m completely enthralled with this amazing new software platform called Conductrr, which we’re using to make it an interactive story, so that you can communicate with the characters by text and email and stuff like that. It’s a sort of spooky narrative about a Victorian-era magician’s assistant who haunts you until you help her restless spirit cross peacefully into the next world! It’s part game, part film, but it’s really a whole new kind of story experience; it’s social, and modern, lives in your pocket, and should have lots of surprises; hopefully it will actually be “Better Than Television!” Dot com. Better Than Television Dot Com. BetterThanTelevision.Com. BETTERTHANTELEVISION.COM. Ok, I’m done.

Megan Cohen: Better Than Everything

Megan Cohen: Better Than Everything

Sang Kim: I’m helping the people at Bay Area One Acts this year and I’ll probably contribute here and there but I’m actually thinking of taking a break for a while. I find I’m repeating myself and running out of things to write about. Seriously – I’ve been staring at the last two sentences for 10 minutes before I wrote this sentence.

So what upcoming shows or events are you most excited about in the Bay Area Theater Scene?

Megan Cohen: “The SF Olympians Festival: Trojan Requiem” (not just because my Odyssey is in it, I promise), and “Strangers, Babies” at Shotgun in Oct/Nov. I’m stoked for that, because “Any Given Day” by the same team (Dir Jon Tracy and Playwright Linda McLean) at the Magic was soooooo unique, it had this kind of delicacy that really wasn’t like anything else I’d ever seen.

Sang S. Kim: I just looked at my Facebook Event page so I’ll go ahead and plug the next two shows I’m seeing which are “Book of Liz” at Custom Made and “Age of Beauty” at Exit.

What’s your favorite beer?

Sang Kim: I’m actually drinking cider these days. I’ve been having the worse dreams when I drink beer. Like Lars Von Trier directed dreams.

Megan Cohen: If I’m buying, PBR. If you’re buying, two PBRs. If you are buying and have a good job, Russian River’s “Consecration.”

You may have heard it’s our last show at Cafe Royale. What do you look forward to for the future of Theater Pub?

Sang Kim: I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the move to bring even more new people. Also, I look forward to not having to worry about drinks falling on my head because someone forgot how gravity works.

Megan Cohen: Keeping the dream alive with “SATURDAY WRITE FEVER!” It’s a free monthly playmaking party at the Exit Theater Cafe, co-produced by Theater Pub and the Exit, and co-hosted by me and Pub founder Stuart Bousel. On the third Saturday of the month, everyone comes at 8:30pm to hang out and get a drink, then at 9pm, writers pull prompts from a hat and take a 30 minute “playwrighting sprint” to each write a new original monologue! At 9:30pm, brave actors read the monologues for the crowd. It’s fun, you should come, the writing is good, the acting is good, it’s friendly and lively, there are cheap beers or champagne cocktails, and absolutely everyone’s attractive and well-dressed. If you follow SF Theater Pub on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll hear about it when it’s happening. You should follow SF Theater Pub on face so you can know about SATURDAY WRITE FEVER, and about other such things, because I can tell from the fact that you’re still reading this article that you are definitely someone who likes to know about things.

Don’t miss Pint Sized Plays IV, playing five times this month: July 15, 16, 22, 29 and 30, always at 8 PM, only at the Cafe Royale! The show is free and no reservations are necessary, but we encourage you to get there early because we will be full!