Cowan Palace: Hives, Tears, and a Lesson in Love

Ashley Cowan recalls her first involvement with Theater Pub and shares her original piece “How To Get Over Someone Who Is Just Not That Into You”.

Last week I attended Theater Pub’s final performance at Cafe Royale and it left me with a lot of feelings. Surprise, surprise, I know, considering my tendency to feel things. Anyway, it caught me for a moment as a watched the evening unfold that I was standing in a similar place three and a half years ago when I first performed with Theater Pub. Or as I’ve come to know it: the event when I read actual excerpts from my personal diary.

At the time, sharing my writing was one of my biggest fears. The idea of anyone hearing my work made me break out into literal hives and immediately start producing authentic human tears. But I so desperately wanted to be a part of the writing scene and when an opportunity came through with Theater Pub, I quickly accepted without really thinking about how potentially terrifying sharing something so intimate and private would be. But leave it to Theater Pub to offer that kind of unique chance in an almost surprisingly welcoming way.

I also thought about the person I developed into after that first performance. I started my Theater Pub involvement sharing my emotional experience in trying to get over someone to ending it with a final viewing sitting next to the love of my life (hi Will!). I thank Theater Pub for giving me the chance to scare myself silly, try something new, and be pushed to new territories.

And it also led me to think about the subject of my first reading, my diary entry. A man who inspired me to start a separate journal in an attempt to actively get over him. I haven’t seen him in years but thanks to some Facebooking, I’ve learned that he went overseas and went through some serious medical complications that may have taken a great deal of his memories away. So the reality is, he may not remember me at all. Which aside from the sadness I feel for him and his situation, breaks my heart a bit to think that the sum of our relationship lives only in my mind. And perhaps with the audience who once heard me voice some of those thoughts.

Rereading it again made me almost as uncomfortable as it did the first time. But I thought I’d share it again in honor of Theater Pub’s last night with Cafe Royale and to embrace the changes we’ve all made throughout the years while still celebrating our beginnings. Ah, so here we go. If you need me, I’ll be breaking out into hives and weeping in the corner.

“How To Get Over Someone Who Is Just Not That Into You”

Our Relationship.

Too often we’re so thankful for what someone has given us. Maybe it was a great advice, a kiss that still gives you butterflies, or an opportunity to become stronger. We assume they’ll be able to give us these great things for a life time. And sometimes the sad reality is, they can’t. They just can’t.

Your face. A poem I haven’t been able to write.

Your touch. A song I’ve only hummed.

November 5th 2008

The air is full of electricity and thick with hope as millions around the country celebrate Obama’s victory on the presidency.

I’m laying in bed. I just Googled you.

Several days have passed since we last texted. Several. And so many days before that since we last spoke.

I’m in a cold, cold room while 98 degrees plays on the radio. I look longingly at my phone as if you could just pop out of it, come lay next to me, and keep me warm.

What’s wrong with me? Why do I keep holding onto you? It’s like I’m charged too.

I just want to be changed.

I’m full of frustration and anger and I can’t seem to get to any other base of it all other than you.

When is this going to stop? When does the mere idea of you become just a fleeting moment in my mind?

November 6th 2008

I got a dog.

And stole pink furniture from the street.

November 7th 2008

I let another boy linger on my lips. Okay, it was a stage kiss, but still. Damn it. I will get over you.

November 8th 2008

I worked all day. I acted my heart out. I pretended to be a pregnant woman with two different boyfriends who had to love me.

I let someone call me pretty.

But I missed you today. A moment of you, really. A memory. A feeling I once had.

If I can feel all of these things for you is it possible you could feel anything for me at some time? I know I should not think about that. But i think you used to like me. At least a little. Who do you like now?

November 9th 2008

Had friends over. Surrounded myself in people who love me.

Read the play that took me about a year to complete. Wept because I found you there in the words. Hidden in letters. Brought to life with each sound. Realized that you are like the ocean… vague. Dominating.

Ruled by the moon?

November 10th 2008

Tried to sleep but awoke to a face who needed me: the dog.

Designed a job that I know you’d be just right for.

Had a terrible audition.

Ate delicious pumpkin ice cream.

Fell asleep to songs I once considered ours.

November 11th 2008

Grew sad remembering the past and researched places I once lived. And how they changed and continued once I left them.

I don’t even know if you live in California these days.

Time. I don’t understand it. And I can’t tell if it’s helping me.

November 12th 2008

I think we’re disappearing. Meaning the idea of the two of us together is disappearing. I’m still here… I think. I have no idea where you are. You feel so far away, so distant. Sometimes I have to ask if “we” existed at all because it just seems like that idea could only live in on a foreign island far away.

I asked myself how long it would take me to accept the idea that I may never see you again. For real never see you again, never talk to you again. I estimated six months.

We’ve gone this long without speaking before but it just makes me so sad. Come on, pal, is this really it? Is this how we end things for good? Why can’t I accept the idea? I guess I don’t want to. I’m working on it though.

Today I had a minor breakdown. I felt so tired. It’s wrong for me to connect my happiness with my lack of contact with you… it’s just unfortunately something that happens.

November 13th 2008

We made it to one month without any communication. I know you’re not counting days like I am but wow, this weighs me. One month of nothing.

And yet I feel everything. It still hurts.

My mother still likes you. She still roots for you. She wants you back in my life more than I do. That makes this process even harder. I need to stop telling her that you still hold thoughts of mine. I told her I deleted your number from my phone and she seemed close to insulted.

Ugh.

I read. I hang out with my dog. I change my hair. I sing. I try to keep distracted.

November 14th 2008

I sang for a crowd today.

A couple called me beautiful. A beautiful singer. It’s all I could wish for.

November 15th 2008

Acted all day. Felt two sides of fictional love. Was left with the eternal question: is it better to be the lover or the beloved?

November 16th 2008

Went to an audition and they laughed at my monologue. It felt nice to be appreciated in that way.

I think I’m getting closer to getting over you. I think I’m ready to let this go. And that idea makes me feel so good. To take those chains off. To remove the final link. To just let things be. I wanted to fuss, I wanted to fight, but deep down I want reciprocated love even more. I need you to love me without all that. Just plain and simple.

For me being me. And you can’t do that.

November 17th 2008

Taught a small class and created a play called “Thanksgiving At Never Never Land”.

Felt so good today because I felt like I was really over it all. I was going to be strong and move on.

Took my dog for a nice long walk.

Went out to Thai food with friends. Which is always helpful. We talked about the best kisses of our lives. Couldn’t quite articulate if you were indeed my best kiss… can the idea of the best kiss be destroyed by anger from the past? I built up our first kiss. It meant a lot to me at one time. I’m not sure what that means now.

November 18th 2008

I went to Marin today. I couldn’t help but wonder if you still lived there. How funny if you did considering it seems like there is nothing but distance between us.

December 2nd 2008

AND THEN IT ALL CHANGED. Not for the better. Not for the worse. And not really at all…

We’re “talking” again. Which only means we’ve exchanged a few text messages.

Worthless and meaningless texts. I don’t think I even like you any more. I’m not interested as much. I don’t even think I want to see you again.

As soon as I stop that slight flicker of interest at one of your messages I know I’ll be fine.

December 10, 2009

May have taken a year. But, yes, indeed. No flicker of interest anymore.

Sadly, or I guess, just honestly, other boys have swept in and new games begin. All seeming to end in similar a pattern. I need to get over boys who have already gotten over me.

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An Ode For The End Of An Era

SPOILER ALERT!

If you haven’t been to Pint-Sized and are intending to go tonight, you shouldn’t read any further. You should also get there super early because we are going to be packed. If you’re not going to Pint Sized or have already been, then go right ahead. There won’t be anything too surprising.

Well, we’ve reached our final performance at the Cafe Royale at last. I was going to do a big sum up of the last three and a half years, but honestly, we already have a website that does an amazing job of that, and will continue to do so. Browse our Past Projects page. It’s an impressive list, as is the one of our many collaborators who have joined us over the years. As for this current blog entry, I’ve decided to published the Llamalogue that ends this year’s festival, since I think it pretty much says everything that has to be said. I hope you enjoy it, and thank you, as always, to Elana McKelahan, who created the Llama character, and Rob Ready, who has defined it since the beginning, deeper and deeper every year.

Speaking of thanks… Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this first era of Theater Pub. Audience and artist alike, we could not have done it without you, and we’re so grateful we did, and had you be a part of it.

See you soon.

Llamalogue

by Stuart Bousel

The Llama enters.

LLAMA:
Bet you thought that bear was coming back this year, huh?

Fuck that bear. There is no bear. There is only Llama.

He walks over to the Bar, calling to the Bartender:

Beer me.

He gets a beer from the Bartender after some improved banter, then goes back to talking to the audience.

Funny story about that Bear. Right after we started hanging out, you know, like right after I saved that Bear’s life, everything was pretty chill, for a while. Everything was pretty awesome, actually. And then along comes this baron whose name is like Sir Owns-A-Start-Up-He-Runs-Out-Of-His-Castle-He-Bought-With-All-The-Money-He-Made-At-Facebook-The Third and guess what? Within a week we’re having the old, “It’s not you, it’s me,” conversation and yes, in fact, it was all about that Bear because that Bear sucks.

Beat.

But I’m sure it was kind of about me too.

A moment. He drinks.

Christopher Durang once wrote- What? Don’t look at me like that, I go to the Theater, okay? I know it might be hard to accept, but I’m just your typical, every-day, hyper-articulate, overly-intoxicated, theater-admiring llama, okay? God…

He spits.

Anyway, Christopher Durang once wrote, “Don’t depend on people!” He has a character say this to another character, right before she strangles her. Actually, t’s a pretty amazing moment, because the Now-Dead-Girl was looking for someone to solve her problems and the Kills-Her-Woman basically does that for her, but, likw… forever, you know? Which was probably not the solution the Dead Girl was looking for… but you can’t say it didn’t work.

Every time I think about that Bear, I think about that play.

And how I probably should have strangled that Bear.

But I guess I’m glad I didn’t.

Beat. To an audience member, confidentially:

Don’t depend on dancing bears. They are not reliable.

He drinks. He once again address the whole audience.

There’s another side to it all, of course. And maybe I’m making it more than it is. I mean, the sun always rises again, blah blah blah. Like, if that Bear can find another Baron, something that was, statistically speaking, pretty fucking unlikely, then I can probably find another Bear. If I want to.

I’m just not sure that I want to.

You see, I never really wanted a Bear, until I had one, and then I didn’t have one. So sometimes I think I want to get the Bear back… but sometimes I think I just want to get back to what I was before I ever knew there was a Bear to have in the first place.

Beat.

Because I am a Llama.

And frankly, that’s already too much jelly for anybody to handle.

He drinks.

I don’t know. Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck and some nights I call it a draw, you know? Like… some nights I wish that my lips could build a castle… but then, like… that Bear would probably want to move in. And fuck that.

He goes back to drinking. A moment, and then he sings softly:

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh
Whoa oh oh (What do I stand for?)
Whoa oh oh (What do I stand for?)
Most nights I don’t know anymore…

And suddenly the CHORUS enter, joining in as needed.

CHORUS:
Oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, oh,
Oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, oh

LLAMA:
This is it, boys, this is war – what are we waiting for?
Why don’t we break the rules already?
I was never one to believe the hype
Save that for the black and white
I try twice as hard and I’m half as liked,
But here they come again to jack my style

That’s alright
I found a martyr in my bed tonight
She stops my bones from wondering just who I am, who I am, who I am
Oh, who am I? Mmm… Mmm…

Well, some nights I wish that this all would end
‘Cause I could use some friends for a change.
And some nights I’m scared you’ll forget me again
Some nights I always win, I always win…

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for, oh
What do I stand for?
What do I stand for?
Most nights I don’t know, anymore!

Well, that is it guys, that is all – five minutes in and I’m bored again
Ten years of this, I’m not sure if anybody understands
This one is not for the folks at home;
Sorry to leave, mom, I had to go
Who the fuck wants to die alone all dried up in the desert sun?

My heart is breaking for my sister and the con that she call “love”
When I look into my nephew’s eyes…
Man, you wouldn’t believe the most amazing things that can come from…
Some terrible nights…

Oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, oh,
Oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, whoa, oh, oh

The other night you wouldn’t believe the dream I just had about you and me
I called you up but we’d both agree

It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance…
It’s for the best you didn’t listen
It’s for the best we get our distance…

Silence. The CHORUS slinks off. The LLAMA finishes his beer.

He straightens his back.

He leaves.

An empty place, for a moment, and then the lights go out.

The Next Generation Emerges: An Interview With Eli Diamond

There’s a certain tragic poetry to Eli Diamond, the youngest person to ever be involved with Theater Pub, making his onstage Pub debut with Pint Sized IV, our last production at the Cafe Royale. Giving the uniqueness of him amongst the more seasoned cast, we thought we’d take a moment to find out what it’s like to be the guy who shows up just in time for the end of an era.

Who are you, in a hundred words or less?

I am Elijah Diamond, a 19 year old actor who used to write “Theater Conservatory Confidential” for this site but is currently in his first SF Theater Pub. I am a born and raised local who recently spent a year at NYU majoring in Acting at the Atlantic Acting School.

Eli Diamond: Shimmering With Youth

Eli Diamond: Shimmering With Youth

And this is your first time being in a Theater Pub show. How did you get cast?

I had been asked before to do a Theater Pub show, and had been incredibly interested, but, the timing hadn’t worked. Funny enough, the current offer came as a complete shock to me. I was just on the computer minding my own business, when suddenly WHAM! Charles Lewis III sends me a message saying basically “Wanna be in my show for Theater Pub?” And I couldn’t type yes fast enough.

So, you are the youngest person to ever be in a show at Theater Pub, let alone be in Pint-Sized. How is that? Does anyone treat you like a kid?

As “the youngest person to ever be in a Theater Pub”, I was kinda worried that it would be like that, with everyone treating me just as a kid, but I quickly found out that wasn’t the case. I chill with people backstage and around the bar, though of course I don’t and can’t order anything, and I’ve found everyone to be incredibly accepting and loving. It’s interesting, as this is actually the first theater production I’ve been in where I don’t feel like everyone’s treating me like a kid. It’s an amazingly refreshing experience.

Has anyone recognized you as a former columnist for the website?

Sadly no, but I’m partially glad. I feel like if someone did, their first reaction would be “Why aren’t you in an institution right now?

Your column ended with you dropping out of Theater School and moving back to the Bay to pursue other avenues. What have you been up to all summer, and what does the future hold for you?

Recently I’ve been just doing my own thing. I got an internship doing lighting design for concerts, and I’ve been finding myself acting a lot more than I first expected. It’s been nice to reconnect with old friends as well. My future right now is incredibly up in the air, I’m going to see if I can transfer this upcoming year from CCSF, finish my GEs, and just figure out exactly what it is I want to do.

Any dream roles you’re hoping to play? People you are just dying to work with now that you’re back on the West Coast?

There are tons of people who I’m dying to work with. Basically everyone from Pint-sized this year who I wasn’t in a show with. I’d love to work with Paul Rodrigues, Andrew Chung, Annika Bergman, and pretty much everyone. In terms of directors, I’m dying to work with Claire Rice and Meg O’Connor. But I’m pretty open. In terms of dream roles, I used to be really crazy about those, but more recently, I’ve found myself incredibly open in what I get cast as. I find that keeps me from feeling like I’m type casting myself.

On some level, it probably feels like you just got here, and it’s all changing. Any thoughts on that?

That’s exactly how I’m feeling. I’m just like “Awesome, whens the next Theater Pub?” And everyone just throws their hands in the air like “No idea.” It’s a bit disheartening, but I’m definitely going to participate whenever I can.

You’re a young person, and if you didn’t know, the whole theater world right now is dying to get more young people to come to the theater. As a young person who makes theater, and goes to theater, what are your thoughts on how to reach younger audiences?

Honestly, just make it more known that you need and want young people. I just one day went “I’m going to try auditioning for something”, and surprise! Here I am. Young people just think that this is too far of a step away from them, when in reality all they have to do is raise their hands and get involved. Young people making theater tends to make for younger audiences too. We travel in packs.

Any shows you’re looking forward to seeing in the next six months?

I’m incredibly interested in Custom Made’s whole line up this year, most notably The Crucible. I managed to get some tickets to The Book of Mormon, and I’m hoping that doesn’t disappoint. Most of all, I’m just on the lookout for something new to take me by surprise. I like surprises.

You can see Eli and the rest of the Pint Sized cast two more times: tonight, at 8 PM, and tomorrow, July 30th, at 8 PM, only at the Cafe Royale! The event is free, but get there early as we expect to be packed!

Introducing The Directors Of Pint Sized IV! (Part Two)

Pint Sized Plays IV is more than halfway through it’s run! This year our excellent line up of writers is supported by an equitably awesome line up of directors, so we thought we’d take a moment to introduce some of them and find out more about who they are, what they’re looking forward to, and how they brought so much magic to this year’s festival.

Tell the world who you are in 100 words or less.

Tracy Held Potter: I’m a writer/director/producer who recently discovered that I have to create inspirational mantras that are the exact opposite of the inspirational mantras that I used in high school. I run All Terrain Theater (www.allterraintheater.org) and Play Cafe (www.playcafe.org) and I’m a co-founder of the 31 Plays in 31 Days Project with Rachel Bublitz (http://31plays31days.com). My biggest projects right now are directing The Fantasy Club by Rachel Bublitz and getting ready to move to the East Coast for a fancy-pants MFA Dramatic Writing program at Carnegie Mellon University.

Jonathan Carpenter: Formerly a biologist and Bostonian, I’m now a San Francisco-based theater director. I love bold, new plays that sometimes have music and sometimes don’t happen in traditional theater spaces at all.

Colin Johnson: I am Colin and I like telling stories and stuff.

Colin Johnson: What A Rebel

Colin Johnson: What A Rebel

How did you get involved with Theater Pub, or if you’re a returning director, why did you come back?

Tracy Held Potter: I saw several Theater Pub shows in the past year and loved them, especially Pint-Sized Plays, and also got to run sound for Pub from Another World, which was extremely fun. “Audrey Scare People Play?” Whaaaaaat!

Jonathan Carpenter: This is my first time directing for Theater Pub! I met Meg O’Connor at an event for the SF Olympians Festival. She mentioned that her friend Neil (Higgins) was looking for directors for the Pint Sized Festival. A few days later, Neil and I were emailing each other about the line-up for this year’s festival, and not too long after I was on board to be part of the Pint Sized directing team. I had always been really interested in Theater Pub, and so when the opportunity arose to get involved, I jumped on it.

Colin Johnson: I got involved through the fearless producer called Neil, whom I’ve worked with during the last two years on the SF Olympians Festival.

What’s been the most exciting part of this process?

Jonathan Carpenter: There’s nothing better than being in the rehearsal room and digging into a script with actors, so I would say that my rehearsal time with Jessica (Chisum), Lara (Gold), and Andrew (Chung) was the most exciting part of the process for me. Multitasking (by Christian Simonsen) is a deceptively tricky play. You have to keep asking yourself, “Wait, what the hell is going on here?!” All three actors were really smart about figuring out what makes these characters tick. I had a blast bringing the play to life with them.

Colin Johnson: Analyzing and then over-directing the crap out of a one page script. Sometimes the greatest challenges come in the smallest packages. Oh, and also practicing a musical number with a drunk llama.

Tracy Held Potter: Getting invited to direct for Pint-Sized plays and then finding out that I was going to direct a piece by Megan Cohen were freaking awesome. I still relive moments from watching Megan’s piece from last year, so this really has been a thrill for me. I also loved rehearsing with Charles Lewis III, Caitlin Evenson, and Jessica Rudholm … and I won’t lie that sewing the knight props and costumes in the middle of the night was pretty special as well.

What’s been the most troublesome?

Tracy Held Potter: Keeping things simple with this brief yet epic play. I tend to work on projects with a minimal amount of props and set design, but there’s a part of me that wants to go all out with this one: more rehearsals in the space and more elaborate costuming. I got to work with a great cast and I we pulled out a lot of interesting material from the script in a very short period, so I can’t really complain, though.

Colin Johnson: Troublesome? I don’t know the meaning of the word, I say! But I suppose rehearsing with a drunk llama can have its setbacks.

Jonathan Carpenter: Casting was probably the trickiest piece of the puzzle for me. There are, of course, so many wonderful actors in the Bay Area; the only problem is that they’re so wonderful that they’re always cast in multiple projects! The Theater Pub performance schedule is great because Monday is usually a day off for actors, so it’s possible to do Theater Pub along with other shows. But it doesn’t always work out. I lost a terrific actor that I was really excited to work with because it turned out that she was needed for rehearsals for another project during the final week of Pint Sized performances. And then when I had to find another actress for that role, there were several other wonderful folks that I couldn’t use because we couldn’t find common free times to rehearse! It all worked out beautifully in the end – thanks to Neil’s guidance, persistence, and huge network of actor friends – but there were some moments where I was really banging my head against the wall.

Jonathan Carpenter: Casting Clusterf**k Survivor

Jonathan Carpenter: Casting Clusterf**k Survivor

Would you say putting together a show for Pint Sized is more skin of your teeth or seat of your pants and why?

Tracy Held Potter: I would say “seat of your pants” because I have sensitive teeth and the other metaphor makes them hurt.

Jonathan Carpenter: Pint Sized is definitely a seat of your pants kind of endeavor. You’re making theater that’s going to happen in a bar where anything can happen. Someone could walk through your scene to go to the bathroom. A noisy garbage truck could whiz past Cafe Royale. Who knows, an especially drunk audience member might even try to get in on the action. So, you have to stay adaptable and be ready to fly by the seat of your pants. But that’s also what’s so exciting, right? Live theater!

Colin Johnson: I’d say seat of the pants is a better term. When you perform in public, especially a bar, you must be prepared to adapt and circumvent logistical problems at a moment’s notice. Skin of the teeth makes it seem like we’re barely hanging in there, which is untrue. This production has actually been one of the most tightly coordinated and relaxed projects in a while for me.

What’s next for you?

Colin Johnson: Next, I’m writing a full-length adaptation of Aeneas’s tale for SF Olympians: Trojan Requiem (titled Burden of the Witless) in November. I also have a recently-completed independent short film that will hopefully be making festival rounds this year. And most likely directing a Woody Allen One-Act early next year in Berkeley

Tracy Held Potter: I’m directing and producing a HILARIOUS sex comedy by Rachel Bublitz called The Fantasy Club that we’re premiering at The Alcove Theater near Union Square from Aug 2 – Aug 11 (http://fantasyclub.brownpapertickets.com). It’s about a stay-at-home-mom who faces the man she’s been fantasizing about since high school and has to decide between her marriage and making her fantasies come true. I’ve spent a lot more time on Google researching underwear and logo contraceptives for this show than I have for anything else. In August, we’re also relaunching the 31 Plays in 31 Days Challenge and rehearsing for Babies, the Ultimate Birth Control: Terrifyingly Hilarious Plays about Parenting for SF Fringe (http://www.sffringe.org), which both Rachel and I wrote pieces for. In the midst of all this, I’m going to finish packing up my family to move to Pennsylvania. You know, taking it easy.

Tracy Held Potter: Taking It Easy

Tracy Held Potter: Taking It Easy

Jonathan Carpenter: I’m about to begin rehearsals for the west coast premiere of Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Golden Dragon, which Do It Live! Productions will be producing in A.C.T.’s Costume Shop theater in September. And after The Golden Dragon, I’ll be directing readings of Jeremy Cole’s On The Plains of Troy and Madeline Puccioni’s The Walls of Troy for the SF Olympians Festival.

What are you looking forward to in the larger Bay Area theater scene?

Tracy Held Potter: I’m looking forward to “A Maze” by Rob Handel and produced by Just Theater at Live Oak Theatre, which just opened. Rob is the theater teacher for my new grad program and I’ve heard great things from people who’ve already seen it (phew!). There are a lot of shows that I’m really sad to be missing because I’ll be out of the state, but I’ll be catching all of Bay One-Acts and at least a couple of SF Olympians shows towards the end of the festival.

Colin Johnson: BOA is always an amazing fun time! As is the Olympians! They’re both a great conglomeration of all the best the Bay indie theatre scene has to offer! And great folks!

Jonathan Carpenter: Oh my gosh. I’m a huge nerd, and I just can’t wait to see Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land at Berkeley Rep. I mean, it’s Gandalf! And Professor X! AND they’re doing No Man’s Land! I have loved Pinter ever since I first dove into his plays a few years ago while working on a production of The Homecoming. They’re so juicy. So I’m really looking forward to that production. I’m also really excited to check out Rob Handel’s A Maze at Just Theater this summer. I read a draft of the play about three years ago, and I was completely enthralled. It read like a comic book, and I was totally fascinated to imagine how you might stage such an intricate play. I’ve heard great things about the production, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Who in the Bay Area theater scene would you just love a chance to work with next?

Jonathan Carpenter: Woah! It’s way too hard to pick just one artist! Can I say “all of them”?!? Well…actor Reggie White is probably at the top of my list. He’s been a friend of mine for a couple of years now, and it seems criminal that we haven’t done a show together yet.

Tracy Held Potter: I can’t count how many actors, directors, stage managers, writers, and other theater people that I got to work with this year who I really admired. I have so many theater crushes here that it’s crazy. With that said, I would fall out of my chair if I got to work with Desdemona Chiang on one of my plays.

Colin Johnson: I would love to have a rematch of my 2012 Olympians knock-out, drag down fight with Jeremy Cole. But most of my Bay Area dream collaborations have been fulfilled, with hopefully more on the horizon.

What’s your favorite thing to order at the Cafe Royale?

Jonathan Carpenter: Whatever stout they have on tap.

Colin Johnson: I’m a fan of the Marin Brewing Company IPA. But if I’m expected to be productive, a Cider or a Pilsner.

Tracy Held Potter: I don’t really drink that much so I like to order soda or tea, but last time the bartender made me a limeade which was pretty good. There are photos of me on the Theater Pub Facebook page drinking that, if anyone’s interested.

Don’t miss the last two performances of Pint Sized Plays IV: July 29 and 30, 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!

Theater Around The Bay: Llamalogue

Stuart Bousel will not be changing names to protect the innocent.

Last night at Theater Pub, the fourth installment of The Pint Sized Plays opened and you should make it a point not to miss this production because it will be our last show at the Cafe Royale.

Also, it’s a very enjoyable evening. After a magical prelude by the Blue Diamond Bellydancers you will be induced to much laughter by volley after volley of razor wit interspersed with life lessons and dramatic moments. At the end of the 80 minutes of drinking themed shorts we bring out the Llama, the un-official (who are we kidding- he’s official- we made t-shirts) mascot of the San Francisco Theater Pub, originally created for the Pub by Elana McKelahan, played for the fourth year in a row by Rob Ready and written, for the second year in a row, by me.

I have often said the Llama is the spirit of the Pub and this year he delivers a bittersweet speech. It’s part ode to Megan Cohen’s dancing bear (played, last year, by Allison Page) and part rumination on the nature of loss, milked as much for laughs as possible but with perhaps a bit more sting than in the past. He concludes the speech (and the evening) valiantly trying to bolster himself (and the audience) with some pop music, before wandering off into the night and the lights go out on the silent, empty space. It’s funny and sad and a fitting end to our time at the Cafe Royale, if perhaps a bit melancholy.

“My bear would never betray the Llama like he does in your play,” Megan Cohen said to me.

“This isn’t about your bear,” I replied, with a wink, “it’s about the idea the llama has attached to the bear.”

Here is my goal in life as a writer and as an artist: to make fun of shit, and to get you to think about and appreciate yourself and the world around you. For years I have been trying to create a new breed of romantic satire where I validate the meaning of it all, even as I validate the likelihood that everything is meaningless. On an individual basis, I want you to laugh, and then I want to rip your heart out and hand it back to you with tears in my eyes and a kiss on my lips, leaving you intact and healing but with a lot to think about. I love you painfully and I want you to know that. Also, I absolutely believe theater is a transformative art (otherwise, why bother), and I want to transform you, if not in the theater than sometime later when you’re sitting by yourself and suddenly it hits you what this was really all about. I have faith that this happens because I have seen it happen, I have had it reported back to me by people it’s happened to, and I have experienced it myself. And I genuinely feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t gone through this at least once in their life. It’s the same sadness I feel for people who tell me they don’t believe in Love. I always think “how gray the world must be for you,” and then I think, “but it will happen some day- and how exciting that will be for you too.” That’s me, putting the romance back into romantic satire. I want you to have your big moment even when you adamantly refuse to accept such a thing could occur. It almost matters more when it happens to people like you.

Speaking of big moments, today is the 16th anniversary of my older brother, Edwin, dying. This is not, generally speaking, something I advertise, but it’s never been something I hide either. I just find that it tends to make people uncomfortable, so I don’t bring it up unless I need to, and it happened so long ago now that many people who currently occupy my life don’t know I ever had a brother named Edwin, let alone that he died, tragically, at the age of 23. When I get asked by new friends, or even older friends who have never asked before, “Do you have any brothers and sisters?” I tend to reply that I do, indeed, have siblings, and leave it at that. Only if asked where they live, or what they do, do I ever mention that one is dead. At which point most people get very crestfallen, tell me how sorry they are, and then suddenly it’s my job to comfort them and let them know that it’s okay: it was a long time ago, and I dealt with it (therapy, an HIV scare, some really colorful drug experimentation) and there is nothing else they need to say or do. He’s gone and it’s sad because I was only 18 and never really got to know him, but it’s also life. Everything ends, including other people. Including you. Including me.

I recently told the cast of my new play, Age of Beauty, that I worship the idea of Light and I do, but it’s partly because I need something to balance a dark world view and aesthetic. And I don’t mean that kind of recent college graduate, post-modern, “I-totally-threw-in-a-rape-scene-following-a-baby-eating-scene-to-shock-you” type of dark. I’m dark like the Bronte Sisters, Arthurian legends and the Shakespeare comedies are all really dark and if you’re intrepid and open to it you can see it, but I also employ lots of little tricks to mitigate my darkness because I’m fundamentally a gentleman and I don’t enjoy awkward silences with people who would rather just glide on the surface. Humor, particularly self-depricating humor, is very present in my work and daily conversation as a way for me to say, “don’t take this too seriously” for fear of you doing so and we all suddenly end up on Intervention together (which I would just find amazingly tasteless). Symbolism is also a very big thing for me: I often say things very openly in my shows but in ways that make sense to virtually nobody else (in the form of, say, a character who constantly cuts black paper into strips, or a certain song that plays behind a monologue spoken by a character who can turn the lights on and off at will) so that the choice can be dismissed as weird instead of the quiet revelation of my inner turmoil that you’re actually seeing. I love the idea of “hidden in plain sight” emotions because I feel that most pain is like that: constantly surrounding us, but we’re blind to it, sometimes accidentally, but often willfully, often because it would just take too much work to understand it, so we’re better off just pretending it’s not there or not significant. Sometimes I revel in being misunderstood as much as I revel in being perceived clearly. Both states have their advantages.

It is no secret that I love the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and there are a number of reasons why but if I had to pick one thing, above all others, that I love, it would have to be his dark aesthetic of loss. The right people know what I’m talking about, how he threads through his encylopedic histories and silly hobbit antics a miasma of sorrow over the slow disintegration of a world that can never be gotten back, only glimpsed from a distance or heard in echoes. The great irony of the War of the Ring, which in Middle Earth marks the end of The Age of The Elves just as the Trojan War marked the end of The Age of Heroes in Greek mythology, is that it will be won by people who will come out of the dust only to find that they have lost the world they fought to preserve. This is because it either no longer exists, or because they have become different people in the course of the war, and even once restored to where they began they no longer fit in with the larger puzzle they were knocked out of. The Lord of the Rings is not so much a fantasy novel as it is an epitaph for Middle Earth and all that Middle Earth stood for in Tolkein’s mind. It is an epic rumination on the excruciating pain of moving from one era of your life into the next, the “painful progress” that Harper, in her final scene in Tony Kushner’s Angels In America, would so eloquently embrace as the only way for her to move on from her disaster marriage. For all it’s adventure and romance and humor and joy, Lord of the Rings remains one of the saddest books I know and yet also one of the most life affirmative because in the end of one age does lie the birth of another and at some point, like Samwise “I’m Back” Gamgee (or Harper Pitt if you prefer), if you’re lucky enough to survive the shit that happens to you there comes a moment you suck it up, shake off the remnants of shadow, say goodbye to the past and embrace where you are now because your only other choice is to lay down and die and that’s not really an option.

Though it is a temptation.

If the Llama is the spirit of the Pub then I think the reason this year’s speech is so bittersweet is because the Llama, like the Pub, has grown from a brash and confident celebrant staking his territory into a tired and battle-worn survivor of a long war who isn’t sure if he either lost or won, only that he has survived to see the end of an age. An age that was, for San Francisco Theater Pub, The First Age, and thus will always be truly significant, no matter what happens next. If my words, through the Llama, seem bittersweet it’s because the process of ending this age is both bitter and sweet, as almost any necessary process is. We have so much to be proud of, and so much to look forward to, and so much to mourn, all at the same time. I tried to capture that with the Llama, couching it in much symbolism and self-deprecating humor to make the pill easier to swallow, but yes, I also hope it sits uneasy in your stomach for some time after. We had something real, a home that was often times as much a curse as it was a gift but always an integral part of what we were doing, and for a while there will be a hole where it used to be, the same kind of hole left by an ended love affair or a lost object. Or a dead person.

Everything ends, including other people. Including you. Including me. Including projects we really care about, sanctuaries we’ve found, experiences we’ve cherished. That’s why it’s important to sing and dance while we can, even as we know it won’t be forever, because we know the singing and dancing must end, if only because both are very tiring activities. Only when we embrace the fundamental brevity and meaninglessness of life and all that life encompasses does it become meaningful and we transcend to something eternal: the recognition that nothing ends, it just changes. My brother was only here for a short time, but he made an impact on me I’ll have until I die, and through whatever I leave behind and the people I impact, he continues to influence the world and so in many ways I have never thought of him as gone even though I hardly ever talk about him now. I’m starting to sort of see the Pub’s time at the Cafe Royale the same way: as something slipping into the chronicle of my life, bound to influence me for many years to come, but also relegated to the past. Like my brother. Like the first theater company I ever ran. Like my youth, frankly. Which I really miss sometimes. But fairly certain I wouldn’t go back to, even if I could. But you can’t. Life only moves forward, and not everyone, or everything, is there for the whole ride. Something worth mourning, the value of which I get because I have a dark aesthetic that recognizes life is all about loss. Amongst other things.

“You had a really good, really impressive run of it,” Les Cowan, without whose patronage Theater Pub never would have existed, said to me last night, the two of us talking about Pub’s time at Cafe Royale like we were at a wake.

I couldn’t agree more, but I replied, “I kind of can’t wait to be done,” because that’s true too and that’s the angle I’m starting to focus on these days. Because I’ve reached the point where I kind of just want to sing one last song and then head off into the night looking for the next thing- knowing that there will be a next thing. Because there is always a next thing. Because having a dark aesthetic often means worshiping the Light, and believing very much that the end of one age is the birth of another.

And because I am a Llama, and that’s true wherever I go.

Stuart Bousel is one of the Founding Artistic Directors of the San Francisco Theater Pub and was recently named by the SF Weekly as “Best Ringmaster” of the San Francisco indie theater scene. His short play, Llamalogue, will be performed by Rob Ready four more times at Pint Sized Plays IV, which plays tonight and July 22, 29, and 30 at the Cafe Royale, always at 8 PM. Don’t miss it!

Opening Tonight!

Pint Sized Plays returns for a fourth fabulous engagement this July!

Produced by the one and only Neil Higgins, this year’s line up of beer-themed short plays features the return of some of our favorite long-time collaborators (some of whom will be wearing new hats for the first time) as well as some fresh faces! In no particular order, the plays are:

Multitasking by Christian Simonsen, directed by Jonathan Carpenter

The Apotheosis of Grandma Shimkin by Sang Kim, directed by Charles Lewis III

200-Proof Robot by Kirk Shimano, directed by Neil Higgins

Tree by Peter Hsieh, directed by Colin Johnson

All Our Fathers by Carl Lucania, directed by Meghan O’Connor

The Last Beer in the World by Megan Cohen, directed by Tracy Held Potter

Mark +/- by Dan Ng, directed by Adam Sussman

Llama IV by Stuart Bousel, directed by Colin Johnson

Starring the acting talents of Annika Bergman, Jessica Chisum, Andrew Chung, AJ Davenport, Eli Diamond, Caitlin Evenson, Lara Gold, Matt Gunnison, Charles Lewis III, Melissa Keith, Brian Quakenbush, Rob Ready, Casey Robbins, Paul Rodrigues, and Jessica Rudholm.

The show plays five times: July 15th, 16th, 22nd, 29th, 30th, always at 8 PM, but get there early, because we will be packed to the gills every night! As usual, the show is free with a $5.00 suggested donation at the door.

Introducing The Writers Of Pint Sized Plays IV! (Part Two)

With Pint Sized plays just around the corner, we’re continuing our series of profiles of this year’s writers. This time we have one Theater Pub first-timer, Daniel Ng, one writer who has developed his piece with Theater Pub, Christian Simonsen, and a returning collaborator, Kirk Shimano, who authored last year’s world premiere production of Love In A Time Of Zombies, but makes his Pint Sized Plays debut this year. 

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

Kirk Shimano: I’ve been fortunate to work with Theater Pub in the past and have seen previous iterations of the Pint-Sized Play Festival, so it’s something that’s been on my radar for awhile. I happened upon an NPR story about a robot that vomits…for science! (his name is “Vomiting Larry”, in case you’re curious) and suddenly I had the perfect beer drinking robot play idea to submit.

Christian Simonsen: My short script “Last Man Sitting” was part of “Occupy Theater Pub!” back in 2012, and that was an awesome experience. So I always have wanted to work with this group again.

Daniel Ng: I was introduced to Theater Pub by friends Karen Offereins and Brian Markley and have enjoyed many Pint-Sized and other Theater Pub performances. Pint-Sized is the perfect venue for newcomers like me, so I’ve wanted to submit something for a while.

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

Kirk Shimano: It’s a challenge to get the audience up to speed and ready to start the story in as short a time as possible. If you’ve spent a page in exposition you’ve already wasted too much of your audience’s time.

Daniel Ng: I mainly write short fiction and memoir, so everything about playwriting is a new challenge. The hardest part is envisioning the physical interactions of the actors and then giving the director and actors enough information to make it work, while allowing them freedom to bring it to life in their own way.

Christian Simonsen: The tangible limitations. The script’s length, obviously, and most short play festivals also limit the number the actors, props, etc. You are forced to get to the point, both intellectually and dramatically, as quickly as possible. The monologue you write in the first draft will often be replaced by one well-chosen word or gesture. Sometimes I pass the medium’s limitations on to my characters: If my script can only be five minutes long, It helps to make it clear right away to my protagonist that the Sea Monster or Jealous Boyfriend is ON HIS WAY!

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

Christian Simonsen: The best thing is also the hardest thing… the limitations! They keep me focused, and force me to decide what my script is really, truly about. Also, modern audiences tend to respond well to short plays. Perhaps they reflect our fast-paced society; Drama-On-The-Run.

Daniel Ng: The short length forces you to get to the point and stick to it–there’s no room for fat or fluff.

Daniel Ng: More Matter, Less Art

Daniel Ng: More Matter, Less Art

Kirk Shimano: I think that you really just need one strong idea to sustain a short play. It makes for a very immediate writing experience, where I just need to find one exciting concept and then run with it.

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

Daniel Ng: My major influences are from sci-fi and speculative fiction–J. G. Ballard and Borges for their abstract, metaphorical psychodrama. Also Samuel Delaney for combining poetic narration and earthy dialogue.

Kirk Shimano: I have a much thumbed through copy of David Ives’s “Time Flies and Other Short Plays” that taught me a lot about how imaginative you can be in a very short time. I always find myself thinking about Stephen Sondheim songs as well, because a lot of his best songs are as deep as any short play I could hope to write.

Christian Simonsen: Sadly, one of the writers who influenced me the most died recently: Richard Matheson. He was a crowd-pleaser, so academics ignored him. But his fiction exposed my own fears of mortality, alienation and loneliness far better than many so-called High Brow authors ever could.

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

Daniel Ng: Simon Pegg, no question. He does nerdy, manic, and exasperated so well and he has perfect comedic timing.

Christian Simonsen: Amy Poehler; there’s a darkness underneath her comic energy that’s often unsettling. In a previous era, I would have gone with Madeline Kahn.

Christian Simonsen, carrying the torch for Mad.

Christian Simonsen, carrying the torch for Mad.

Kirk Shimano: This is going to be a bit of here-and-now bandwagon jumping, but I’m going to say Melissa McCarthy because she just makes anything she’s in ten times better to watch.

What is a writing project you are currently working on?

Kirk Shimano: For a few years, I’ve been working on a full length play that uses Japanese fairy tales as a way of exploring online dating, Japanese-American history, and a bunch of other topics that I’m not yet sure are connected, but that I think might work together. I’ve been letting it marinate for a few months and I’m eager to return to that world soon.

Christian Simonsen: I’m finishing up another short stage play, and I’m co-writing a multi-media project. Then I plan on writing my second feature length screenplay, which will be in my favorite genre, Horror.

Daniel Ng: A short story, but *stage whisper* it’s top secret. The idea is so original that I am worried someone from Hollywood might steal it from me. It’s about zombies. Okay, not so original there. But seriously, it’s a zombie story, but with a twist that I don’t think has been done before.

What’s next for you?

Kirk Shimano: I have a short play in “Lawfully Wedded” by Wily West Productions. Morgan Ludlow has interwoven work by Alina Trowbridge and me with his own stories about the state of marriage equality. It runs from July 25 to August 17, in repertory with “Gorgeous Hussy.”

Kirk Shimano, just gorgeous.

Kirk Shimano, just gorgeous.

Christian Simonsen: I’ll be acting in “The Twilight Zone Live: Season X” at The Darkroom in San Francisco on July 12th and 13th.

Daniel Ng: I’m planning some pieces for my friend Martin Azevedo’s next Musical Emergency in September. He puts on these brilliant musical theater events that are a combination of open-mic and collaborative musical potlatch. They are wildly creative and just a ton of fun.

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

Christian Simonsen: Many, including The SF Olympians Festival, and All Terrain Theater’s “Babies: The Ultimate Birth Control”.

Kirk Shimano: I’m always excited about the San Francisco Olympians festival – and not just because I have a play about drag queens to present this year. It’s always great to see how much of the community supports it and I can’t wait to see the final versions of the bits and pieces that I’ve already gotten to hear.

Daniel Ng: It’s a little ways off, but I’m really looking forward to Custom Made Theatre’s production of “The Pain and the Itch” opening January 2014. The Gough Street Playhouse is such a wonderful space.

What’s your favorite beer?

Daniel Ng: Guinness–at some bars it’s the only thing to eat.

Krik Shimano: I wasn’t really a beer drinker until I spent a semester studying overseas in Japan, so I always enjoy sipping a Sapporo and thinking of that time.

Christian Simonsen: Corona, but don’t tell my British friends.

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

Christian Simonsen: I will miss Café Royale; it has been a near perfect setting for a large variety of productions. But I’m sure there are a lot of odd nooks and crannies in the city that can be transformed into live theater!

Daniel Ng: I hope that a new venue or even multiple venues will attract new people to join Theater Pub’s loyal fans. I’m pretty excited about the possibilities of different kinds of spaces that will allow Theater Pub to evolve and expand in unpredictable ways, not unlike a slime mold or exotic parasite.

Kirk Shimano: I’ve always enjoyed the freedom and innovation of Theater Pub, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the change of venue opens up the possibility of even more new opportunities.

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!