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! 

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

Pint Sized Plays IV is only a few weeks off and we’re excited to have two writers who are contributing a play to Pint Sized for the very first time! Though Carl Lucania has been a staple of Theater Pub from early on, this marks his first time as part of the festival, while Peter Hsieh will be making his Theater Pub debut! We took a moment to get to know these guys a little bit better, and find out what drew them to Pint Sized, what challenges they faced, and what they’re excited about both at Theater Pub and beyond!

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

Carl Lucania: I got in on the ground floor, having worked with all the Theater Pub founders at some point or other as an actor. I love to tell stories and enjoy writing, but I’d never written a play before.

Peter Hsieh: I probably saw stuff about it on Facebook, but it was during one of my meetings at Asian American Theatre Co’s New Works Incubator that Sunil or Kirk brought up Theater Pub and my first time submitting was actually for the evening of sci-fi and horror that Sunil was producing. Also I like beer and short plays.

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

Peter Hsieh: Keeping it concise and to the point, there’s no beating around the bush when it comes to short plays and a lot of times it is hard to know what to keep and what to change and what to get rid of.

Carl Lucania: The most difficult thing for me in any self-motivated project is blocking out the time to get it done. After that it seemed fairly intuitive; who doesn’t have at least one good story that takes place in a bar?

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

Carl Lucania:  That it isn’t a full length play.  That would make my head hurt.

Carl Lucania: Never One To Let His Head Hurt

Carl Lucania: Never One To Let His Head Hurt

Peter Hsieh: It is more focused, for me at least. When I’m writing a short play I usually know where to go and I more easily connect the beginning to the end to give it that extra kick. Also I feel there are a lot more production opportunities for short plays in terms of being an emerging writer, theaters may do maybe one new work a season that is a full length but produce an evening or weekend of five to eight short plays once or twice in their season.

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

Carl Lucania: I was greatly influenced by Audrey, an 11 year-old whose short play got produced In Pub From Another World back in May. It convinced me to get over myself and contribute something.

Peter Hsieh: Keroauc. I’ve always loved his writing style, his form, his poetry, his sense of rhythm. I think I take a lot from his style and incorporate that in my plays and poems.  American Haiku is so good it makes my balls hurt. Seriously. I am also a big fan of Sarah Kane, I’ve read 4.48 Psychosis more times than I’ve read any other play.

Peter Hsieh: Keroauc cool.

Peter Hsieh: Keroauc cool.

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

Peter Hsieh: Michael Fassbender. Hands Down. He is an awesome and incredible actor and I like him in everything he’s been in. Hunger. Shame. X-men First Class. Heck I’d probably change the script so he takes off his pants so I can have some full frontal Fassbender in my play.

Carl Lucania: Since I’ve got an older woman of Italian heritage in the piece, how about Isabella Rossellini? I’d watch her do just about anything.

What is a writing project you are currently working on?

Peter Hsieh: I am currently working on a new full length play, which is about two high school friends who kinda hold these grudges against each other over different things. Things escalate when one beats the other at this video game and ends doing it with the other kid’s mom. There will be flame throwers, chainsaws, fast cars, gaming, college applications, and a splash of futuristic dystopia. I hope to have a first draft by end of July so I’m pretty stoked.

Carl Lucania: I have this notion to try and adapt Isherwood’s Christopher and his Kind into a sort of Cabaret: The Real Story type piece that includes some music of the Weimar era. I thought an adaptation would be easier than writing an original piece. I was wrong. So wrong.

What’s next for you?

Peter Hsieh: I have an art installation / open house gala of my monologue and poems called Collectives: Volume One going up July 12th at Avid Coffee in San Jose. There are these paintings, installations with headphones that play my poems and monologues mixed to cool music and ambience and stuff. There will be an auction there as well for my installations. Also on that same weekend Rama and Sita a play that I collaborated on with my friend Steve Boyle is going up as part of SJREAL’s Late Night Series at San Jose Rep. My play Even Spies sit on Park Benches is being workshopped at West Valley College as part of Alpha Project, a summer festival of new plays and that is going up end of July and playing through early August I believe. We are also planning our next season for SJREAL so I’m looking forward to cool and innovative new season.

Carl Lucania: Good question. Anyone have any interesting parts for a middle-aged man with all of his hair and most of his marbles?

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

Peter Hsieh: Wow, there are so many. I’m excited to see Bay One Acts when it goes up. No man’s Land at Berkeley Rep. The Snow Queen at San Jose Rep this winter. Mutt by Christopher Chen at Impact. City Lights Theatre Co, has an amazing entire season that I’m really looking forward to, and  I always enjoy their shows. There are a lot of them, but one thing that I am probably most excited about is the SF Olympians Festival this year, I don’t think I’ve ever been in such an awesome and big festival with so many talented individual, and the fact that these are all new works by local Bay Area playwrights make it even more exciting, so I guess that one is probably the one I’m most excited for.

Carl Lucania: I’m pretty amped for SF Olympians.  I love Greek mythology, love the creativity that goes into the telling and reinventing of these stories. Plus I’ve had the good fortune to be associated with some great pieces that have come out of the festival.

What’s your favorite beer?

Carl Lucania: Big Daddy IPA. Read into that what you will.

Peter Hsieh: Shock Top Belgian White. Actually I like most Belgian Whites.

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

Peter Hsieh: Ah, I wish I had seen more shows at the Cafe Royale! I guess I look forward to being more involved and seeing more productions. I’m a big fan of new works and edge works and  re-imagined classics and there is nothing more exciting than seeing your friends and peers do that sort of stuff.

Carl Lucania: My hope for Theater Pub is to continue to keep doing what it does best: to be a cross-breeding ground for amazing local talent and a place I can drink with people who always have something interesting to say.  And for everyone involved to make a kajillion dollars so they can keep at it. Or at least have some great rehab stories to tell.

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! 

Theater Around The Bay: Theater Pub Evolution

Co-Founding Artistic Director Stuart Bousel confirms, denies and imparts the future of Theater Pub.

So, by now, you may or may not have heard that San Francisco Theater Pub is about to go through some major changes.

If you’ve been a part of Theater Pub from the beginning, you may know that we’re pretty much always changing, that few constants exist in Theater Pub-land. As the lead line of this recent article about us suggests, One Bourbon One Scotch and One Bard, part of the appeal of Theater Pub has always lain in its unpredictability, and that’s not just on stage. It’s always an adventure to be in one of our shows, or to put one together, just as much or more so than it is to watch one. True, a hapless audience member may have a glass dropped on them (or be pulled onto a pool table for impromptu romance with another audience member), but from day one of Theater Pub (and only myself and co-Founding Artistic Director Brian Markley remain from Day One) there has always been an undercurrent of “this could end at any time”. Truth be told, when myself, Brian, Ben Fisher and Victor Carrion first came together to create Theater Pub, we planned no farther than three months in advance and habitually said, “In six months, when this is all over, we’ll be glad we did it.” The fact that we’ve lasted 43 months is, all things considered, pretty amazing, and entirely unexpected.

And no, Theater Pub is not ending. Let’s just kill that rumor first. But yes, we are leaving the Cafe Royale at the end of July. That is true. Our last performance there will be the closing night of this year’s Pint Sized plays, on Tuesday, July 30.

“But no!” you cry and “Why?!?”

Why we’re leaving the bar is a complex conversation and can probably best be summed up by Brian Markley’s recent statement that “bars have souls” and the soul of this bar, the Cafe Royale, is changing. The soul of any business develops as a combination of who is running that business and what their vision for it is, and who is regularly patronizing it and what their expectations are. We were brought into the Cafe Royale at the invitation of Les Cowan, who had a vision for his bar as a cornerstone of local culture and a fixture in the arts scene, but he left the Cafe Royale in March of last year to pursue other ventures. The new owners took us on but from the beginning made it clear they wanted to make the bar their own and honestly you can’t blame them for that: it’s their bar. To their credit, they recognized that we were an invested entity that was very successful, both financially and in our  ability to attract a robust and loyal audience and press following, but we were never part of their vision when they as a group of friends first got together and made plans to purchase and open a bar. We were inherited with the place, and something they had to adjust their vision for. We agreed to give it a year and it’s a testimony to them and us that we not only got through it and all the changes that came with the new ownership, but that both Theater Pub and the bar continued to succeed together. When the decision was made, earlier this year, to leave the Cafe Royale, it was entirely on mine and Brian’s end, and comes down to the fact that every theater company also has a soul. And our soul feels progressively headed in a different direction than the Cafe Royale.

These things happen. Things change. But in addition to unpredictability, part of Theater Pub’s appeal has also always been its flexibility and adaptability. As Julia Heitner, Artistic Director At Large, aptly demonstrated last year when she took a number of our shows to other locales, and as Sunil Patel recently continued to demonstrate with the Borderlands Bookstore preview of “The Pub From Another World”, Theater Pub doesn’t have to happen in a bar- or the same bar- to be Theater Pub. True, it’s not the same thing seeing, say, Measure For Measure, in the Plough And Stars as opposed to the Cafe Royale, but progressively the Cafe Royale (which is scheduled to be heavily renovated this fall) isn’t going to be “the same” either, and the truth is no matter how good our shows are or how exciting it’s been to have balconies to stage Shakespeare in, the real reason I, at least, have stayed with Theater Pub so long is because of the people we get to work with and the people who come to see us, again and again, and love us so much.

As current Cafe Royale co-owner Will Weston recently said to me in a phone call, “You guys are cool. You’re a thing,” and I agree. We are A Thing. I’d even go so far as to say we’re A Scene or A Movement even. We’re most definitely A Community, and we have every confidence we can continue to serve and foster that Community in a variety of ways for a long time yet to come. The real point of Theater Pub was never to put on monthly shows at the Cafe Royale; the true core of why we existed was to bolster the San Francisco Theater Community by making it more accessible, to audiences and artists, and more fun. The word “Pub” comes from “Public House”, being a place where a community gathers to be a community. Usually with beer. Going forward we plan to be more of a Public House than ever, frequently, but not always, with beer.

In concrete terms we can absolutely tell you what the rest of 2013 looks like, and we hope you’ll support us in this transition by continuing to attend and participate in our events. Saturday Write Fever, our monthly event at the Exit Cafe, will continue as scheduled and we love that so many of our regulars at the Pub have turned up there- we hope to see more of you! Additionally, our November event, which will be produced by previous collaborators Nick and Lisa Gentile, will happen at the Exit Cafe as scheduled. Between now and then we will be returning to the Bay One Acts Festival for a third time this September/October, with Brian Markley producing the event and frequent Pub contributor Rik Lopes directing a piece of their choosing. Kat Bushnell and James Grady, who have been the driving force behind our holiday musical theater concerts of Jesus Christ Superstar and Rent, are already busy planning this December’s show, and seeking a venue. We’re even talking of touring a couple bars this time around.

Which may be the future of Theater Pub in general. After all, from the beginning we’ve basically operated out of a box in the basement of the Cafe Royal: why not move the box from venue to venue, like theater companies of old, putting on a show wherever they let us and people are willing to watch and throw some money in the pot? Though it’s true we’re taking a partial hiatus from regular productions (shows will happen, just much more sporadically), we do hope to return to our monthly format further down the road in 2014, and being nomadic may be the way to go as it certainly has its advantages. That said it’s also really nice to have a home, as the Cafe Royale was for us for over three years, and we’re definitely interested in finding new hosts if they’re out there. So if you know of a bar, or if you run a bar that wants to take on the unique, Award-Winning, Critically Praised, Frequently-Packed-Beyond-Standing-Room San Francisco Theater Pub, don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We’d love to meet with you and see your space and find out how we can be part of your vision. But in the end it will come down, once again, to a soul thing, as Brian and I agree that our soul is far more important, and far richer than putting on a show each month. But of course, we’re theater people and we love a show, so fingers crossed for 2014 and we look forward to being there with our community in whatever capacity presents itself at the time.

Finally, the digital form of Theater Pub, this website, will continue to exist and grow. Since this became “more than just a website” starting in February of 2012, we have literally tripled our output and quadrupled our traffic and the fun is only just beginning. Like the Cafe Royale, we have plans for some major overhaul in the next few months. New look, new writers, new features all intended to continue the conversation we get to have on the website not just with the Bay Area, but the world as a whole.

That conversation is, in the end, what this is all about and what any artistic endeavor should be about. We are truly, madly, deeply invested in making sure that conversation continues, and we’re looking forward to being surprised and delighted by wherever and whenever it pops up next- on the internet, in a bar or a coffee shop, a bookstore, a park. The possibilities are limitless and the truth is, by stepping away from the bar and our obligations there, we can truly explore those possibilities. We’re using this break with the structure of the past as an opportunity to be more flexible in both what we do and what kinds of projects fall under our umbrella so as usual if you have ideas, let us know: maybe there’s a one-off or a site specific production only an e-mail or two away from happening at a bar near you. The future is wide open and that’s scary, and bittersweet, but also very exciting.

Stuart Bousel is a Co-founding Artistic Director of the San Francisco Theater Pub. He has a soul and you’re soaking in it. 

Introducing This Year’s Pint-Sized Producer!

The Pint Sized Plays are coming up and will be here before we know it!

This year, the festival is being helmed by Neil Higgins, who is a frequent collaborator at Theater Pub, though this marks his first time stepping in as a producer. Perhaps more daunting than wearing a new hat, however, is that he’s taken up the reins from Julia Heitner, who is often credited with having truly innovated and refined Pint Sized in years past. We can’t imagine all this pressure makes for a good night’s sleep, but we also think if ever there was somebody who could do it- it’s Neil.

This is Neil's "I will not accept defeat!" look.

This is Neil’s “I will not accept defeat!” look.

So you’ve taken over Pint-Sized from Julia… how does it feel to fill those shoes?

It’s a lot of fun and very very daunting.  Julia was an absolute superstar when it came to producing Pint-Sized (among many other things), so I feel that I have some high expectations to meet.  But Julia has been so helpful by sending me all kinds of material to help me plan everything and by providing me with lots of encouragement.

What’s turned out to be the most challenging thing about putting this giant show together?

Between selecting scripts, picking directors and getting cast, it seems that getting all the pieces together seems to be the most challenging part.  Having participated last year, I know that once the ball gets rolling it’s a fun and relatively easy process.  It’s just a matter of finding the ball.

Was anything easier than you thought it would be?

So far it’s been a pretty smooth process.  My directors have been very timely and responsive, which has certainly helped out a lot.

What’s got you excited for the show this year? Any elements of the production or particular pieces you can’t wait to share with the audience?

I’m working with directors I’ve never worked with before (or met until very recently) and I’m really excited about that.  We also have writers that are first-timers for the festival and first-time writers, which is always exciting to see.

It’s becoming common knowledge that Theater Pub is leaving the Cafe Royale after the last night of Pint-Sized. Do you feel that will lend a special air to the festival this year?

It has definitely been on my mind.  The thought of producing a staple of the Theater Pub season, following in Julia’s footsteps and being responsible for the last show at Cafe Royale have all affected the conversations I’ve had with myself about the night (mostly in the vein of “This is so much pressure!  I want people to like it!”  “Get it together, girl!”).  People generally like to avoid negative feelings, but I hope that Pint-Sized is a little bitter-sweet for Theater Pub regulars because it’s such a beautiful, confusing emotion.

Will there be “last show surprises”?

I can neither confirm nor deny that accusation.

What do you hope will be the future of Pint Sized?

I hope Pint-Sized can find a home for next year.  Whether I produce it or not, I want this festival to keep going.  It’s much too fun and too wonderful a way to build and strengthen the theatre community for it to disappear.

Would you ever take this on again?

Most definitely.

If you could have one thing, above all else, happen at this year’s festival, what would it be?

I’d love for someone to get engaged or give birth.  That would be marvelous.  I also (yes, I know, you said “one” thing) want everyone to have a before-undreamed-of amount of fun.

Don’t miss Pint Sized Plays IV, playing five nights this July 15, 16, 22, 29 and 30, always at 8 and always at the Cafe Royale. Admission is free, but get there early- we will be packed every night!

Jeremy On Joyce

We’re starting June off with an interview with Jeremy Cole, the adaptor/director behind this month’s Theater Pub, a dramatic reading of James Joyce’s The Dead. It happens for one night only on June 17th, only at the Cafe Royale, so don’t miss it! Meanwhile, in Jeremy-land…

Jeremy Cole, waiting for us to get to the important part.

Jeremy Cole, waiting for us to get to the important part.

Who are you, in a hundred words or less?

I was christened Lance Smith – but changed my name in 1986. After all, Smith is so generic and Lance is what you do to a boil. Born in San Diego, raised in the Ozarks, recovering Catholic, honorary Jew, total Atheist, trend-setter (I came out in 1976), and sarcastic Oscar Wilde wannabe. I’ve been acting since forever (though I’m a LOUSY liar – so I tell the truth instead, and let me tell you: honesty is so NOT the best policy…but whatcha gonna do?), mostly a director and a designer, now a playwright on occasion. Your basic all-around good-time guy.

What’s your past with Theater Pub, and how did you get involved with us?

Mostly I attend Theater Pub shows. I especially like the program illustrations. But I got directly involved when I wrote a script for the first Pint Sized Plays called “Hot? Or Not…” – followed by two other shorts – for Pint Sized II, and Occupy Theater Pub.

You’ve got a past with this play, too. Tell us more about that.

I originally directed this piece for the late, lamented Hunger Artists Ensemble – a group I worked with a lot in Denver, Colorado. We had no idea if a reader’s theater piece would fly – especially since we were doing it right around the holidays, and it’s not exactly a thigh-slapping comedy. It not only flew – it soared – they continued to bring it back as their holiday show for the next five seasons, as well.

What made you want to bring it to Theater Pub?

I’ve wanted to re-mount it out here for some time. Since it struck such a chord with the community in Denver, which is #20 on the list of most college degrees per capita, I felt that it would certainly go over well out here, in the city that holds First Place on that same chart. And Theater Pub already has a history of doing script-in-hand shows, so it seemed like a perfect fit. Plus there’s alcohol. It’s a trifecta!

What’s exciting and challenging about dusting it off and working with it again for this reading?

No matter how many times I read/hear this story, I notice things that I hadn’t before, or which I hadn’t noticed in the same way before… Every new actor that works on the show brings different colors to their characters – it’s as if James Joyce wrote a Lanford Wilson script – one where the basics are sketched in, but a great deal of room is left for the actor to fill in the blanks.

Is there anything you’re inclined to change or fix?

Absolutely. The prior script had seven readers. This one has nine. Previously, Mary Jane and Gretta were read by the same actress. It made for some fun acting challenges – particularly in a scene where the two were talking one right after the other, but while that got laughs, it was the conceit that elicited the laughter – the actress’s quick shift of voice and physicality – not the scene that was being played. This version takes away those laughs, but helps Gretta retain the gravitas that she needs to have during the second act.

Lots of people are intimidated by Joyce- what do you think is intimidating about this piece?

I would be horribly intimidated by Ulysses or Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but this story is much less dense and much more naturalistic than those more dense and abstract works. The big intimidation with this piece is that it is so well-known and well-loved. Like the current film version of “Gatsby” – everyone is going in with their own idea of what the story should be. I respect that and don’t try to lay something on top of the script that doesn’t belong there. Nothing comes from left field. There may be purists who nit-pick at my cuts, but it wasn’t written as a play, so some cuts were necessary. On opening night in Denver, a woman called me on the carpet for cutting “blancmange” out of the list of condiments served at the dinner. She’d really be upset with this current version, because I cut even more. Lists – even of delicious food items – don’t play very well in performance – they bring the show to a halt.

What about this piece appealed to you and made you want to adapt it?

There’s a funny story there. I love “The Dead”, and admired John Huston’s film version of it, but I never had any desire to adapt it. Hunger Artists had commissioned a local playwright/director to adapt it into a play. They even got a grant for it. About seven weeks before the auditions, he told them he had pneumonia and wouldn’t be up to directing the show, so they asked me if I’d be interested. I said, “Sure!” – assuming that he had already written the script and that I was just stepping in to direct it. They handed me a copy of The Dubliners. Gulp. Panic set in, but I don’t back away from commitments, so I took the plunge and decided quickly that we needed to keep the narration (the final paragraph is so famous/loved, I’d be hung from a tree if I didn’t keep it exactly as is), and once I had made the decision to do it reader’s theater style, the piece began to find its shape pretty quickly.

What else is in the future for you?

I don’t know if you’ve heard of the San Francisco Olympians Festival…? Well, they’re doing this Trojan War shindig in November. I’m writing a piece for it called On the Plains of Ilium in which the plains themselves are recalling lesser known stories from the Trojan War – the tales of Cycnus, Memnon, Protesilaus, Aethra, Palamedes… You know, the usual: murder, rape, betrayal…it’s a hoot. Plus, I’m planning to do/take the 31 Plays in 31 Days challenge again. It’s a program where you commit to writing and submitting a short play every day for the month of August. I did it last year, and though it kicked my ass to Pacifica and back, it was a terrific experience.

Joyce liked to drink- what do you think he’d order from our bar? What do you like to order?

Joyce himself wrote: “What is better than to sit at the end of the day and drink wine with friends, or substitutes for friends?” I’m all about that – especially the substitute friends part. I usually order the Malbec when I’m at Cafe Royale, so I flatter myself that Joyce would join me. But he’d drink more. A lot more. He’d be an expensive date.

Don’t miss The Dead, for one night only, June 17th, at the Cafe Royale in San Francisco. The event is free, begins at 8 PM, and reservations aren’t necessary, but get there early and enjoy some Hyde Away Blues BBQ!

The Producer From Another World

In preparation for this month’s Theater Pub, The Pub From Another World, we interviewed producer Sunil Patel about his vision and process for this show.

Take Me To Your Leader

Take Me To Your Leader

Who are you, in a hundred words or less.

I am a voracious consumer of stories in any medium—television, film, video game, book, comic, music, anecdote—who loves words more than anything. I love to create new stories, but I also love introducing people to stories I love. I’m a pop culture fan, a geek, a nerd, and when I love something, my first instinct is to share it. As of this night, I am a writer/actor/director/producer. By day, I work in drug safety and write about people with explosive diarrhea.

How did you get involved in Theater Pub?

I made my Bay Area theater debut with the Thunderbirds in 2010, and it was my first time onstage in seven years, so I was excited to get back into theater. And lo and behold, Theater Pub was holding auditions for The Theban Chronicles, and they didn’t even need monologues! I had gone to the February Theater Pub (the Valentine’s Day show), and it looked like a fun group to work with. I was in three of the four plays, and I got a death scene, and I’ve become more and more involved since then.

So, where did this idea come from?

At the Theater Pub retreat, we were asked to come up with pitches for the next year of Theater Pub. I was excited to be a producer, as I had previously only produced halftime shows, but I didn’t know what to suggest. I didn’t know any obscure plays I wanted to put on. I’ve had an idea for a murder-mystery Theater Pub for a couple years, but I hadn’t gotten it off the ground and I wasn’t going to pitch it if I didn’t think I could write it in time. We had talked a lot about inclusivity, though, and it suddenly hit me: I could create a space for new work. I’m a genre fan and a theater fan, but I don’t see a lot of genre theater, so why not give genre writers an opportunity to write for theater and playwrights an opportunity to write genre? I had the sense that the plays I wanted to see—whether or not they were being written—were not being produced because people look down on genre, so I was going to stand up say, “I will produce your genre plays! Let your geek flag fly!”

What defines something as “genre” and specific to these genres, what defines something as Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy?

I am by no means an expert and trying to define “genre” will result in hours of heated conversation in the company I keep, but I see “genre” work as work that uses or is informed by established tropes—which is sort of saying that genre is genre. In general, however, when someone refers to “genre” work, they usually mean the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genres, which are the genres that least resemble the real world. These works tend to take place in a world that is definitely not our own for one reason or another: hence The Pub from Another World.

Defining each genre is just as tricky as defining “genre.” To me, horror is not just about the obvious elements—ghosts, vampires, serial killers, etc.—but about evoking that visceral, primal fear. And in the best horror, the scary thing isn’t just a scary thing but a manifestation of a real, relatable fear. Similarly, sci-fi is not just about spaceships and time travel and aliens but about taking real science and extrapolating the implications. Some people prefer the term “speculative fiction,” which handily eliminates the need for science and brings in more dystopic fiction. These imagined futures can tell us a lot about our present.

Fantasy may be the easiest genre to identify thanks to its long, long history; today, the stories of Greek mythology can seem like fantasy, what with gods transforming into animals and people being magically brought back to life. Fantasy can be speculative as well, but, unlike science fiction, it has less basis in reality. My goal with this project was to tell unreal stories that have real emotion.

We don’t often think of these genres as applying to the theater, but there are many examples of each. What are your favorites in each category?

The first horror play that springs to mind is Nathan Tucker’s Dionysus, which kicked off the first Olympians festival. It really captured that sense of visceral horror. Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman had one of the most horrifying jump-scares I’ve ever experienced in a theater. And, although they’re a bit more comedic, I love Tim Bauer’s Zombie Town and Kirk Shimano’s Love in the Time of Zombies; both are great examples of the sort of genre theater I’d like to see more of.

I haven’t seen a lot of sci-fi theater, but I read a lot of great sci-fi scripts on the reading committee for Cutting Ball’s RISK IS THIS experimental theater festival a couple years ago. Consider for a second the fact that sci-fi theater is considered “experimental”; could that be why we see so little of it? Two of my favorite scripts—which have received readings but no full productions, to my knowledge—were Garret Groenveld’s The Hummingbirds, a wickedly funny Brazil-esque tale set in a bureaucratic dystopia, and Richard Manley’s This Rough Magic, which uses science fiction ideas to examine basic human truths about how we interact with our families and people in general. I also think Josh Costello’s Little Brother (adapted from the Cory Doctorow novel, produced at Custom Made Theater Company)—one of my favorite plays in recent years—counts as near-future dystopian sci-fi.

I also haven’t seen a lot of fantasy theater, although one of my favorite theater experiences was a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The best example of the sort of fantasy theater I’d like to see was Stuart Bousel’s Giant Bones (adapted from Peter S. Beagle short stories), as it transported the audience to a fantasy world and told stories as compelling as any in the real world.

As the producer, you have a lot of inside knowledge of this event- what are some things you’re really looking forward to sharing with the audience.

Personally, I’m just looking forward to sharing all eight plays with the audience, since they’re all very different and I think there’s something for everyone. I’m also very excited about my cast, since most actors play multiple roles, and I think it will be a real treat for the audience. AJ Davenport, Colleen Egan, Peter Townley, and Olivia Youngers all play three roles, no two alike. But with regards to inside knowledge…in Audrey Scare People Play, the monster, Scare People, is described as being “an octopus monster with wings,” and Meg O’Connor is attempting to make that costume. So I can’t wait to see it myself.

Did the unusual subject matter pose any particular challenges to the process?

See above re: octopus monster with wings. For the most part, however, no one wrote anything too outrageous because they were conscious of the limitations of theater and Cafe Royale specifically. You can do genre theater without a lot of special effects!

This show has a teaser at a bookstore. Tell us more about that and how you made that happen.

I have a good relationship with the people at Borderlands, and my original pitch included the preview reading because people who shop at a genre bookstore are more likely to see a night of genre theater, and vice-versa. It was a way to benefit my favorite bookstore and my favorite theater-in-a-bar. I floated the idea past Alan Beatts, the owner, and he was very receptive. And, to my surprise, he immediately suggested using microphones to broadcast throughout the store and draw people toward the reading and recording the reading as a podcast, which I hadn’t even considered. He wanted to make this the event it deserved to be.

We know you don’t drink, so what’s your favorite thing to order at the Cafe Royale on Theater Pub nights?

Coke. It’s the nectar of the gods. Not the Elder Gods, just the regular gods.

Don’t miss The Pub From Another World, playing one night only on May 20th, at 8 PM, for FREE, at the Cafe Royale!

Don’t Miss Orphee Tonight!

In anticipation of ORPHEE tonight at Theater Pub, we are re-running Ashley Cowan’s post from a few weeks back, which like Eurydice, mysteriously vanished from the site. Enjoy!

A Semi-Charmed Kind of Afterlife

It seems like there’s a certain fella who’s become pretty popular around the Bay Area lately; lending well to the Greek Mythology trend that’s invaded the theater scene. Along with the success of Custom Made Theatre Company’s hit: EURYDICE (currently running) and now his own play, Orpheus/Orphee is having a pretty good spring in San Francisco.

And why shouldn’t he? Known as a pretty gifted musician with a talent for words, Orpheus would have probably been voted “Most Charming” all four years of art school. And he’s continued to inspire artists throughout the years; appearing in poems, operas, films, plays, paintings, and countless teenage diaries. Considering he’s known as the only person in history who convinced the underworld to permit his temporary visit to bring back his love, I think he’s earned his fame. And he’s the inspiration for Jean Cocteau’s ORPHEE which just so happens to be Theater Pubs April offering to the gods.

Taking on the divine contribution with a sassy twist is fellow columnist and playwright, Marissa Skudlarek who has translated the play for April 15’s staged reading. And leading its direction is Katja Rivera who has become an Orpheus expert after also directing EURYDICE at Custom Made Theatre Company.

To get you in the spirit of the French (and no, I’m not going to kiss you, you pervs) retelling of the Greek gem, here are just a few things to get trés excited about regarding this production of  ORPHEE (other than because it’s tax day and you need a distraction from the IRS): ORPHEE was written in 1925 and produced a year later. Jean Cocteau was 37 and said that for the first time in his career, after feeling like he was struggling to strike the right artistic balance, Cocteau finally felt like he had found his purpose. That’s a big deal, friends! You should come for that alone!

The play begins with Orphee, Eurydice, a move to the countryside in search of stimulus, and a talking horse. Sadly, no, it’s not Mr. Ed but it’s still quite clever and fun.

Orphee becomes rather consumed with his new horse friendship and Eurydice can’t help but be a little irritated.  And so she smashes windows. Because that’s the obvious thing to do. Which employs a handy repair (spoiler alert: he might be an angel) man to help maintain the house. Before there were angels in the outfield, they were hanging out with Eurydice!

Maybe this doesn’t quite sound like the Greek myth you’re used to. Fair enough, this play came two years after the Surrealist movement interpreted danced its way through France. But don’t worry, Eurydice still dies! And Orphee stills descends into Hades under the condition that he can only bring back his wife if he agrees not to look directly at her. Otherwise, she’s a goner.

Cocteau described the play as “a tragedy in one act and one interval”. The French sure have an interesting way with words! But the piece certainly seems to capture a more complex nature; weaving elements of humor punctuated by surreal situations. You’ll laugh, you’ll emote, you may walk about of Cafe Royale with a French accent.

Oh, and maybe I should also take a moment to mention another update from the traditional story: Death is a beautiful woman in an evening gown who travels through the mirror to spend time in both the living world and the dead.  That is some deep stuff.  It’s a notable narcissistic intent that reflects humanity’s understanding of life and death. We may literally want to discuss it for hours.

April 15 may be Tax Day but the evening is reserved for Theater Pub! The passage to the afterlife starts at 8pm at Café Royale. So grab a bite from Hyde Away Blues BBQ, a cold brew, and come be charmed by ORPHEE. No reservations necessary and we are a free event, but get there early as we tend to fill up quick!