Everything Is Already Something: The Ones Who Stay

Allison Page, back from hiatus, so she can say goodbye. 

Artists leave here all the time. Mass exodus. Okay, maybe not mass, but almost mass. What’s slightly less than mass? A lot. They leave because it’s expensive. They leave because it’s changing. But they also leave because it doesn’t look like they can have a career here — a career in the arts, anyway. Actors, directors, writers, comedians. They leave because they nearly always have to volunteer in order to do what it is they do and on the ladder of success, the San Francisco rungs are in the middle, never at the top. So they come here from places farther down on the ladder, hoping to figure out who they are. To figure out who they are, and to eat stacks of avocado toast as high as the Transamerica Pyramid. To figure out who they are, to eat stack of avocado toast as high as the Transamerica Pyramid, and to be able to tell stories later on about how they did stand up at a laundromat or saw a one man show that ended with a guy in a mask taking a shit on the floor.

And yet, somehow, some remain. And they don’t stay because they have to. And they don’t stay because they’re afraid. And they don’t stay because they’re not talented, or smart, or focused, or driven, they stay because they choose to. And some of them, some of them stay to build a future for other artists. The future the others left to find somewhere else. Because the truth is, if no one stays, there’s no one to create what’s missing, so what’s missing will always be missing. And what a choice to make.

How it feels to stay when the other artists leave: last piece of pizza.

How it feels to stay when the other artists leave: last piece of pizza.

It can feel like a sacrifice you hadn’t planned on, or didn’t even want. And you’ll have your moments of pettiness. Moments where you wonder what you’re doing, and remembering what it was like to only be worried about your own path. Your own auditions, your own gigs, your own shows, your own career.

And you have to find moments for yourself, too, times when you can take joy in the things in which you have always found joy. If you’re an actor, find times to act. If you’re a writer, my god, don’t stop writing. To me, that’s the death of our artistic leaders — when they don’t make art anymore, because they’re too busy supporting the systems that allow others to create it. Because suddenly you’ll find yourself the stepping stone used to get somewhere, you’ll be left, and you’ll look back at your Facebook memories and realize you haven’t been in a show in six years and you don’t know what your artistic identity is anymore. Everyone will just say, “Aren’t you in charge of that thing?” It’s an incredibly complicated balance. Because then people will find a way to assume that the only reason you’re getting to do anything artistic, is because you’re in charge, when it’s actually the other way around — you got here because you spent years in the arts and know what you’re doing. (HOPEFULLY)

All this “they” and “you” yadda yadda, should really be “we” and “me”. I mean, obviously. And after all this business about people who stay, this is the part where I mention that this is my last blog for SF Theater Pub. I’ve not been writing for the blog the last couple of months. Don’t feel bad for not noticing, there have been like a baker’s dozen of national and international tragedies in that time, and this doesn’t count as one of them. My professional life has changed a lot. My cohort and I are the first two full time employees of our theater company in 19 years. And while that’s so great, it is also BIG. And chock full of pressure. Most of my awake time, it’s all I think about. Everything else is secondary. There’s so much to be done, all the time, and whatever the task, odds are the two of us have to do it or solve it or make it or break it. It’s thrilling, it’s challenging, it’s intimidating, and it’s my full time existence now. And while I’ll never really step away from talking about theater and its issues, I am stepping away from writing here. I have loved my time spewing commentary on this blog and wore proudly the banner of TPub for the last few years.

I’ve also said some dumb stuff sometimes. I have absolutely read things I’ve written, months or years later, and been like “Ew, really?” It’s like listening to recordings of your own voice. But I’ve also definitely written some things I’m proud of. The best example of both of those things, is Sorry I Didn’t Go To College  from July 2013. I’m proud of being honest in it, and there are also a couple things in it I feel slightly squirmy about, but the whole thing was a big deal to me personally when I wrote it. Another proud moment came with the next post, The Grass Is Always Greener (On Some Other Asshole’s Lawn) about being jealous of other people’s successes and taking pride in your own path…and it definitely has some similarities to the beginning of THIS blog.

Thank you for reading now and any other time, and thank you to Theater Pub for letting me say things I needed to say, without almost any limitation. It’s been a ride, and I’ve loved it. If you want to see other things I’ve written, you can find me on Medium @AllisonLynnPage

I’ll see you at the theater.

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Allison Page is an actor/writer/director and Artistic Director of Killing My Lobster.

Everything Is Already Something: Realistic TBA Conference Panel Ideas

Allison Page is clearly looking forward to the TBA conference on Monday.

Berkeley Frappe: Which Theatre Companies Have The Best Snacks

We Hired Only Local Actors for One Year & Our Theater Didn’t Burn to the Ground

The Sarah Rule: How to Produce Plays by Women (But Only if They’re Written by Sarah Ruhl)

How to Take a Selfie Good Enough to Use as a Headshot for Twelve Years

Getting Cast as a Woman Over 40 Without Playing Someone’s Stepmother

Set Designs You Can Repurpose Until They Collapse During a Performance of Man of La Mancha

Faces to Make During Board Meetings When You Want to Perish But Cannot

Audition Waist Trainers: A Roundtable Discussion

Creative Ways to Swear in Front of the Kid Playing Oliver Twist When Nancy Forgets Her Line Again

Pros & Cons: Pretending to be a Man to Get Ahead as an Actor

Fight Choreographers Wrestling Each Other for 90 Minutes

Improvising a Monologue Because You’re Too Lazy to Memorize Even One More Thing, Please God, Please

How to Watch ‘The Bachelor’ During Rehearsal Without the SM Noticing

Do Blondes Really Have More Fun (Playing Girlfriends of the Protagonist)?

Group Nap

Playwright Complaint Circle

Moving From San Francisco to New York to Get Cast in San Francisco

Producing David Mamet Over & Over & Over Again, A Guide

Stage Managing a Show You Hate with People You Hate

How to Perform on a Stage 400 Times Smaller Than This One:

Empty Theater Stage

Empty Theater Stage — Image by © Chase Swift/CORBIS

Showmances: How to End Them…Maybe, But Probably Not

How to Use a Toaster as a Light Board After Yours Gets Stolen for the 9th Time

Payment Negotiation for Actors: Get Two Beers Instead of One for a Three Year Run

Shakespeare for Dummies: Can You Get an Actual Dummy to Replace an Actor in Midsummer Night’s Dream to Save Cash? Yes, You Can.

5 Sexiest Theatre Companies Shut Down This Year Due to Lack of Funding, Hear From the Weeping Artistic Directors Themselves!

Getting Board Members to Stop Asking if You Can Tap Into the Popularity of ‘The Walking Dead’

Can You Get Away With Casting This White Male as Tiger Lily? (THIS IS A TEST)

Stage Manager & Director Speed Dating: Watch 45 Directors Fight Over 3 SMs

Costume Designing on a $6 Budget

Are You Ready to Set Every Show in the Apocalypse?

Allison Page is a writer/actor/director in San Francisco. She’ll be looking for snacks at the TBA Conference and live tweeting it all @allisonlynnpage.

The Real World, Theatre Edition: Interview with Edna Miroslava Raia

Barbara Jwanouskos talks to one of SF’s longest running local activist artists.

The day after Valentine’s, Justin Keller, Founder of Commando.io, penned an open letter to San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr complaining of the city’s homeless problem leaving many questioning whether he understood the complexity of the issue and had any compassion for his fellow San Francisco residents. A few days later, Edna Miroslava Raia responded to Justin Keller in an open letter on Medium pointing out the hypocrisy and frustration many felt with Justin Keller’s original statements.

I learned Edna is also a local performer and comedian who has a company called Potatoes Mashed Comedy. I was very excited to have the chance to talk with her about social activism, performance art and comedy, as well as the creative process she embarks upon when she creates new characters. This is the interview I had with her about her work and how she sees the world.

Barbara: I’m curious about your background. What kind of performance art and/or theater do you make? What’s the experience like for audience members?

Edna: I am a character actor/adult clown. I mostly perform comedic monologues although I also write sketch comedy. Every single one of my characters is an extension of myself so being the social justice graduate that I am, all of them carry social messages.

The feedback is always bewilderment because I am not particularly funny as myself; people are always surprised to learn what’s underneath. When I produced and performed in ‘Spaghetti Monologues,’ the response from everybody was ‘do it again.’ But it was an exhausting show to produce…coordinating, cooking, swimming in, cleaning and composting 120 lbs of spaghetti and red sauce was a venture I’m very hesitant to repeat. I’m told a lot that I should seek fame, which I ignore because I’m not sure that’s what I would like to achieve. I don’t want to move; this feels like home, despite all the newness.

Cilla, the texter, in a car accident at Little Boxes Theater

Cilla, the texter, in a car accident at Little Boxes Theater

Barbara: So you wrote an open letter to Justin Keller. Tell me about the moment that sparked you to put pen to paper—what did you feel the need to respond to in that moment?

Edna: When people with lots of money, and seemingly an elite education, parade their ignorance publicly, I want to throw tomatoes at their face in the center of town for all to see. His air of entitlement and clear lack of empathy made me so angry I immediately looked him up on facebook and wrote him my letter in a personal message. All I wanted to communicate was the phrase, “how dare you,” but I felt like expanding on that so it turned into a longer rant than originally intended. Most angry letters do.

Barbara: How did you know it was something you should share publicly? I ask since many times people have something to say but then the moment leaves them or they feel they missed their chance or maybe went too far/not far enough?

Edna: After I wrote Mr. Keller the personal letter, I thought he might not read it and had been told in the past that the place to get the tech industry’s attention was Medium.com. Just in case, I signed up with Svbtle.com, where he originally posted his open letter and I posted mine there. I found him on twitter and tagged him with the link of the letter and sought him out on LinkedIn. All I wanted was for him to respond, but he never did. With all the attention it received, I’m almost positive he at least read part of it so I don’t regret making it public. I tried to mirror some of his rhetoric in my letter too, to make him realize how stupid he sounded. Hopefully he learned something.

Barbara: What about the “open letter” format– it’s super popular these days. Do you have any thoughts on why? Its strengths and limitations?

Edna: If this had happened before the Internet, I would have had to mail my letter or publish it in the newspaper and wait weeks for any kind of response. I like the immediacy of an open letter, and in this instance, I was happy to have others read it because I knew so many people agreed with me and would feel like they were given a voice. The rumor mill about Justin Keller and people who shared his opinion was already stirring loudly. I just fed the conversation into a microphone.

Barbara: What has the response to your open letter been like and I’m curious if you had any next steps or further inspiration to write, talk or create something about homelessness and displacement? Or any other aspects of the letter?

Edna: My letter’s response was overwhelming; it consumed my life for a full week. I gained about 300 new friends on facebook, was quoted in four different publications online and interviewed on a radio station in 24 hours after the open letter was released. One journalist even wanted to print t-shirts of my diatribe! It was the craziest day in a while.

Because so many people were writing me (to agree and debate), I felt the need to give the most informed opinions I was capable of, so I began researching everything I was discussing. In doing so, I stumbled upon news of City Hall’s meeting to discuss the homeless situation on February 25th. I encouraged others to attend and I went myself to take notes. I wrote another entry on Medium.com about the 4 hr. experience. It’s a very long, detailed revelation, called ‘All You Need to Know about City Hall’s Discussion of Homelessness.’ I learned a lot and I felt like an advocate, but after hearing how poorly the homeless help system has been run and will continue to run, I’m not sure what difference I can make. I did say during public comment that they should be tapping into the obvious resources we have in the city-the tech companies. The homeless departments kept complaining about not having updated technology to run any kind of cohesive system to catalogue our homeless population. If I was trying to make a bigger splash, I would start there, I suppose. Justin Keller, would you like to donate some of your company’s profits towards this cause?

As for the inspiration, I instantly wanted to create a show based on this whole experience. I could Anna Deavere Smith-it, impersonate all these San Francisco characters. I’m also curious what would come out if I flipped the script and gave gadgets and apps the same stigmas that heroin needles and tents carry, or showed homeless people being ostracized for wearing Google glasses and ordering from UberEats. Ooooo, interesting! When you’re inspired, the possibilities are endless.

Barbara: Tell me about your creative process and how you go about working on something? How do you know it’s complete?

Edna: This is something I’ve been ruminating on lately. My characters usually begin from a phrase in my head or an idea of a person, usually based on someone I’ve seen or something I’ve always wanted to try.

As I said, my characters are extensions of myself so as I write scenarios, subtleties about me are revealed in them. But all of my characters would all react differently to the same scenario, based on their faults or stereotypes. For example, this latest character I’m working on is an imposter who holds no real job but pretends to work places and wreaks havoc. As a bartender she makes a drink with onions in it; I am personally repulsed by onions, but this character loves them. As I wrote her lines, I realized the reason was because she has a deep fear of vampires, which is now taking the character in a whole new direction.

Regina Pickel, born in The Bronx in 1952

Regina Pickel, born in The Bronx in 1952

My characters are never, ever complete because they become their own people with backstories and personalities that transcend schticks and quirks. They always have something new to say. I used to think I would retire them when I performed them too much, but they’ve become like friends. You don’t retire friends when you see them too much; you just hang out with other friends until you miss them again. That sounds awful. Haha.

Barbara: What’s your take on theater and performance as it is now? What is the current state? Opportunities that are lacking? Places it could improve?

Edna: I am happy with the new play-writing scene! I was growing frustrated for years, watching companies produce repeats of ‘classics,’ and wondering how we would ever create more classics for the future if we didn’t allow new voices to be heard. I especially love all the new urban plays that touch on diversity in classes and lower income struggles and add other genres of media into their shows.

Contrastingly, in the comedy circuit, I’m disappointed with the fear of mixing genres. I personally feel stuck between realms of funny. Most people who watch comedy want to see standup comedians; I want to tap into that audience but am not funny as Edna. I think the world of standup needs more diversity in their format. I miss Andy Kaufman. One of these days, I’m just going to book a standup gig and be in full character, maybe Regina Pickel, my Jewish lady. If they don’t like her, they can throw her out by her old lady pants; it’ll be a fantastic scene!

Barbara: Any low-hanging fruit ideas of how to change the scene –tech vs. artists– that we, and people who have power and influence, could take?

Edna: Some have told me that ceasing the use of the argument ‘Us vs. Them’ will fix everything. I don’t completely agree. I think we have to realize where we all stand. We ARE on different sides of the fence, financially especially. I would like to see the new SF residents come out to public gatherings more and see what San Francisco really stands for–diversity, freedom of expression, sanctuary. Maybe it would inspire them to make more apps that help their communities.

Barbara: Advice for people who want to do what you do?

Edna: Try harder. Do it better. Be funnier. If you constantly scrutinize your art and keep challenging yourself, somebody will notice a change and then people will stop faking, ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you,’ just to be nice. They’ll actually start calling you. But only if you’re ready.

Barbara: Plugs for upcoming work, art, or shows?

Edna: I am performing two characters at Safehouse for the Arts on April 24th for ‘The Crow Show.’ And in May, I’m hosting one night at the SF International Arts Festival with amazing musicians, Impuritan and Loachfillet and visual artist/filmmaker, Anna Geyer. For that show, I’ll take on one of my most memorable characters, Hillary Like, the depressed goth teenager, hosting her own radio show. The night is called ‘Dada Explodes: A Cluster of Sound, Light and the Absurd’ on May 28th, at Gallery 308 in Fort Mason, at 8:30 pm.

Marina bitch, Chloe, in her plastic ocean

Marina bitch, Chloe, in her plastic ocean

For more on Edna Mira Raia, check out her company, Potatoes Mashed Comedy.

Everything Is Already Something: Farewell, Sweet Dick Joke

Allison Page, starting the new year with a note of goodbye.

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here today to say goodbye to some good sketches. Sketches which were not long for this world. Sketches as clean and sparkling as any others. Game-focused, precise sketches, escalating alongside the best of them, breaking their game at just the right moment. And yet, here we are. Grieving and sobbing for the sketches we have lost because they needed to be cut…for time.

Ah, time, a fickle master to whom we are all servants. There are but 60 minutes in an hour. We may try to stretch it, challenge it, flout it, but the truth remains. Tick tock, fart jokes, tick tock.

Yes, we must say goodbye even to these fart jokes. These gut busting gas passers. These guttural emissions. These children of the night. For they, yes, even they, cannot escape the wrath of the cuckoo clock. Father time has come for our fart jokes, and we must let them fly home on the wind which we have broken, to that great fart joke depository in the sky.

Heh heh, depository.

As we wave a farewell to our monologues about puberty and screwing inanimate objects, let us not forget what they’ve meant to us. We, the ragged, scratched up, bruised adults. The former horny pre-teens who longed for understanding and Jordan Catalano from My So Called Life, who longed to eat Oreos all day and both wanted to grow up and to stay young and weird. We salute you. We salute ourselves.

Mourning-Woman

Here, too, we mourn the loss of physical sketches which nearly killed us. Back-bending, cheer-leading, freak-dancing, climbing, jumping, cartwheeling sketches crafted for the enjoyment of 10s and 10s of people. Human pyramids and a kid doing the worm alike have been slaughtered. No sketch is ever really safe, is it?

You never think it will be yours, your bouncy baby dick joke. You think you’re immune to the cut of someone else’s jib. You are not. Sometimes you find yourself cutting your own sketches and retreating to a corner of the bar where you can sip your bourbon in silence while cursing the goddamn kids who wrote a better dick joke than you had ever dreamed possible, wiping your dick joke off the figurative map and literal set list.

Not only do we lose our childish, gross jokes, but we must also mourn our attempts at social commentary and blistering satire. Our chance to show the opposing political party that we mean business and are, always, right, sometimes passes away into the recycling bin, or the annals of time and Google Drive, where they wither and age like old digital fruit.

Not only do we say auf wiedersehen to these sketches today, we celebrate them. And we welcome to life those sketches which will make it to the final performance. Those great few. Those strong, hearty few. We hold and coddle them until they are ready to be put forth in front of half-drunk audiences of rabid joke-gobblers. And we hold no ill will for them, the champions. We raise them up and brush the long golden locks of their mullet wigs. We support them with our laughter and know that tomorrow is another day, another joke, another birth of fanciful mirth or jocular rage.

This is not a mourning, but a celebration of life.

*fart sound*

Thank you.

Allison Page is a writer/actor/director and Co-Artistic Director of Killing My Lobster. She wrote this as a farewell to the sketches she cut this morning while preparing for KML’s performance at SF Sketchfest Jan 19th at The Eureka Theatre.

Everything Is Already Something: Allison & Anthony See Thunder From Down Under

When last we left our heroes, Allison Page & Anthony Miller, they had swilled down Fireball and countless other ill-advised beverages while watching Hoodslam, a wrestling event in Oakland, California. That was several months ago. (see Part 1, Part 2). They’ve grown so much. Or something.

Special crude illustrations by Peter Townley, based on awful descriptions by Allison, because they didn’t allow photos.

Allison: A little over a week ago I was alerted to the fact that a certain event pertaining to my interests – a show, if you will – a production…THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER was coming to San Francisco. In case you’re unfamiliar, it’s a bunch of Australian male strippers dancing to routines set to music while wearing themed “costumes” that they eventually remove. Naturally, I immediately suggested Anthony come along for a second installment of glorious audience-membering. Anthony, you’re welcome.

Anthony: I had proposed a few different shows over the last few months, but the schedules never worked. After the third time I got grumpy and was “Grumble grumble, I’m tired of suggesting things grumble grumble.” But then I got very sad because maybe Allison secretly hated me. So when she did message me, there was a moment of girlish excitement, “Ooh Allison Page messaged me, I must be a likable person.” This is a real thing. Her message simply said “THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER”, for whatever reason, I knew exactly what she meant. I have no idea why, but I immediately said yes, let’s go see male strippers.”

Excerpt from our pre-show fish ‘n chips convo:
Al: I don’t know how much storytelling we’ll see tonight.
Ant: No. None. But we’ll have to find some way to make it relate to theater.

Al: As you can see, we had our mission. We also had our first drinks. Anthony, a shot of well whiskey and a beer, I think. And I had a Cucumber Pimm’s Cup.
In line at Cobb’s Comedy Club (a fascinating venue choice) we noticed a distinct lack of men. In fact, Anthony’s the only one I saw. I took a photo of him in line in case I ever needed it for…some reason.

Ant: It was strange how comfortable I felt, standing in a line of a hundred people and they were all women. We would randomly start giggling about it because it was so apparent. But this was not a polite line, oh no, these ladies were there to party. People who didn’t regularly smoke cigarettes, were bumming smokes from their friends, they were swigging flasks of whiskey, smoking blunts and vape pens. It was awesome, it was as if the absence of men allowed them to be devoid of bullshit and cut loose. Turns out, I had seen nothing yet.

At one point, a nice old lady was pulled on stage. Not as old as this, but I really enjoy the addition of slippers in this drawing.

At one point, a nice old lady was pulled on stage. Not as old as this, but I really enjoy the addition of slippers in this drawing.

Al: We made our way through the line, into the theater, and were ushered up to the balcony at a small table in the back…with 4 chairs. 2 women sat with us a few moments later and we each tried to pretend the other duo wasn’t there, aware that we would all be looking at the same pecs.

Ant: Our seats were about as far back as possible, which was just fine. Better stay as far from the sweaty Australians and their feverish fans as we can. To me, the audience is part of the show. I will say this about the two ladies at our table, they were drinking kamikazes at a pretty impressive rate.

Al: Once the lights dimmed, the crowd start shrieking. A high squeal like a thousand semi trucks hitting their brakes at once. There’s a video montage. I can’t stop thinking that it was someone’s job to make it. The screen changes to a vision of digital rainfall. AC/DC plays. Nothing’s happening yet, it’s all fluffing, you could say. In fact, I just did.

Ant: I have seen a lot of crowd reactions in my life, I have seen grown men cry at a Paul McCartney concert. But nothing comes close to the the sound of 450 women going batshit. The shriek became lower, guttural, primal even. It was as if the audience immediately established that the men worked for them. I wonder if anyone else made the connection that AC/DC is an Australian band, I wonder if they just chose it because it had “Thunder” in the title.

Al: The opening number begins. We’re giggling with anticipation. I suddenly realize I have no idea what the Australian flag looks like. “Cry Me A River” plays. There are 5 guys, one seems to be the leader. He looks like Christian Slater 20 years ago. The men go out into the audience. So far, they’re still clothed.

Ant: My first thought is I’m a little dissapointed they’re not better dancers. Some of them are better than others, maybe I’m spoiled by musical theatre, but I wanted more precision. Not to take away from their sweaty, rippled bodies, but seriously, you know what’s sexy? Synchronicity.

Al: Then the butts come out. If you look at my scribbled notes, they say “HERE COME THE BUTTS” which I don’t think was code for anything. They’re pretty good butts, but they’re flexing them really hard and I don’t know if that’s the best strategy, you know? All tightened up like that? Is that the best display of a butt? Who am I to say. But I say no.

Ant: I made a mental note to renew my gym membership, because dang. I am not a fan of the butt flexing, why would you do all those squats just to make your ass narrow? Perhaps if they made their butt cheeks dance in time with the music.

Al: A host emerges. He proclaims that for all the things we’re about to see, there are two things we WILL NOT see: “YOUR STUPID HUSBANDS AND BOYFRIENDS”. This is a repeated theme throughout the night. This show is SO heavily aimed at women, it’s kind of amazing. It’s like Magic Mike but, ya know, no Channing. Or Joe. They constantly stress that it’s “Laaaadies niiiiight ouuuut!” and that these guys are nothing like your shitty partners/boyfriends/husbands who are very clearly not good enough for you. Ya gotta give it to ‘em in light of that packed house: it’s marketing that seems to work for them! I wonder who’s writing that copy. I am available for that gig, TFDU, if you need me.

Ant: It was profound in a way, to watch these women totally bro-out. They were yelling and screaming, they were slapping asses and high fiving. To me, this was equality. Men were being objectified and everyone was having a good time. I am willing to bet most of these women at some point that day had to take shit from a dude. Now was their chance to vent, to fight the ding dang patriarchy. To stand up and say “STATISTICALLY, I ONLY MAKE 73 CENTS TO YOUR DOLLAR, NOW DANCE, BITCH.” Perhaps i’m reading too much into this.

Al: By now we’ve got our second drink. For me, some Sweet Tea Filled With Liquor situation, and for Anthony a Moscow Mule. And I’ve started keeping track of things that could technically classify this as theater:

There’s an audience
There’s a stage
There’s music
There are costumes
And believe or not, there are kind of stories sort of? More on that later.
Anthony, what am I forgetting here?

Ant: (Puts on glasses) The closest theatrical comparison would be the popular theatre of the early 20th century. Specifically, Vaudeville, Burlesque and the Musical Revue. The dances have themes and costumes and it’s all tied together with a host. It is a theatrical production.

Al: There’s a fair amount of time killing going on. The host does 10 minutes of non-comedy and then ends up with this belter: “Are you ready to see some naked Australian men?” The crowd goes bananas. It’s like a Beatles concert but the fans are 25-50 year old women desiring tall muscular men who dance stiffly to “Welcome to the Jungle” while dressed as Tarzan…and then a man in a gorilla suit comes out. Interesting artistic choice, that. Can’t believe they bought a whole gorilla suit for that one 20 second bit but you do you, Thunder. You do you. I hope it was on sale.

Ant: Maybe I have a warped sense of morals, but it all seemed very harmless. It didn’t strike me as sleazy, but kinda good, clean, fun. I mean am I really supposed to feel threatened by dudes dancing in tacky costumes? It all seemed very silly, but in an entertaining way. It isn’t just sexy dudes dancing, it’s sexy dudes being very silly. They know they look ridiculous, but I assume women also appreciate a man willing to make an ass of himself.

Al: Soon after, the first shirt of the evening is shredded. Ya know, they grab it on both sides of the collar and tear it in two on their own bodies. You know. You’ve seen TV.

Ant: I think being able to do it while doing body rolls is pretty impressive.

Al: Agreed. I said, aloud, “If someone doesn’t do Pony I will burn this place to the ground.” Can’t remember if I meant it.

Ant: I had no doubt they would play “Pony”, if I was a stripper, I would dance to “Pony”. I also believed Allison would burn the place down if they didn’t.

Al: The first audience member of the night is pulled on stage and given a lap dance. I guess I was mesmerized for a moment because my notes stopped. Then picked back up with “He shoves her hand down his pants,” something which happened several times, the point of which I never quite grasped. (SEE WHAT I DID THERE) Then, as opposed to the brief showing of butts earlier, the pants FINALLY came off. I laughed really hard because I’m 12 years old I guess. The thong is Miami Vice colored, honestly.

Ant: It’s like what you think male stripper would wear in the 80’s, in a movie about this quiet, shy guy who is a sexy dancer by night. I wonder how many hands he’s shoved down his pants.

Al: There’s a “Spartan” bit. It’s a low point for me. Sword work leaves something to be desired. I mean, and they’re obviously plastic. But at least they’ve got capes.

Ant: The capes look heavy, you can’t properly dance in such heavy capes.

Al: This is when I notice that their dancing is more like a series of poses.

Ant: Totally! It was here I became a little disappointed. I mean I’ve heard of The Thunder From Down Under, they have a regular show in Vegas. I guess I expected something slightly more legit. Or at least really good dancers, clearly Magic Mike has misled me. It was if they were relying on the fact they were very attractive men. I should also note that if anyone else noticed this, they didn’t care. It was raining men god dammit.

Al: Another woman is brought onstage. I admit to probably woo-hooing during this bit. Wasn’t bad. There was a lot of carrying her around and tossing her over here or over there. Quite exciting. Ends with a guy pretending to perform oral sex on her while she’s still wearing pants? Sure, whatever.

Ant: I admit I clutched my proverbial pearls a few times, between the aggressive air humping, the assisted crotch grabbing, and the simulated oral sex. I feel like it would be horrifying to be this woman, having australian junk aggressively waved in my face. Again, it all seemed so silly. It was becoming clear that on the male stripper naughtiness spectrum, these fellas were on the tamer side. I have seen strippers two other times in my life, but those were lady strippers, the difference here is that I didn’t feel skeezy being there.

Al: The host comes out again while the dancers are presumably getting dressed for the next number so they have a new outfit to take off. The women start shouting for him to take his clothes off, like they want to eat the threads of his clothing to steal his soul or something. A woman in front of us starts pounding on her table and when he says “No, no ladies, I won’t be taking my clothes off, my mother might find out,” she suddenly shouts “I CAN SEE YOUR VAGINA FROM HERE!” Yeah, that absolutely made me laugh, won’t pretend otherwise.

"I CAN SEE YOUR VAGINA FROM HERE!" lady shouts as Allison & Anthony look on.

“I CAN SEE YOUR VAGINA FROM HERE!” lady shouts as Allison & Anthony look on.

Ant: To be fair, no one is there the hear his jokes. No one is advertising sexy naked Australian men AND witty repartee with the host. As I said before, I really appreciate watching women behave loud and boorish. I had no idea that I did, until tonight.

Al: “Uptown Funk” plays. The men wear bright silk jackets. They dance a bit and exit. The host then brings three women up for a fake orgasm contest. Again: KILLING TIME. He asks one of them, “Are you single?” her response…”I have cats.”

Ant: Those were some pretty crappy fake orgasms. I’ll say this about the “Uptown Funk” number, the pants and shirts removing cues were very well timed. The part of the show that never gets old is when the dancers go into the audience. The ladies go batshit every time.

Al: One of them climbs up the host. She wins. Next comes, and I need to stress that I’m not making this up, a SWAT team number. Yes, they all enter with fake guns and in SWAT team gear. It was pretty weird. I maybe cowered a bit. Then I got distracted thinking “Do they called it a SWAT team in Australia?” Then there’s a high concept lap dance Anthony appreciates.

Ant: This makes me re-think my feeling on “sexy” versions of costumes. Every Halloween we cringe at the bajillion costumes for women that are a sexy version of everything. Sexy jelly bean, sexy Dorothy, sexy United States Senator. This show brings a certain balance to it, they really do run the gamut. There were sexy firemen (A staple I assume,) Sexy jungle men and yes, sexy Swat Team. There was just something so right about the reversal of roles. Men were there and objectified for the specific entertainment of women. It was kind of glorious.

Al: Next, there are firemen and fire hose sound effects. I express disappointment that the bottom half of the firemen outfits look suspiciously like khakis. At some point we receive our third set of drinks, identical to the second. “Come Together” plays. An interesting musical choice, though soon we are blessed with “It’s Getting Hot In Here”, to which Anthony claps along. Finally, after waiting and hoping for this moment all evening, I hear the dulcet tones of Ginuwine’s “Pony”. It’s a dream come true. Except it isn’t. He kind of phones it in. Listen, I don’t know much, but I know that if you are stripping to “Pony” you need to 1) BRING IT and 2) HUMP THE FLOOR. If you don’t hump the floor during “Pony”, GTFO.

We end our evening with predictable cowboys “dancing” to “Sweet Home Alabama” in chaps, obviously.

I admit to having had a pretty great time. There were drinks, and we were far enough away that we didn’t get too close to any dangly parts. I couldn’t help but feel, as the host professed “THEY’RE ALL SINGLE, LADIES, AND YES, WE’RE REALLY AUSTRALIAN!” that they must get tired of all this pandering sometimes. And all that waxing. They were pretty stiff (HAR HAR) in the dancing department. And the routines weren’t anything that any guy I’ve ever met could accomplish just as, if not more, effectively. I think Anthony had a good point when he said “You know, I think it’s just about the confidence. They just have the confidence to be up there, and not be fully clothed, and that’s what the women are reacting to.”

I have to agree with this. They clearly DGAF about being nearly nude. And good for them. No one’s paying to see my clenched butt cheeks…that I’m aware of. Based on the audience reaction, and the fact that there’s no way these guys are ALWAYS in the mood to do this, I have to say it’s theater. They’re putting on a show. Sure, it ain’t Hamlet, but nothing is. Even Hamlet, sometimes.

Also, my favorite part of the whole evening was the “sexy” illusion completely being broken by the stage manager, Nicole, who had to run onstage at least a half dozen times to move a chair to a different position on stage, DURING A LAP DANCE. I laughed so hard every time she ran on in her all black backstage-y clothes, to assist in a sexy-time dance. That was the best theater of all.

Nicole, angelic stage manager, always ready to assist.

Nicole, angelic stage manager, always ready to assist.

Allison Page & Anthony Miller are both writers and theater-makers who saw nearly nude men together. Just Google them, it’s easier.

Cowan Palace: The Golden Girls Return To Brighten Our Holidays!

Ashley thanks you again for being a friend and spreads holiday cheer with the cast of The Golden Girls!

Happy Day Before Thanksgiving, gang! I like to imagine you’re all spending today in your yoga pants sipping on spiked pumpkin spiced lattes while watching Golden Girls reruns. But in case you’re at work or in the middle of meal prep, I have your Golden Girls fix right here. So grab a warm beverage and read on!

It’s that magical time of year again. The city is full of shoppers and light and of course, the radiant presence and spirit of San Francisco’s favorite holiday tradition, The Golden Girls live in performance. I had the chance to talk to the four stars of this year’s The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes (which opens on December 3rd at The Victoria Theatre) and their thoughts are truly hilarious, delicious, and heartfelt. A perfect holiday treat!

First, tell us who you playing in the show?

Holotta Tymes: Sophia

Heklina: I play Dorothy Zbornak, who was of course immortalized by the untouchable Bea Arthur.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Rose Nylund

Matthew Martin: I’m playing Blanche, of course!

Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy), D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose), and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls "The Christmas Episodes"; photo by Mr. Pam

Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy), D’Arcy Drollinger (Rose), and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls “The Christmas Episodes”; photo by Mr. Pam

If your character was a drink, what would they be?

Holotta Tymes: An old fashioned.

Heklina: Either a Salty Dog or a Rusty Nail. Or a Screwdriver.

D’Arcy Drollinger: A Shirley Temple

Matthew Martin: A Mint Julep on a veranda on a hot night.

Which Golden Girl captures your real life personality?

Holotta Tymes: Sophia for sure.

Heklina: Definitely Dorothy. As I am the most sarcastic person I know. Also, my joke delivery is very dry and I can deliver a withering side-eye. I’m also very much Blanche because I’m boy crazy!

D’Arcy Drollinger: Well, I was born on the same day as Betty White, so I’m going to have to go with Rose.

Matthew Martin: I think there’s a little bit of all of them in everyone, and that’s why they are so relatable to audiences, but sometimes I feel like guileless innocent Rose more often than not, and just play a slut like Blanche onstage!

If you could be stuck on a desert island with only one of the Girls, who would you pick?

Holotta Tymes: Blanche. She’s such a tramp.

Heklina: Dorothy! Definitely not Rose, she’d drive me crazy with her St. Olaf stories.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Again I’m going to have to say Rose, especially after watching “Vacation” episode 8 in season 2 when Rose takes control when they get stranded on a tropical island.

Matthew Martin: Well, I’d say Blanche but that would be myself, and Dorothy is always good company!

Caption: Heklina (Dorothy), Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose) and Matthew Martin (Blanche), in The Golden Girls "The Christmas Episodes"; photo by Mr. Pam

Caption: Heklina (Dorothy), Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) D’Arcy Drollinger (Rose) and Matthew Martin (Blanche), in The Golden Girls “The Christmas Episodes”; photo by Mr. Pam

What has been your favorite part of this year’s production process so far?

Holotta Tymes:
The casting couch. ;0)

Heklina: Well, it’s been a very bittersweet year as I miss my partner in The Golden Girls, Cookie Dough, terribly. Everything about the production is a reminder of her. But getting to work with new additions to the cast has been great.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Rehearsals have been so much fun. It’s hard to get through the scenes sometimes with all the laughing.

Matthew Martin: Lots of laughs with fun people!

What do you think will delight the diehard fans of the Golden Girls the most in this year’s show?

Holotta Tymes: The cast this year is a lot of fun; I think everyone is in for a good laugh.

Heklina: The material and the dialogue, of course. And the outfits. When you put four queens in drag as these characters it’s just comedy gold.

D’Arcy Drollinger: The set is going to be great this year!

Matthew Martin: The addition of Holatta Tymes to the cast. A great performer and person. The greatest tribute to Eddie/Cookie is going on with the show with such a seasoned performer playing Sophia.

To those who haven’t seen the show before, why is this year the perfect introduction to this San Francisco holiday tradition?

Holotta Tymes: Both episodes chosen for this year, I think, are some of the best of the sitcom. Funny and charming.

Heklina: This year is no different. There is never a bad time to attend this show and bask in the camp overload. It’s also the only show I do all year long that you could bring your grandmother to and she wouldn’t get offended.

D’Arcy Drollinger: It deals with friends, family and drag queens!

Matthew Martin: With the faithful fans flocking to The Victoria and growing exponentially year after year, anyone who hasn’t been to The Happening that the GGs is will have an onsite conversion!

What drink or snack can your fans treat you to after the show?

Holotta Tymes: Reese’s peanut butter cups

Heklina: I should say cheesecake, I know, but the truth? A cheeseburger.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Cheesecake!

Matthew Martin: A taco and a Mexican coke. Hey, we’re in the Mission.

Caption: D'Arcy Drollinger (Rose), Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy) and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls "The Christmas Episodes"; photo by Mr. Pam

Caption: D’Arcy Drollinger (Rose), Matthew Martin (Blanche), Heklina (Dorothy) and Hollotta Tymes (Sophia) in The Golden Girls “The Christmas Episodes”; photo by Mr. Pam

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving season?

Holotta Tymes: My friends, family and the chance to work with such a great cast.

Heklina: To have survived another year in San Francisco! Also, to have opened Oasis.

D’Arcy Drollinger: Friends, family and drag queens! I am joining the cast for the first time this year and I am grateful to be part of such a fun SF tradition.

Matthew Martin: My family and friends and the many blessings in my life.

Where can we see you next? What do you have going on after this production closes?

Holotta Tymes: You can catch me in “Sunday’s A Drag Brunch” atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. A drag brunch with attitude

Heklina: Straight into New Year’s Eve preparations!

D’Arcy Drollinger: You can catch me in Three’s Company at Oasis as Chrissy Snow. And in June 2016 as Samantha in Sex and the City Live!

Matthew Martin: Hopefully you can see me on a beach in Hawaii whilst I’m on vacation! Our film of Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte just premiered and will soon be distributed. We are doing Three’s Company next year playing Mrs. Roper, another installment of D’Arcy Drollinger’s Champagne White Saga onstage, filming Dead Ringer with Billy Clift playing Bette Davis twins, my solo show here and there and working on other projects. Busy, busy….

In 160 characters (or less!) tell us (tweet style; so emoticons are encouraged!) why we need to come see the show:

Holotta Tymes: It’s become a new San Francisco holiday tradition!

Heklina: YOUR FAVE X-MAS TRADITION RETURNS #DOROTHY #ROSE #SOPHIA #BLANCHE #XMASINMIAMI #💋🙌 #CHEESECAKEONTHELANAI #WICKERFURNITURE

D’Arcy Drollinger: Season 5, episode 3 The Accurate Conception. Golden Girls and cum jokes. Merry Xmas!

Matthew Martin: It’s become a SF tradition for many and always a feel-good holiday happening. The cross-section of people in audiences to me is the essence of San Francisco: male, female, gay, straight, old, young, all having a good laugh together at Christmastime.

The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes – 2015 Performance Dates are Dec. 3 – 20, 2015. Plays Thurs. Fri. & Sat. – 8:00pm / Sun. – 7:00 pm at The Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St. (between Mission and Capp) SF, CA 94103. Tix available at: http://goldengirlschristmas.eventbrite.com/

The Real World Theatre Edition: An Interview With Dhaya Lakshminarayanan

Barbara Jwanouskos interviews someone with an even more intimidating last name.

This week, I had the chance to chat with Dhaya Lakshminarayanan, a comedian, storyteller and self-described nerd, who created a one person show influenced by some of her experiences called Nerd Nation. If you haven’t already checked out her website, http://dhayacomedy.com/, it has a lot of great clips that will get you pumped to see Dhaya in action. Here’s a little interview we did where I got to ask Dhaya about her influences, creative process and hopes for the future of theater and comedy.

Photo by Diana LiDhaya Lakshminarayanan. Photo credit: Diana Li.

Photo by Diana LiDhaya Lakshminarayanan. Photo credit: Diana Li.

BJ: Okay, so I’m reading here from your bio that before this you were a venture capitalist and have two degrees from MIT – first of all, what??! How did you make this turn? Or do you lead a double-life?

DL: My solo show, “Nerd Nation” draws on all aspects of my life: the nerdy, the humorous, the socially awkward, the feminine, even the hardcore gangsta (ok well, only in my imagination).  For a long time on stage as a stand-up comedian, I could not talk about being a nerdy smart person. I felt like I was distancing myself and audiences wouldn’t like that. I slowly started to find a way to be more ME.  But I still felt I was hiding.  And this show allows me to be 100% me: laughs, jokes, and even painful to talk about stuff. And you don’t have to be a hardcore physics nerd (like my dad) to love the show.  Anyone who has ever hid who they were to fit in will enjoy it.

BJ: Was there a turning point in your growth as an artist and comedian that compelled you to begin working on a one person show?

DL: What I love about stand-up is I am always learning: from my comics I respect, from audiences, from socio-political trends.  And I am always learning how to be honest and myself on stage.  But stand-up is fundamentally about eliciting laughter.  There were things I wanted to talk about on stage that weren’t “ha ha” so I started becoming involved in storytelling.  I have been on NPR’s Snap Judgment several times.  I host the Moth StorySLAMs in SF (always sold out at Public Works). I have performed storytelling to sold out theater crowds (Nourse Theater, Castro Theater etc.).  Those experiences allowed me to sit with the more serious or painful parts of the human experience.  And “Nerd Nation” brings my wit and sarcasm of my stand up, the emotion of storytelling, and also multimedia elements. Yes because I AM A NERD there is multimedia.

BJ: What was the process of creating it like? Any snafus or interesting challenges along the way?

DL: It took years of asking myself questions that two-year olds might ask of their parents: Why? How come? But why not?. I first started reflecting on why I was hiding being a smart nerd.  Was it social acceptance? Did I feel bullied even as an adult?  Would being smart be a detriment in the entertainment industry?  Then I started asking my nerdy friends, “Have you ever hid who you are, your intelligence, in a social situation or to get something?”  And these fellow nerds didn’t just respond yes.  They could recall vivid moments: purposely getting lower scores to avoid being bullied.  Failing at sports. Getting dates by hiding their college degrees in math. Lying about awards even well into adulthood.  That’s when I knew I had to interview “subjects” and be very faithful to telling their stories word for word on stage.  So there are parts of Nerd Nation which are directly from the mouths of other nerds.  I disguise their identity.  But I am glad they are with me on stage. They help me tell my story.
 
BJ: What are you most excited for people to see in the show?

DL: I’m excited for people to laugh and be lively! A solo show is an evolving process.  I talk about contemporary issues in some parts.  The next time people see the show it will be different again. I want folks to feel like they get to see something weird and new being created that is also entertaining and hopefully moving and informative.
 
BJ: Was there a particular part that you really loved writing? Is it the same as a part you really love performing? (And if different, tell me more!)

DL: Most of my “writing” was done on stage.  I took pieces of the show and would perform them in front of an audience at storytelling shows, solo performance one nighters, even nerdy lecture series.  Marga Gomez in particular gave me stage time at her shows.  So writing was performing. And that comes from my stand up background. Creating was awesome.  It’s editing that is hard!
 
BJ: Any elements of the performance/theater/comedy world you would change for the better? If so, what and how so?

DL: Oh definitely.  I come from a nerdy business background.  My parents are immigrants and they literally came from third world poverty and became middle class because of hard work and pragmatism.  I bring my pragmatism and my business sense to every endeavor. Each workshop version I did of this was sold out.  I made money. That is how art can meet commerce.  I believe artists should be paid better and if we could unionize or have some set rate we would not undercut each other for gigs.  I spent a few years as a management consultant and sometimes I can’t turn off the part of my nerd brain that says “OMG, I could definitely help this person with the business side of things.” In order for American Theater to survive we have to start embracing new ways of monetizing, social media, and bringing in more diverse audiences (age, race, identity). But never ever ever have cell phones on during a performance.  That is my old skool values coming through. A guy’s cell phone went off in one of the workshop versions of the show and I stepped out of character to school him. Nerds need to be taught social skills sometime. And I feel like I have to cred to do it.
 
BJ: Any words of wisdom for those of us who would love to do something similar?

DL: Speaking of business-savvy, I teach and coach.  So hit me up on my website for advice
http://dhayacomedy.com/teaching-coaching.html
 
BJ: Shout-outs for shows around the Bay (or anything else cool) we should check out?

DL: I will be doing a ton of stand up after my run of solo shows is over.  I’m opening for Greg Proops (Whose Line is it Anyway) at the San Francisco Punch Line on New Year’s Eve (and then two shows on January 2nd).  I will also have a show I produce focused on socio political issues.  Check out my website: www.dhayacomedy.com because shows are always added.  

“Nerd Nation at the EXIT Theatre