Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Ridiculously Easy, Theatrically Inspired Halloween Costumes

Marissa Skudlarek has some costume tips for Halloween procrastinators.

Without quite being able to articulate why, I’ve always thought there was something a little odd about dressing up for Halloween as a character from a play. Maybe it’s because I feel like the people who are most likely to do that are actors themselves, and as such, dressing up as a theatrical character represents a weird blurring of their personal and professional lives. Like, rather than playing this role in a staged production, they’ve decided to play it for Halloween.

Maybe, too, it’s because there are fewer iconic theater costumes than film costumes. Because theater encourages multiple interpretations of classic plays, the iconography associated with what classic characters wear is more diffuse. There’ve been productions of Antigone where she wears a chiton and productions where she wears jeans.

Nevertheless, Halloween is approaching and for anyone who’s still deciding on a costume, I thought I’d offer some suggestions for Ridiculously Easy, Theatrically Inspired Halloween Costumes.

I feel like every dude in S.F. has this outfit. David Tennant as Hamlet (photo by Robbie Jack/Corbis).

I feel like every dude in S.F. has this outfit (sans skull). David Tennant as Hamlet (photo by Robbie Jack/Corbis).

Hamlet. Hamlet may be one of the most challenging roles in theater, but it is seriously the world’s easiest Halloween costume. Here’s how you dress up as Hamlet:

  1. Wear a long-sleeved black shirt and black pants.
  2. Go to a store that sells Halloween decorations and buy a plastic skull.
  3. Carry the skull around and look melancholy.

Is that not the easiest thing in the world? (And if you’re worried about choosing a costume that requires you to look glum and melancholy, remember that Hamlet also “puts an antic disposition on,” which sounds like a good excuse if you want to go crazy on the dance floor.) I will also point out that Hamlet is a unisex costume – women have been playing Hamlet for hundreds of years. And, if you’re used to thinking of Hamlet as a slim fellow and you’re worried you may not have the physique to dress as him, check out this article arguing that Shakespeare may have intended an overweight Hamlet.

The Soothsayer and Caesar (Thomasina Clarke & Raphael Nash Thompson) in the 2006 St. Louis Shakespeare Festival production. Photo by J. David Levy.

The Soothsayer and Caesar (Thomasina Clarke & Raphael Nash Thompson) in the 2006 St. Louis Shakespeare Festival production. Photo by J. David Levy.

Julius Caesar & Soothsayer. You know what’s a ridiculously easy costume? A bedsheet toga. You know how you can jazz up your bedsheet toga so that it doesn’t look like such a lazy cliché? Get a Halloween blood-makeup kit and paint stab wounds on your arms and torso, and you’re Julius Caesar! If you can, go with a friend who accessorizes his/her toga with fortuneteller-style scarves and jewelry, to portray the Soothsayer. This is my idea of a cute couples’ costume, and I’m not sure I want to know what that says about me.


Brick’s blue bathrobe is an easy Halloween costume for a lazy dude, too. Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

Stanley Kowalski / Maggie the Cat. If you want a sexy costume this Halloween, no characters from 20th-century theater are hotter than these two. For Stanley: wear Levis and a torn, sweaty undershirt, and stand in the rain yelling “STELLA!” For Maggie: wear a white ‘50s slip (available at any vintage store); carry a tumbler of whiskey; pose in doorways.

Stanley knows how to party. Marlon Brando in

I realize that suggesting you dress up as Stanley Kowalski is tantamount to suggesting that you dress up as a Sexy Rapist, and yet, I’m doing it anyway. Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

The hitch: These costumes are so simple that they really only work if you’re as hot as the young Marlon Brando or Elizabeth Taylor.

Natalie Dessay as Violetta and Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo in

The amazing Natalie Dessay as Violetta and Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo in “La Traviata” at the Met.
Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

The Lady of the Camellias. Maybe this is cheating, because this character originated in a novel, not a play. But I think the play, sometimes known in the English-speaking world as Camille, has become more famous than the novel, so I’m including it. And lest you say “But in order to be Camille, don’t I have to find a hoop skirt and a corset and do my hair in corkscrew curls? That’s not easy!” I will point out that the French title of the play translates as The Lady with the Camellias. That’s all you need. A lady, and (silk) camellias. (And probably some other clothing too; I don’t want these suggestions to get anyone arrested for public indecency.) Traditional productions of Camille and the opera that’s based on it, La Traviata, do require hoop skirts and corsets, but there’ve been modern productions with updated costumes – in the Metropolitan Opera’s current production, the heroine wears a red cocktail dress with a white camellia tucked at her bosom. If you’ve got a sexy red dress in your own closet, go to the craft store, get some faux camellias, put them in your hair or your cleavage, and voila.

Charles Ludlam: the most famous Camille of the late 20th century.

Charles Ludlam: the most famous Camille of the late 20th century.

This can be a unisex costume, too! Charles Ludlam, founder of the “Theater of the Ridiculous,” became famous for playing Camille in a low-cut dress that revealed his hairy chest.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. She won’t be dressing up as a theatrical character this Halloween, but she will be wearing the platinum wig that she originally wore in The Desk Set this summer — does that count? For more: visit marissabidilla.blogspot.com or Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Everything Is Already Something Week 65: Artist Nightmares

Allison Page: scaredy-pants.

Halloween is approaching, and apart from the fear of being dismembered by a maniac and blended into a soup, my biggest nightmares are the artistic ones. If you’ve ever auditioned for something or watched auditions for something, you’ve probably either performed or had to watch Christopher Durang’s short play The Actor’s Nightmare. Basically a guy is mistaken for an actor’s understudy and has to go on stage not knowing any of his lines. The play was inspired by a real phenomenon that seems like it happens all the time. I have a recurring one. It’s extremely specific.

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I’m in a period drama of some kind. I’m dressed in Victorian servant attire. My face is smeared with dirt. Backstage, I meet up with my co-star (somehow for the first time even though it’s opening night) and it’s MERYL STREEP. She shakes my hand and says, “Miss Page — can I call you Allison? — Allison, I am so thrilled to work with you.” and I’m polite and calm, you know, because she should be sooooo thrilled to be working with me. Dream Allison apparently has quite an ego. The play starts. I walk onstage, alone, surrounded by a set that looks like an old brick building. I strike a fairly absurd pose, and then suddenly realize I have no idea what any of my lines are, or even which play this is. I stand silent. In my peripheral vision, I catch Meryl offstage with her arms crossed. She is shaking her head from side to side and frowning. She makes that all-familiar, neck-cutting, you’re-toast gesture. I frantically run offstage. Meryl taps me on the shoulder and shouts “YOU’LL NEVER WORK IN THIS TOWN AGAIN!” I fall to my knees and scream “MERYL, NOOOOOOOO!”…and wake up in a cold sweat.

This has been going on for 15 years. It’s less frequent now than it used to be, but it still pops up from time to time. And it’s always Meryl. Always, always Meryl.

But two days ago I had a new kind of artist’s nightmare…A PLAYWRIGHT NIGHTMARE. It was bloodcurdling.

I invited a lot of people over for a reading of something I had written. All the actors arrived (like 20 of them) and I was in the kitchen making food for them — specifically pizza and fried eggs. All the eggs were over easy so they required real supervision, and the pizza was extremely labor intensive. I had to make the dough fresh for each one, and the toppings were so particular that I had to bake the pizza for only a minute at a time, remove it, add certain toppings, and put it back in over and over again. Hours and hours passed and people were leaving left and right. We didn’t read a single word because I spent all that time in the kitchen. I finally came out with one cold fried egg and a single slice of pizza left for myself, and everyone was gone, except one actor. MERYL STREEP. She shook her head silently, then walked out of the room.


I guess, now that I’m having nightmares about it, that I must actually be a writer. I look forward to decades of dreams about not finishing things, or being attacked by words carrying machetes.

And Meryl, today I will finish a script, just so I don’t let you down. Your withering glance is really intense.

Or maybe I’ll just never sleep again.

Allison Page is an actor/writer/dreamer in San Francisco. You can see her murder people in Theater Pub’s DICK 3 Oct. 26th and 27th at PianoFight in SF.

Everything Is Already Something Week 64: Haiku For Rehearsals In October

Allison Page, ever the poet. 

Dracula is drunk
“Children of the night” means beer

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 11.02.40 AM

Let’s reinvent this
Rocky Horror meets Mad Men
Meatloaf in a suit

Where is the blood bag
We’ve lost the machete yikes
You’re sitting on it

Pumpkin spice break time
The cast is all in sweaters
Lookin’ like Gap ads

No you die first you
He pulls my head off ‘member
After the guts thing

Careful for the corpse
Exit over the corpse dude
Great there goes his leg

Okay hear me out
Frankenstein is a dancer
That’s why he moves weird


These are all pumpkins
No I said Jack O Lanterns
Not the same thing Todd

We talked about this
We can’t really kill someone
Put down the fake sword

What do you mean Todd
We can’t be out of fake blood
Did you drink it Todd

You are the Wolf Man
You look like a Cat Man bro
No one’s scared of that

Look there’s a full moon
I’m a monster haha not
Let’s make out after

The witches’ brew Todd
You made it an IPA
Witches fell asleep

Trick or Treat haha
Just kidding I’m 43
I can’t have candy


Allison Page is a writer/actor/monster in San Francisco. You can catch her in Theater Pub’s production of DICK 3 this month at PianoFight, as the evil henchman Ham.

Working Title: Don’t Fall Asleep

This week Will Leschber remembers Wes Craven, a master passed, and also remembers why you should catch Don’t Fall Asleep before it’s too late!

So I was never much of a horror guy. Sure, I love the classic line from Heart of Darkness/ Apocalypse Now where general Kurtz reaches the end of his exquisite journey into madness and on the very brink of death utters the oh so prescient words…”the horror…the horror.” But that’s not what I mean! I mean the horror genre; Of film or theater for that matter…albeit the latter is much less prevalent. While I loved late night, Elvira showcases of old horror films as a adolescent, or even the endless slasher franchises of sleepless sleepovers growing up, the horror genre seemed to stuffed full of empty, bloody, redundant, cliche, low rent, low quality black holes of cinema more interested in making a sequel and a quick profit rather than anything resembling cinema substance.


Oh course, like most tweenagers, I was wrong. Although horror is still not my preferred genre, I have come around to recognize the pillars of the genre for being quite remarkable with innovation and craft: Hitchcock (Psycho, The Birds, Frenzy) Tod Browning (Freaks), James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein), Toby Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), David Cronenberg (The Fly, Scanners), Dario Argento (Suspiria), George Romero (Night of the LIving Dead), John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween)…and of course the late, great Wes Craven, who passed at age 76 on August 30th.

wes-craven B&W

So many of these directors defined the period and genre they worked in. Many transcended the confines of a singular genre to branch into further cinematic influence. Craven wasn’t the first to set and break the mold for this, yet he continued the legacy like great filmmakers before him. Wes Craven not only made his mark in film; he set the lacerating edges and vicious tone of what a period horror film was decade after decade.

In the 70’s the brutal, all too realistic, edge of snuff film quality that defined 70’s horror was cemented by Craven’s directorial debut, The Last House on the Left.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8W9KPhmYYtg (1972)

Watching the punishing film felt like looking at something secret and awful that we should not be privy to. The 80’s ushered in an era of slasher personalities the likes of Jason Voohees, Michael Myers and none other than the the dream-demon himself, Freddy Krueger. In A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), there was no escaping the slumbering boogeyman that lay dormant at the edge of your eye lids. Then again as time flowed forward and the 90’s opened up the meta-horror narrative, Scream (1996) flipped the genre tropes upside down, dissecting them and disemboweling them to the delight and horror of a new generation. We’d moved into a new era of horror and Wes Craven again was at the forefront. Scream proved a intelligent beast able to tear apart what we’d come to expect from a horror film, while finding new ways to terrify. Who better than a master craftsman to reinvent and redefine what it means to be an influential and lasting horror film. Craven knew how to turn the knife.


If all this talk of night terrors and horror sleep-scapes has whet your appetite, you should pair these gruesome film offerings with tonight’s Theater Pub: Explore the Trope: Don’t Fall Asleep.

Wes Craven’s influence spans far and wide and while this theater offering may not be slasher fare, the unsettling nature of life on the other side of slumbering consciousness is cut from the same vein. Freddy Krueger used dream-logic and childhood fears as daggers in his arsenal and Christine Keating, author of Don’t Fall Asleep three part showcase, uses these things with a little extra helping of abduction, witch-ridden folklore, and the paralyzing shadows know only to our sleeping selves.

Don't Fall Asleep

I’ll check in tomorrow with Christine Keating about her frightful film recommendations to pair with her show, Don’t Fall Asleep. Until then come see tonight’s show and if you get too scared, repeat after me …It’s only movie. It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie…It’s only play. It’s only a play. It’s only a play…don’t fall asleep!

Working Title: I Love the Smell of Crappy Holidays in the Morning

This week Will Leschber talks madness and holidays with Lisa and Nick Gentiles…the holidays…the holidays.

Apocalypse Wow. I’m sure everyone has their own story about trying to wrestle greatness. Was it an occasion where you had a single solitary moment to shine? Where the spotlight was on you and the play has built to this? When the coach called your play? What careful words did you choose as your child had a their first emotional crisis? Was it just surviving the holidays? Was it a season long slog towards a a project that may have been bigger than you? Were your limits tested? Did you emerge fractured or more sane that you ever thought before?

I used to see these moment of grasping towards greatness as single defining tests: the moment you had the lead; the moment you walked across that stage, shook his hand and took your diploma; the moment that culminated after arduous wedding planning; the moment of moving away; the moment you faced Death; the moment they gave you the award; the moment she took her first step. Now I think wrestling greatness may just be closer to an endurance test that a moment of strength.

How long can you rage unphased through the chaos? Some people thrive in havoc. It’s a bit extreme for my taste but to each his own. My god, how many people do you know who just gel when the chips are down, the curtain is up and the final dress is now? I feel like we must be a little mad to want to be constantly part of the process of tumultuous creation and destruction.

cardfrontexact (1) copy 2

One beautiful mad event that pull together variant strings of creation and chaos is the San Francisco Fringe Festival. 150 performances by 34 Indie theater companies. I was lucky enough to bend the ear of two great writers who are returning to the Fringe this year with another set of short plays. Nick and Lisa Gentile are the warped, beautiful minds behind Crappy Holidays. Crappy Holidays is a trio of dark comedies showcasing the cynical side of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Nothing sounds more like a warzone than holidays with Death, your family and a cursing Santa Claus, am I right?!

Since I have an incessant need to know what film pairing would perfectly with their play, I asked them. What film would send you up the thematic river and get you in the perfect unsound mindset to enjoy their play, I asked. Here’s what they had to say:

There are a lot of holiday movies, but we have a different recommendation: Apocalypse Now. We think this movie can be seen as a kind of twisted metaphor for what a lot of us go through during the holiday season.

We feel obligated to enjoy the holidays, as if it’s a mission. But a family gathering can feel like a journey into a heart of darkness. We often end up face to face with someone who’s methods have become … unsound. Sometimes, you eat that green bean casserole at Thanksgiving, or unwrap that Christmas sweater and you can only say “the horror…the horror.”

I can think of nothing that fits better on top of the yule log than a big ol’ helping of the horror…the horror. Makes me want to sing Carol of the Bells immediately. Yeeesh. Apocalypse Now, more like Apocalypse Wow. Am I right?

Crappy Holidays 2 copy

If you are looking to cut through the chaos and get an early serving of holiday fruitcake, go see Crappy Holidays and any number of the other SF Fringe Festival shows. Greatness…and pumpkin pie…await.

The 2015 San Francisco Fringe Festival, 150 performances by 34 Indie theater companies,
September 11 through September 26. For more info visit: www.sffringe.org Apocalypse Now can be found for rent on many of the usual platforms (iTunes, Vudu, ect)

Working Title: 30 Ways to Get the Blood Out

Will Leschber on a Wednesday…

Ouch! You stabbed me in the eye…

We are days away from Halloween and obviously what everyone still needs is additional reminders on proper ways to celebrate this all consuming holiday. Grab your pumpkin lattes and get ready to pre-game your Halloween pre-party (before your actual Halloween shenanigans and obligatory hung-over post-Halloween festivities) with some entertainment fit to scare you out of your skin! I know it’s sacrilege to say, but I could leave the pumpkin flavored everything. Sorry lattes, cookies and cakes; I like you but like the Celine Dion song, my heart will go on without you. (That reference was from my dear wife…thanks honey, now every kid in middle school thinks I’m so cool!) Anyway, back to the point… I do love that this time of year reminds me to revisit something usually left on my preferential back burner. You guessed it…The horror, the horror!


The weekend is not only Halloween but also the closing performances of Awesome Theatre’s Terror Rama! This grindhouse theater mash-up of 90’s serial killer cop dramas and 70’s camp horror hilarity, beckons for late-night teenage sleepover nights spent watching all the terrible movies your parents never wanted you to see.


Initially, I was going to bound into a HORROR-ible rant about cinematic 70’s horror films and how they tower above the trash released today. While the best examples (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, etc.) are a cut above, generalized assessment serves no one. Sure, plenty could make the case about how the visceral immediacy of 70’s horror films strikes a deeper cultural artery than the less explicit films that came before and some of the lighter slasher fare to hit the marquees decades after. But saying this as a “be all end all” of betterness would be fallacy. Grand generalizations serve only to prop up narrow preferences or willful ignorance. I say this knowing that my horror cannon needs expanding. So it’s easy to only think about the name brand films (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St, Night of the Living Dead, etc.) and dismiss the daggers in the rough.


Similarly, I overheard someone saying recently that it has been a weak year for movies. I hear this every year and I have the same annual reaction: if you care to look, there are plenty of impressive films out there. Most of the time people don’t seek out the best or are unaware that they exist. I say this because it applies to any genre cannon and scare-specifically the horror genre in this case.

Thanks to fellow blogger, Charles Lewis III, a list of the 30 best Indie Horror film was recently brought to my attention. Just in case you needed another list to slice up the season, I’ve provided it here.

So if you haven’t seen it, go catch some horror theatre (Terror-Rama) and check out one of these great horror flicks. I know you haven’t seen them all. Grab your pumpkin popcorn and stab a good time.

Cowan Palace: Drowning Kate and Other Halloween Scares with Morgan Ludlow

This week Ashley talks about scary stuff, plays, and candy with playwright, Morgan Ludlow.

The race to Halloween is on, gang! This is the perfect time to embrace all things scary, am I right? Well, this year, Wily West Productions has taken advantage of this spooky season with a suspenseful new play entitled Drowning Kate and you still have three more chances to see it. But before you do, you can learn a little more about the show and its production courtesy of its playwright, Morgan Ludlow, who kindly answered a few of my questions.

Morgan Ludlow

Morgan Ludlow

AC: So tell us where the idea for Drowning Kate originated.

ML: It actually came from a vivid dream I had about twelve years ago. It’s actually a recurring dream for me. I’m often just an observer in dreams. In this one a man’s wife drowns in a lake. He refuses to let her go. He keeps trying to resuscitate her over and over. Night falls, and finally, she awakens! The husband is overjoyed to have his beloved back. But after a few days he realizes she is different. As they go on he realizes his wife’s spirit actually died in the lake and he is now living with another person in his wife’s body. She looks at him and he knows it is someone or something else…

It’s not quite what my script turned out to be but it was the starting point. Dreams are definitely a source of inspiration for me. I have a notepad by the bed. I often only get fragments that are usable. An image. Sometimes there’s a bit of dialogue. A character. But occasionally an entire story of a dream stays with me and I can write a coherent version of it, and every now and then, I use it as the germinal idea to start a play.

AC: A dream come true! What was the process of getting this show up and running? Did it go through any major changes in the writing process from your first draft to the current script?

ML: This is the oldest script of mine that I have had produced. I wrote it about ten years ago when I took a playwriting class from Gary Graves at the Berkeley Rep School. I was reading Frankenstein at the time, which definitely influenced the play. I found Frankenstein more philosophical than scary. The novel made me think of people who push boundaries and break the rules and that helped me shape my main character for the play. DROWNING KATE started as long monologues with a few scenes. I had several readings in my living room. And the play moved more and more into action scenes. City Lights Theatre in San Jose picked it up for their new play reading series. They gave the play a couple of readings and were very interested in it – they wrote a grant trying to get funding for the play but it didn’t come through. I moved on to other plays. It sat for several years waiting. Then in 2012 we needed a full length for Spooky Cabaret and Wesley Cayabyab really connected with the script and had a lot of ideas for it. The reading for Spooky Cabaret had tremendous potential and made me see new possibilities for the script. Quinn, Wes and I realized that the house was key to presenting both Un-Hinged and Drowning Kate in rep. For one play you are inside the house and for the other you are outside the house. So here we are. The monologues are still there but they are trimmed down and Wes decided to make them into video bites presented on stage. Wes also really got into the wolves (which mysteriously appear after Kate is “revived”) – according to Wes the wolves are trying to lead the trapped souls in Kate’s body into the spirit world. This made a lot of sense to me and adds a great deal to the “spook factor” for the production. Wolves are howling, just outside the door, encouraging Kate’s spirit to cross over.

Colleen Egan and Scott Cox in DROWNING KATE.

Colleen Egan and Scott Cox in DROWNING KATE.

AC: Do you believe in ghosts?

ML: Well, just because I wrote a ghost story doesn’t necessarily mean I believe in ghosts. But in all truth I’m like a multiple personality on that question. Totally and furiously split. My logical “you must go to work” side says, “absolutely not.” The other, more spiritual side of myself that believes in the collective human consciousness, Edgar Cayce, and space aliens says, “not everything is known.” But I think it would be wonderful if the atheists were right. That this is the only dance we dance. That all the events that make up our lives is just random coincidence and not “fate.” Lovely. However I was reading that scientists are discovering patterns in our brains at the quantum level. Apparently this pattern could hold even after death. Is this pattern the soul?

AC: While horror movies continue to dominate the box office and generate millions of dollars, the genre isn’t very popular in the theatre world. Any thoughts about why you think that is? And did it push you to write a “scary” play?

ML: Well, we are all drawn to what scares us. Fear is one of those thrilling and immediate emotions – we are never more aware of being alive than when we are afraid. This is as obvious to Hollywood as it is to newspapers and the media that feed our culture’s addiction to fear. It seems like everything we read is based on some element meant to scare the bejesus out of us. But I don’t think it is just cultural. It is human nature to seek out the thrill of fear. To ride along the edge of death. It’s why we love roller coasters and rock climbing and nuclear power plants.

However that was not the driving force for me in writing the play. I’m well aware of the pitfalls of trying to do a ghost story on stage. There is something about live theatre that makes it extremely difficult to scare an audience. To be honest I’m not sure I can quite articulate why this is so. Perhaps it is that theatre is too immediate – and while we can get into the story – attempts at horror just seem “fake” as we know there are inherent limitations to what can happen on stage. Whereas in movies anything can happen, people can transform into bloodsucking monsters and destroy the city, there’s a lot of uncertainty in horror movies, and the uncertainty is part of the fun. Whatever the case it is extremely hard to scare people with a play. In theatre you can surprise, maybe startle people but that’s about it. So, that wasn’t even a goal of mine. I was working toward the mystery of my story. What happened to Kate? Did she drown herself to prove their methods of resuscitation would work? Did Harry do something to Kate? And what is happening to Kate? Is she brain damaged? Is she a zombie or ghost? Who is in her body now? I was more focused on peeling out the story of these two failed scientists than I was in scaring people. I think as a writer what I learned with this play is that I am not required to answer all questions or find explanation for every mystery. In fact it is better in some cases to leave some interpretations to the audience.

DROWNING KATE after the drowning.

DROWNING KATE after the drowning.

AC: Speaking of scary movies, are you a fan? Do you have a favorite Halloween film?

ML: Yes, I do like scary movies. When I was six years old my Dad took me to ALIEN and I loved it. It seemed like for years afterwards I loved seeing things explode out of other things. ALIENS is one my favorite movies. There is something very compelling about motherhood in that film that has always fascinated me. But recently I saw, THE OTHERS, with Nicole Kidman, which I think is one of my all time favorites.

AC: So what was your favorite part about watching this story performed in front of an audience?

ML: I only got to see one performance of the play but the production has the promise to be quite wonderful. Jason Jeremy created some chilling sounds for the show, the sound of ice slowly breaking apart starts the show, and the set designed by Wesley is amazing. There are always surprises for me as the writer because often the actors and director will see my story in an entirely different way than I do. In this case I think everything is aligned. What I love is that everyone is taking risks along with me and giving the show everything they have. Colleen Egan is giving a wonderful performance as Kate – you really feel like there is something eerie going on with her. It’s keeping the suspense up. And Scott Cox and Genevieve Perdue give really heartfelt performances. This gives the play a real emotional punch at the end.

Colleen Egan and Genevieve Perdue in DROWNING KATE

Colleen Egan and Genevieve Perdue in DROWNING KATE

AC: Along with the relationship of a husband and wife, we also get the chance to watch a relationship between two siblings in an extreme situation. Do you have any siblings of your own? And did they inspire any dynamics that made it into the play?

ML: I do have an older brother, Rhys, but I don’t think any of that came through this play. I think a lot of Harry and Shelley are more my parents dynamic actually. They were both ballet dancers in the New York City Ballet – at the top of their field. And they worked together throughout their careers of being teachers and artistic directors of ballet companies all over the U.S. My father was the dreamer, the experimenter, the choreographer and chaos-creator, the one who would come up with crazy ideas and my mother generally accurately assessed the consequences of those ideas – as she often had to implement them. And I also think I was influenced by my father being a professor at the University of Utah for 25 years. He thought he was going to be working with colleagues who understood his work. Instead there was nothing but in-fighting and petty personal agendas. Apparently it is not at all unusual for faculty within a department to have colleagues who despise one another. Much more so than other work places. It’s complex (and of course dependent on the situation) but generally there is something about the set-up in academia that pits professors against each other – the betrayals, lies and back stabbings are ghastly – to the point that many brilliant ideas and successful programs are destroyed because of politics. I think that is where some of Harry’s bitterness comes from – is that his ideas were never fully considered because of political reasons. But isn’t that what every scientist and great creative thinker is up against? Sometimes it is hard to know when to stop.

AC: The play centers around characters who are very committed to their work; did you find that you had a similar type of focus while you were writing?

ML: This play, for me, is about failure, ego and loss. All things I am intimately familiar with in abundance. I’m drawn to success stories but I’m even more fascinated with stories of failure. As Americans failure makes us uncomfortable. We are geared for ways to “fix things” in our lives, to celebrate only the successful stories. But nothing reveals a character or person more than when they are failing. Especially when they try like hell not to fail. Perhaps that’s why I love Chekov so much. Failure has the ability to completely transform us and says so much about who we are at the core. I wanted to explore how the same elements of success can also lead to failure and loss. In this play our main character, Harry, is basically a failed scientist. He took risks and they didn’t pay off. His colleagues, even his own sister, think he has gone too far. His ego is also telling him to keep going and not give up. That he will find an answer. To take even more risks. It’s sort of Harry’s blind spot in a sense. It throws him off balance. He doesn’t see what is happening right in front of him. His ego kind of engines him through the most horrible consequences – things that make the audience cringe. It isn’t until the very end, when he has lost everything, that Harry can let his wife go.

Genevieve Perdue, Colleen Egan, and Scott Cox: working hard.

Genevieve Perdue, Colleen Egan, and Scott Cox: working hard.

AC: What’s your favorite Halloween candy?

ML: Candy corns. By the wee fistful.

AC: What can we look forward to seeing with Wily West Productions in 2015?

ML: We will be having our annual meeting in January so we are still gathering ideas for 2015. We are going to do some “deep theatre exploration” next season – which means we are going to be reaching out to other artists in the community and seeing where we can partner and collaborate with them and what new directions we can take. We have a lot of wonderful plays by local writers in our vaults and we want to do several staged readings and workshops of some of our favorites. We are going to try some more interactive events where the audience has a chance to participate on the outcome of the evening. We are also going to be trading plays by local playwrights from other cities – like Seattle, L.A., Salt Lake and Vancouver. And we will be doing another production of a multi-authored show in the summer possibly in rep with something else. We will keep our audience updated on our website: http://www.wilywestproductions.com

AC: Tell us what’s next for you! And where we can see more of your work.

ML: I’m working on a Holiday show about Edgar Cayce the famous American psychic. I’m also working on a domestic comedy about a man who thinks he’s found his birth mother. And it seems like I’m always working a zillion short one-acts. I’m going to be directing one of my own plays, THE TERRORIST, in Seattle next spring!

AC: And lastly, why should people come see Drowning Kate?

ML: DROWNING KATE is a “horror story with a heart” which only the coldest of hearts wouldn’t find intriguing. Who doesn’t want to see someone try like hell to save his wife from death? And let me tell you: I think we give you that dark ride and we deliver some powerful emotions about loss and grief to boot. Not bad for $9 bucks.

Drowning Kate, starring: Scott Cox, Colleen Egan and Genevieve Perdue and directed by Wesley Cayabyab, plays October 17, 23, and 25.

Drowning Kate, starring: Scott Cox, Colleen Egan and Genevieve Perdue and directed by Wesley Cayabyab, plays October 17, 23, and 25.

Pictures: All pictures provided by Jim Norrena (excluding Morgan’s Halloween inspired headshot)

Working Title: Time to get Terrified

This week Will Leschber abridged the blog and boils downs some seasonal suggestions.

Alright everyone out there in Theater Pub land, it’s that time of year where everyone has one too many projects to juggle and always more things to be done. SO since I am currently out of town and will madly be entering tech week of a show upon my return, I’ll keep this brief.

It’s nearing Halloween and we are all looking for some entertaining scares to go with our pumpkin lattes. I figured some theatrical and cinematic suggestions wouldn’t be out of turn.

First off, I suggest wishing fellow blogger (and my lovely wife), Ashley Cowan Leschber a wonderful Happy Birthday. If you don’t she gets pretty SCARRRY!


OK, on with the show…

THEATRE: Horror theatre or scary plays are not the most commonly produced thing. But this time of year is perfect for such things! Terror-Rama is a bloody, grind-house theatrical double feature experience where audiences will get equal parts serial-killer gore and campy horror comedy. This plug is a bit shameless considering that I am part of the production, but I’m confident in saying this night has something scary for everyone: Laughs, scares, scars, blood, tears, dead raccoons. Terror-Rama plays Oct 17- Nov 1st, Fridays and Saturdays (and Thursday the 30th) at the EXIT Theatre.


FILM: The Historic Castro Theatre is one of the best places in the city to take in old film and nothing says cinematic Halloween quite like classic horror films. On the 23rd of October this great repertory theater is playing a Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi double feature with 1934’s The Black Cat and 1935’s The Raven. Both films were strong staples that cemented Universal as place as the home of classic frights on Halloween movie nights. The films may seem a bit cheesy now but Karloff and Lugosi are pillars of classic scary movies for a reason. At their best they are magnetic and unsettling. Check em out!

HOME ENTERTAINMENT: Sometimes curling up with some Halloween candy and a scary movie is best (if you’ve already seen all the spooky theatre in town;). So in keeping with the double-bill theme this far, here are two recommendations for Streaming Netflix viewing. If you are looking for an unsettling crime story to rattle your nightmares, I SAW THE DEVIL is it. This Korean film is a front runner for best revenge/serial killer film to come out in the last decade…probably longer than that. The scope of this detective cat and mouse tale is expansive and yet it also rummages around in local fears we all have for not being able to protect those closest to us against the darkness in this world. Like no other film out there, I SAW THE DEVIL gives a face to Nietzsche’s aphorism “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” This tale is pitch black and if you wish to look into darkness, look no further than what lies here.

Lastly, if you like your frights a little lighter maybe you should stream TROLL HUNTER instead. This 2010 Swedish film is a favorite amongst found footage film fans. It’s fun! It’s filled full of scares! And it’s delightful! Watch and laugh and scream. You won’t regret it.

If all else fails and none of these choices are your Halloween jam, you can always try and find ERNEST SCARED STUPID. That movie is the shit.


Cowan Palace: Five Festive Factors and How To Survive this Season

In honor of “Crappy Holidays”, Ashley Cowan explores the holiday season divide.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, for like half of us.

I, for one, bust out the holiday music as soon as I put my Halloween costume away and begin openly singing my praises. Though honestly, I watch Love Actually and sing “All I Want for Christmas” all year round. But even Mariah’s sweet jam can’t help that the holidays are also notoriously linked to the highest number of reported incidences of depression. Whether it’s the darker weather conditions, the excessive commercialism, or just the Grinch getting his Grinch on, it can be a hard time of year. The National Institute of Health sadly states that this is the season when suicides and attempted suicides skyrocket and one American survey found that 45% of those they interviewed claimed to dread and despise the holidays all together.


Following that sentiment, Theater Pub is preparing for its November offering with Nick and Lisa Gentile’s “Crappy Holidays”. An evening showcasing three new plays taking place during the fall and winter festivities. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas will each take their turn exploring some dark comedic colors in the rainbow that is the holiday season. And considering the mixed reviews that this time of year can bring in from the general public, Saturday’s show may be a perfect way to both celebrate and commiserate over them.

But why is there such a divide? These next few months present an array of challenges some seem to revel in and others yearn to avoid. From my research and understanding, I found the reasoning to surround five major factors. Consider me your Rudolf and I’ll guide this sleigh through them:

1.) The Food!

It starts during Halloween. And then it’s a few solid months of delicious edible opportunities. 90 million pounds of chocolate are sold during Halloween week and nearly $2 billion dollars is spent each year preparing for an evening of candy sharing. Next it’s November when we set aside a day to stay inside and eat a whopping 535 million pounds of turkey. Followed by trays of December holiday cookies and endless pumpkin inspired delicacies. For some it’s the excuse to overindulge (that’s what resolutions are for, am I right?) while the other half tries to slam the door and stay away from the temptation. My advice? Don’t let it overwhelm you! Rest assured that the latest studies show that in reality, people don’t tend to gain all the weight they fear they will; the average is only one pound! If you allow yourself to sample a few of your favorite treats in moderation, you should be just fine. Why not consider walking to get your next peppermint mocha and taking the long way home?

2.) The Family!

Whether it’s the trick-or-treaters, the guests sitting around your dining table, or the expecting recipients of a wrapped gift, chances are, you’ll find yourself faced with families. Be it your own or the crowds of others. And it can be overwhelming for anyone. If you spend these next few months surrounded by close loved ones or hiding from them, this time of year encourages the examination of family relationships. Try being patient with those you come in contact with and be gentle with yourself regarding your feelings. Families have the power to both push every button until you want to burst into flames and keep you warm on those chilly winter nights. You’re allowed to take a moment for yourself if you need it and return to the family festivities at your own pace.

3.) The Money!

Businesses can expect to see a rise of 25-40% in their sales during the holiday season. Last year alone, consumers spent $579.8 billion dollars! And to prepare for 2013, $9.6 billion dollars worth of toys have already been shipped from China to the United States. That’s a lot of money, y’all! It’s easy to get caught up in the commercials, online ads, or your own finances and wake up in January with a huge credit card balance. Take it easy. Consider organizing your shopping needs early and slowly checking them off your list. Pay attention to your buying habits and it may not seem so bad. If you can avoid the waves of endless shoppers it may help to make it all a bit more manageable.

4.) The Entertainment!

The music, the movies, the games, the parades, the decorations – you get it. There’s no lack of stimuli during the holidays. If you’re like me, you love dancing along to it all but so many people out there just hate it. You’re not alone! If you don’t like the music, put your headphones on and drown it out. If you can’t stand another Hallmark made-for-TV-movie, re-watch Breaking Bad. Yes, the entertainment may feel like it’s all around you but you can avoid it. That’s the beauty of DVR or a non-holiday themed book.

5.) The Reflection!

It’s hard to escape the mirror following you like a shadow during this time. It’s everywhere. You can’t help but reflect back on your year and compare yourself to those around you. It can be a painful reminder of challenges you faced or the sweet song of treasured memories. My suggestion is to treat yourself and each other with a little extra kindness and keep some reasonable expectations. 2013 wasn’t an easy year for a lot of us; why not use these remaining days to pat ourselves on the back for surviving it. Yes, there’s always room for improvement and maybe 2014 will help inspire that but you got through this year, kid, and that’s something! So try and let that mirror show you some of the good things as well.


The holiday season may have only just begun but as I’m sure you can see, it’s everywhere. And this week, it’s taking over Theater Pub with plays that are both naughty and nice. So before you get taken over by these five major powers of the season, come join the fun on Saturday at 8:30pm at the Exit Theatre’s Cafe (156 Eddy Street, San Francisco).

You can come listen to more of Ashley’s work tonight (November 13) at the Olympian Festival’s evening of plays surrounding the Trojan Women, see her perform in “Crappy Holidays” on November 16, or in a reading of SEE ALSO ALL on November 23rd. All of which will be happening by the Exit Theatre. See you there!

Cowan Palace: The 5th Annual Halloween Scavenger Hunt

Ashley Cowan shares a Halloween treat.


Happy Day Before Halloween, Theater Pub-ers! Hope you’ve all got an evening of tricks and treats waiting for you. Each year, my sister and I host a unique alternative to the holiday. It started five years ago when Julia Heitner, Katelyn, and I came together to write The First Annual Halloween Scavenger Hunt and has since become a tradition in the Cowan household. Every Halloween, costumed San Francisco souls meet at our apartment, marvel at my dog, and split into teams. Each group receives the list. They are then released into the night to return again in two hours time. After an incredible adventure all over town, we all regroup over tater tots to tally up the points and declare a winner. Through the years, we’ve hosted many Theater Pub enthusiasts but I thought I’d take advantage of this week’s blog to share our upcoming Scavenger Hunt with all of you. Whether you’re able to join us on our romp around the city tomorrow or just live vicariously though the upcoming pictures, here is the latest list!

5th Annual Halloween Scavenger Hunt

October 31, 2013


1. Welcome to the night of your lives! Prepare for a memorable evening. First things first: you must have photographic or tangible proof of all items and stunts. Plus, stuff’s going to get weird and you’re going to want to brag about it later online.

2. All items must be acquired during the actual scavenger hunt. Meaning, none of the goodies can come from any of the participants prior to the start of the night.

3. No cheating! What’s the point? It’s boring! Plus, if you do, you will be the person who cheated on a Halloween Scavenger Hunt.

4. The winning team gets loads of high fives, bragging rights, and round of drinks paid for by the losers. All players are welcome to tater tots and pet cuddles.



No Frills Photography:

1 Point

□ Anyone dressed as a pun. It’s awesome. Good for them.

□ A guy dressed like a chick or a lady dressed like a dude

□ Someone who thought pajamas counted as a costume

□ An animal dressed up (add 1 point if this costumed animal is not a dog)

□ Someone pushing the new “no nudity in public” law to the limit

□ Two people conjoined in one costume

□ A man or woman over the age of 80 getting their trick or treat on

Stunts and Dares

2 Points

□ Dance the Thriller Dance with two zombies

□ Do the Charleston with someone from The Great Gatsby

□ Hold hands with a bumblebee

□ Put on someone else’s wig

□ Get a stranger to draw a pumpkin on your abs

□ Look up a ghost’s sheet

□ Have a stranger write you a poem

□ Hold the wand of a Harry Potter character

□ High five Jesus

□ Get a police officer to handcuff you

□ Swim with a mermaid

□ Jump over a Super Mario Brother’s character (plus 1 if it’s not Mario or Luigi)

□ Get examined by a doctor or nurse

□ Take a picture with your costume doppelganger

□ Recommend a book to Miley Cyrus

□ Have a Disney princess do your hair

□ Have an Orange is the New Black character tell you a secret

3 Points

□ Put on a stranger’s sock or stocking

□ Build a human pyramid with at least 5 people.

□ Draw a mustache on a stranger’s face

□ Play catch with a Giant’s player

□ Give the Wolverine a hand massage

□ Start a game of spin the bottle

□ Get Walter White and Jessie to hug it out; with you in the middle of their meth love-fest

□ Spell out any five letter word (with a minimum of two strangers)

□ Share a scotch with Ron Burgundy

□ Give or receive a piggyback ride to or from a kitty

□ Sing something quirky with Zoey Deschanel

□ Lift a super hero

□ Have a stranger feed you candy. You can’t use your hands. (2 bonus points if they don’t use hands either)

□ Switch shoes with a stranger and swing dance with them

□ Serenade a singer with one of their songs

□ Have that 50 Shades of Grey creep tie you up

□ Write your name on a stranger’s thigh


4 Points

□ Take a picture with a devil on one side and an angel on the other

□ Get a bite of one of Bob’s burgers

□ Switch shirts with a stranger of the opposite sex

□ Tell Grumpy Cat a joke and get him to smile

□ Acquire and bring back an unbroken egg

□ Get a cooking and/or racism lesson from Paula Deen

□ Eskimo kiss a bunny

□ Get a picture of one of your team members at least 5 feet off the ground

□ Play a game of Red Rover with the Game of Thrones cast

□ Find a pair of actual twins and learn their zodiac sign

□ Feed someone from the Hunger Games

□ Have Waldo or Carmen Sandiego give you directions

□ Let a stranger do your makeup

□ Play catch with a Giant’s player

□ Floss a vampire’s teeth

5 Points

□ Crash a party and take a picture in their bathroom

□ Ride on someone else’s bike

□ Get a hickey from a religious figure

□ Talk to a stranger’s mom on the phone

□ Get someone to moon you

□ Get William and Kate to let you hold their baby, George

□ Get a stranger to chew gum that was in your mouth

□ Tweet a selfie of you and Amanda Bynes

□ Get a text from someone dressed as an emoji

Items of Interest:

1 Point

□ One AA battery

□ A crayon

□ A playing card

□ A fortune cookie

□ A movie ticket stub dated 10/31/13

□ A feather

□ A MUNI transfer dated 10/31/13

2 Points

□ A pumpkin

□ A Starbucks cup labeled “pumpkin spice latte”

□ A book

□ A toy spider

□ A scarf

□ A Christmas decoration

□ An unused candle

□ Dark chocolate Halloween candy

□ Dog food

Have fun, be safe, and have a wonderful holiday!