Everything Is Already Something Week 9: The Post-Production Blues

Allison Page is so sincere we forgive her for all the formatting this blog required. 

I’m sitting backstage with my castmate, Will, during the second act of our last performance of PRELUDE TO A KISS and he whispers to me, “So are you sad that it’s over?” – and I find that hard to answer. I’d say the answer is yes, but it’s really a mixed bag of feelings. I mean, isn’t it always? Particularly if it’s been a great show, or a great cast, or a great director or a great part or a great overall experience or God forbid – ALL OF THOSE THINGS. (Which this has been, for me.) And it got me to thinking – how do I really feel when something is over? And how do other people feel? Are my feelings unique or shared? Am I doing this wrong? So, I decided to ask a bunch of actors how they feel when that final curtain closes (not that there are always curtains. Come on, this is independent theater, sometimes it’s just in a room – but I digress.) Their amazing responses will be sprinkled throughout.

When a show closes, I feel a slump. I always have. Like someone’s carefully lowering an Acme anvil down on top of me, and I’m moving in slow motion to get out of the way. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic, but I am a fucking actor after all. Do you have a post-production slump?

PETER TOWNLEY – “I like post-production slumps, they encourage me to rest.”

Well, that was a really good way to look at that. That’s probably what I should be doing. Maybe I dwell for no reason.

JAN CARTY MARSH – “Nope, life goes on, and I have one (outside of theatre).”

Ohhh, yeah. Life…am I the only one who really slumps?

DAVE SIKULA – “…after doing this for 40 years, it doesn’t get old or routine, but it’s nothing unusual.”

Hm. Okay. It’s possible that I just need a drink or something. I’m probably over-thinking this.

PAUL JENNINGS – “I don’t slump.”

OKAY, I GET IT, I’M A SENTAMENTALIST WEIRDO. Well, I guess I’ll just pack up my stuff and —

This is what happens when you google "sad actor". Legit.

This is what happens when you google “sad actor”. Legit.

ASHLEY COWAN – “Yes, I certainly do feel a slump. I can’t imagine avoiding feeling a void when something you’ve put a lot of love and time into suddenly disappears.”

…oh yeah? Okay, well, maybe –

TONYA NARVAEZ – “Typically I do have a post-production slump of some sort. Sometimes it’s pretty horrible, where I am perfectly content to sit around at home and stare at the ceiling.”

(Setting suitcase down)…I’m listening…

STEPHANIE WOZNIAK – “Every now and then there’s a show that really makes me sad when it ends. Steel Magnolias was hard. I still miss that production and we closed 6 years ago.”

I hear ya. (Allison reminisces in her brain about a production of a radio play she did in college…)

SAM BERTKEN – “If the show and cast were 100% awesome the whole way through, closing is usually rather bittersweet. There’s usually the promise of seeing and working with people again, which is somewhat of a relief. Plus, I usually focus more on the next project to distract myself from my feelings! Hooray!”

Okay – stop. We just hit on two big things there. Two things that run through almost everyone’s responses to my questions at some point: bittersweetness and something else, too…

PETER TOWNLEY – “I really need to throw myself into another creative project.”

XANADU BRUGGERS – “I always kept doing show after show so I wouldn’t have to worry about having that feeling.”

DAVE SIKULA –  “I’m getting ready for the next thing.”

ALISHA EHRLICH – “I have…been able to stave off slump-y feelings longer by going from one production to the next, if possible, and continuously working on new shows/projects.”

STEPHANIE WOZNIAK – “Get yourself into a new gig ASAP so you don’t dwell.”

AH-HA! That’s the ticket. Never stop moving, like a fucking shark. Even before PRELUDE closed last Sunday, apart from having a billion things already lined up, I threw myself into a completely crazy and overly ambitious writing project (more on that another time.) because that’s what keeps me sane. No. Actually, I think a sane person might be okay with having down time. Like, actual down time. Oh man. My poor boyfriend. He never, ever sees me – and he LIVES with me. I’ve already started rehearsals for another show, performed in something last night, get up at 7am to work on that aforementioned nutty writing project every morning before I go to my intense writing job all day and – it’s only Wednesday. It’s been three days since closing and I’ve already done those things and there are just going to be more of them. Why can’t I slow down? Aren’t there roses to smell somewhere?…Where are they? And what’s so great about them? And are they better than the roses you might get from someone who comes to the show?

JAN CARTY MARSH – “When I started acting, I had two kids – 5 and 3 years old, it just meant I had more time with them. Now, it means my dishes get washed, I can ride my bike, and my friends have a chance to remember who I am.”

The second I finished typing that just now, I looked around my apartment…it’s a nightmare. Piles of clothing, empty boxes from deliveries that I haven’t bothered to take out to the recycling bin, empty bottles of Tazo iced tea, dirty dishes – but what’s so great about the dirty dishes, is that in every single case, they were only used to set take-out on top of. I haven’t cooked anything in months. And my friends? I mean…I don’t know. I see them…I think. Do I? I mean…I’ll go to a bar with them after a rehearsal or a performance, but it’s not like I’m going to the park or actually anywhere that I don’t HAVE to be while the sun is up. I’m usually free at about 11pm. If I were free evenings earlier than that, I’d just go do stand up somewhere. None of this is as sad as it sounds, it’s just – I don’t know – my reality.

Shit. I’m a workaholic. Shit.

This is going in a direction I did not predict. Let’s just go back to what other people think for a minute, because I’m not sure what just happened.

I asked them how they dealt with their slumps, if they have them. Here are some answers that are NOT “I do another show!”, just so we know that’s a possibility.

TONYA NARVAEZ – “Starting West Wing is how I got over MERCHANT OF VENICE last year.”

MOLLY BENSON – “Wine, and music jam sessions tend to do the trick. Or watching Game of Thrones or Mad Men, or something to that effect for hours on end.”

Good one. I LOVE drinking and TV! It’s like she knew!

ASHLEY COWAN – “…make plans with castmates immediately so we can try to keep the bond alive.”

PAUL JENNINGS – “…at least in one case, kept myself thoroughly stoned and distracted for like a month.”

SAM BERTKEN – “Chocolate?”


XANADU BRUGGERS – “I find other artistic endeavors that I have always wanted to explore. Art, music, writing etc…even sports or dance helps me.”

Sports are not my jam, but there’s that damned writing project popping up again…

LORMAREV JONES – “I try to read things I wasn’t able to, catch up on shows I watch, see friends I had to blow off due to the show – go back to ‘business as usual’ in a sense.”

Business as usual…business as usual…what does that mean to me? What is my business as usual? That’s a hell of a question. If I’m being honest, the answer is probably “sandwiches”.

STEPHANIE WOZNIAK – “…one must first obsess about the show for about a week. Look through photos, stalk the FB accounts of castmates, burst into songs or monologues several times a day. Then, cut yourself off.”

I miss my sweet 90s costumes. Did you see that black beaded choker? It was fabulous. I miss the people, they were wonderful. And I miss something weird and stupid that it’s a little hard for me to admit. Or a lot hard, I guess. I miss having pretend parents. My real parents are in Minnesota, where I’m from. I’ve been in San Francisco 5 years and they’ve never come to visit me, and I really don’t think they ever will. My mother hates to travel, and my father will not go anywhere without my mother. They are this wonderful pair of extremely linked people and they’re always together. I see them twice a year (unless it’s only once, at Christmas.) and having two people stand in as my parents was so oddly comforting. Especially because they shared so many characteristics with my real parents: my father is a war veteran who is charismatic, funny, charming, tough and believes in having a cold beer at the end of the day. My mother is SUCH a mother. She’s sweet, nurturing, concerned, wants what’s best for me, and has a tendency to meddle at times. 

If you didn’t see PRELUDE, Rita and Peter get married onstage. Dave Sikula, who played my father, walked me down the aisle. I handed my pretend mother – played by Jan Carty Marsh – my bouquet, then Dave smiled, kissed me on the cheek, and I walked away to greet my groom. It was a lovely thing I’ve never gotten to do in real life. I’ve been engaged twice but never married and…well, who knows. The point is, it was a lovely moment. And even Dave admitted that though he doesn’t have kids, and doesn’t want them, he really enjoyed being parental in that moment.

Okay, calm down, let’s get away from all this sentimental bullshit. I was just sort of curious – do you read reviews of your show? Do you wait ‘til it’s over?

SAM BERTKEN – “I really, really, really, really think it’s a good idea not to read reviews until the show is over…I always end up hearing it from someone, and then the whole intention of not reading the review is moot so I let morbid curiosity take over.”

MOLLY BENSON – “I used to read them during the show, but I’ve stopped that. I feel like whether a review is good or bad, it can alter how you feel about your performance and self worth, in a positive or a negative way, and take the focus away from the performance itself.”

XANADU BRUGGERS – “I try not to read reviews during a show. I think it is bad luck. Also, they can totally get in my head.”

Yeah, but…sometimes you sneak a little peek, right? In your darker moments?

LORMAREV JONES – “I always read reviews. I want to be the person that doesn’t need them, but I’m not that mature yet. Someday, perhaps.”

ALISHA EHRLICH – “I read reviews during the production with one eye closed or hiding behind my fingers.”


STEPHANIE WOZNIAK – “I read reviews. All of them. I actively seek them out. I like to know where I stand. And if they are icky, it kind of fuels me and I work harder.”

DAVE SIKULA – “I always read reviews and long ago learned to not take them either seriously or personally.”

KAI MORRISON – “I almost always read reviews during the run, if any exist. It’s about ego-stroking.”

PETER TOWNLEY – “I think reviews are basically useless and approximately zero people should read them.”

But what if they say something really nice about my hair?

PETER TOWNLEY – “If I want to hear another person’s opinion about a show, I will start a conversation with someone who is good at discussion and whose opinion I respect.”

Oh, fine.

Listen, I know this has been a long column for me, but that’s because I find it to be an interesting discussion. Thanks for taking the ride with me. Everyone has their own opinion on these particular matters, but when it comes down to it, I mostly agree with what Will said to me on that backstage couch Sunday night, 30 minutes before our beautiful little show took its final bow, so I’ll leave you with his words:

WILL LESCHBER – “It’s like immediate nostalgia. It’s not like one of those things where you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone – it’s like you know exactly what you’ve got as it’s going.”

You can follow Allison on Twitter @allisonlynnpage or accost her on the street on the way to whatever it is she’s on the way to all the time.


Everything Is Already Something Week 8: My Favorite Bay Area Character Actors

Allison Page tells you who she likes. Don’t hate her for it.

If someone asked me what kind of an actor I am, I’d give it only the briefest pause and reply: “I’m a character actor.”

Dennie Moore as Olga in The Women from 1939 - one of Allison's absolute favorite lady-character-actor movie moments.

Dennie Moore as Olga in The Women from 1939 – one of Allison’s absolute favorite lady-character-actor movie moments.

I realize that sounds kind of silly, any actor is playing a character, so we’re all character actors, right? Not exactly.

Wikipedia (go ahead and admit that Wikipedia is your primary source for quick descriptions of things that aren’t earth shatteringly important) describes a character actor as someone who “predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters”. There may be some people in the world who might not like being called a character actor, but those people are silly. I think it’s a wonderful thing to be. I say that because I think I am one, and I’m totally happy with that. I’ve never considered myself an ingénue even though I have played my fair share of young women in love. So, now, without further blahblah, I present to you: MY TOTALLY BIASED, COMPLETELY SUBJECTIVE, SHORT LIST OF PERSONAL FAVORITE BAY AREA THEATER CHARACTER ACTORS THAT I LOVE TO WATCH, BOTH MALE AND FEMALE. Vol I.

In no particular order:


Cal is phenomenally hilarious. He’s got that grizzled voice, permanent 5 o’clock shadow, and wild look in his eyes that you want in a classic character actor. You need a crazed cowboy? Cal’s your man. You need a vagrant stockyard worker? Cal all the way. Psychotic murderer? Call Cal. Droopy the Dog? Nobody does it better. He manipulates his voice expertly and has caused me to fall over laughing several times, sometimes without actually saying anything.


Jan constantly elicits this feeling of complete safety. If I had two weeks to live, I’d want Jan to be the one to tell me about it, because I suspect it wouldn’t feel as scary. I saw Theater Pub’s production of TAMING OF THE SHREW, and though I really enjoyed it overall, I was surprised by Jan’s ability to sparkle in the role of Baptista. Not exactly the most glamorous part, Baptista is Katherina’s father, so naturally he is usually played by a man. I found myself always excited for Baptista to come back in because I just loved watching her in the part. As this list is already admittedly biased, I will say that she has now played my mother twice, and the characters were completely different, but both were so easy to connect to – both for me and for the audience. Funny, warm, heartbreaking, mother-licious: Jan’s the possessor of all these characteristics.


If you missed YOU’RE GOING TO BLEED at the Exit as part of DIVAfest, I feel bad for you. It was brutal and fantastic. Paul played the husband in a discontent couple for the ages, who fantasized about a young woman who had been taking his one-on-one acting lessons. That character did some big, bad things. Made some big, bad choices. But somehow I found myself trying to empathize with him, which made it all the more shocking when he came running at a petite Margery Fairchild (who was amazing) and strangled her, screaming “YOU’RE ALL WHORES!”, I was not the only one who gasped, that’s for sure. Watching Paul, you feel like something really intense is lurking in there and then when it explodes, you’re caught off guard in a really interesting way. I’m not sure why Paul wasn’t in GOODFELLAS, but it was clearly an oversight.


Oh man. That voice. It’s like a young Kathleen Turner with more oomph who’s always having a really fucking good time. Kirsten is boisterous, exciting, undeniably hilarious and seemingly fearless. I always get the feeling that her power can only be turned up to 7, because if it went up to 10 you might not live through it – but you’d go out happy. She played a beer (yes, her character was actually BEER), in Pint Sized Plays last year, who is trying to convince a man who has never had a drink, to start with her. Every time she said “Drink me!”, I just kept thinking “YES, DRINK HER! WHY WOULD YOU NOT DRINK HER?! COME ON!”, she’s always a joy to watch and I never know what she’s going to do next.


When I grow up – which I probably never will – but if I do, I want to be Marie. She spent years working for David Letterman, she’s lived and acted all over the country and (for now) she’s settled in the bay. I acted alongside her in BOOK OF LIZ, which is an odd show to say the least. She played the eponymous Liz, who is an odd character in an odd show, and she managed to make her feel grounded as a woman navigating a crazy world. You know what she has? She has pluck. She has all of the pluck. She radiates friendliness. You just want to be around her; take her to a carnival, buy her something alcoholic, and record your adventures on video. She’s mega talented and always up for a challenge.


One word: Sincerity. Matt is always sincere. Sometimes I’m not sure how he does that. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing a conflicted businessman or Jesus at an American Apparel photo shoot – you believe it. He doesn’t do anything that seems at all fake, exaggerated or pandering. He played the man being persuaded by Kirsten Broadbear’s beer, and I really believed how conflicted he was. I think it would be hard for me to suspend my disbelief watching many other actors in that role, but somehow Matt pulled it off – as he pulls off pretty much everything else. I think it might be related to his amazing ability to seem sort of meek or downtrodden without eliciting pity, but instead a sense of “Oh, I have so been there. I have SO felt that. I hope he gets out of it. I think he will. Will he? Yeah, I think he will. Man, I hope he does.” Secondarily, he’s HILARIOUS when he’s angry – like watching David Hyde Pierce try to assemble a bicycle or something.


So, Sarah made me like something against my own will. That’s pretty impressive. I admittedly don’t like musicals about 85% of the time. They’re just not my jam, and that’s fine, but I went to a production of GUYS AND DOLLS at Berkeley Playhouse recently and she BLEW ME AWAY, and I know I’m not the only one. There were lots of things about that show that I didn’t like, which is fine because most of the audience was composed of parents taking large-ish groups of children to see a musical – which is great, you should do that – and I wasn’t really having a good time…until Sarah entered. Her take on Miss Adelaide was so spot-on perfect, I could have watched a one-woman show version of it all night and been extremely happy about it. You might say “Hey, hold on lady, Miss Adelaide? Sounds ingénue-ish to me, are you sure she’s a character actor?” And I’d say “Shut up” for several reasons, but the main point is – she put so much detail and oomph into her (fabulous sort of nasally but not irritating voice, and a way of carrying herself that just projected sparkle.) that I actually liked a show I didn’t even like. That’s a hell of a thing.

So, those are my first 7. A pretty diverse list, I think, but I’ll admit I haven’t seen every show and every actor in the bay area – SO, who am I forgetting? Who are you angry at me for leaving off the list? Give them the shout-outs they fully deserve!

If you’re angry at Allison for leaving someone off the list, you can find her at Custom Made Theatre Co.’s production of PRELUDE TO A KISS and throw a drink in her face. (But please don’t.)

Two Amazing Events On Their Way!

Taming of the Shrew Opens March 18! 

Theater Pub jumps into their third Shakespeare production, this time taking on the ever-controversial, ever-thought provoking, ever-fascinating TAMING OF THE SHREW.

It’s Kate vs. the World! When brilliant but brittle Katherina (Kim Saunders)’s younger sister Bianca (Shay Wisniewski) finds herself being courted by three eligible bachelors (Vince Faso, Brian Martin, Ron Talbot), their opportunistic mother (Jan Marsh) lays down the law that Bianca won’t be allowed to marry until Katherina finds a husband. The suitors select Petruchio (Paul Jennings), a money seeking adventurer who might be Kate’s worst nightmare- or the best thing that ever happened to her.

Also featuring Sam Bertken, Shane Rhodes, Sarah Stewart, and directed by Stuart Bousel, this fast and furious production of the classic play will be one part Shakespeare, one part boxing match, and all parts Theater Pub.

The show plays March 18, 19, 25 and 27, at 8 PM at the Cafe Royale. Tickets are free and no reservations are required, but we encourage you to come early, enjoy the pop-up restaurant of the evening, and donate at the door to keep Theater Pub alive!

The first Saturday Write Fever will be March 23rd at the Exit Cafe! 

The Exit Theater announces a new Saturday night monthly event in their Café- and an exciting new collaboration with the San Francisco Theater Pub!

Starting March 23rd, every third Saturday of the month, we invite writers, actors, directors, theater creators and theater audiences alike to an evening of quick script-making and flash-fried performance!

Join us for an 8:30 mixer followed by a 9:00 writing sprint where writers (any writers who care to participate that night) have 30 minutes to generate original monologues based around that night’s pre-selected subjects (will they be drawn from a hat? WHO CAN SAY?!?). We cast actors from the crowd (no experience necessary), then at 9:30, they perform the work on stage in the café for an on-the-spot, one-night-only instant festival! Come join in the communal creativity, either as writer, performer, or audience!

Hosted by local writers Stuart Bousel and Megan Cohen, admission to this event is free, with the Café staying open and staffed so you can purchase drinks and snacks all night long! No need for reservations! We’ll provide paper and pens, all you need to bring is your amazing, sexy mind and the desire to create for creation’s sake.

See you there!