Dan Cowan, who is one of the owners of the Cafe Royale where Theater Pub does most of its shows, recently got married and threw a lovely party to which we were all fortunate enough to be invited. This photo was shot and is, as far as we know, rare proof we were actually all there (the photo was even taken by former Theater Pub Artistic Director, Victor Carrion). It also beautifully sums up everything about Theater Pub’s core crew: Stuart Bousel looks smug but restrained, Julia Heitner looks thoughtful and worried, Brian Markley is excited and all smiles, and Cody Rishell just wants a drink. Vive Theater Pub!
Actress and Theater Pub Artistic Director, Julia Heitner, talks about what it’s been like to bring Measure For Measure from the page, to the stage.
After 3 ½ weeks with just a few rehearsals per week, we’ll be performing an 80-min version of Measure for Measure starting tonight!
I am playing Isabella, a novice about to enter a nunnery, who gets pulled into the plot when her brother Claudio (played by Vince Rodriguez) is condemned to die for knocking up her homegirl, Julietta, and so she has to go save his ass. I love Isabella’s fierceness, eloquence, and that her particular character flaw is never being able to hold her tongue. I also relate to her being a sort of outsider in the play, left to fight her own battles, always speaking her mind (no matter what the consequences, and oh- the consequences!), and clinging to an outdated moral code in a modern world. Plus, I get to say things like,
Thy sin’s not accidental, but a trade.
Mercy to thee would prove itself a bawd:
‘Tis best thou diest quickly.
I am excited and extremely nervous to be performing in this role and intimidated to be in the company of such talented and hilarious actors.
We’ve been working hard, stress is high and after our tech/dress at Cafe Royale on Saturday, Sunday was our day of play.
It was an unexpectedly sunny and beautiful day in downtown San Francisco, so we took over a space near the Children’s Creativity Carousel in Yerba Buena and started a line through, which quickly turned into an innovative outdoor run-through, turning the area into our stage/playground. Most everyone wore sunglasses, which enhanced the severity of our Provost (Tony Cirimele) and Aeschylus (Carl Lucania) and added to the devilishness of Lucio (Neil Higgins) and Angelo (Nick Dickson). I tossed a shawl over my head to serve as a makeshift nun’s habit and we were off!
A few passersby gathered to watch us circle around a metal globe structure, scurry up and down stairways to the raised walkway above, and, of course, spout the beautiful and hilarious words of Shakespeare. In the final scene, as I let rip at Angelo and called him names, I felt a pang of shame when I screamed out that he was a “virgin violator” while groups of parents and their children wandered past.
Favorite moments of the run-through include, the moment when Mistress Overdone (Linda Ruth Cardozo), no longer restrained by a tiny rehearsal venue, made a run for it when she was about to be arrested, forcing Escalus and the Provost to chase her down. Marianna (Kirsten Broadbear) put on some extra fabulous attitude as she revealed herself to Angelo during the play’s climactic face-off, and The Duke and Lucio engaged in an imaginary sunglasses-nose-pushing-clown-off.
I turned to Stuart in the middle of the final scene and said, “It’s a comedy!” and he sardonically replied, “FINALLY!”
We can now take this show anywhere. All our costumes fit into one trunk. All the actors could squeeze into two cars. We’ll need this flexibility when we hit up The Plough and Stars on August 22nd, when we have to dive into a space entirely different from Cafe Royale with no rehearsal time.
Want to book us for your birthday party? We’re also available for Bachelorette parties! Your BART ride home? You’ll love it, I promise.
Don’t miss the show, August 14, 20, 21 and 27 at the Cafe Royale, and August 22 and Plough and Stars! Showtime is 8 PM, so get there early! Admission is Free!
Join the San Francisco Theater Pub for its 2012 Shakespeare production! This year, we’re doing Measure for Measure: A Problem Play Solved In Twelve Scenes.
The story follows Duke Vincentio (William Hand), who appoints Angelo (Nick Dickson) and Escalus (Carl Lucania) to run Vienna while he goes on a spiritual retreat. What neither delegate realizes is that the good duke has remained behind in disguise to observe whether his subordinates embody the same compassion he possesses. Angelo revives long dead sodomy laws that result in the imprisonment of Claudio (Vince Rodriguez), a young man who has gotten his wife pregnant out of wedlock. Claudio’s drinking buddies Lucio (Neil Higgins) and Mistress Overdone (Linda Ruth Cardozo) enlist the aid of Isabella (Julia Heitner), Claudio’s sister who has recently entered a nunnery, to convince Angelo to dismiss the charge but things take a dire turn when Angelo tells Isabella she either needs to sleep with him or Claudio will be executed. Vincentio hatches a plan with the help of Marianna (Kirsten Broadbear), Angelo’s ex, and the Provost of the local prison (Tony Cirimele) to find a way to save Claudio’s life, Isabella’s honor, and his own reputation as a benevolent monarch.
Directed by Stuart Bousel, Measure for Measurepromises to be a fast-paced, thought-provoking, atmospheric romp around the Cafe Royale- the perfect way to end the summer theater season!
Admission is free, with the usual five dollar donation. There are four performances- August 14, 20, 21 and 27- and no reservations necessary, but be sure to get there early since we’re bound to fill up! The show starts at 8 PM at Cafe Royale in San Francisco!
Theater Pub Artistic Director, Julia Heitner, talks about what it’s been like for her to put together this year’s Pint-Sized play festival.
It’s not everyday that I get to carry around a large box of vibrators and a bag full of dildos on BART, but it’s all part of the fun of directing for San Francisco Theater Pub.
Last week I had the honor of picking up a package of toys from the Good Vibrations warehouse in San Francisco’s SoMA district. Good Vibes has graciously donated for a new play I’m directing for Pint Sized Plays III, Put it on Vibrate, by Tom Bruett, featuring the acting talents of Kirsten Broadbear and Maggie Ziomek.
After riding home to Oakland with my shopping bag of sex positive swag open for any passerby to see, including the group of BART police next to me (I wonder if they got a peek?), I unpacked everything and snapped some photos of each prop to send off to the playwright, concluding that this was “pretty much the weirdest email I have ever sent someone.”
These may be the first props for a show that have genuinely made me blush, but it is not unusual as an indie theatre director to be on the hunt for less-than-conventional stage props. For the first Pint Sized plays, in 2010, the play I directed, Queen Mab in Drag, by Stuart Bousel, called for a diamond snail ring, and a fairy princess costume for a man (worn very well by Rob Ready). After wondering what the heck a diamond snail ring was, I thought, “I’ll have to make one!” Out came the Sculpey clay and paint.
For Ashley Cowan’s play, Word War, part of PianoFight’s ShortLived, I created a giant iphone/ipad out of cardboard and tape for a dream/dance fight sequence. I also ended up making custom t-shirts for M.R. Fall’s play, Test Preparation, when it was included in BOA X. I’m proud to say the playwright and I designed these ourselves!
For me, part of the fun of putting on theatre with a small budget is finding a way to bring interesting props to life with a bit of glue and paint. Although homemade clay versions of sex toys would have provided a fun and interesting challenge, I am very grateful to Good Vibrations for donating props that we otherwise could not afford in order to bring Tom’s play to life.
I’d like to maintain some element of mystery, so I haven’t posted any pictures of the props. To see what Good Vibes has donated for Put it on Vibrate, plus nine other original short plays by some fantastic local playwrights, you’ll have to come see the show!
Pint Sized Plays III
July 16, 17, 23, 30 & 31, 8pm at Café Royale, 800 Post St. San Francisco, CA 94103
And July 18, 8pm @ The Plough and the Stars, 116 Clement St. San Francisco, CA 94118
Founding Artistic Director Victor Carrion returns to Theater Pub after more than a year long hiatus with HIT TRIP FALL RUN DREAM STICK SLEEP, a new performance piece about the early days of AIDS research in the 1980’s.
Of the piece, Carrion writes, “It’s a dramatic portrayal of coming up in the medical industry during the discovery of AIDS and the impact of
homophobia on the development of young medical students and residents.” Seeing this as a way for Theater Pub to contribute to the general discussion of LGBT history and rights that marks every June in San Francisco, Carrion adds that this moment in past was particularly interesting because “The innocence of medicine at the time combined with the social ignorance of the early 80’s to have a profound effect in the lives of a generation of gay men.”
Written by James D. Lock and directed by Carrion, the evening will employ a number of narrative styles, including screenplay, and will be performed by some of our favorite actors: Nick Dickson, Julia Heitner, Rik Lopes, Brian Markley, Theresa Miller and Nick Trengove. As usual, it’s free to attend, though we recommend a five dollar donation at the door, and get there early as we tend to fill up!
I spent a marathon day on Monday getting inspired at the Theatre Bay Area annual conference, gathering information about interactive experience from Burning Man founders and tips from site-specific mavens, Kim Epifano (Epiphany Productions/Trolley Dances) and Lauren Chavez & Ava Roy (We Players.) With this knowledge fresh in my mind, I am so pleased to announce the line-up for our annual bar-specific play festival, The Pint Sized Plays!
We have 10 new plays by 10 fantastic local playwrights. For Pint Sized III I plan to include everything our audiences love about the festival: entertaining theatre, great acting and direction, live music, beer drinking, and of course, our resident llama! For the first time this year, we are also taking the show on tour to other bars around San Francisco. First stop, the fantastic Irish Pub, The Plough and Stars on Clement Street!
Beeeeeear by Megan Cohen
Third time Pint-Sized fest playwright, Megan Cohen continues to surprise us with this play about a beer-drinking bear.
Beer Theory by Marissa Skudlarek
Boy meets Girl. Dionysian meets Apollonian.
Celia Sh*ts by William Bivins
What happens when all the mystery is lost from a relationship?
Circles by Seanan Palmero
Watching a Nascar race brings up philosophical questions from the bar patrons. Are we all just going in circles?
Circling by Nancy Cooper Frank
Don’t we all deserve… a parking place right out front?
To Deborah by Leah M. Winery
Friends and family reveal their true feelings about the dearly departed.
Llama by Stuart Bousel
The llama is back!!!
Man vs. Beer by Sunil Patel
A Teetotaler is peer pressured by a talking beer.
Play it Again, Friend by Tim Bauer
Man contemplates life through the music of the bar pianist.
Put it on Vibrate by Tom Bruett
Pleasure party + Mother-in-Law = Hilariously Uncomfortable
The festival runs July 16,17, 23, 30 & 31, 8pm @ Café Royale, (800 Post St @ Leavenworth in San Francisco) with a special touring performance, July 18, at Plough and the Stars, (188 Clement St. @ 2nd Ave in the Richmond District), SF. Additional dates for the festival TBA.
At the end of this month, the Bay One Acts Festival will be premiering a number of new works by local writers and performances groups. San Francisco Theater Pub will be producing one of these works, a new short play, “Brainkill”, by Stuart Bousel, one of the founding artistic directors. We’ve already spoken with “Brainkill” director Sara Staley, so this week we thought we’d check in with the writer but (and now the secret is out), the website interviews have predominantly been conducted by Stuart Bousel, and having him interview himself seemed a little bit ridiculous. Ever resourceful, we asked Megan Cohen, frequent Pub collaborator and fellow BOA writer, to pick the brain behind “Brainkill”. Keep reading to see the results.
Meg: If you could make any three people in the world come to see “Brainkill”, who would they be and why?
Stuart: Okay… let’s limit this to living people. Because the dead… I mean, there are a lot of dead people I’d love to get feedback from. But as for the living… well, Hal Hartley is the first that comes to mind. He’s my favorite film-maker and in many ways my favorite living American artist. His writing and his films have been very influential on me over the years and his way of making art- his absolute commitment to making his work on his own terms and maintaining his artistic integrity- have been really inspiring to me as a person. I met him years ago at a screening of a movie of his and I was so tongue-tied it was probably very socially awkward. I suspect he probably wondered if I was mentally stable, but he was still a really nice guy to me. And I’d love to have him watch something of mine, even though I don’t know if he’d like it. But I’d love that chance to have five minutes afterwards to ask, “What did you think?” and hear what he had to say, whatever he had to say. The other two are Stephen Sondheim and Sally Potter and the reasons are essentially the same- they’re just artists I have an endless amount of respect for and it would be deeply humbling to have a chance to learn directly from people whose work I have been following and learning from for years.
Meg: You wear almost every conceivable hat in the Bay Area theater scene: writer, artistic director, producer, director, actor, one-man publicity machine, ad-hoc casting director, diplomat, nemesis, cheerleader, and goodness knows what else. How, if at all, do you think these different perspectives on this art form have informed your work as a writer?
Stuart: I think that the more hats someone has worn in the theater community, the better in general they are at everything and more importantly, the more considerate and aware they are of what it takes to make a play happen. Directors who have been actors have a better understanding of what actors are going through; designers who also direct learn to think more efficiently, etc. Walking in the shoes of another role usually results in learning to work as a team rather than thinking a show is all about you and your vision. As a writer, I think having been an actor has resulted in me always striving to make sure that characters I create are genuinely interesting to play- not just a set of quirks or a stand-in for an archetype or symbol, but rather a personality with something to say and a reason to be there beyond “advances the plot.” Though it’s always important to advance the plot. All the other hats I have worn have taught me to never limit my imagination as a writer. No matter what your crazy vision, the fact is the right director and designers can make it happen. They may have to dance-theater that shit, but there’s always a way. So don’t limit yourself- just also make sure you don’t limit them. Don’t insist your show only be done with real helicopters or life-size elephants or whatever. Your job as the writer is to plant the seed, not tend the leaves, you know? My life as a producer has taught me a lot, but the big thing is to always create with passion. Because we’re definitely not in it for the money or the love of our peers. As a writer, that means write what’s important to you because if your work isn’t important to you, why should it be worth someone else’s time and money?
Meg:What’s the creative history of Brainkill? Has it had previous stagings or readings, and when did you write it?
Stuart: I wrote it in March of 2011, in about three hours, during a moment of deep frustration and disappointment with… the world. I wrote it by hand in a spiral notebook, while sitting at a table in Caffe Trieste on Market Street. I did some re-drafting over the next couple of weeks, but I’d say it’s about 85% exactly the same as the first draft. I actually only heard it aloud for the first time at the BOA reading this past March. Which was terrifying, because I had no idea how it would come off.
Meg: The dialogue in BRAINKILL is mostly very terse, fast, and streamlined; the world of the play is intense, and pretty much breathless. What’s your writing process like when you’re crafting such a crisp, curt script?
Stuart: Almost every play I have written has a different process it seems. In this particular case it was just sitting at the table and scratching away till my hand hurt and then scratching away some more because I had something I felt I really needed to say and it was now or never. The breathlessness of the script reflects my own mind at the time, which was just exploding with rage. I was having some chai, and thinking intensely about things, and suddenly I heard Alex and Bobby’s opening dialogue and I thought, “Oh, I need to write this down right now” and I just kept writing… one scene led to another. And then it led to the end. I remember afterwards going to a rehearsal for M. Butterfly and saying to Rik Lopes, “I just wrote a play.” And it was like I had just woken up. Sometimes you get possessed like that and there isn’t much to really say about how it happened. I was inspired and I followed that inspiration until I got out what I needed to say.
Meg: At least one of the roles in the play, Alex, could have been cast with either a male or female actor. What kind of conversation did you and director Sara Staley have about who to cast, and how much of a factor was gender?
Stuart: Actually, all five roles in the show can be cast with either men or women. The names are intentionally non-gender specific and there are no pronouns in the play. Alex ended up as a woman in this first production because Theresa Miller auditioned for the play and Sara and I both love Theresa and both really love it when Theresa, who is a lovely person, plays evil. And so we had her read the role at auditions and she was just super funny, but she also made all of Alex’s lines really work- on the first read. They were simultaneously very outrageous and totally believable coming out of her mouth. The rest of the casting went from there: Dave Levine had a kind of feckless sweetness that made him a good Bobby, who needs to be easy to dupe but also easy to root for; Kate Jones has a sexiness combined with a certain edge that screamed Darcy; and Travis Howse is one of those actors who is just immediately likable, which is ideal for Elliot, who needs to be trust-worth from his first entrance. The only time gender really entered the decision making process was when we realized that if Alex AND Darcy, were both women, as the less sympathetic characters, we would need a female Carmen to balance out the gender portrayals in the play. Otherwise, it would potentially come off as “Women evil, Men good”, which is not what either of us wanted the play to be construed as. Luckily, a very strong actress named Giovanna Arieta auditioned and seemed like the perfect foil for Theresa, so she rounds out the cast. I’m excited about them all, but I won’t lie, I also look forward to someday seeing a production with, say a female Bobby and a male Darcy. Or where everybody is female, or everybody is male. An all male cast, with only Carmen as female, strikes me as potentially very interesting.
Meg: The characters in BRAINKILL spend a lot of time at and/or near the psychological breaking point. Stuart, are you okay?
Stuart: Um… no. No I’m not. I’m getting better, but the truth is, I’m exhausted, I’m frustrated, and I’m angry at a world that is too many parts apathy and too many parts unfocused rage. I feel like we’re progressively living in a society that doesn’t value teaching its kids to think for themselves and be creative, be forgiving, be honest, and understand that it’s not all about status or material gains or physical pleasure or being told you’re special all the time. There are people I know who claim to be my friends but really aren’t, and from what I can tell have nobody else’s lives in mind but their own. I often feel like I’m struggling with a local art scene that has a ton of potential but perpetually shoots itself in the foot, or its best people in the face. I love San Francisco, but I also recognize it’s a city that is becoming impossible for people of diverse incomes to live in and it often seems indifferent to cultivating and preserving those things that make a city great- like a great art scene, and a variety of industries and professions. I’m angry at how little we, as individuals, say and how often we’re encouraged to keep our dissenting thoughts to ourselves for fear of saying what isn’t popular or what people don’t want to hear. I’m scared by how, when we finally do say these things, it’s usually in a forum or manner that makes it dismissible or violent or impossible to be argued and reasoned with- either because we’re driven past the point of reason, or because the real goal has been to just lash out rather than reform. The death of critical thinking, the animosity with which intellectual and artistic integrity are met, sometimes within the artistic community itself, really tortures me. The extremes of everything terrifies me. I don’t want to live in a world of flag waving mediocrity and I don’t want to live in a world of chaotic anarchy. But I may have to. And I may have to accept that speaking my mind and telling the truth and living by example will mean losing some friends and half my votes for prom king. Actually, accepting that is pretty much what it’s going to take to be okay. And I’m working on that. Actually, writing this play was the beginning of accepting that.
Meg: How did you and Sara Staley, who is directing the production, find each other as collaborators?
Stuart: Theater Pub, as a group, made a decision to be a producing partner in the Bay One Acts Festival this year, but one of our requests was that we produce a play by someone who had worked at the Pub previously, and that it be directed by someone who had worked at the Pub. Sara Staley had worked on three pub shows and so Jessica matched her up with us. Sara was then free to choose any play she wanted from the writers who had submitted work, though preferably one who had worked with Theater Pub already. She picked me from the pile, which was deeply flattering of her, and that’s how it happened. Though we’ve both done a lot at Theater Pub, this is actually our first time working together.
Meg: As a busy theatermaker, you spend a lot of time in rehearsals, in performance spaces, and at shows. It’s easy to get lost in the black box and forget about the outside world; what’s a non-theater-related activity that enlivens your work?
Stuart: I read a lot. I go on long walks. My boyfriend and I recently re-watched the entirety of the 1991 revival of Dark Shadows. I have a lot of friends around the country and world I try to keep up. Some aren’t even involved with or like the theater, which can be truly refreshing. I also have a semi-secret hobby of hand-drawing street-maps of cities and floorplans of medieval castles. I’ve been generating a massive fictional world, a la J.R.R. Tolkien since I was in high school. It’s very calming.
Meg: What’s next on the docket for you?
Stuart: I’m directing The Merchant of Venice for Custom Made, which I’m very excited about. It’s my second time working there and I think they’re really emerging as a company so it’s a good time to be there and feel like you’re helping good people better realize their dream of having a diverse and accomplished company. Plus I love that play. After that, there’s a bunch of things, but the big thing is the third installment of the Olympians Festival. You can find out more about that here: http://www.sfolympians.com.
Meg: What are you looking forward to seeing onstage in the coming months, besides the hundred-and-one projects that you’re involved in?
Stuart: There are some other shows in BOA that I’m looking forward to. Namely, yours, actually, and Claire Rice directing Erin Bregman’s play (which I’m also producing). In both instances, the scripts are kind of out of left field and I’m just, frankly, waiting to see how they are realized onstage because I can’t envision them myself, particularly Erin’s. It’s a very clever script and I feel like I “get it”, I’m just also sort of boggled by it on a practical level but those scripts are my favorite to see Claire wrestle with because she’s a super astute director and an innovative thinker. I’m looking forward to the new Sleepwalker’s show, Down To This. I like Tore Ingersoll-Thorpe a lot as a director. Even when I don’t particularly like the plays he’s chosen to direct, I admire his aesthetic and his approach and I like that he chooses challenging work. I actually know very little about the show, I just know I’ll walk out having something to talk about with my boyfriend. I look forward to seeing what Pint Sized looks like this year. We have a ton of submissions, more than ever and many from people I’ve never heard of, and even though I’m part of Theater Pub, Julia Heitner runs that festival, currently, and she brought in a bunch of surprises last year that really elevated the evening. I’m excited to see what she does and to continue to see our pool of writers expanding. Claire Rice’s full length, Waterline, is also slated to be directed by John Caldon over at Geurilla Rep, later this year. I went to a reading of it the other night and it’s a great script. John, like Claire, is a theater artist whose mind I just really admire and so seeing them work together basically gives me hope for the future. Which clearly I need a strong dose of.
Meg: In five words or less, what do you hope you’ll overhear someone in the lobby say after seeing this production of Brainkill?
Stuart: “What did you think?”
For more information about the BOA Festival and all the great shows included in this year’s line up, including “The Bird Trap” by Founding Artstic Director Bennett Fisher, head over to http://www.bayoneacts.org.
I recently traveled to the UK and the East Coast of the US and was surrounded by media coverage of the Occupy protests in every city I visited. In Central London the Occupy Movement teamed up with the public sector to strike over lost pensions. In my old neighborhood in North West London, residents occupied the recently closed Kensal Rise Library with candlelit vigils to prevent the local government from emptying the library of books. Meanwhile, newspapers and tabloids paint lovely portraits of overindulgent spending for the recent Royal Wedding and the upcoming 2012 Olympic games.
As I arrived in New York, protesters stormed the set of Law & Order – SVU to protest the use of Occupy Wall Street for commercial entertainment value. In Boston, I witnessed a satirical Occupy March where the protesters dressed as the 1% and claimed things like, “More Blood for Oil,” “Education is a right, only for the rich and white,” “Longer hours, less pay,” and “Let them eat cake.”
At the read-through for the show on Sunday I asked the cast, musicians, writers and directors to throw out thoughts about their experience with the Occupy Movement. Both positive and negative reactions resonate in the discussion of the fluid nature of the movement, that it seems to take voice from the most important issue in a particular community, rather than one specific universal goal. People are upset and moved by so many different issues that using the term “Occupy” has been an all encompassing way to include everything from Wall Street, unemployment to police brutality.
With Occupy Theater Pub! I am hoping to present a wide variety of perspectives and allow the audience to draw their own conclusions about their own role in the Occupy Movement. The show features both new and historical material including: a first hand account of the Occupy Oakland protest by writer Matt Werner; a childhood board game take on Occupy Wall Street with “Occupy Park Place” by Kirk Shimano; a Kindergarten teacher trying to help us make sense of the Occupy protests in “Occupy the Kids” by Ashley Cowan; and a misguided superhero in Claire Rice’s “Occupy Man.” There are also reflections on the Civil Rights Movement with a speech by Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panthers and new play by Christian Simonsen, “Last Man Sitting,” about what happens after the protests end.
What is important to me about presenting Occupy Theater Pub! is engaging in a dialogue that is happening now. The topic of Occupy is rich, loaded, thrilling and seems to still be finding its footing both on a local, national and international level. I am both excited and terrified to put on a show that is about something that is still moving and changing, young and misunderstood.
If you are inspired to get involved after the show, I recommend checking out the information about the upcoming Occupy Wall Street West next Friday, January 20, 2011.
And don’t miss OCCUPY THEATER PUB on Monday, January 16th at 8 PM! This is a FREE event, so we don’t take reservations, but get there early to ensure a seat!