Claire Rice’s Enemy’s List: Get the Fuck off the Couch

Claire Rice channel surfs theatre listings so you don’t have to.

What does a typical night of theatre look like in the Bay Area? It’s hard to say. Different parts of the season will have different shows. So I’ve decided to start a new series where I pick a Friday night and really look at the show listings to see what’s playing. Maybe by the end of the season we’ll have a picture of the Bay Area Theatre scene.

To start with I picked September 19th, 2014 as my “any given Friday”. I picked this date because I figured the big houses would have just started their first shows of the season, the Burning Man crowd would be back and sober and still excited about art, and it would be the night most everyone would realize that summer is ending and the long slow slog to the holidays is about to begin. What better time to see theatre?

What did I find?

All in all there are over 50 shows to see and there is something out there for everyone. And, yes, it is a diverse field. No, it’s not nearly as diverse as you would like. All the usual minorities are still minorities this season so far. But, this isn’t a full picture of the Bay Area theatrical climate! And just like the weather there are micro climates where some theatrical forms thrive and others wither on the vine.

Community Leaders are Leading the Way – To HAPPY TOWN!

American Conservatory Theatre is bringing back perennial favorite Bill Irwin in “Old Hats”, a show that has old fashioned clowning befuddled by new fangled technology. On the other side of the bay it is all about legs and singing at Berkeley Rep who is bringing in Knee High founder Emma Rice and a delightful woman named Meow Meow. Both companies seem to be saying with their season openers that they want you to be happy damn it! Whimsically, giddily, cavity educing happy!

Fuck “with music” I want MUSICAL!

You got it! Well, not in San Francisco…but totally! SHN has “Motown: The Musical!” and while I feel that the story of Motown is musical worthy…really I think you can just go home and just get the original songs and rock out. What you can’t get off iTunes is “Beach Blanket Babylon” which is that show you saw that one time your Aunt came to visit. You could also take your chances with “Foodies: The Musical!” brought to you buy the same guy who wrote “Shopping: The Musical!”. (Honestly, I don’t even need to be sarcastic.) But if you find yourself on September 19 really really needing a musical then get yourself a Zip Car and take your pick between “Company”, “Gypsy”, “Big Fish”, “The Addams Family”, “Funny Girl”, “Life Could Be a Dream” and “The Great American Trailer Park Musical”. They are all out there if you are brave, true of heart, and have access to a car. Well, Town Hall Theatre (playing “Company”) and Center Repertory Theatre (playing “Life Could Be a Dream”) are all about ten minutes from a BART station. Wait. What am I talking about? Everyone reading this is probably an artist of some kind so you probably already live away from or are considering moving out of San Francisco, Berkeley or Oakland. In which case, can I have a ride? “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” looks great!

I Want a Return to the Way Theatre Should Be

Then let’s go with traditional, Theatre Appreciation 101 plays. You need an experience where you already know the play, you probably saw the movie, and you would like to sink in for an entertaining evening of the familiar. Great. The Shelton Theatre is putting on “Noises Off” (Though, I literally don’t know HOW. The Shelton stage is TINY!) Marin Shakespeare outlasts all the other summer Shakespeare with “Romeo and Juliet”. Around the Bay you can see performances of “The Glass Menagerie”, “All My Sons”, “Wait until Dark”, “Iceman Commeth” “Fox on the Fairway” and “Bell, Book and Candle”. If there were a channel like Turner Movie Classics for plays, these plays would be on it ALL THE TIME. These plays will never be irrelevant, and they will stick around to remind you of that fact forever.

How about what’s HOT right now?

Excellent. Well chosen. Because COCK is hot right now. There’s “Cock” (about two men fighting like cocks) at NCTC and Impact Theatre has “The Year of the Rooster” (about actual cock fighting). I would also like to point out that there is a film screening tribute to The Cockettes at the de Young Museum on the 19th. If you are tired of cock move out beyond The City for your fill of lady playwrights including “Art” at City Lights, “Wonder of the World” at Douglas Morrison, “The New Electric Ballroom” at Shotgun Players, and “Rapture Blister Burn” at Aurora.” These three plays don’t fit in with my cock humor, but you should also check out SF Playhouse who is putting on a full production of their award winning “Ideation”, “Slaughter House Five” at Custom Made which was first seen at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and has brought audiences to tears all over the country and “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” will be at the newly built Flight Deck in Oakland.

I want Brand New! I want to say “I Saw It First”

Sure. Ok. Good news. San Francisco prides itself on generating new works. Theatre First has rising star Lauren Gunderson’s play “Fire Work” and Chris Chen continues his creative relationship with Crowded Fire for “Late Wedding”. The Marsh has new solo performances of Marga Gomez’s “Love Birds” and Dan Hoyle’s “Each and Every Thing”. The Magic Theatre bring us “Bad Jews.” (This company is always good for brand new plays with titles you aren’t sure you want to put in emails.) Renegade Theatre Experiment will bring us “Perishable: Keep Refrigerated”. September also has an Improv Festival for you! At BATS, the Eureka, Stage Werx and other venues are improv acts that will make you say “I can’t believe that wasn’t scripted!” Well, it wasn’t and that’s why you went. But if you DO want scripted theatre you should go to the EXIT for Fringe Festival. If you haven’t binged on fringe you haven’t lived. If you are into binging on theatre, check out “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” where they try to perform thirty plays in sixty minutes.

Actually, I want an EVENT

Sure. I hear that audiences all over don’t want just “theatre” they want attending to be an “event”. For companies that take the process if creation very seriously check out Mugwumpin who will present “Blockbuster Season” and We Players who will take on an adaptation of King Leer with “King Fool.” For a traditionally untraditional experience Pear Avenue is playing “House” and “Garden” by Alan Ayckbourn, in which both plays are performed simultaneously using the same actors. You’ll have to go back a different evening to see how the other half of the play went. The Costume Shop is showing “The Haze”, which is a solo show that has come and gone before under different names, but the event that is built around the show is really about raising awareness of how crime labs deal with rape kits. Dragon Productions presents “Arc:hive Presents A Moment (Un)bound”. I don’t know what it’s about, but it has to be eventful if there is so much crazy punctuation in the title.

How are Ticket Prices?

If you plan ahead (now) you can see any of these shows for under $50 a ticket. The average is $30, but most can be seen for much less if you work at it.

Promo Lines

I’ve always felt the first sentence you use to promote your show is the most important sentence. Here are some of my favorite first sentences:

“What would you do if a time portal opened up inside your refrigerator?”

“In this revival of the great Tennessee Williams classic… Tom Wingfield is a homeless man living under a fire escape in modern-day St. Louis.”

“The following is from WikiPedia referencing the film of the same name.”

“What would you pay for a white painting?”

“Don’t miss the latest installment in this playwright’s meteoric rise to national prominence.”

“Star-crossed lovers and hot, sweaty street fighting make for an evening of romance, poetry, passion and excitement.”

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Did I Miss Something?

I’m sure I did. Tell me about your show in the comments section.

The Point?

You have something to do on September 19. Get the fuck off the couch and go see theatre. (Of course, you might also be in one of these shows or rehearsing for one coming up. More on that next week.)

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The Five: Five Crowdsourcing Campaigns You Should Check Out

Local Playwright, Director, and Ticket-Shiller Anthony R. Miller returns with a 2 Parter on the rise of Crowdsourcing in Bay Area Theatre.

It’s been quite the two weeks since my last post; the closing of my hometown theatre company, San Jose Rep, a double whammy of bullshit from the Tony Awards (Seriously, instead of hearing the speech from the winner of “Best Book from a Musical” I get a special performance by Sting?”), there’s really no shortage of lists. But another event this last week was a personal one for me, the show I am producing and co-writing; TERROR-RAMA, made its Kickstarter goal. Thanks to the support of friends, family, and the Bay Area Theatre Community, we have enough money to pay everyone who works on the show, not have to charge a ridiculous amount of money to break even, and perhaps even a smidge of production value. One thing that struck me was just how many campaigns went on at the same time as us; The Lost Church, Diva-Fest, friggin Reading Rainbow. So I did a little research, and if you add up every theatre campaign in SF alone for 2014 (finished, current, and projected), almost $450,000 has been, is, and will be asked for via crowdsourcing. Sure, there are people living in the city right now that could fund all of those projects at once and still manage to have a sweet vacation, but it’s a big sum none the less, and it’s only destined to rise. Even now, you can easily find 10 different arts campaign just for the Bay Area. This inspired not one, but two lists. This week, I present: Five Bay Area Arts Crowdsourcing Campaigns You Should Check Out and in two weeks; Five Questions About The Future of Arts Crowd Sourcing. One thing crowd sourcing has allowed is that any once can at least try now. Sure, they might not make it, but they have the opportunity to even ask. This means there’s a whole crap-load of incredible companies looking for help; here are a few current campaigns you should check out.

Do It Lives’ 2014 Season

Ambition, ambition, and a big dose of moxie are the words I use to describe this young SF theatre company. They’re raising money to fund their, that’s right, ambitious season of 7 plays from writers all over the world. On top of that they’re doing them in repertory, a rotating line up of plays for 8 months. This group is dedicated to doing active, visceral, and challenging theatre. I hear they also plan to build a theatre in space, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. This group is worth looking at, they’re different, focus like a laser on a younger audience, and give the artists they work with a lot of freedom.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/do-it-live-s-2014-season

Great Star Theater

Nestled in Chinatown is the Great Star Theater, I have seen some crazy shows here. It’s a classic 1920’s theater that hosts a variety of exciting theatre. They are currently raising money to restore it to its former glory. 90 years of dust, old ass ropes that people dangle from and a million burnt out light bulbs are just a few of the things they’re trying to tackle. This place is worth checking out. Last I checked, we need all the venues we can get, and this one is rad.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1927498591/great-star-theater?ref=discovery

2014 FURY Factory Festival of Ensemble Theatre

From July 6-20, The FURY Factory festival will bring 24 ground-breaking theatre companies from around the country to The Mission District. This festival has an incredible line-up and promises to be 2 weeks of really exciting theatre. They are raising money to pay all the artists and personnel of the festival. This is worth checking out, because bringing some of the most innovative companies in America to SF is one thing, but paying them too is a darn fine cause.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/2014-fury-factory-festival-of-ensemble-theater

Pleiades

Birthed from the loins of the SF Olympians Fest (They have a campaign coming up too.) writer Marissa Skudlarek is DOIN’ IT and self-producing her play about 7 sisters coming of age in the early 70’s at the height of second-wave feminism. And to top it off, its very production addresses a situation in Bay Area Theatre, a lack of women writers, directors and roles. Pleiades features a female writer, director, lead-producer and 8 female roles. Check this out if you’re ready to see more talented women doing theatre.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pleiades-world-premiere-female-driven-play-in-san-francisco

Mugwumpin 10

With just a day and half left, this company gets and A for urgency. These bad-asses of Theatre are raising money specifically to pay the performers and directors of their two revivals; This is All I Need and Super:Anti:Reluctant, both plays are audience favorites that creatively question American ideals. You should check them out because they’re very close to goal (and their deadline) and these guys have been doing incredible work for ten years and changing the relationship between audience and performer.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mugwumpin10-celebrate-a-decade-of-live-art

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Director, Producer, and that guy who won’t stop calling currently living in Berkeley, Ca. His show: TERROR-RAMA opens in October 2014.

Tuesdays With Annie: Processing Process

Annie Paladino is leaving the Bay Area in two months and her last local theater project is about to open. Unsurprisingly, she’s got a lot of feelings, and she wants to talk about them. 

I want to talk about process. Actually, I want YOU to talk about process. But I’ll get things started, okay?

Let me backtrack: Hi, I’m Annie. You may (not) remember me from last year, when I wrote a lot of nonsense about performing for the first time in the Bay One Acts festival. Well, I’m back. For the month of April, you can find me here every Tuesday. For the next couple weeks, I’ll probably be talking about Time Sensitive, for which I’m currently about to head into tech week. Or, honestly, whatever else I’m thinking about.

Oh and another thing: I’m moving away from the Bay in June. So, the subtext of all this is likely to be: SAYONARA, I SHALL MISS THEE, LET ME LEAVE YOU WITH THESE PARTING WORDS OF WISDOM (AND/OR FOLLY).

Anyway…back to process.

Artistic process is one of those things that, unless you’ve been inside it, is a total and complete unknown. In the theater community, we all have a general sense of what a rehearsal process “looks” like. The timeframe may vary slightly, but things are actually surprisingly standardized. Casting, first read through, table work (an obtuse way of saying “script analysis,” basically), blocking (move there, sit here, jump on the couch over there), then a couple deeply traumatizing “stumble-throughs” (does anyone even attempt “run-throughs” anymore?) before ambling into tech week, at which point all anyone wants to do is tap dance on stage or make lewd jokes over headset (what, you don’t?).

But to anyone outside our community, the process of getting a play ready for performance is nothing short of a mystery. This was made very clear to me recently when I was talking about Time Sensitive to a coworker at my day job. I told her that we had started rehearsals in early January but the show didn’t open until mid-April, adding, “so obviously it’s a very long rehearsal process, which is nice.” She was surprised, and remarked that, for all she knew, that was a totally standard amount of time to rehearse a play. I further described how we started with only a few rehearsals a week, building up to more and more frequent rehearsals each month, with built-in weeks off to rest and recharge. And again, if I hadn’t implied that this was somewhat unusual, she wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

I wondered about this a few weeks ago after going to see Mugwumpin’s The Great Big Also at Z Space, an experimental piece with a longer-than-usual and atypically-structured rehearsal process. As an audience member, I personally knew this going in, and could clearly envision what this process was like. Most of the rest of the audience likely did not have that knowledge. And so the thought occurred to me — are our experiences markedly different?

So here are the questions, for you, dear readers (reader?). Primarily: why do we adopt an atypical rehearsal structure and/or timeline? Is it to produce a deeper and richer end result? Is it for the artists’ sake (and I mean that sincerely, without any condescension)? And secondly: if you are a theater artist, what are your feelings on process? Maybe you had an amazing non-traditional or extended rehearsal process. Maybe you are a director and you have your process down to a science. Maybe you wish you could work on a play for a year; maybe you wish you could start rehearsing a new project every three weeks.

As for the process I’m current in the middle of, we’re nearing the final stretch of what has been somewhat of a marathon. But I’m sitting at home tonight, not in rehearsal. Even though next Sunday is our first day of tech. In fact, I have (almost) this whole week off; it’s the last of those built-in breaks I mentioned. I’m of two minds about it: on the one hand, I’m ecstatic about the sleep (SLEEP, GUYS!!!), but on the other hand, I’m so anxious to keep working and start tech that I can’t truly relax.

So here I sit, spending way too much time having so many FEELINGS about theater. Help a gal out. Hit me in the comments.

Annie Paladino is an actor, director, producer, and stage manager. You can see her on stage (eating a SERIOUS cupcake) in Ragged Wing Ensemble’s Time Sensitive starting April 18th (more info here). You can find her on Twitter @anniepaladino.