Theater Around the Bay: Tanya Grove, Caitlin Kenney, & Vince Faso of “Where There’s a Will” & “Why Go With Olivia?”

The Pint-Sized Plays just got a great review (complete with Clapping Man) from SF Chronicle theater critic Lily Janiak, and they have 1 more performance, next Monday the 29th. In the meantime, here’s another in our interview series with Pint-Sized folks.

Vince Faso is directing 2 shows in Pint-Sized this year: “Where There’s a Will” by Tanya Grove, and “Why Go With Olivia?” by Caitlin Kenney. In “Where There’s a Will,” Will Shakespeare  (Nick Dickson) visits a contemporary bar and finds inspiration in an unlikely source: a young woman named Cordelia (Layne Austin), whose dad is about to draw up his will. Meanwhile, Lily’s review aptly describes “Why Go With Olivia?”  as “an epistolary monologue from perhaps the world’s most ruthless email writer, played by Jessica Rudholm.”

Here’s our conversation with Caitlin, Vince, and Tanya!

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Caitlin Kenney at Crater Lake.

How did you get involved with Pint-Sized this year?

Caitlin: I live with someone wrapped in the SF theater community, who has attempted submitting before, and thought I had as good a chance as any of piecing something together.

Vince: I’ve been an SF Theater Pub fan for a long time, been in a few productions, directed a little, but Pint-Sized was one I have always been interested in being a part of, and as I seem to be transitioning to more directing, I seized the opportunity, and am excited to be involved.

Tanya: I have two friends who’d had their plays in the festival last year, so I went to support them and had so much fun that I wanted to take part myself!

What’s the best thing about writing a short play?

Caitlin: Drinking several beers while making a verbal list of pie-in-the-sky ideas with no judgement.

Tanya: While I’m writing, I’m also imagining the performance in my head, so it’s like going to the theater all the time, which is my favorite thing to do!

What’s been the most exciting part of this process?

Vince: I’m probably not alone in saying that the actors I’m working with make it special. I’ve always loved seeing Jessica Rudholm perform, and practically jumped out of my chair at the chance to direct her for a second time. And I’ve worked on several shows with Nick Dickson and Layne Austin, and it doesn’t hurt that they live around the corner and we get to rehearse in my living room. Also, the pieces I’m directing are brilliant in their simplicity, and clever in the flexibility they lend the actors.

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Tanya Grove has a head full of ideas.

What’s the hardest thing about writing a short play?

Tanya:  I often have lots of ideas going in many directions, and I have to remind myself to simplify. You can usually get across the same message whether you have a cast of two or twenty, ten minutes or two hours, one scene or three acts. Because one of my day jobs is being an editor, I’ve learned to pare ruthlessly to get to the essence of text.

Caitlin: Personally, I think it’s planting the first seed. For me this means to stop poo-pooing every idea I have and actually start typing something.

What’s been most troublesome?

Vince: Finding rehearsal time for a festival like this is always a challenge.

What are your biggest artistic influences?

Tanya: My current playwriting hero is Lauren Gunderson. I think she’s brilliant. But my style is more William Shakespeare meets Tina Fey…

Caitlin: Richard Brautigan, Joni Mitchell, Sense and Sensibility, and Google (to answer my formatting questions).

If you could cast a celebrity in your Pint-Sized Play, who would it be and why?

Vince: Meryl Streep, because while she is arguably the best around, she seems like she’d be a very giving actor to work with.

Tanya: When I was in high school I had a crush on Richard Dreyfuss, so I guess I would cast 1977 Richard Dreyfuss as my Will. That’s as good a reason as any, right?

Caitlin: Any sparkle-charming person with insecure confidence…how about Zoe Kazan? I’ve been watching the Olive Kitteridge miniseries and she’s hard not to watch.

Who’s your secret Bay Area actor crush? That is… what actor would you love a chance to work with?

Vince: Such a hard question! At the risk of straying off topic: I’ve worked with them before, but Scott Baker and Performers Under Stress always give me an intellectual and emotional challenge.

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What other projects are you working on and/or what’s next for you?

Vince: As an actor I’m excited to get started on a production of King Lear for Theater Pub that goes up in November. As a director, I’m been gearing up for a production of Hamlet with my 7th and 8th graders at Redwood Day in Oakland where I teach. That will also go up in November.

Caitlin: I‘ve got a one-act for middle-schoolers going about a mindfulness-based therapy group with participants vaguely reminiscent of Hamlet characters. I’m finding it really hard to sit down and “crank it out,” but if I do, it will probably be entertaining.

Tanya: In September I begin my fourth season as a playwright for PlayGround, so I’m gearing up to write a short play each month. I’m more productive when I have an assignment and a deadline, so the challenge of writing a play in four days based on a prompt works well for me.

What upcoming shows or events in the Bay Area theater scene are you most excited about?

Caitlin: I went to the Oakland BeastLit Crawl and fell hard for spontaneous storytelling, so I am looking forward to one day spitting in the mic at StorySlam.

Tanya: I’m looking forward to seeing what Josh Kornbluth ultimately creates from his time volunteering at Zen Hospice. I’m a Josh fan from way back.

Vince: Events like Pint-Sized and the Olympians Festival that allow original works to be read or staged are a must for keeping the independent theater scene in San Francisco alive.

What’s your favorite beer?

Vince: I’m a sucker for a good IPA, but if a bar is serving Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale then I have to get it.

Caitlin: The Barley Brown Hot Blonde – spiciest, sexiest beer around. Though not around, because it’s brewed in Northeastern Oregon and they don’t distribute anywhere good for me or you.

Tanya: I used to drink a lot of Corona, but I think I’m more of a Hefeweizen gal now. I don’t have a favorite brand, though. Any recommendations?

Your final chance to see “Where There’s a Will,” “Why Go With Olivia?” and the other Pint-Sized Plays is on Monday August 29th at PianoFight at 8 PM! Don’t miss it!

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Theater Around the Bay: Announcing the 2016 Pint-Sized Plays

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Theater Pub is thrilled to announce that our Pint-Sized Play Festival returns this August for FIVE performances at PianoFight — August 15, 16, 22, 23, and 29. That’s right, we’ve added a fifth performance by popular demand!

The Pint-Sized Plays – short plays by Bay Area playwrights that take place in a bar and involve characters drinking beer – have been Theater Pub’s flagship event since 2010. This year, producer Marissa Skudlarek and deputy producer Alejandro Emmanuel Torres are pleased to present 11 new plays by a mix of Theater Pub veterans and new faces.

Many of the 2016 Pint-Sized Plays deal with endings and beginnings. A man and woman meet to sign their divorce papers in “No Fault,” by Christian Simonsen. In Marissa Skudlarek’s “Cemetery Gates,” two moody and self-dramatizing teenagers sneak into the bar, while in Shirley Issel’s “Angel of Darkness,” Death himself comes to the bar and targets an unsuspecting patron.

Two one-woman shows depict women on the brink of major life changes: “Julie Kopitsky’s Bat Mitzvah” by Jake Arky features a 36-year-old woman who has finally become an adult according to Judaism, while Caitlin Kenney’s “Why Go With Olivia” is about a woman who’s ready to put her old life behind her and start anew.

National and world politics are on everyone’s mind this summer, so some of this year’s Pint-Sized Plays have a political bent. “Polling Place,” by Gabriel Bellman, satirizes the anxieties and rhetoric of the 2016 election, while in “Don’t I Know You,” by Elizabeth Gjelten, a woman confronts the trauma of her past in a war-torn country.

On the lighter side of things, “Beer Culture” by James Nelson satirizes just how snobby San Francisco millennials can be about microbrews, and “Where There’s a Will” by Tanya Grove pays tribute to Shakespeare in this #Shakespeare400 year by imagining his visit to a modern-day bar. Alan Coyne’s “Bar Spies” presents a dizzying array of false identities and double-crossings in a spy-fiction pastiche

As always, Pint-Sized Plays’ mascot, the drunken llama played by PianoFight’s Rob Ready, will return with a new “Llamalogue,” written by Stuart Bousel.

Full lineup of plays, with a quote from each, is as follows:

“Julie Kopitsky’s Bat Mitzvah,” written and directed by Jake Arky—“After the bar mitzvah…it’s just the bar. Okay, so technically this is a bat mitzvah, but let’s not split hairs, yeah?”

“Polling Place” by Gabriel Bellman, directed by Megan Briggs—“What if I did choose a candidate based solely on whether they share certain characteristics with me or not, does that mean I’m voting for myself? Because I’m terrified of narcissists.”

“Llama VI” by Stuart Bousel, directed by Emma Rose Shelton—“Look, I hate tradition as much as the next person, okay? But one day, probably, I won’t be here—and you’re gonna miss that.”

“Bar Spies” by Alan Coyne, directed by Juliana Lustenader—“You asked for this meeting. I have what you want. Tell me what I need to know, or there’s no deal.”

“Don’t I Know You?” by Elizabeth Gjelten, directed by Jimmy Moore—“Here I am, a long way from home, and I see this one here, and I swear, we shared a beer. Back home. Maybe at Salim’s?”

“Where There’s a Will” by Tanya Grove, directed by Vince Faso—“Thou thinkest thy sisters arranged a meeting but never had intention of coming hither? Forsooth, wherefore this deception?”

“Angel of Darkness” by Shirley Issel, directed by Jamie Harkin—“He’s probably going to finish that beer; and when he does… Are you listening? You’re gonna die. So, what are you drinking?”

“Why Go With Olivia?” by Caitlin Kenney, directed by Vince Faso—“I have accepted a new job and would like to pursue this without you beginning September 1st. This does not mean I want a long-distance relationship. Or much continued contact at all.”

“Beer Culture” by James Nelson, directed by Neil Higgins—“I’m really not cool about what just happened. He was going to drink a Stella! At my table! What would people say?”

“No Fault” by Christian Simonsen, directed by Alejandro Emmanuel Torres—“Look, if you haven’t read it, you shouldn’t sign yet. Nothing’s changed regarding Wendy. Still joint custody.”

“Cemetery Gates” by Marissa Skudlarek, directed by Adam Odsess-Rubin—“Every time you look at someone you love, you know they will never be more beautiful than they are at that moment, because they will never again be so young.”

The Pint-Sized Plays acting company will feature the talents of Layne Austin, Andrew Chung, Lisa Darter, Nick Dickson, Daphne Dorman, Caitlin Evenson, Sailor Galaviz, Jamie Harkin, Colin Hussey, Sarah Leight, Alexander Marr, Kyle McReddie, Brett Mermer, Courtney Merrell, Rob Ready, Paul Rodrigues, James F. Ross, Amitis Rossoukh, Jessica Rudholm, Ron Talbot, and Noemi Zeigler Sanchez. (Additional casting TBA.) Logo designed by Cody Rishell.

The Pint-Sized Plays will perform five times: August 15, 16, 22, 23, and 29 at 8 PM at PianoFight, 144 Taylor St, San Francisco. Admission is FREE to all performances. For more information, please visit www.sftheaterpub.com.

Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicky Weinbach brings his new musical ever closer to opening night.

We are currently in our last month of rehearsals for Made in China. With that said, tickets for Made in China are now on sale here and at madeinchinamusical.wordpress.com/tickets. Get your tickets now, and visit our Facebook page here for a promotional code to receive $5 off a general admission ticket for opening weekend. We also have a new poster design (below) from artist Andy McKeegan.

All business aside, the last couple of weeks have been a little tough, scheduling-wise what with the holidays and what not. But, we are headed in the right direction. We’ve accomplished a lot so far but still have a good amount of work to do. Tomorrow, we have our first sitzprobe (rehearsal with the singers and orchestra without blocking). I’m hoping the rehearsal moves pretty smoothly. The sitzprobe for the staged readings went pretty fast back in April, so this one should be pretty good, too.

I don’t have too much to say this time around. The cast is certainly working hard, and their effort is showing. The quality with which they sing at a stand still now needs to be applied to when they’re actually moving. It’s always a little trickier to sing your best when you’re performing choreography, which is why breathing as much as possible helps so much. The musical director for a production of Into the Woods in which I performed during my senior year of college told me once that Broadway singers breath a lot. They breath all the time because they’re moving a lot as opposed to opera singers who pretty much stand still the whole time. I suppose that’s when it’s more important to follow good technique. For musicals, you want to do your best to hit the notes well while still moving. Thus, breathing a lot helps a lot. Perhaps, this isn’t the best advice to reveal over the Internet, but it’s what works.

Anyway, I hope to see all you readers at one or more of the performances of Made in China. Buy your tickets now, and enjoy this really cool poster (again, below). Until next time!

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Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicky Weinbach continues his push towards opening

Since my last entry, the Made in China cast and I have made quite a bit of progress with rehearsals. We’ve learned a good bit of new choreography from our choreographer, Alexandra Daily, and have blocked out a great portion of the play under the guidance of our director, Nick Dickson. Choreography is a hard thing to do with books in hand, so I’ve tried my best to prepare the actors musically such that they can easily memorize the music and lyrics on their own. It’s already hard enough to really get normal blocking going when actors aren’t yet off book, but attempting to do choreography with book in hand is pretty impossible. Luckily, the actors are inching their way closer and closer to memorizing a couple of songs each week, but it definitely is funny to hear them mumble the lyrics when they don’t know them completely well enough. At least, they’re pretty familiar with the music at this point. I meet with each cast member once every week to two weeks for about an hour and a half each session to work on the music. I don’t know if we’ll need to do that much longer, at least for a couple of the cast members. At this point, many of them might benefit the most from participating in group music rehearsals which we’ll start up next week. Overall, I think we’re in pretty good shape considering we still have two months to go before we open. I don’t want to get to confident because I know two months will pass pretty swiftly, but I have a pretty good feeling about all of this.

On the producer end of things, I’m pretty busy. I’m about to send out press releases for the show, tomorrow, I’m in the midst of setting up a Ticket Turtle account, and, every day, I’m having a discussion with someone else about how to approach building the set. We obviously want to take the most cost effective route, but, when you’re dealing with four to five doors, it’s pretty difficult. During Thanksgiving week, I took a trip down to Los Angeles (where I’m from), and I met up with a friend from college who’s quite the carpenter. He kind of sketched out the easiest way to have five doors onstage and still be able to change sets pretty quickly. It’s a little tricky designing a set when you have the placement of a pit orchestra involved, but my carpenter friend offered some great suggestions. He’s even going to help effectively design the set, which is also great. I’m looking forward to what he comes up with in the next couple of weeks.

By the way, check out the Word Press site for Made in China at http://madeinchinamusical.wordpress.com. This is not really a blog site for us but serves more as an actual website for the show. When you visit the website, you’ll be able to listen to music from the show, learn more about the play’s development, eventually purchase tickets (which go on sale Sunday, December 30, 2012), and just hang out, looking at pictures. Check it out when you get a chance.

Well, I think that’s about it for now. Everyone involved in this production is steadily pushing ahead, and I think we’re at a good place right now (I hope I’m not speaking too soon). Until next time!

Made In China: The Saga Continues

Nicholas Weinbach continues to chronicle his original musical’s progress towards its first production.

In my last addition to the Made in China guest blog, I talked about arriving at our first read-through with the cast. Well, a lot has changed since then. Due to scheduling conflicts, we’ve replaced our previous director with the very talented Nick Dickson in addition to changing up the cast a little bit. It can be very frustrating to lose multiple members of the team let alone one member, but you have to pick yourself up by the boot straps and push through. That’s definitely the job of a producer. You have to keep searching for talent until you’ve solidified a team that can fully commit to the production. We’ve done that and are excited to move forward.

Tomorrow, the pit orchestra will be having its first rehearsal together, headed by conductor Max Weinbach, my twin brother. Obviously, I’ll need to be at the rehearsal, too. I wrote the music and need to make sure everything sounds the way I intended. However, I’m very confident in brother’s ability to interpret my music appropriately. After all, he did conduct the orchestra for the staged readings / singings of Made in China, and that went very well. We even have more experienced musicians this time around. If I haven’t already mentioned before, the orchestra includes flute, two violins, cello, piano, and percussion. It’s a small ensemble so as not to overpower the relatively small cast, who will perform in a somewhat small space, but still big enough to provide a full and beautiful sound.

Actually, I had originally wrote the score with a harp included, but, when I was trying to find musicians for the staged readings, I had the most trouble finding a harpist who would work for minimal compensation. They’re not very cheap, and there aren’t many of them. In fact, every harpist I asked recommended one another, so I ended up contacting six or seven harpists who all knew each other. It’s a small circle. Lesson learned I suppose: when you’re starting out small, write parts for common instruments. Luckily, I was able to combine the harp and piano parts with moderate ease. Perhaps, a future production of Made in China will include harp. That would be cool and definitely play on the Harvey Schmidt (composer of The Fantasticks) influence.

I hope to have more news on the rehearsal process over the next few months. It’s definitely exciting, but thoughts about the whole production keep me up at night. I can’t stop thinking about this musical. When you’ve put so much work into something, you want it to do well. You want it to succeed. I hope the coming weeks will make me feel more confident about this production. For now, I’m just happy that everything is in motion. Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies. Nah, just kidding.

Next Up At Theater Pub!

Something is Rotten at the Café Royale!

A one night only event celebrating all things HAMLET, “Hamlet and Cheese on Post” combines the Hamlet we’ve come to know and love with a riotous dose of comedy and fun.The evening features a staged reading of Richard Curtis’ “Skinhead Hamlet” and Shel Silverstein’s “Hamlet: As Told on the Street”, (famously penned for Playboy Magazine back in 1998), plus original songs from dynamic duo McPuzo & Trotsky and other musical surprises.

To be there or not to be there? That is the question.

We think you know the answer!

Directed by: Molly Benson and Karen Offereins, starring: Mikka Bonel, Jaime Lee Currier, Nick Dickson, Michelle Jasso, Rik Lopes, Nathan Tucker and Geoffrey Nolan as Hamlet.

The show starts at 8 PM on Monday, September 17th, only at the Cafe Royale (800 Post Street, San Francisco), and as usual the event is FREE, with a five dollar suggested donation. Our friends at Hideaway BBQ will be serving up plenty of southern style treats starting at 6:30, so get there early as we expect to fill up and it’s the best way to ensure a seat.

Day of Play!

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!

Will Hand rehearses like a champ.

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.

Linda Ruth Cardozo, Tony Cirimele and Neil Higgins intimidate Julia, just for fun.

We’ve been working hard, stress is high and after our tech/dress at Cafe Royale on Saturday, Sunday was our day of play.

Kirsten Broadbear and Tony Cirimele sure do love to 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!

As usual, Carl Lucania is asking God why he continues to put up with our nonsense.

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.

Passersby were even more baffled by Will Hand and Tony Cirimele talking about beheading people.

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!”

Linda-Ruth waves while Stuart Bousel passes judgement.

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.

The Duke Vincentio Curse: when comforting someone just makes them cry harder.

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!