Theater Around The Bay: Get Ready For Better Than Television!

Our next show, Better Than Television, is going to turn your world upside down! Before the adventure begins, we figured it was time to check in with regular TP contributor, Megan Cohen, who is the brains behind this crazy new show!

TP: Megan Cohen- you’re back again! What keeps you coming back to Theater Pub?

MC: Every mad scientist needs a lab.

TP: Every show you do is different, but how is this show particularly unique?

MC: As a swirling “live channel” programmed with serial shows and commercials, Better Than Television is bigger AND smaller than anything I’ve done at Pub. The plays are tiny; micro-episodes of just a few minutes each, for short attention spans. The evening is huge, with lots of characters, genres, theme songs, commercials. I’ve got about 25 artists on the team: writers, actors, musicians. That’s a lot of talent for a free show in a bar.

TP: Explain your process behind this one- there was some kind of writing party?

MC: Over a weekend, 17 writers came to my house. We drank 2 flats of Diet Coke, I made 16 pizzas, and between us all, on that Saturday and Sunday we wrote 59 brand new micro-plays. We created the soap opera All My Feels, the sci-fi adventure Space Bitch, and everything else you’ll see onstage.

Megan Cohen is sort of like what would happen if Orson Welles had a better childhood.

Megan Cohen is sort of like what would happen if Orson Welles had a better childhood.

I love to do things myself; I’ll write a whole show and mix the soundtrack and make the props with a glue gun; heck, as a performance artist, I’m working on a 12-hour durational solo show right now. I love doing things myself, but I wanted Better Than Television to be about teamwork, friendship, and celebrating the incredible wealth of talent in our community. I built a structure, gave some prompts, gave a format, and then the crew of writers really made the episodes and commercials their own! A fabulous array of voices. I am surprised, thrilled, delighted, and definitely entertained by what people wrote in this format, and I hope you will be too.

TP: What is it about television that makes it a suitable topic for its perceived nemesis- The Theater?

MC: I’m part of The Broadcast Television Generation. The generation before me didn’t have TV on all the time in the house growing up, and the generation after me has everything online and on-demand, where they can curate it themselves. I grew up in the 80s and 90s, tuning in for “Nick at Night” and “TGIF,” at the blissful mercy of a machine that fed me dreams on its own schedule. Going to theater is not so different from trusting a Broadcast Network. You show up, and it takes you somewhere you didn’t know you wanted to go. You just stay tuned. I think we all need that. We all make a lot of decisions every day, and sometimes you want to relax and let someone you trust take the reins. That’s what I’m planning for these shows to do. People want to be entertained, and I think they want to be a bit surprised.

TP: So, ideally someone comes to all four nights of this, yes?

MC: Better Than Television is a different show each night! New episodes of each micro-serial, a rotating cast of actors, twists and turns all the time; I hope that if you come once, you’ll get hooked, and will want to come back and see what happens next. If you get addicted to the channel and binge-watch the whole 4-night series, you’ll have a lot of fun. More fun than a cat in a banana.

This is the second-most-fun thing in the world.

This is the second-most-fun thing in the world.

TP: And what if someone can only come one night? How does it change their experience?

MC: Each night stands alone. If you tune in with us at Theater Pub for one night, you won’t see the complete run of any series, but you will see enough episodes of each micro-show to get the gist, so you can fall in love briefly with the characters and the story. Especially Space Bitch. Everyone loves Space Bitch.

TP: If you could work on any real-life TV show, what it would be and what would you bring to the table?

MC: Any TV show ever? Deadwood. Any current TV show? Orphan Black. What would I bring to the table? Wit, courage, small pores, and the chops I’ve built in an energetic and dedicated writing career where, at age 32, I’ve shared almost 100 of my scripts with audiences around the world.

TP: What if a network approached you and said, “Anything you want?” What does your ideal TV show look like?

MC: It’s kind of a Deadwood-meets-Orphan-Black mashup in a comic vein with a supernatural slant, where everyone in a small frontier town is played by the ghost of Madeline Khan.

(For real, though, if anyone wants to rep me, I can send you an hour-long TV pilot that’s not that.)

TP: Any shout outs for other stuff going on in the community?

MC: Along with Theater Pub, KML and Faultline are 2 resident companies at PianoFight that are having strong seasons this year, with lots of good artists involved. See them, see everything, see Theater Pub every month. See anything by any of the artists who are part of making Better Than Television: Paul Anderson, Scott Baker, Sam Bertken, Stuart Bousel, Jeremy Cole, Barry Eitel, Valerie Fachman, Fenner Fenner, Danielle Gray, Kenneth Heaton, Paul Jennings, Colin Johnson, Dan Kurtz, Rebecca Longworth, Carl Lucania, Becky Raeta, Samantha Ricci, Cassie Rosenbrock, Heather Shaw, Jeunee Simon, Marissa Skudlarek, Peter Townley, Steven Westdahl, Indiia Wilmott, Marlene Yarosh, wow that’s a mouthful. Keep an eye on those people. Also, of course you should see everything that I personally am doing everywhere always.

TP: What’s next for you?

MC: On the closing day of this show, I’m heading for the “Ground Floor” new works program at Berkeley Rep. We’re doing some development there on my new full-length play Truest. It’s about a pair of sisters who love and fight each other, kind of a Thelma-and-Louise-meets-Sam-Shepard vibe. For news on that and other projects, keep in touch with me on Twitter: @WayBetterThanTV or on my website www.MeganCohen.com.

Better than Television starts on June 20 and plays through June 28, only at San Francisco Theater Pub! 

Theater Around The Bay: The Great Blog Recap of 2015 Part II

Today we bring you three more annual round ups from three more of our core blogging team: Ashley Cowan, Will Leschber, and Dave Sikula! More tomorrow and the Stueys on Thursday!

The Top Five Thank Yous of 2015 by Ashley Cowan

1) You’re inspirational, Molly Benson
Aside from the incredible PianoFight mosaic we all continue to marvel at each time we’re in its proximity, you’ve managed to continue bursting through the creative scene while balancing parenting a small child (which I’ve personally found to be an incredibly difficult thing to do). You’re acting, you’re lending your voice to various projects, you’re making art, and you’re out there inspiring me to keep trying. So thank you and please keep it up!

2) You’re so great to work with, San Francisco Fringe Festival
2015 was the second year I had the chance to be a part of the SF Fringe Festival alongside Banal+ with Nick and Lisa Gentile, Warden Lawlor, Dan Kurtz, Tavis Kammet, and Will Leschber. (And this year, Eden Davis and Katrina Bushnell joined the cast making it even stronger!) Now, I always love working with this dynamic bunch but this time around, I was returning to the stage after a two year hiatus and straight off of having a baby and returning to work full time. Thankfully, everyone was so flexible and kind that when I had to leave a show immediately after my performance (skipping the other pieces in the lineup and curtain call) to relieve our babysitter, I was greeted with support and understanding. It made all the difference so thank you again.

3) You trusted me to be a 90’s (Rose McGowan inspired) teenager, Anthony Miller
Last year when I had to back out of TERROR-RAMA, I was pretty crushed. I don’t totally know how I lucked out in getting a second chance with this October’s reading of TERROR-RAMA 2: PROM NIGHT but oh, man, I loved it. After feeling a bit rusty and uncomfortable in my post baby body, Anthony Miller and Colin Johnson let me play this sexy queen vampire 90’s teen. And I had the best time. Anthony’s script is truly hilarious and under Colin’s direction, the reading was a great success. But I was also left with that electric, “yes! This is why I do this!” feeling after I had the chance to be involved and for that, I’m super grateful. Thank you, Anthony. And thank you Rose McGowan.

4) You Made Me Love Being an Audience Member Again, In Love and Warcraft
One of my theatrical regrets from this past year was not singing praises or appropriately applauding creative teams when I had the chance. In this case, I didn’t really take the opportunity to give a shout out to all involved in Custom Made’s recent show, In Love And Warcraft. I was unfamiliar with most of the cast but, wow, they were delightful. The script was smart, sweet, and funny (and totally played to my nerdy romantic sensibilities) and the whole thing came together into such an enjoyable theater experience. I had such fun being in the audience and invited into a world of warcraft and new love. Thank you, thank you.

5) You Make Me Feel Tall and Proud, Marissa Skudlarek
In our two part Theater Pub blog series, Embracing the Mirror, Marissa and I uncovered new heights. Or, really, uncovered the heights that had been there all along and allowed us to kind of honor them. I’m so thankful that Marissa suggested this collaboration because the topic allowed me to reconnect with tall actress friends from my past while reevaluating my own relationship to my height. Plus, getting to do it with Marissa was a treat in itself. So thank you, Marissa for continuing to positively push this blog forward and allowing me to stand next to you!

Thank-You-Someecard-2

Top Five 2015 Films That Should Be Adapted Into A Stage Play by Will Leschber

Hi all! Since I spend most of the year trying to smash together the space between theater and film, why not just come out with it and say which bright shining films of 2015 should end up on our great stages here in San Francisco. So here are the top 5 films of 2015 that should be adapted to a San Franciscan stage production…and a Bay Area Actor who’d fit perfectly in a key role!

Now, since my knowledge of the vast pool of Bay Area creative performers isn’t what it used to be, lets just get fun and totally subjective and pull this recommendation list from a single show! And not just a single show… a single show that Theater Pub put up… AND I was in: Dick 3… Stuart Bousel’s bloody adaptation of Richard III. Yeah, talk about nepotism, right? Booyah… lets own this!

5) Room
This film adaption of the acclaimed book by Emma Donoghue would fit easily into a restricted stage production with the cloying enclosed location in which most of the action takes place. It’s a moving story dictated by creative perspective and wonderful acting, things that shine onstage. Brie Larson owns the film’s main performance but it if a bay area actress could give it a go, I’d love to see Jeunée Simon radiate in this role. Her youthful energy, subtle power, and soulful spirit would kick this one out of the park.

4) Steve Jobs
Regardless of the Aaron Sorkin lovers or haters out there, this film is written like a three-act play and would work supremely well on stage, as it does on screen. It’s talky and quick-paced as long as you keep up the clip of lip that the script demands. The perfect pairing to tackle this towering role of Steve Jobs and his “work wife” Joanna Hoffman (played respectively by Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet) would look excellent cast with Jessica Rudholm as Steve Jobs (Jessica is an unbelievably powerful performer and can command any room she steps into…perfect for Jobs) and Megan Briggs as the Joanna Hoffman character: resourceful, smart and can stand up to powerful chest-puffing men. Done!

3) Mistress America
This buoyant film by Noah Baumbach follows a New York pseudo-socialite, Brooke, embodied perfectly by Greta Gerwig, who has to fall a bit from her idealized youthful 20s phase of life towards something a bit more….self-realized…aka adulthood. At times a situation-farce houseguest comedy, and other times a story of searching for self discovery, the themes would read equally beautifully on stage. The second lead in this film is a bright-eyed, I-know-everything-in-the-world college freshman named Tracy, who befriends our beloved Brooke character. It’s a dual journey. Allison Page has more confidence than all the college freshman I know. She’d play the crap out of that! And for the main Greta Gerwig part… this is a hard role to fill with quirk and empathy, so I’d say let’s give Sam Bertken a shot at it! Sam as a performer has the whimsy of a confident yet lost late-20-something, but the charm and determination to persevere with her/his quirk intact.

2) Spotlight
This journalistic procedural which chronicles the story behind the Pulitzer-winning newspaper story of sexual abuse and the Catholic Church would be a heavy sit. But the story is powerful, the characters are true, and the setting lends itself to small scale theater. To play the stalwart Spotlight department newspaper lead editor, played by Michael Keaton in the film, lets go with Carl Lucania who’d give the role a nice imprint. AND to boot, the Mark Ruffalo character (who is the shoulder of the film, in my opinion) would be handled wonderfully by Paul Jennings. These two have the exact performing skills to juxtapose unrelenting determination and quiet, frustrated fury which fit perfectly for this story.

1) Inside Out
Now I hear you…animated films with complex imaginary landscapes and vistas filled with old memories might not immediately scream stage production. But if The Lion King, King Kong or even Beauty & the Beast can do it, I know some insanely talented set designers, costume designers and lighting specialists could bring this world to life. More importantly, the themes of passing away from youthful phases of life, how hard and lonely a childhood transition can be, plus learning that life isn’t simply divided into happy/sad/angry/scared memories. The complicated reality is that our selves and our memories are colored with a mad mix of many diverse emotions and characteristics. Coming of age with this palette of imagination would be glorious on stage. And who better to play the central character named Joy, than the joyful Brian Martin. He just adorable…all the time.

Five Things I Learned on My Last New York Trip by Dave Sikula

1) “Traditional” Casting Is Over
Well, not totally, obviously, but as Hamilton showed (among so many other things), anyone can play anything. I’m old enough to remember when musicals had all-white casts, then, little by little, there would be one African American male and one African American female in the ensemble, and they always danced together. Gradually, you began to see more and more people of color in choruses, and they were now free to interact with anyone. Now, of course, pretty much any role is up for grabs by any actor of any race or gender – or should be. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see an Asian female eventually playing Hamilton himself. Whether this – and the other innovations of Hamilton – percolates into more mainstream fare remains to be seen, but it’s certainly to be hoped.

2) A Good Director Can Make Even the Most Tired War-Horse Fresh and Vital
For my money, there aren’t many major playwrights whose work has aged more badly than Arthur Miller. Yeah, Death of Salesman is still powerful, but the rest of the canon isn’t faring so well. Years and years ago, I saw a lousy production of A View from the Bridge, and even then, it struck me as obvious, tired, and dull. Ivo van Hove’s production, then, had a couple of hurdles to overcome: 1) it’s a London import, and 2) it’s, well, it’s A View from the Bridge. Van Hove’s 2004 production of Hedda Gabler (surely one of the worst “important” plays ever written) was enough of a revelation that I wanted to see what he could do with this one, and boy, did he come through. Tough, powerful, and visceral, it’s nothing so much as what we hear Greek tragedy was so good at. It was so good, I’m anxious to see his upcoming production of The Crucible, and see if he can make another truly terrible play interesting.

3) Even a Good Director Can’t Make a Tired Old War-Horse Work
In 2008, Bartlett Sher directed Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, a show I’d seen too much and from which (I’d thought) all the juice had long since been squeezed. By digging deep into the text and back story, though, Sher and company were able to make it vital, exciting, and relevant. Flash forward to last year and the reunion of some of the band to remount The King and I, another show whose time has all but passed. Despite breathtaking sets, more delving into two-dimensional characters by very good actors (Hoon Lee and Kelli O’Hara are doing superb work in the title parts), and marvelous staging, it just sits there. The problem to these tired old eyes is that musical dramaturgy of today doesn’t always fit well with that of the early 1950s, and the show itself just has too many fundamental flaws to work anymore. It’s a pity, because a lot of time and effort is being expended in a futile effort to make the unworkable work. In the words of Horace, “The mountain labors, and brings forth … a mouse!”

4) There Is No Show So Bad That No One Will See It
We’ve dealt with the awfulness of China Doll before. Despite barely having a script and offering audiences little more than the chance to watch Al Pacino alternately get fed his lines and chew scenery, it’s still drawing people. Sure, that attendance is falling week by week, but last week, it was still 72% full and took in more than $600,000. Running costs can’t be that much (two actors, one set), but even with what imagines is a monumental amount being paid Mr. Pacino, it’s probably still making money. If I may (correctly) quote the late Mr. Henry L. Mencken of Baltimore: “No one in this world, so far as I know – and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me – has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

5) It’s Still Magical
Despite the heavy lifting of New York theatre being done off- and off-Broadway and regionally, there’s still something that can’t be duplicated in seeing a really good show on Broadway that has a ton of money thrown at it – especially one you weren’t expecting anything from. I went into shows like An American in Paris or Something Rotten or – especially – Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 knowing next to nothing about them and came out enthralled and invigorated by what writers can create and actors can do. In the best cases, they give me something to shoot at. (And in the worst, multiple lessons on what to avoid … )

Ashley Cowan is an actress, playwright, director and general theater maker in the Bay Area, alongside writer/actor husband, Will Leschber. Dave Sikula is an actor, writer, director and general theater maker in the Bay Area who has been in plays with Ashley and Will, but never both at the same time.

Theater Around The Bay: DICK 3 OPENS TONIGHT!

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It’s a dark and stormy night in England, and diabolical Duke Dick is plotting to kill his brothers George and Eddie so he can take over the kingdom- right after he marries the beautiful Anne, murders the sons of his sister-in-law, Liz, and in general wreck havoc with the assistance of his evil henchmen Buck and Ham, all because he’s an ugly hunchback who isn’t much suited to peaceful times and courtly romance.

The only thing standing between him and revenge on everyone who has ever experienced a moment of happiness, is a curse laid on him by Mags, the widow of the former King Henry, which promises him a nasty ending but looks like it will probably take out everyone else along the way.

Freely adapted from a much longer, much more serious play by William Shakespeare, this 70 minute romp falls somewhere between horror comedy and slasher pic, but, you know… in verse! Featuring creepy dolls, angry ghosts, lots of murder, and some of the best dramatic poetry ever penned, DICK 3 marks the return of classic text to Theater Pub, and is the perfect addition to your Halloween season!

Adapted and directed by Stuart Bousel, featuring Sam Bertken, Megan Briggs, Will Leschber, Carl Lucania, Brian Martin, Allison Page, Paul Jennings, Jessica Rudholm, and Jeunee Simon.

The show plays four times, only at PianoFight (144 Taylor Street, San Francisco) and is FREE (with a five dollar suggested donation).

Monday, October 19, at 8 PM
Tuesday, October 20, at 8 PM
Monday, October 26, at 8 PM
Tuesday, October 27, at 8 PM

Don’t miss it- and be sure to come early (or stay late) and enjoy PianoFight’s full bar and menu!

Theater Around The Bay: Announcing DICK 3!

Announcing this year’s Halloween show at Theater Pub!

Facebook-2 copy

It’s a dark and stormy night in England, and diabolical Duke Dick is plotting to kill his brothers George and Eddie so he can take over the kingdom- right after he marries the beautiful Anne, murders the sons of his sister-in-law, Liz, and in general wreck havoc with the assistance of his evil henchmen Buck and Ham, all because he’s an ugly hunchback who isn’t much suited to peaceful times and courtly romance.

The only thing standing between him and revenge on everyone who has ever experienced a moment of happiness, is a curse laid on him by Mags, the widow of the former king Henry, which promises him a nasty ending but looks like it will probably take out everyone else along the way.

Freely adapted from a much longer, much more serious play by William Shakespeare, this 70 minute romp falls somewhere between horror comedy and slasher pic, but, you know… in verse! Featuring creepy dolls, angry ghosts, lots of murder, and some of the best dramatic poetry ever penned, DICK 3 marks the return of classic text to Theater Pub, and is the perfect addition to your Halloween season!

Adapted and directed by Stuart Bousel, featuring Sam Bertken, Megan Briggs, Will Leschber, Carl Lucania, Brian Martin, Allison Page, Paul Jennings, Jessica Rudholm, and Jeunee Simon.

The show plays four times, only at PianoFight and is FREE (with a five dollar suggested donation).

Monday, October 19, at 8 PM
Tuesday, October 20, at 8 PM
Monday, October 26, at 8 PM
Tuesday, October 27, at 8 PM

Don’t miss it- and be sure to come early (or stay late) and enjoy PianoFight’s full bar and menu!

Claire’s Enemy’s List: I Have No Fucking Clue What I’m Doing

Claire Rice, ensuring I have to spend at least an hour downloading, uploading, and formatting all her photos.

My camera broke.

I think it’s an easy fix and I’m going to look into getting it repaired. It probably broke from a combination of neglect, abuse and age: but I can’t say for sure. When it comes to that thing, I have no fucking clue what I’m doing.

I just sort of aim, fire and hope.

I know fuck all about that particular piece of equipment. I love it. I love taking pictures and I feel like I’ve gotten lucky and I’ve taken some really good ones. But, unlike my life in theatre where I know why a thing is good, I can’t write an essay on photography. I can’t tell you why one photo is better than another. It just feels right. Oh, I could bullshit about it for a long time if you want to. I can use the knowledge I have of theatrical framing and…blah blah blah… I know a thing or two about a thing or two. I’m not going to bullshit further or wax poetic or pretend I know anything about what I’m doing. But I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t mind. Getting lucky is fun. It isn’t artful and there’s no craft in it.

But, because my camera broke and I’m feeling nostalgic about it, I want to show off some of my favorite photos.

Don’t worry. I have a super angry post that feels very Enemy’s List cooking in the background here.

Troy: The Gates of Hell – Rehearsal Shot, SF State Rosie Josue, Aaron Teixeira, Vanessa Cota, Gregg Hood, Cecilia Palmtag, Teri Whipple, Megan Watson

Troy: The Gates of Hell – Rehearsal Shot, SF State
Rosie Josue, Aaron Teixeira, Vanessa Cota, Gregg Hood, Cecilia Palmtag, Teri Whipple, Megan Watson

City of Angels – Press Shot, SF State Sheena McIntyre (Clyde Sheets did all the lighting and set up for this)

City of Angels – Press Shot, SF State
Sheena McIntyre (Clyde Sheets did all the lighting and set up for this)

Don Juan – Production Shot, SF State  Elaine Gavin

Don Juan – Production Shot, SF State
Elaine Gavin

Killing My Lobster Reboots – Production Shot, Killing My Lobster Allison Page

Killing My Lobster Reboots – Production Shot, Killing My Lobster
Allison Page

Into the Clear Blue Sky – Production Shot, Sleepwalkers Theatre

Into the Clear Blue Sky – Production Shot, Sleepwalkers Theatre

Twelfth Night – Press Shot, AtmosTheatre Ashley Cowan, Nicholas Trengrove

Twelfth Night – Press Shot, AtmosTheatre
Ashley Cowan, Nicholas Trengrove

Ryan Marchand – For Fun

Ryan Marchand – For Fun

You’re Going To Bleed – Production Shot, DIVAfest Sam Bertken, Paul Jennings

You’re Going To Bleed – Production Shot, DIVAfest
Sam Bertken, Paul Jennings

Extra Shot – Taken during a photoshoot where we used a smoke machine

Extra Shot – Taken during a photoshoot where we used a smoke machine

Better Homes and Amo – Production Shot, No Nude Men James Tinsley, Warden Lawlor, Molly Benson, Cassie Powell

Better Homes and Amo – Production Shot, No Nude Men
James Tinsley, Warden Lawlor, Molly Benson, Cassie Powell

Love in the Time of Zombies – Press Shot, San Francisco Theatre Pub Neil Higgins

Love in the Time of Zombies – Press Shot, San Francisco Theatre Pub
Neil Higgins

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?”

Right?

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.”

Testify!

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:

CALUM GRANT

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 CARTY MARSH

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.

PAUL JENNINGS

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.

KIRSTEN BROADBEAR

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.

MARIE O’DONNELL

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.

MATT GUNNISON

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.

SARAH MITCHELL

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.)