Actor John Lowell On “Shooter”

John Lowell, who is one of three actors in “Shooter”, talks about the play, his process and creating a role in the next Theater Pub show.

Give us a brief impression of who you are, in a hundred words or less.

I was born and raised in Portland, OR and I’ve lived in San Francisco on and off for a combined twenty years. I’ve also lived and worked in parts of Europe, Asia and E. Africa. I acted in and developed plays as a kid but moved away from it until years later when I took a theater class to balance out the dry world of business school. It was like the flood scene in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”; it swept me away, limbs flailing with joy. Thank God.

John Lowell, lost in the flood.

John Lowell, lost in the flood.

Is this your first time working at BOA? What’s that like? If it it’s not your first time, what brought you back to such a unique festival setting?

It is my first time with BOA. The perception that drew me to it is proving to be the reality – a diverse and exciting set of plays and artists coming together. I’m loving it so far.

You’re the first people to appear in a production of “Shooter”- what’s the best thing about “creating” a role this role as an actor?

I always try to either avoid watching previous versions of a role or if I’ve already seen some to file those images away and approach it as freshly as possible. So for me it’s great to be able to come to it initially with only the images that have developed from reading the script and build from there.

Are there any challenges?

Not so much from being the first to do it (per above), but specific to this role I’m finding entering this character’s world to be emotionally difficult. But I cherish opportunities to take artfully written material and immerse myself in the character, whoever they may be.

What’s been a particularly interesting element of this rehearsal process?

This piece is constructed in a way that is sort of like a dance where the dancers are unaware of each other yet connected. Excited by where this can go.

“Shooter” is an ensemble piece. How does being in an ensemble piece differ from, say, playing a lead in a show, or having a “minor” role?

It’s interesting to remove those usual elements, made more so by the fact that our stories unfold intertwined but without conscious acknowledgement of each other. But we naturally at some level acknowledge and are affected by each other. And our dialogue is connected.

Do you get a chance to see the other shows in the Festival this year? Anything got you excited besides your own? 

Will try to see all I can. The read-throughs made me want to see all of them.

What about in the upcoming theater season in general? 

So much I’d like to see but I need to get out there more.

What’s next for you?

I’m excited to be in another play at BOA, “Break of Day” by Jeff Carter, directed by Brian Trybom, acting with Shane Fahey.  I will be doing a reading of Blood of My Subjects by Richard White with PCSF on 10/14, and also doing the 24-Hour Play Fest with PCSF on 9/28. I’m assistant directing on the next production at Tides Theatre, Gruesome Playground Injuries by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Jennifer Welch and featuring Cary Cronholm Rose and Wylie Herman, running 10/10-11/09.

“Shooter” will play, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, September 15, 19, 21, 25, 27, 29 and October 3 and 5 at the Tides Theater in San Francisco. To find out more about this show, and all the great shows that will be a part of this cornerstone event for the San Francisco Bay Area Theater scene, check outhttp://bayoneacts.org/.

An Interview With Dan Hirsch

Happy Labor Day everyone! We’re excited to share this interview with Dan Hirsch, a new addition to the local playwriting scene, whose new play shooter is our contribution to this year’s Olympians Festival. Enjoy!

Tell the world who you are in 100 words or less.

Originally from Massachusetts, but a Bay Area resident for eight years, and a recent Silicon Valley escapee, I’m now living as a freelance writer in San Francisco. What this means exactly changes every day. Some days, I’m reporting news for a hyperlocal journalism site in the Mission where I live. Other days, it’s cute web copy. The tedious days, it’s pretending to find more freelance work but actually reading Buzzfeed. And on the nicest days, when I’m not trying to make any money at all, I write plays.

This is you first time working with Theater Pub, yes? And BOA? What’s it like to be the new kid on the block?

I feel really excited. It seems like a pretty tight knit community that I’m eager to be a part of. A couple of times I’ve had the distinct feeling of people eyeing me and wondering: “Who is this guy? Where did he come from?” My answer: “I’m Dan Hirsch and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Dan Hirsch Is Happy To Meet You!

Dan Hirsch Is Happy To Meet You!

So what made you write “Shooter”?

I wrote “Shooter” in the summer of 2012, the summer that James Holmes opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the summer that Wade Michael Page killed six people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, and numerous other acts of gun violence seemed to consume the national imagination. But also, it was the summer a 19-year-old was shot and killed on my block, almost directly across from my house. In response to the national conversation about gun violence and the very local tragedy, I felt overwhelmed with a sense of confusion and helplessness, something I’m sure many of us felt. I couldn’t stop wondering: who are these people that commit this terrible violence? James Holmes left no record, he didn’t write any manifesto. Despite his proximity, the killer on my block was part of a completely different community and world that I knew nothing about. As a way just to tease out and think about this question, I wrote “Shooter.” While I read a lot about gun violence in America—I spent a lot of time looking at Guide to Mass Shootings in America by Mother Jones, for one—I feel like this research is totally inadequate. “Shooter” is ultimately just an act imagination, an attempt at empathy for people who challenge our ability to empathize most.

Would you consider this work typical of your writing? How is it a “Dan Hirsch piece”… or is it?

Are you asking if all my plays describe brutal acts of real world violence from the perpetrator’s perspective? Definitely, not. They’re not all this dark either. I actually sometimes write totally silly sketch comedy. I hope what unifies my work, maybe even the goofy stuff, is their relationship to the world around us. As I mentioned, I’m also a journalist and feel very invested in thinking about and responding to the way we live now, and I think a strain of non-fiction storytelling permeates my plays. In my journalism and playwriting, I like weaving many distinct voices together to tell a compelling story or engage with a complex issue.

It’s your first time working with Rik Lopes, the director. What’s it been like for you, developing a piece with him?

Rik is a baller. It’s been a pleasure working with him so far. He’s got great ideas and is totally interested in hearing my ideas and what went into the writing of this piece. Throughout auditions, the various readings, and meetings, I felt very much like we are the exact same wavelength about nearly everything—even in terms of facial hair. It’s been a total delight.

What’s turning out to be the biggest challenge in creating a piece like this, and in a festival setting?

To echo what Rik said in his TP interview, also to prove my point about the same wavelength thing, the challenge is about where “Shooter” fits in with the rest of the festival. While I hope it will make people think and respond in a variety of ways, the play is kind of intense. I love the diversity of the one acts in our program, and think “Shooter” definitely belongs somewhere in there, but it’s never fun to be that serious guy at the party talking about gun violence in America.

What’s the greatest asset of being part of a short works festival?

There’s 13 different theater companies, writers, and directors in this thing. As relatively new member of the theater scene, this has been such a great opportunity to get familiar with the work of a bunch of different artists all at once. There’s so many small, independent theater companies in the Bay Area, it can be hard to keep track of them all. BOA is like a lunch buffet of talent. All those people should also make it easier for us to fundraise.

What else at the festival are you most excited to see?

As the new guy, I need to be careful not to make anyone angry and I do really admire the incredible range of talent and ideas. I also missed the table read for Program One, so I can’t even comment on those. Of all the plays in our program, “Break of Day” by Jeff Carter is the one that I wish I had written, it’s so simple and sad and funny and everything you want in a one act. I was also totally entertained by Megan Cohen’s “My Year” and look forward to Lauren Gunderson’s “Two Pigeons Talk Politics” because it’s going to have puppets in it!

What’s next for you as a writer?

On November 6, I’ll have two short works in the SF Olympians Festival, which I’m really looking forward to. A full length play of mine called Subtenant just had a developmental reading at the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco which was hugely useful. I’m in the process of editing it now, and hope that it will have a life in production sometime in the near future. I’m a frequent contributor to the news site Mission Local, you can see some of my recent journalistic efforts there.

“Shooter” will play, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, September 15, 19, 21, 25, 27, 29 and October 3 and 5 at the Tides Theater in San Francisco. To find out more about this show, and all the great shows that will be a part of this cornerstone event for the San Francisco Bay Area Theater scene, check outhttp://bayoneacts.org/.

Playwright Kirk Shimano Talks About Love In The Time Of Zombies

We took a moment to chat up Kirk Shimano, the mastermind behind our October rom-zom-com, Love In The Time Of Zombies. This show is actually a first for Theater Pub: a fully produced full length play that isn’t based on prior material (like Boar’s Head and Measure For Measure were), and it turns out it’s not just a first for us…

Kirk Shimano looks nice enough… but his mind is a twisted play-pen of the Devil.

This your first full length to get produced?

Yes it is!

How does that feel?

It’s hard to know where to start! It’s exciting, for sure, but also intimidating. Watching the cast assembling the story in rehearsal has been a little surreal – watching these scenes that have only existed inside of my head being played out by real people. So in a word, it’s exciturrealidating.

Tell us about this play. Like… what is it about?

It starts with four survivors of a zombie apocalypse piling into an abandoned cabin in the woods. But while they’re prepared for the standard finding-love-while-running-from-zombies scenario, they’re not prepared for a mysterious woman who challenges their whole concept of what it means to be human. Lives are changed and people get eaten, but ultimately it’s about how our strongest emotions can either hold us back or propel us forwards.

How did it end up on the Theater Pub stage?

The first incarnation of this story was a one act that was presented by the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco back in the spring of 2009. I was encouraged by the connection the audience made with the characters, so I decided to expand the story, shifting the focus and adding two more characters to the mix. Two years later, the full length version of this play was presented as a staged reading by Wily West Productions. It was paired with Juno En Victoria, written by Theater Pub artistic director Stuart Bousel. Originally that led to this play being added to the No Nude Men season, but when that fell through the zombies found a new home at Theater Pub.

What’s the process been like so far?

It’s been amazing collaborating with Claire Rice, the director of the piece, and watching her work with the actors. I always find myself surprised by how much there is to fill in – even though all of the dialogue is already on the page, the actors have to construct a convincing reality from moment to moment. I’m fortunate to be working with a director and a cast who see the story in the same way that I do.

Originally, this play isn’t set in a bar, so what have you had to do to make this play doable at Theater Pub?

The biggest change has been to make the audience an active part in the play. The bar environment makes everyone more aware of the other audience members around them and we wanted to use this to help build the atmosphere. We’re having the audience play the part of the zombies surrounding the cabin. It fits right into the story, and hopefully the audience will enjoy the play even more when they get to make zombie noises throughout it!

What is it about zombies that we’re so interested in?

Zombies are the monsters that are closest to humanity. You can tell your friends, “Man, I was a total zombie at work today” and they’ll know exactly what you mean. Try inserting “swamp monster” into that sentence and it just doesn’t work the same. Zombies are people who are just a little more brain-hungry.

I think the closeness is also what makes them terrifying. The person who you trust most in the world could go zombie and turn on you in a second, and you’d understand why they were eating you while being entirely powerless to do anything about it

Can you think of any other zombie plays or movies that might have influenced you?

There wasn’t anything that was a direct influence, but I’ve definitely enjoyed a bunch of zombie things which I’m sure have affected me in one way or another. I like 28 Days Later for proving that there were plenty of new ways to approach zombies and Shaun of the Dead for injecting fun without losing any of the crucial elements of the genre. I really enjoyed The Walking Dead (the comic more than the TV show) for asking the question: “You’ve survived the initial outbreak. So now what?” Also Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive / Braindead for going way over the top and making it work.

What’s your favorite zombie related thing of all time?

I’m going to go with something a little more recent and say the trailer for the video game Dead Island. I never actually played the game it was advertising, but the trailer is really a masterful three minutes of storytelling that provides an emotional wallop. If you haven’t seen it: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZqrG1bdGtg

Runner up: the dinner scene from Dead Alive.

Who wins in the undead show down- zombies, mummies, vampires or ghosts?

Ghosts are too insubstantial and mummies just don’t want it bad enough. I think a vampire could take down a zombie in a one-on-one cage match, but not being able to go out in the sun is a HUGE handicap. The vampires could pull it off if they have the right leadership, but if even one of the Twilight crew is involved then zombies all the way.

In the event of a zombie outbreak, what is your plan?

Costco.

Don’t miss Kirk Shimano’s Love In The Time Of Zombies, directed by Claire Rice, playing October 15, 16, 22, 29, 30, only at the Cafe Royale in San Francisco.