The Five- Final Thoughts

Anthony R. Miller checks in one last time.

Hey you guys, so here we are, my final post for Theater Pub. Some posts have been good, some not so much. But let’s not mire ourselves in introductions, I have some final thoughts to share with you, and as a surprise to no one, there are five.

For God’s Sake, Go See TERROR-RAMA 2

Of course I’m starting with one last shot of shameless self-promotion. Promoting this show has been my obsession for weeks, and since we open THIS FRIDAY, why stop now? So here’s the deal, I want to tell you exactly why I think you should see this show, call it my final plea. We have spent the last 2 years preparing this show. After the success of the first Terror-Rama, we knew we wanted to do it again. In part because it was really fun and we were super proud of it, but also because there were things we knew we could do better. So now we’re back, we have two brand new shows, a super cool venue and a team of crazy-talented people that have been working their asses off. And you know what? It’ll all be worth it, because the show is great.

Purity is going to mess you up. Claire Rice has written a freaky-ass play, and it will make your skin crawl. Not to mention, it features two brilliant performances by Adam Niemann and Laura Peterson. As for Sexy Vampire Academy, I’m biased, because I wrote it. But this fantastic cast has done amazing things with it; I have been brought to tears in rehearsal by how funny this play is. You may even find a few poignant moments (maybe).

As I spend my day staring at box office reports, sweating, drinking, and praying, I take comfort in the fact that this show has been blessed by some many happy accidents, whether it was the random conversation that led to hiring Jess Thomas (who has been killing it as SM), or finding out we had unwittingly cast a great props person, a licensed fight choreographer and dance choreographer whom have all added so much to the show. All led by Colin Johnson, my Artistic Soul Mate, my man fifty grand, my brother from another mother, I could not be prouder of his work as a director. So there you go, Terror-Rama 2 is the culmination of some really brilliant people working their asses off. When we first sat down to plan this show, we didn’t want to just put on a good show, we wanted to put on a great show. I think we’ve done that. So go to www.awesometheatre.org and get your tickets for opening weekend. It’ll be a bloody good time.

Like Whatever You Want To Like

So if I have any parting words to my 6 or 7 loyal readers, it is this: Like Things. And unless you like things that are hateful and cruel, feel no shame for liking it. There are people who want to judge you for liking something they don’t, because they are miserable people. (More on them later.) Life is too short, our times are too troubled and empathy is in short supply. So like things, like the shit out of them, squeeze every ounce of happiness from those things and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for liking them. There are no guilty pleasures, if something in this godforsaken world makes you happy, do your thing. Whether it’s super popular or you feel like you are the only one who has heard of it, it is equally special, because it is special to you. Any time you spend worrying about what other people might think of you for liking something is just time you could have spent liking it. So like things, like them pieces, like them like you have the freedom to like them, because you do.

Don’t Define Yourself By The Things You Don’t Like

We’ve all been there, our early 20s, sitting at a coffee shop, judging people into the ground for their taste, feeling a sense of superiority because you have the high-minded taste to dislike something. “Of course I don’t like (insert thing here), I’m not a plebeian.” Here’s the thing, it makes you sound like a dick. It’s OK to have an opinion, it’s OK to dislike something, but when disliking something becomes as much of a part of your personality as the things you do like, you’re defining yourself with negativity. You’re not a smarter person for disliking something, or a better person, there’s just this thing that you don’t care for, that’s all. Maybe it’s something super popular and the fact it’s not your thing makes you feel alienated, so you lash out, you say snooty shit like, “Well, that’s fine for the masses.” Or “I wouldn’t be caught dead seeing that show.” What’s really being said here is, “Everyone else is part of something and I’m not, and it makes me feel left out.” That is an honest, normal way to feel, and I think sometimes we get “snobby” because were too scared to admit we feel left out. Let the things that bring you joy in life define you, not the things that just aren’t your cup of tea. You’re a good person because you are kind, empathetic and generous. Not because you think something sucks, and certainly not because you shame people for liking something you don’t. It is the things you love that make you interesting, not the things you detest.

I Am Full Of Shit

Over the years in this blog, I have made some bold statements, and I’ve also bit my tongue a lot. I try to stay away from “bomb-throwy” articles, despite the fact that they get lots of hits and stir things up. That is because of one simple fact; I am nobody. I am not famous, or crazy successful or seen as an expert in anything. I’ve done OK in my life and I’ve had some great adventures and wonderful experiences. Sure, I’ve learned a few things along the way and I’m to share them, because they worked for me. But if you ever find yourself reading something I said and you think “Oh, who does this guy thinks he is?” I’m nobody, just a dude with a day job, a great daughter, two cats and a wonderful partner. But by no means an expert. I am “that guy” just as often (if not more so) as I am not. So if you disagree with me, that’s fine, because it’s just my opinion, an opinion no more valid than any other. We are all full of shit in our own special way.

So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish

This blog is not always good. For every insightful reflection of why I do theatre, there is a photo essay featuring my cat. For every cool rundown of an event I attended, there is some random list of whatever was on my mind. My favorites? Well, I will always cherish the two stories I co-wrote with Allison Page, whether it was drinking cheap whiskey and watching beefcake wrasslers pick up Allison at Hoodslam, or singing Blink 182 songs while a greasy muscly dude in a G-string dances 4 feet away from us at “Thunder From Down Under.” Those were adventures, a total pain in the ass to write about, but adventures. I’ll always remember my semi-existential crisis at the first TBA awards, which became one of my favorite articles. But I am thankful for the opportunity to write all of them. 5 years ago I left a job I thought would be my future, but it wasn’t. It was a horrible, depressing, and disillusioning experience that made me spend a year questioning whether or not I wanted to do theatre. But it is the Theater Pub world that helped me get up and brush myself off and get back to what I loved. The Olympians Festival, Theater Pub shows and meetings, play readings at Stuart Bousel’s mountain chalet, are so important to where I am in life. Surrounded by people with the same passions I have, people with hustle, and people with ideas. Theater Pub gave me a foundation to stand on, a place to rebuild, and great people to work with. I am so excited to see what everyone goes on to do because I know it’s this crazy thing called Theater Pub that helped make it possible. It’s sad when a band breaks up, but sometimes the solo albums are the best work they ever do. So thank you to Stuart for hiring me (twice) and thank you to all my fellow T-Pub writers.

Tl;dr Go see Terror-Rama, Don’t Be a Dick, and I’ll miss you T-Pub, thank you for everything.

Be Excellent to Each other,

ARM

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Producer and Educator, keep up with him at www.awesometheatre.org and on twitter @armiller78.

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In For a Penny: I Die a little Inside

Charles Lewis III, waiting to be picked.

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“The problem is that those of us who are lucky enough to do work that we love are sometimes cursed with too damn much of it.”
― Terry Gross, All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists

You ever get the feeling that you’re the one kid on the playground not picked to play kickball? Never mind the fact that they actually need you in order to have an even number of players on both teams; or that you’ve been practicing by kicking pinecones and have gotten pretty good at it; or that you’ve run around the yard just to prove you can run bases. No, all that matters is that the self-appointed captains have filled each of their teams with all of their friends. They don’t even pick you last, they just don’t pick you at all.

That’s what it feels like trying to find a good job these days. My skills are honed and demonstrable, colleagues (to my knowledge) all vouch for me, and I have at least twice as much experience as most of the folks who already work at the companies for which I apply. But clearly I’m not kissin’ the right asses because there’s no reason for me to have been without a full-time job for this long. The only thing more frustrating than not getting a response to my application is to get so far along in the interview process that they’re practically dangling the job in front of me, only for them to suddenly send an automated rejection letter. (I know they’re automated because every company sends the same damn one, word for word.)

I got several such letters this week. I know they shouldn’t get me down, but in addition to having been at this for quite a few years, they were altogether a helluva buzzkill for what was otherwise a week of good news. I stared at my laptop wondering if perhaps I were victim of a previous employer badmouthing me to other companies, maybe my lack of college degree being an immediate turn-off, or if maybe the fact that I have been out of work so many years (minus some part-time copywriting) means I’m somehow unworthy to work for this or that company. Whatever the answer is, I’m no closer to being hired than I was before applying.

“But, Charles,” you ask, “what has any of this to do with theatre, as suggested by this website being named ‘SF Theater Pub’?”

Well, imaginary-reader-with-whom-I’m-apparently-on-a-first-name-basis, that’s the good news I mentioned above. I’ve suddenly found myself with an overabundance of theatre projects to serve as a distraction from my lack of gainful employment. As I was awaiting the reactions from all of the “real world” jobs to which I’d applied, I’d gone through two incredibly brisk rehearsals of my Olympians play; I’d spent several weeks rewriting it for fear that it was too long, only for my actors to read it well enough that it clocked in at 25 minutes. I did some rehearsing at the SF Opera and got swept away in one of Verdi’s loveliest arias. I submitted to audition for the generals of a major company only to be told it wasn’t necessary because they know what I can do – for once, I took that as a compliment. On Monday, I auditioned at another major company only to get an e-mail the next day saying they’d love to have me understudy in their new show (I said “yes”).

In addition to that, I caught up with several acquaintances, tried processing Stupid Ghost more than a week later, and began checking my calendar for when I could get away to see fellow ‘Pub writer Anthony Miller’s show Terror-Rama II (co-written and directed by ‘Pub all-stars Claire Rice and Colin Johnson, respectively).

All of this has proven to be wonderfully fulfilling artistically, but such fulfillment does little to keep one financially stable. Would that I were as able to find myself in a cubicle (offices still have cubicles, right?) as I often as I find myself on stage, I’d feel as if I were appropriately balancing the “adult” side of my life with the “childish” part. Instead, it feels like I’m letting the kid take over as the adult refuses to speak to me. An oversimplification, I know, but I need the fulfillment (as well as the security) of a job as much as that of an artistic venture.

And yes, I’ve often thought about a line of work that does both – especially since my new understudy role will be the second to give me a significant number of EMC points. Right now, just getting a regular job is my goal; making a living as an artist is my dream.

During a few hours of downtime this week, I sat down to rewatch the documentary Listen to Me, Marlon, using personal recordings and home films from Marlon Brando. At several points he waxes on about the “value” of an actor, both in terms of contracted salary as well as how they function in society. In regard to the latter, he says that an actor’s ability to become anything makes them invaluable to people who believe they are only one thing, namely their job. The audience can live vicariously through the actor or curse their actions to the high heavens, but the ability to take an audience member away from their life and stir up such emotions is a skill to be valued.

Sometimes when I wonder what good I’m doing for the world as a writer, actor, and director of theatre, I think back to my first major role: I played Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Actors weren’t exactly the most valued of citizens in Shakespeare’s time and Bottom is part of a troupe of terrible actors who put on shitty shows. But he still finds himself part of a whimsical scheme involving supernatural beings and ends the play bringing joy to newly-married royals with he and his troupe’s terrible performance. Even pawns are valuable in a game of chess.

I look forward to the day when I can fully support my artistic endeavors with an appropriate level of income. Until then, I’ll have fun occasionally playing rich guys since I can’t be one myself.

Charles Lewis III touches on the “work vs. art” theme in his Olympians script.
You can see it tonight 8pm at The EXIT Theatre. Tix are $12 online, $10 at the door.
Raffle prize tix are $5

Hi-Ho The Glamorous Life: What I Did For Love

Marissa Skudlarek shares some thoughts on our impending closure.

By now, you’ve probably heard that Theater Pub will wind down operations after our December show. It’s not a decision that the artistic staff made lightly, but at the same time, it’s a decision they made with no regrets and no sense of heartbreak. Theater Pub is dying a peaceful, natural death; we’re not looking for a miracle to “save” us and, in fact, we might not accept it if it was offered.

Indeed, we really don’t want people to see our closure announcement and spin it into some story about how The Arts Are Dying In The Bay Area Because It’s Too Expensive Here. Maybe that’s true for some arts organizations that have had to shut down, but not for us. Nor do we feel like our passing will leave an un-fillable hole in the local theater scene. Contrary to popular belief, “there are a lot more opportunities and venues in the Bay Area today than there used to be,” as Meg Trowbridge wrote.

When we posted our closure announcement on a Bay Area theater message board, a local theater patron reacted with concern and alarm. He offered to set up a GoFundMe page if that would allow us to “stick around.” As I said, we want to nip this narrative in the bud, so Stuart Bousel gave me the go-ahead to reply to the man. This is what I wrote:

“I’m a longtime Theater Pub attendee/writer/producer/blogger/actor and friend of the Pub’s current leadership, Stuart Bousel, Meg Trowbridge, and Tonya Narvaez. We appreciate your concern and your desire to keep art alive in the Bay Area, but as Stuart and Meg and Tonya wrote in their post, money has very little to do with why we have decided to end Theater Pub. Theater Pub was never going to be a full-time, quit-your-day-job career for any of us. We are indie theater artists juggling a lot of responsibilities (both theater-related and not), and after many years of hard work to produce a new show in a bar every single month — not an easy task! — we want to concentrate on other projects, other ways of making art, other things in our lives. None of us are quitting theater or leaving the Bay Area — on the contrary, I think we’re all busier than ever! So Theater Pub, the institution/organization, is going away, but WE, the artists, are not going away. The friendships and connections we have made, the skills we have learned, are not going away. It may sound strange, in a capitalistic age in a crazy expensive city where nearly every conversation turns to money, but the reason we’re ending Theater Pub isn’t about the money, it’s about the art.”

Meanwhile, this Medium post by Jeff Lewonczyk about why he gave up making indie theater in New York, has been making the rounds. As I said, for the time being, none of the core Theater Pub folks are planning to give up theater the way that Lewonczyk has. But I also think that we all understand his sentiments and don’t blame him in the least. There comes a time to step away from things, thoughtfully but without regrets.

As Stuart, Meg, and Tonya wrote in the title of their joint post, “autumn is a time to say goodbye.” Many of the Theater Pub usual suspects are also involved with the San Francisco Olympians Festival, which begins in just a few weeks and whose theme this year is myths of death and the underworld. But at least for me, looking at death through a Greek-myth framework means seeing it as inevitable, and necessary, and possibly peaceful. (The mythological figure I’m writing about this year is Macaria, Persephone’s daughter and the goddess of peaceful death.) It means thinking about the cyclical nature of things; how Persephone goes to the underworld for half the year, but she is never lost down there forever.

And in the meantime, we’re ending Theater Pub with a show about a ghost (September), a show about a gravedigger (October), King Lear (November), and, finally, a musical celebration/funeral/wake. Because we’re theater people, and we know how to end things.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. See the staged reading of her new play Macaria, or The Good Life at the Olympians Festival on October 14.

In For A Penny: Accepting New Membership

Charles Lewis III, on long term goals and short term contributions.

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“What is true of creed is no less true of nationality. There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, Address to the Knights of Columbus (1915)

Now that the cat’s outta the bag, I thought about following up Meg, Tonya, & Stuart’s recent entry with my own reminiscence about what the ‘Pub has meant to me and what I think will happen when it’s gone. I’m going to hold off on that for three specific reasons: 1 – with a few more months to go, it hasn’t actually ended yet; 2 – I wrote a good-bye piece the first time the ‘Pub “died”, and the new one I’m thinking of shouldn’t be repetitive (which it won’t – I’ve already started it and it’s a bit heartbreaking); and 3 – I’ve also been thinking about just precisely how the ‘Pub has made a positive change for the Bay Area theatre scene.

Specifically, I’m thinking about the ‘Pub’s inconspicuous sibling, the Olympians Festival. We held auditions for the latter last week, and are officially cast as of three days ago. As usual, it was an embarrassment of local acting riches. As we pored over more than 100 headshots, resumes, and scheduling calendars, several of us noted just how diverse was this year’s talent pool. I’m pretty sure no year of the fest has been 100% White (especially since I’ve been acting in it since its first year), but there was a noticeable uptick in the number of Black, Latina, and Trans actors auditioning this time. (So much so with the latter that a gender-specific direction had to be modified halfway through auditions.) And yes, we were all delighted by this.

Yet we’d have been remiss not to mention how we wished for it be even more diverse and to see such casting all over the Bay Area. I’ve mentioned before in this column that I once had to use an Indian actor in my play because there were no young Black actors auditioning; well, this year there were still no (young) Black male actors auditioning. I’ve done lots of work with the SF Opera, whose technical crew has recently added lots of younger members, many of them women and people of color. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been as much diversity with the faces on-stage, much of it quite noticeable (at age 35, I may be the youngest regular supernumerary and one of the few Black faces).

Yes, yes, it’s that “diversity problem” we all notice and lament, but none of us seem to know how to solve. It’s the sort of thing that makes powerful people declare “There’s no talent in the Bay Area” as they walk past the very folks who just want an opportunity to prove themselves.

By why is it so damn hard to connect talented folks with the people who need them most? One of this year’s Olympians writers mentioned having a difficult time casting for a recent production because the role required a young Black actor to play a Gay character. He said he was unable to find an actor comfortable with the physical affection needed. I understand both sides of that. The first time I had to kiss a guy on stage, it was the result of the director insisting on it and me being caught off-guard before I could object. In hindsight, I’m glad I did it, but I understand the hesitation of a young Black actor – most likely from a Christian household – not wanting to be seen that way in front of friends and family.

On the other hand, I think of all the young Black actors who already have the fearlessness I had to work on to get. I also frequently find myself frustrated with the Black actors I know who are incredibly talented and fearless, save for one area: they won’t leave the comfort zone of Black theatre. I know this because I’m constantly egging them on to audition for Olympians, see shows at Theater Pub, and just get to know the good folks who put on shows at The EXIT and The Flight Deck. Contrary to popular belief, the dearth of noticeable Black actors in the Bay Area theatre scene isn’t entirely the result of them “go[ing] equity so quickly” (What work do you think they did before they went equity?), nor is it solely a result of them migrating out of the pricey Bay Area (if that’s not true for ALL people, it’s not true for just Black people). Part of the blame also lies at the feet of Black actors not wanting to take the leap outside the Black theatre bubble.

And I understand why. Black theatre offers them something they rarely get outside of it: substantive roles. Why would a Black actor audition for a company that only casts him in a play where he only appears in two scenes, when a Black theatre would likely make him the lead? Why would a Black actress settle for constantly being cast as, at best, the best friend of the young ingénue when a Black theatre would make her the love interest? Why would anyone want to be a company’s token attempt to make their diversity quota when they can just work with a company full of people with similar backgrounds, experiences… and complexions? Even if that company has a notoriously dodgy reputation.

Theatre Bay Area’s 2013 exposé of the Berkeley Black Rep

Theatre Bay Area’s 2013 exposé of the Berkeley Black Rep

I’ve also seen this with Latinx actors who only wanted to work with companies like Campo Santo (whose work was great) and LGBTQ actors who only audition for New Conservatory or Theatre Rhino. It doesn’t mean those theatres should stop putting on shows with these talented performers, but I really wish I didn’t have to go to a specifically themed theatre to find these folks.

At this point you’re probably wondering what this look at the greater Bay Area theatre scene has to do specifically with Theater Pub or Olympians. Simple: exposure. The great thing about Theater Pub performances being free (though the people who donate find a special place in Heaven) is that anyone can show up, and everyone has. Both the show performed and the networking afterward have connected talented folks who may never have even seen one other through regular channels. So many recent grads have gotten their names out through Olympians that I personally think of it as a rite of passage (but that’s just me). These methods work. These methods have been adopted by other local theatre companies. These are valid, legitimate ways to create diversity.

But, at the same time, it’s also up to the people begging for those opportunities to not expect them to simply fall out of the sky. I say that not as a criticism, but from personal experience. Just as I encourage non-PoC to take in shows at Af-Am Shakes, so too do I encourage PoC (and women, LGBTQ, and other such performers) to take that one step forward to getting yourselves seen.

At the very least, you can say you took a chance.

Charles Lewis III will be directing two shows – one of which he wrote – for this year’s SF Olympians Fest. He hopes you’ll come see both of them, as well as the final four Theater Pub shows.

The Real World – Theater Edition: Imagination as Power

The other day I had the good fortune to join local playwright, Veronica Tjioe, in being interviewed by Jovelyn Richards on her radio program, Jovelyn’s Bistro. We talked about the SF Olympians Festival and the plays we were writing as a part of it. I had a fantastic time being a part of the conversation, which you’ll be able to check out on KPFA’s website, under the Cover to Cover archives.

One of Jovelyn’s questions really got me thinking about our role as writers and creators and the power we have to invent new worlds, new language, new characters, relationships, and modes of being. I’m paraphrasing, but she asked our thoughts on the importance of inventing new language and constructing new narratives in order to respond to what we’re not seeing represented. If I could underline, highlight, put in bold, and make 64 font anything, it’d be this idea. And the heart of it, for me, is within the question Jovelyn asked.

As writers (but honestly this could span to the other roles we play as well), it’s more than just the recognition that we have this ability to see and imagine new worlds and possibilities — I would say we have a responsibility to promote and enact them to the fullest of our capacity. And — good news! — if you are creating, dreaming, and envisioning, you are already doing that. Here’s one step further, if you have articulated this vision to another person or written the idea down, you are already working towards implementation. This is a huge step closer to seeing a new possibility as a reality and creating it.

When I started writing plays some of it was a response to things about the world that I found more nuanced than what the mainstream version of that idea was. I see these unspoken rules that are often hypocritical, yet we’re expected to live by them. For instance, with one of the first full length plays I wrote, It’s All in the Mix, I really just wanted to create a play about DJs because I wanted to see that on stage. Rob Handel of CMU would often tell us to write the play you would go see. But in this world I was seeing these rules and ideas that tended to collide and overpower each other.

Everyone can be a DJ if you learn how and pursue it with passion and skill.

Skill and technique talks.

Okay, well, what about women are they good DJs?

I feel like all I hear is no, but I’m a woman and I like DJing so am I doomed to being bad?

Oh, I saw this DJ who’s a woman and she was really good!

But other male friends didn’t think so? Can’t articulate why?

I don’t get it.

For me in this instance, it starts with this feeling like something I’m experiencing isn’t being represented, or is minimized, shut down, and ignored. So I want to test if this is true. I started with using plays in order to see the characters relate to each other and how it unraveled. I’m using gender in this example, but this extends into race, ethnicity, income level, backgrounds and abilities of all types, who you love, what you look like, how you live your life, and what you believe. There is so much out there beyond what has become a standard for a protagonist or story. We just need to create it and if people aren’t going to make it – then we need to help each other make it.

I think now I’m in a different space with writing – I see gaps in what characters or stories the entertainment world and I’m looking to fill that gap if I can. And if I can’t, I want to support someone (or multiple people!) who can. It starts with the recognition that I can do something. One of my gifts may be writing or storytelling. Others have other gifts or other ways they express those gifts. We can all learn so much from each other as we continue to imagine different worlds than what we’re seeing and support each other in making them real.

Barbara Jwanouskos is a local writer. Blog’s over here. THANATOS, the play she is writing with Julie Jigour and directed by Christine Keating, is being read on October 15 at EXIT Theatre in San Francisco.

Incidentally, if you want to put that imagination into practice – check out the SF Olympians Festival’s call for submissions! The Real World – Theater Edition: Imagination as Power

Theater Around the Bay: James Nelson and Neil Higgins of “Beer Culture”

The final performance of the Pint-Sized Plays is tonight at 8 PM and we’re concluding our interview series by talking with writer James Nelson and director Neil Higgins of “Beer Culture”!

“Beer Culture” offers some of the biggest laughs in the 2016 Pint-Sized Plays festival. When San Francisco hipster Annie (Caitlin Evenson) introduces her Stella-drinking Midwestern friend Billy (Paul Rodrigues) to her bow-tied beer-snob friend Charlie (Kyle McReddie), the stage is set for an uproarious satire of hipster snobbery and West Coast microbrew culture.

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Playwright James Nelson knows beer culture.

How did you hear about Theater Pub’s Pint-Sized Play Festival, or if you’re returning, why did you come back?

James: I generally keep tabs on what Theater Pub is up to — they were the first group to welcome me in when I first was starting out in the Bay, and I’ve always admired the volume and variety of work that’s produced! I submitted to Pint-Sized this time because I was out of practice as a playwright, and wanted to use the festival as an excuse to churn something out.

Neil: I came back for the money.

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

James: Establishing a world with rules.

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

James: Honestly, they’re very quick to write. And they let you tell stories that are only interesting for a few pages.

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

Neil: Seeing my actors scream about, and orgasm over, beer.

What’s been most troublesome?

Neil: Scheduling. Dear god, scheduling.

Who or what are your biggest artistic influences?

James: Brian Friel, Peter Shaffer, Martin McDonagh, Anton Chekhov, Street Fighter (1994 film), and Benvenuto Cellini.

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

James: Patrick Stewart. It wouldn’t make any sense but he’s just that good.

Neil: Jesse Eisenberg because he seems like such a douche, which is exactly what my script calls for.

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Director Neil Higgins prefers wine.

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

Neil: When Darren Criss isn’t in town, definitely Megan Cohen.

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

James: I just moved to Indiana to start a MFA in Directing, so I’m knee-deep in grad school at the moment. I do hope I’ll have a chance to write while I’m here — I’ve got a lot of stuff brewing and a school setting is so rich in resources.

Neil: I’m writing for SF Olympians this year, and am directing and acting in Left Coast Theatre’s next show, Left Coast News.

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

James: I don’t want to think about it, I’m gonna cry.

Neil: Seeing if the Llama comes back.

What’s your favorite beer?

James: I’ll give you a top five in no particular order: Evil Twin (Heretic); Brother Thelonious (North Coast); Back in Black (21st Amendment); Wookey Jack (Firestone Walker); and Ruthless Rye (Sierra Nevada). Also, if you like beer but haven’t visited Fieldwork Brewing in Berkeley, you need to go right now. They’re going to be the most important brewery in the Bay Area within a few years.

Neil: Wine.

See the FINAL performance of “Beer Culture” and the rest of the 2016 Pint-Sized Plays tonight at 8 PM at PianoFight!

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!