Announcing The Very Last Theater Pub Show!

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Theater Pub’s final show is a way to give back to the community that’s supported us through the years.

Though we normally do a musical sing along, this year we’ve decided to open up the show for anyone who wants to perform a song and lead the audience in one more night of theater and revelry. This year’s line up includes Martin Bell, Andrew Chung, Cory Clar, Clare Eullend, Edward Garcia, Charlie Gray, Sara Judge, Dan Kurtz, Carl Lucania, Juliana Lustenader, Tonya Narvaez, Katie Nix, Rob Ready, Casey Robbins, Marissa Skudlarek, Leah Shesky, Gabbi Traub, Meg Trowbridge, Red Velvet, McPuzo and Trotsky, and Fat Chance Belly Dance! 

The People Sing ONE NIGHT ONLY at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street):

Monday, December 19 @ 8:00pm

As always, admission is FREE, with a $10 donation suggested at the door. All funds raised will be donated to the ACLU.

No reservations required, but we get there early to get a good seat and enjoy PianoFight’s full bar and delicious dinner menu. Remember to show your appreciation to our hosts

See you at the Pub!

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Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Around the World with Life and Art

Marissa Skudlarek is tramping around Oxford, sending us missives of wisdom.

I embark on my longest vacation in several years, two full weeks, three wonderful cities: New York and then Paris and then Oxford. I pack light, but I do bring my laptop; despite my best efforts, there are some writing projects I need to finish, some tasks I must carry with me across the ocean.

My New York theater critic friend tells me that for a writer, there is no such thing as a non-working vacation.

Around eleven at night, my fourth day in Paris, I burst into tears due to guilt at time slipping away without me working on my writing, then dry my eyes and go to “Paris’s #1 Philosophical-Café” to sip linden-blossom tea and write for an hour before they close.

I do get some writing done when I’m in New York. I take my laptop to Shakespeare and Company on the Upper East Side (not to be confused with the more famous Parisian bookstore of the same name) and drink an iced tea and immerse myself in my work for two hours. “You’ve been here a long time! Writing the Great American Novel?” a man asks as I get up to leave. “The Great American Play, actually,” I say. He introduces himself as the theater editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: “the oldest newspaper in New York. Walt Whitman was our first editor!”

I give the man my card and think about how none of that encounter would ever have happened in San Francisco.

Before I leave for vacation, my friends at PianoFight make a video taking The Bold Italic to task for proclaiming that there are no artists left in San Francisco. I laugh, I love it, I post it on social media. I am deeply invested in the idea that there is wonderful art being made in San Francisco and that this can continue. But sometimes I wonder if I am fooling myself, being blindly optimistic instead of realistic.

I see a beautiful production of La ménagerie de verre, that is, The Glass Menagerie, for fifteen euros. When it’s over, we applaud so much our arms and hands ache; we make the actors take five curtain calls. This is par for the course at French theater productions. The profession of the actor is noble in any society, but it seems so much nobler, so much more respected, in France.

I follow Rue Racine to the Place de l’Odéon, location of one of Paris’s oldest theaters, noting that there are an awful lot of gendarmes in the vicinity, only to discover that the Odéon has been occupied by theater artists and stagehands who are protesting cuts to their unemployment insurance.

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Sara Judge, Empress of On the Spot, comments that we ought to do the same thing in this country. I say “First we would actually need job security in order to protest when they try to remove it.” Touché, says Sara.

I overhear a Quebecois theater director, looking very much the Europhile artist in stylish scarf and overcoat, talking about his career while I have lunch at a French café.

I overhear some French youths loudly discussing art and sex over beers, as French youths, or really all youths, are wont to do. “I’m getting busy with Amandine,” says one. “No, you’re getting busy with your ass!” says the other. My back to them, I listen, I take notes, I swell with delight at understanding their slangy French gossip.

Over Shake Shack burgers in Madison Square Park, an Irish fantasy novelist tells me that in Ireland, writers and artists and musicians don’t have to pay tax on the money they earn from their artistic endeavors unless it’s over 50,000 euros a year.

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Outside Shakespeare and Company on the banks of the Seine, I meet another Irishwoman, a screenwriter, whose government has awarded her a fellowship to study and research for three weeks in Paris.

I meet a bearded Englishman about my own age who’s been happily living the expat life in Paris for the last seven years, writing and editing and running a theater festival.

I mentally review my own family tree and what I know about the immigration laws of various countries. Could I get European citizenship through a distant ancestor?

I think about how it seems like everyone I know in San Francisco has a well-defined escape plan in their back pocket for when they inevitably get evicted by a greedy landlord, and how over the last year or so, I’ve started to feel like an anomaly because I lack such a plan.

I wonder if those vague daydreams of getting European citizenship are actually the beginnings of my own back-pocket escape plan.

I see how many translated books are displayed for sale in the Paris bookshops, and think with envy of all the French people who can thereby earn a living as literary translators.

I stroll up and down the streets of Paris, the wide avenues lined with Haussmann limestone buildings six or seven stories tall, and think about how everyone always freaks out about building taller buildings in San Francisco (“Don’t turn it into Manhattan!”). But what if we could turn it into, not Manhattan, but Paris?

I think about how when I return to San Francisco, I’ll return to my nasty, petty habit of mentally demolishing any one-story building I see and imagining a five-story housing complex built in its place.

I stop and look at listings in the windows of real estate agents. Despite the dollar-to-euro or dollar-to-pounds exchange rate, the prices seem amazingly reasonable – or have I merely been living in the San Francisco real estate bubble for too long? A room in a shared flat for $750 a month. A three-bedroom Oxford house for $2000 a month. A small Paris one-bedroom, yours outright for $325,000.

The brick houses of Oxford are smaller and narrower and cozier than the painted ladies of San Francisco, but most of them have bay windows, too.

Paris Métro trains come, on average, every five minutes, and I nearly always get a seat, even when I take the busiest segment of the busiest line at rush hour.

San Francisco friends message me to say that a horrible breakdown on the N Judah ruined everyone’s commute. They invite me to feel schadenfreude, and I do, but I also start dreading, truly dreading, going back to BART and MUNI.

My friend Sunil Patel, a Twitter demi-celebrity with friends in every corner of the world (it’s because of him that I had that burger with that Irish novelist), “has a nice moment” with Lin-Manuel Miranda at a book signing. I giggle to myself on a late-night, near-empty Métro train when I see Sunil’s and LMM’s tweets about this momentous encounter. I remember that good things happen and people are doing good work in the USA as well.

My friend Lily Janiak is announced as the new lead theater critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and again, I remember that despite the many difficulties facing the theater business and the journalism business, sometimes we do get nice things.

In a hipster café on the Cowley Road in East Oxford, a young man tells a friend that his band has been invited to play at a BBC Introducing gig.

In an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, another young man tells some friends about his attempts to make it as an indie rock artist and to recruit a sought-after young drummer for his band.

I try to remember when’s the last time I overheard such a conversation in San Francisco at a venue that wasn’t PianoFight.

A San Francisco friend messages me to say that she overheard two cute French people talking in a Hayes Valley café, but they were discussing how to get venture capital funding for a startup.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. For more: marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

Theater Around The Bay: Announcing ON THE SPOT 2016!

Announcing our next show!

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SF Theater Pub presents ON THE SPOT 2016, this March! Six playwrights, six directors, and twenty-five actors gather on March 12th to begin the process of creating six original plays, on the spot. Artists are randomly grouped into teams, and given a super secret prompt. This year our prompt is provided by an undercover well-known Bay Area theater artist, to be unmasked only after the plays have been written. Each team receives the same prompt. Teams circle up to discuss, and get to know each other. Ice-breaker questions will be provided to help ignite creative energy. After the meeting, playwrights head out into the late afternoon to write a play using the prompt, and using inspiration from their actors to tailor characters just for them. Plays are handed in the next day, March 13th, by noon. Teams have one week to fully produce their short plays, which open at PianoFight on March 21st at 8PM.

Our six playwrights have been selected. Congratulations Pat Morin, Bill Hyatt, Christine Keating, Charles Lerrigo, Madeline Puccioni, and Gabriel Leif Bellman!

35 artists, one tenacious prompt, 6 diverging plays, 5 rousing rehearsals, 4 glorious performances!

ON THE SPOT plays four performances at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street):

Monday, March 21 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, March 22 @ 8:00pm
Monday, March 28 @ 8:00pm
Tuesday, March 29 @ 8:00pm

As always, admission is FREE, with a $10 donation suggested at the door. No reservations required, but we suggest getting there early to get a good seat and remember to show your appreciation to our hosts at the bar!

Come early to PIANOFIGHT to try out their great dinner menu!

See you at the Pub!

Get there early to enjoy PianoFight’s full bar and menu!

Theater Around the Bay: All the Theater Pub News that’s Fit to Print

Marissa Skudlarek is wearing her news-reporter fedora (and not her columnist cloche) this Thursday.

The year is still young but it’s already been very kind to Theater Pub and many of its affiliated artists.

Theater Pub in the media!

Writer Beth Spotswood and photographer Gabrielle Lurie attended the penultimate performance of The Morrissey Plays and then wrote this wonderful feature article about it for the San Francisco Chronicle! We’re thrilled that Theater Pub is now described, in print in the local paper of record, as “creating an atmosphere more reminiscent of 1960s Greenwich Village than 2016 Tenderloin” and targeting “pop-culture-savvy, intellectually snooty theater kids.”

Travel bloggers Shine and Isis of Let’s Go Travel Show, a new web series, attended January’s Saturday Write Fever and filmed it for inclusion in their series! We haven’t seen the footage yet, but keep an eye out on their web page http://www.letsgotravelshow.com/.

Theater Pub artists creating new work!

The Custom Made Theatre Co. has just announced the writers participating its inaugural Undiscovered Works play-development program, and three of them have Theater Pub ties: Dan Hirsch (author of “Shooter,” Theater Pub’s contribution to the 2013 Bay One-Acts Festival), Marissa Skudlarek (longtime Theater Pub columnist and “Pint-Sized Plays” tsarina), and Kirk Shimano (author of Theater Pub’s shows “Love in the Time of Zombies” and the upcoming “Portal: The Musical”). Congratulations!

Meanwhile, the three women writing plays for the 2016 Loud and Unladylike Festival, which commissions new works about lesser-known historical women, also have Theater Pub connections: Skudlarek once again, plus “Hit By A Bus Rules” columnist Alandra Hileman, and Artistic Director Tonya Narvaez. More info is available at http://loudandunladylike.com/. Remember that Tonya is also writing and directing our February show, the Lisa Frank fantasia Over the Rainbow!

Opportunities for actors and directors!

Theater Pub founder, Stuart Bousel, will be holding auditions on February 24 and 25 for his production of Paradise Street by Clive Barker, which is happening at the EXIT Theatre (co-hosts of Saturday Write Fever) in December 2016. This is an especially good opportunity for actors who’ve been working on their British Isles accents — the play features Liverpudlian, Cockney, Scottish, Irish, and time-traveling Elizabethan characters! 5 roles for men and 4 roles for women are available. For more information and to sign up for an audition slot: https://www.facebook.com/events/513349952159221/.

Sooner in time and closer to home, our own Sara Judge is still seeking actors and directors who are interested in being a part of Theater Pub’s March show, On the Spot! This is our twist on the ever-popular “24-hour theater festival.” Writers have 24 hours to write a ten-minute play based on a given prompt, actors rehearse with a director for just one week, and the show performs at PianoFight on March 21, 22, 28, and 29! For more information and to sign up: https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/how-to-get-involved/.

Theater Around The Bay: Looking Back/Looking Forward At ON THE SPOT

Sara Judge, Empress of “On the Spot” and Co-creator/Director of November’s “I Like That” recaps her year with Theater Pub, and weighs in on the violence of theater-making.

It was around this time last year that I found out Theater Pub was preparing to rise from the ashes. I jumped at the opportunity to rejoin this group of friends and artists I had come to know so well in the earlier years of TP at Cafe Royale. In a way, I was in the process of rising from the ashes too—isn’t early motherhood one of Dante’s 9 circles of hell? (Well fuck you then.) I was coming out of those critical early months (17 months to be exact) that were a real struggle for me.

As is his generous way, Stuart met my enthusiasm with the gift of opportunity. He invited me to meet with the newly appointed Artistic Director, Meg Trowbridge to talk about the upcoming season. Meg and I worked together on my very first TP project in 2010. Here we were almost five years later, talking Theater Pub, this time with a history as friends and colleagues and a sense of purpose looking forward. Meg gave me a couple projects to run with!

In July, Stuart called a meeting to talk about Theater Pub 2016. By this time I had been given the title, “Empress of On The Spot,” which in my world, is every girl’s dream—to be crowned an “Empress?” Even if only to a handful of people, and mostly online. The meeting lasted a few hours. The first person I saw there was, Marissa, “Pint Sized Tzarina” wearing a classic t-shirt that said, “I am a Llama.” I’ve always admired Marissa for her smarts, her writing on theater in SF, and for her excellent sense of style. I gave Charles Lewis III a big hug. Stuart was cooking bacon, adorable and welcoming. World famous Meg Cohen sat quietly, waiting for the meeting to start. I said hello to her and secretly wanted to sit next to her, but I sat two seats away. (I try to play it cool around my artistic heroes.) A handsome guy I never met came up to me and told me I had taken his seat. (So I got to sit next to Meg after all.) I also finally got to meet the talented comedienne starlet, Allison Page, in person. I introduced myself to her and she shook my hand kindly and said something like, “Who are you, and what are you doing here?” in a lovely disarming way that only she (and maybe a few others) can get away with. I fell in love with Sam Bertken because of his amazing sense of humor, good looks, and very apparent talent. There were a lot of other wonderful smart talented folks I didn’t know. Stuart talked—a lot—and by the end of the meeting I wanted to vote for Stuart, for Mayor, Governor, President, and King.

The thing I admire most about Stuart as a Director, and in this case, Executive Director, is his ability to articulate without an obvious burden of what others might think or who he might offend. He says what others are thinking but are afraid to say. And the truth, however painful, always comes out around Stuart. Not the truth like, “Was this play any good?”—you can bet his answer is “Well, first of all…(insert lots of words and opinions here).” But like, when it comes to social dynamics, working relationships, and what is being unsaid between collaborators. I find it unnerving and comforting at the same time.

Stuart led a great meeting. Theater Pub was back on and cohesive, fully staffed, with a great group of people. I felt full of purpose walking back down the Castro hills and stepping down hidden staircases, into my wild city. I felt part of something pretty damn cool.

In September we started production on “I Like That,” a play I co-created with Gabriel Leif Bellman, one of the greatest writers of our time. And I’m not just saying that because he is the father of my child. Gabriel is a genius. And it’s okay to say that in SF because SF is a city full of geniuses. It’s akin to calling someone “hot” in LA. We wrote “I Like That” in 2009 and he told me to put it onstage. I told him he was crazy and the play was a train wreck. I put it in the drawer. I read it a few times over the years and changed some things around, and thought, “meh.” I read it in 2014 and thought, “This play is incredible and it was ahead of its time in 2009. That’s why I didn’t get it.” We workshopped it, Gabriel gave it several treatments, and then, once Theater Pub agreed to take a chance on us, I slipped back into believing it was a train wreck. I had no idea how we would get this play off the page and at the same time have anyone at all interested in watching it. Lots of experience with doubt helped me keep the faith.

Another miracle for “I Like That”—we pulled together some of the best actors I have ever worked with. Each actor was a total pro and fully committed to the project. After our first table read, I felt assured that yes, this was a special text, and this was going to be a transcendent process. And it was. Everyone involved in “I Like That” gave more than they walked into rehearsal with. We were an ensemble. We were connected. And we felt like we were doing something groundbreaking and sacred. And we were. I am not the same person I was before that production. I know more about myself, and I am full of gratitude for the actors, and the opportunity to put on my play.

And this is one of the reasons I love the kind of theater we do. There’s opportunity in the face of so many limitations—no money, no real stage, pillars blocking sightlines, and we’re in a bar full of people. None of that even matters. The only thing that exists to the audience when things go right, is the work, the actors, the text. Our limitations as theater-makers are where we jump beyond what we ever believed we were capable of.

“To be articulate in the face of limitations is where the violence sets in. This act of necessary violence, which at first seems to limit freedom and close down options, in turn opens up many more options and asks for a deeper sense of freedom from the artist.” -Anne Bogart, theater director and found of SITI Company

Another one of my artistic heroes, Anne Bogart, believes every action in creating theater is an act of violence—making a decision, a gesture, moving a chair a little to the left onstage. Giving actors blocking is violence. And she’s so right. Once you make a choice in theater, all other choices suffer a death. You create limitations when you make decisions. But the beauty is in how limitations contain us, and in that containment we are free to meet them, disturb them, and transcend them.

Which brings me to my last topic—As Empress, I’m producing On The Spot 2016, Theater Pub’s version of the 24 hour play festival (but with more rehearsal time and 4 performances)! What I love most about these festivals are the imposed limitations in the theater-making process. Not only do you have to write a short play in a handful of hours, you are randomly paired with a director and a group of actors, and you are given prompts that you haven’t chosen. All of these limitations invite you to explore new territories of your imagination. For OTS 2016 I want to focus on how these limitations can be enhanced. How we can open doors to more freedom in the writer’s mind. I want to work with writers open to using the limitations of the givens (actors, director, and prompts) to propel their creative process. I want to focus on how limitations can enhance the experience of a director who must make choices and let go of other possibilities in a short and condensed rehearsal process. I want actors to revel in the containment of a play written just for them, and commit to finding freedom within that containment. Look for our call for writers, directors and actors next month. Let’s get violent!

Theater Around The Bay: WHAT THESE TWO ARTISTIC DIRECTORS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THEATER PUB WILL BLOW YOUR MIND AND YOUR PANTS

The AD interview you’ve all been waiting for: Tonya Narvaez and Meg Trowbridge ask the tough questions.

MT       Are you as uncomfortable using the title Artistic Director as I am? Do you say it in a funny voice like I do?

TN        I’ve totally been able to say it! But I think that’s because I started the year blissfully unaware of what it meant. I definitely do try to say it as quickly as possible, because if I take my time announcing my title it feels like it’s going to make me seem self-important and bore the other person to actual death.

MT        Like, for real, I can’t say it in a straight voice. My go-to voice is pretty muppet-ish. Hopefully after a few more productions it will roll off my tongue with a little more grace and authority.

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I’m Artistic Director for San Francisco Theater Pub – wocka wocka wocka!

TN        How are Theater Pub shows of today different than in years past?

MT        Well, to start, PianoFight’s space is a completely different beast than Royale. This year’s shows have only scratched the surface for ways we can utilize the bar space. Also, all of our shows having four performances is radically different. Theater Pub used to be a pop-up event and now we have 12 mini-productions. I feel like the last four shows we produced were where we started taking more risks and hitting our stride.

TN        I completely agree. We’ve had a bigger focus on new work as well! We still include classical work in the year, which is always relevant to the here and now. But overall, our work has been coming straight from the community.

MT       What has been your best moment this year?

TN        Honestly, there have been great moments throughout, but I have to say my best moment this year was the last performance of February’s H/D: A Symphonic Romance in Space. It was the first show I put on as AD, as well as the first Theater Pub show I’d ever written or directed. I was constantly worried that I’d forgotten some major component. I also changed the staging before almost every show because I was still learning how to work in the space. In the end, a lot of friendly faces showed up to the last night and it felt like all the pieces really came together. It had a tiny spark of that Theater Pub magic.

 

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Beautiful art for H/D: A Symphonic Romance in Space by Cody Rishell

MT        I loved each show I worked on (I allowed myself to sing U2 in a show – it’s been a good year), but I loved seeing the bond between the cast of I Like That. Sara Judge did her magic and brought this cast together to perform a very ambitious script. The play was wonderful, but I enjoyed watching the cast interact, hang out after the shows, and message each other funny inside jokes on Facebook even more. I had very little to do with this, BT-dubs.

 

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Meg Trowbridge casts a spell on the Theater Pub audience with her singing in Good Craic

TN        Any surprises about how the year played out?

MT        I think we both felt, at times, that this year was a bit “seat-of-our-pants.” So, I was surprised to look back and see a pretty well balanced year of programming. We had comedy, drama, one-acts, experimentation on stage, and a ton of new work. I think it set a tone for our 2016 season to be ambitious and varied – and we shall see how that unfolds! How about you?

TN        Yes, I feel like every show was full of new surprises! The biggest surprise of all was that we did it and it was good. *High five* But more seriously, we began the year doing 3 performances a month at two venues. One was brunch at The Hall on Market Street. After a couple of shows there, we realized it just wasn’t a good fit for either of us. PianoFight gave us the space to expand our offerings to 4 nights, and thus our current schedule was born. It was a great surprise, because we now have a singular home with roots in the community.

MT       What’s one thing you have learned after putting on four shows?

TN        I’ve learned how to be an AD. Seriously, I learned so many lessons via trial and error this year. It was growing pains. During one show, I took more of a backseat and just let the show happen, asking whether anything was needed along the way. For some shows, that can work. My AD senses weren’t honed enough yet to realize this wasn’t one of those shows. Obviously the show still went on, but it definitely could have gone a lot smoother for all involved if I had a tighter grip on the reins from the start.

MT:       For me, I learned it never gets easier to ask people to donate their time and energy for a stipend that solely depends on the generosity of the audience. Even if we do well, by SFTP standards, it never feels like enough. THANK YOU to all the actors, writers, and directors who put on wonderful shows for love more than anything.

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Thank you to our actors, writers, directors, and fantastic audiences

TN        What has been the hardest part of this year? Stuart already said it’s been a bumpy year so we can be honest here. What sucked?

MT        Well, the first is always the hardest. Putting up On the Spot definitely gave me some grey hairs. There were a lot of moving pieces, and we hadn’t rebuilt our community enough to get the numbers that I wanted. That being said, it went pretty well – sodomizing a youth with a banana and all!

TN        Hah! For me, the hardest part was also one of the most exciting parts. I produced A Wake by Rory Strahan-Mauk, which was unlike anything Theater Pub had ever done before. It was very exciting, but there were some moments where it was unpredictable and it went a bit off the rails! The show happened almost all at the same time and throughout the entire space (the stage, bar, bathroom, and even outside in the Tenderloin). There were so many moving pieces, and so many opportunities for failure, and (as we discovered) so many opportunities for passerby to be confused and think they were witnessing real life instead of a play. We made it through the other side, and the audience was into it overall, but I think the show was definitely ahead of its time for us.

MT       After a year on the job, what’s your dream show for Theater Pub?

TN        This is such a hard question. It’s set up for you to name a play that already exists, and to outline your plan for that play. But I kind of feel like I’m living my best life right now, as far as the plays I want to put on. For February I’m writing a fictional Lisa Frank origin story, Over the Rainbow. In May we have Colin Johnson’s Sticky Icky, a story about slackers holed up in a bar during a societal collapse caused by an infectious strain of marijuana. In September we have Savannah Reich’s amazing comedy Stupid Ghost, which features a ghost dance number. I truly don’t know what else I could want out of 2016.

MT        I know this is my question, but I have no idea. I guess my dream play is a new play for a small cast (2-4 actors, maybe) and maybe it could be in the round? We could put some audience up on stage? I dunno. I think I need to read more books about being an Artistic Director.

TN        What else have you spent your precious time on this year?

MT        Oh man, what was I thinking this year?! I jumped head-first into KML’s madness, and had the pleasure of directing two shows, head-writing two shows, and writing for several. It’s such a fun group of people and I’ve had a blast pulling my hair out balancing that with SFTP. I also wrote a full-length for the Olympians Festival this year and had to balance being a member of the Monday Night Playground pool while Theater Pub was first kicking off. Yeah, 2015 was IN-SANE. Oh, and my improv team Chinese Ballroom are my home away from home. Check out our monthly shows at PianoFight, kicking back up in February!

TN        This year I was Production Manager for DivaFest’s Loud & Unladylike. I’m writing about Christine Jorgensen in this year’s Loud & Unladylike, which will be read at Pianofight in mid-July! I also wrote and directed the opening party play for the San Francisco Olympians Festival. This year I am writing a one-act about Osiris, Cyrus, which will be read at the Exit Theatre on October 21. I also started seeing a therapist again, which I seriously recommend to anyone in the arts.

MT       What are you most excited about for 2016?

TN        I am so excited about our entire year! I look at the lineup and it brings me so much pride and joy. I’m also super stoked to check out Saturday Write Fever, and can’t wait to see what the bloggers have up their sleeves.

MT        I am stoked about all the musicals booked for next season! What has gotten into us?! I’m a musical-geek, so this is basically becoming my dream job. ❤

DRINKS

Here’s to another year

 

Theater Around The Bay: An Interview with I Like That Playwright Gabriel Leif Bellman

Tonight and tomorrow night are your last chance to see I Like That, our November show at PianoFight. We sat down with the playwright Gabriel Leif Bellman, to learn more about this great new play!

This guy fits right in at PianoFight.

This guy fits right in at PianoFight.

TP: Where did the inspiration for this piece come from?

GB: [My partner] Sara [Judge] and I had talked about writing a play together, and it was really her push that created this. One big inspiration was a lot of time thinking and arguing about the most recent generations and how art reaches them. I’m still thinking about it.

TP: How long have you both been working on it?

GB: I guess there are two answers here. One is since the dawn of time and the other is four years. I’m very happy with where it is right now.

TP: What was the writing process like?

GB: Working on a project with another artist as a writer is a real joy. So much of writing is just you and the blank page/screen, so to be able to interact and get feedback from a living breathing human made it a unique process. Sara is a fantastic director. To be able to write something very much without limitations and see her make it come alive is very gratifying. I wrote a lot of things that I didn’t think could be done in live theater, and she figured out how to do them. She’s amazing.

TP: You’ve seen it on its feet twice now at Theater Pub. Any surprises after watching it come to life?

GB: It’s just so incredible to see the impact it has had on audience members. People have been really moved by this play, and it is sort of surprising- because you really never know. I really feel like it’s not my work at this point- but some living breathing mash-up of bodies and music and words. It’s alive. I feel connected to it, but also I’m enjoying it along with everyone else.

As a writer, I never set out to write something for an audience. I always write for myself, for what I’d like to see in my head- so it is nice when something that I find interesting/funny/sad resonates with the audience. I believe sharing work with others is part of the job of being an artist, and once you put material out there it just goes where it will. It doesn’t have to be a positive response either- I don’t actually think that the role of art is to affirm. This piece has been giving people different experiences, and I have my own experiences with it that vary from show to show. It brings up a lot of different things for me, but I don’t believe as an artist I have the right to “explain” what that experience is. I’ve been surprised by the amount of strangers who have come up to me after the shows and are loving on the play. I think it speaks to a hunger for live art and also what an important public service Theater Pub is providing.

If you come to I Like That, you can meet Siri in real life!

If you come to I Like That, you can meet Siri in real life!

TP: You have some famous cameos in the play – do those historical figures have particular significance to you?

GB: I really enjoy “modernity” and many of the characters are icons of modernism, and also they speak to a bohemian ethos that I want San Francisco to hold on to. I’m not totally convinced that there is such a thing as post-modernism, and I wanted to position them alongside that ongoing debate. Each of the characters also has significance to me personally, as I’m sure they do to each of the actors and audience members (even if they don’t realize how). We live in an age of so much information but information is not experience, so bringing these figures out of Wikipedia for a spin felt right.

TP: What is next for you?

GB: Next for me? I have a writing project I’ve almost finished, which is a compilation of short fiction that was mostly published in different literary journals and also a new longer piece that I wrote which is a comedic parody of the type of nonfiction popular social science books that have become accepted as a genre to themselves. The title for that book is “Nonfiction Fiction and Other Fiction” and I hope to finish it by the end of the year. I have another play I’m starting, and a film project, but I don’t like to talk about those things that I haven’t almost finished yet. I believe if you talk about the details of creative projects before you get them close to finished, it fills the same space as writing them would, and then they don’t exist. Also, on December 20, I will have a piece of my writing performed by actors at Stagewerx as part of Action Fiction. I have another one of those in May as well.

I Like That! has two more performances at PianoFight on Nov. 23 & 24 at 8:00pm. $5 suggested donation at the door.