Everything Is Already Something: Realistic TBA Conference Panel Ideas

Allison Page is clearly looking forward to the TBA conference on Monday.

Berkeley Frappe: Which Theatre Companies Have The Best Snacks

We Hired Only Local Actors for One Year & Our Theater Didn’t Burn to the Ground

The Sarah Rule: How to Produce Plays by Women (But Only if They’re Written by Sarah Ruhl)

How to Take a Selfie Good Enough to Use as a Headshot for Twelve Years

Getting Cast as a Woman Over 40 Without Playing Someone’s Stepmother

Set Designs You Can Repurpose Until They Collapse During a Performance of Man of La Mancha

Faces to Make During Board Meetings When You Want to Perish But Cannot

Audition Waist Trainers: A Roundtable Discussion

Creative Ways to Swear in Front of the Kid Playing Oliver Twist When Nancy Forgets Her Line Again

Pros & Cons: Pretending to be a Man to Get Ahead as an Actor

Fight Choreographers Wrestling Each Other for 90 Minutes

Improvising a Monologue Because You’re Too Lazy to Memorize Even One More Thing, Please God, Please

How to Watch ‘The Bachelor’ During Rehearsal Without the SM Noticing

Do Blondes Really Have More Fun (Playing Girlfriends of the Protagonist)?

Group Nap

Playwright Complaint Circle

Moving From San Francisco to New York to Get Cast in San Francisco

Producing David Mamet Over & Over & Over Again, A Guide

Stage Managing a Show You Hate with People You Hate

How to Perform on a Stage 400 Times Smaller Than This One:

Empty Theater Stage

Empty Theater Stage — Image by © Chase Swift/CORBIS

Showmances: How to End Them…Maybe, But Probably Not

How to Use a Toaster as a Light Board After Yours Gets Stolen for the 9th Time

Payment Negotiation for Actors: Get Two Beers Instead of One for a Three Year Run

Shakespeare for Dummies: Can You Get an Actual Dummy to Replace an Actor in Midsummer Night’s Dream to Save Cash? Yes, You Can.

5 Sexiest Theatre Companies Shut Down This Year Due to Lack of Funding, Hear From the Weeping Artistic Directors Themselves!

Getting Board Members to Stop Asking if You Can Tap Into the Popularity of ‘The Walking Dead’

Can You Get Away With Casting This White Male as Tiger Lily? (THIS IS A TEST)

Stage Manager & Director Speed Dating: Watch 45 Directors Fight Over 3 SMs

Costume Designing on a $6 Budget

Are You Ready to Set Every Show in the Apocalypse?

Allison Page is a writer/actor/director in San Francisco. She’ll be looking for snacks at the TBA Conference and live tweeting it all @allisonlynnpage.

In For a Penny: Casual Setting

Charles Lewis III gets set.

PIC BY CATERS NEWS - The amazing art of LIU Bolin, "THE INVISIBLE MAN " In this series called “Hiding in the City” LIU uses his body as an art medium by hiding himself in different city locations from China to the UK. Liu Bolin was born in 1973 in Shandong, China and graduated from the Sculpture Department of Central Academy of Fine Arts with a master degree.....SEE CATERS COPY

PIC BY CATERS NEWS – The amazing art of LIU Bolin, “THE INVISIBLE MAN “
In this series called “Hiding in the City”
LIU uses his body as an art medium by hiding himself in different
city locations from China to the UK.
Liu Bolin was born in 1973 in Shandong, China and graduated from the Sculpture Department of Central
Academy of Fine Arts with a master degree…..SEE CATERS COPY

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”
Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

It’s interesting to come across American Theatre’s recent article about the use of video projection on stage when our ‘Pub theme for this month is design. In fact, it was after our most recent show, Explore the Trope: Don’t Fall Asleep!, that I got into a conversation pondering the use of projection with live performance in a small bar venue.

Set design has always interested me because it’s one of the areas of theatre over which I’ve never had any sway. Having performed in stadium-sized theatres, countless black box theatres, a few outdoor venues, and one weeklong stint in a hotel room, I often have a hard enough time finding my bearings for each setting. Sure, I’ll secretly admire (or lament) each stage I’m on, but I’m often grateful that I’m not the one who has to decide what it looks like. I just don’t want to fall off of it.

That all changes when I have to direct, but thankfully the mental real estate that would be saved for remembering lines is taken up by wondering what shade of blue walls would best accentuate the scarf the actress brought from home. Having done the majority of my directing in black boxes, it hasn’t been much of a concern; black really does go with everything. Still, I look at my dream projects and I ponder the possibilities of what could be if I had the rights to certain plays and an unlimited spending account. I’d probably wind up doing a production of The Miracle Worker that would like look Mark Romanek and Hype Williams sharing the same fever-dream until they get trapped in it, Inception-style.

Still, it’s fun to imagine what my personal stamp would be on many productions I’ve seen. The simultaneous blessing and curse of an artistic mind is that it’s always working. So when I go to a show and see the greatest actors spout off the most beautiful words with the greatest of ease, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I can be completely distracted by atrocious set design that might as well be called Playskool presents “Baby’s First German Expressionism Play Set”. I’ve seen sets seemingly designed to try and kill the actors – and a few that nearly have. A set designer is an artist and should be encouraged in their sensibilities as much as any artist in the production, but like those other artists, they have to be reined in from time to time. Otherwise you’ll wind up with a crowd scene that’s ruined by an obtrusive set piece that juts out from CS-Right when the actors are supposed to run as if nothing’s there.

I look at the above article and I wonder if a truly if it’s at all possible to one day have what George Lucas called “The Digital Backlot” on stage. Will hologram and projection technology one day advance to a level of such sophistication that the actual building of sets is no longer needed? Would a marathon of the Coast of Utopia trilogy simply require a few keystrokes to put the actors in 19th Century Russia? Will someone one day do a production of Our Town in which we actually see Grover’s Corner and watch it transition through the years (which would miss the point of staging that play, but still…)? I kinda doubt it, but never say never.

I need to do laundry, so I’ve been wearing the same shirt for the past few days. It’s a black tee with the psychedelic likeness of Jimi Hendrix on the front. The short sleeves are stained with white paint. The paint is from when I was asked help build the set of a local production a few years ago. It was opening night with an 8pm curtain and I was asked to come in around noon to help with… everything. I mean walls needed to be hammered, doors needed to be hinged, and yes, everything needed to be painted. Since I knew the cool tech people in the show, I agreed and we finished juuuuuuust before the House Open. It’s one of those incidents that reminds me of why I love theatre: for an art form based around playing Make Believe, there’s something about the tangible that can’t be replaced.

I’ve seen shows that made subtle-but-effective use of projection and I’ve seen some that were garishly showing off. Like all technology it’s a tool; less defined by its use so much as how it’s used. Off hand, I can’t think of many potential shows were I’d want to use it, but it’s nice to know that it’s an option. ‘Til then, I’ll just admire the countless hours of labor spent building walls to make me believe I’m somewhere other than a theatre.

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: Women in Tech(nical Theater)

Marissa Skudlarek gets technical. 

When I was in college, all theater majors had to take a half-credit course introducing them to the fundamentals of stagecraft. The course covered such items as terminology, safety, and rigging; and culminated in everyone in the group having to construct a flat.

Our instructor for this course was a gruff old technician and lighting designer a few years from retirement. He had a reputation for being tough as nails, all the more so because he had recently survived falling seven feet into our concrete-floored orchestra pit and breaking half the bones in his body. He proudly told us that he was a member of Local 1 of IATSE, the premiere branch of the international stagehands’ union, though he also told us stories suggesting that IATSE is a nepotistic old boys’ club.

The class was mostly freshmen (though I took it as a sophomore) and, as drama classes at liberal-arts schools are wont to be, mostly female. And our instructor seemed at times to resent that this was where his life had taken him: here he was, a member of IATSE Local 1, teaching the rudiments of stagecraft to a lot of teenage girls who were only taking the course because it was required.

Many of us in the class had never done tech before – so it would’ve been the perfect opportunity for an enthusiastic instructor to show us what we were missing, to get us excited about everything that goes on backstage. But instead of encouraging us, our instructor seemed to judge and dismiss us out of hand. He never said or did anything overtly sexist (you can’t get away with that at a former women’s college), but his actions and attitudes suggested that technical theater is the domain of men, not of women.

I left the course feeling, more than ever, that if I wanted to learn more about scenery or lighting, I’d have to become “one of the boys.” I’d have to be tougher than the average woman. I’d have to work twice as hard to get half as much recognition. None of these things come naturally to me.

Maybe my instructor was giving me a good dose of Realpolitik. It probably isn’t easy to be a woman in technical theater, so perhaps he was right not to coddle us. But one of the reasons to go to a former women’s college in a bucolic setting is to learn new things in a forgiving, supportive environment. And as I produce a play of my own this summer and work closely with designers for the first time in my theater career, my dearest wish is that I knew more about the craft of design.

And I wish I hadn’t been so intimidated, back in college. I wish that I hadn’t let antiquated ideas about masculinity and femininity hold me back from learning and exploring. I wish I’d understood that femininity is not an all-or-nothing proposition: I should be able to wear steel-toed boots and grubby jeans to build sets during the day, and change into a minidress and heels to go to a party at night, and no one should think less of me for either outfit, either activity.

I still feel insecure when dealing with designers, aware that they have specialized knowledge that I lack – and one of the most difficult elements of producing has been surmounting these insecurities. My stagecraft instructor might have treated me like a naïve young girl; I wish I hadn’t let that treatment convince me that I really was a naïve young girl.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright, producer, and arts writer. Find more about her play Pleiades, opening this August, at pleiadessf.wordpress.com, and follow her on Twitter @MarissaSkud.