Theater Around The Bay: Executive Director Stuart Bousel Stepping Down

Spring brings changes; Stuart Bousel announces a big one.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

So, today seems like as good a time as any to make an announcement I’ve been meaning to make. My plan was to piggyback off another announcement that I’ve been waiting for, but that news seems delayed, so I’m going to just forge ahead.

As I stated on Facebook few weeks back, I’ve been going to therapy again. This is the result of a combination of things, easily summed up as “Life was getting stressful, had been for quite some time, and I opted not to repeat my mental breakdown of 2007-2008, by preemptively doing something about it instead of waiting to lose my mind first.” As often happens in therapy, organizing one’s thoughts and desires quickly makes apparent that action is sometimes required on multiple fronts if one wants to have a decent shot at thriving over merely surviving, and so it was with me, and is part of what led to this decision, the nutshell of which is: I’m stepping down from Theater Pub.

Now, this won’t happen tomorrow (sorry, would-be successors, be patient). It will happen after the New Year, starting January 1, 2017. I know that seems like a really long time, but due to some I-can’t-yet-say-what circumstances, I’m effectively booked from August through December with other projects, so my artistic involvement with Theater Pub this year was most likely ending with August’s Pint-Sized Plays anyway, though I’m sure I’ll be involved with the musical too, if in a very cameo capacity. Part of the reason why I am stepping down is because I have just hit the maximum amount of hours I can squeeze from a day and blood I can extract from my stone heart. And at the risk of bragging, things don’t look to be slowing down, but rather the opposite, meaning I’ve finally hit a point of having to make some tough decisions and withdraw from various things I love, so I can keep doing other things I love, but also growing and evolving as an artist and as a person.

While we’re on it, I won’t be working the Fringe Festival this year (though I plan to be back next year) and I will be involved in the SF Olympians Festival in a very reduced capacity (though I plan to be back in full force next year). All this is not because I’m taking a vacation, but because other opportunities presented themselves, and after years of saying no to similar opportunities in the name of being a good leader/founder and looking after my various responsibilities, I decided it was time to say yes. And like… see what happens. I love the Fringe, I love SF Olympians, and I love Theater Pub… but it’s important that love be a choice, and not an obligation, lest it grow into resentment. Which sometimes, lately, it has.

We (being myself, Tonya Narvaez, Meg Trowbridge, and Rob Ready) still haven’t actually decided if Theater Pub will continue to exist after January 1st. I sincerely hope it does. I love having helped found and for a long time direct an organization that embodies the best aspects of the Bay Area theater scene, its pluck and creativity and innovation and scrappiness, not to mentioning actually putting the Inclusive back into ‪#‎buzzwordinclusivity‬ ‪#‎tbacon16‬. Hundreds of different artists have passed through Theater Pub in the last seven years, we have debuted a ton of new work, and for many people (writers, actors, directors, etc.) we have been their first venue in the Bay Area, or the place they returned to doing theater after a long hiatus, or the place they finally got to try on a new hat, or try on a theater hat at all. Since our fourth show we have paid everybody who has worked with us, and we have started a handful of Bay Area traditions that have ensured we are a formidable source of experimentation and opportunity. We survived a venue change, a regime change, a restructuring, and in the last year and a half have rebuilt what a lot of people didn’t think could be rebuilt. We are just now starting to hit what I predict will be a new stride, a new golden era for the company, and I do not want that to go away, but it’s a lot of work, occasionally quite thanklessly so, and I’m not going to force it upon someone simply because I no longer feel it’s the right thing for me. If Tonya and Meg decide to keep it going, there are no better people I can imagine to do the job. If they do not, then this year will be a long kiss goodnight. Either way, I’ll be here through December in an administrative and advisory capacity, either to help transition or to help shut everything down.

Marissa Skudlarek will be taking over the blog at the end of the year, so that won’t be going away, though it will probably change, and knowing Marissa, drastically improve. Rest assured, the Stuey Awards will continue, and will be my annual contribution. I’m not leaving the world, just leaving Theater Pub. If the production side of Theater Pub continues I am planning to snag an annual “Legacy Show” for myself to direct once a year, but again, we’ll see on that front. Saturday Write Fever will also continue under my and Megan Cohen’s guidance, though it may become an exclusively EXIT Theatre event, depending on what happens with the rest of Theater Pub. That said, we’re in the process of selecting and training more hosts, so that Jeunée Simon, Andrew Chung, Sam Bertken, and ourselves have a little bit more scheduling flexibility. I’m not the only one with a life, and I know that. And there comes a time in every career where you want to move on, or at least just be able to take a sabbatical.

Anyway, I think that sums it up. Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone who has made Theater Pub special over the years. It’s been a pleasure to serve you.

Except when it hasn’t been. (smiley face)

And just to be clear… this is a totally real announcement.

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

Our final round of recaps from our core blogging team brings you top five lists from Alandra Hileman, Allison Page, and Marissa Skudlarek. Enjoy! And join us for our last blog of the year with The Stueys tomorrow.

Five Underwhelming Behind-the-Scenes Job that Deserve Awards for Surviving 2015 by Alandra Hileman

As someone who regularly gets paid to be as invisible as possible in theatre, I wanted to shine a little light on a few of the unsung heroes of 2015 theatre, both local and global.

1) The Ushers
Look, being an usher is such a massively underrated job that, below a certain operating budget, most places either use community volunteers or ask technicians/theatre staff to double-up on their other duties to do it. And true, usually it’s an incredibly boring task of helping patrons remember the alphabet. But sometimes you get weird situations like the infamous incident at Broadway’s Hand to God in July where a patron climbed on stage to attempt to charge a cell phone in the fake scenic outlet. And that is when the ushers, like true theatre-ninjas, swoop in en masse to preserve the sanctity of the show. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean. I salute you, ushers!

2) The Prompters
I think very few of my fellow stage managers will disagree when I say being on book for actors in that weird nebulous time between “first day with no script in hand” and “opening night” is one of the worst parts of the job. Line notes are tediously painful. But, it’s a necessary part of the process…or at least it was until this year, when apparently everyone just gave up trying and just wore earpieces so they could be prompted when they went up. Guys, what happened? I get that this happens sometimes in previews; I’ve been on book during previews of local shows, but the entire run, folks? Well, regardless on me feelings about the overall practice, my hat is off to the invisible voices on the other end of the earpiece who are, apparently, just as responsible for keeping the show going as the big-name star who graces the marquee.

3) The Managers
Has Rob Ready slept this year? When was the last time Natalie Ashodian saw her house? How long has Stuart Bousel been working his way through Great Expectations? There are hundreds more folks in the SF Bay Area, and all over the country, who I could shout out for taking on the very unsexy titles of administrator, coordinator, production manager, program director, and other boring-sounding things that have to do with Excel spreadsheets and web design and mountains of paperwork, and all so that beautiful, fascinating, innovative art can blossom in spite of everything working against theatre right now, and in so doing have paved the way for the upward swing

4) The Techblr Community
Did you know that there’s a huge community of stage managers, designers, and technicians on Tumblr? While it’s not a “job” per se, one of the things that is the most amazing about the folks who use this tag is how willing they are to dive in and help each other out. Possibly the coolest coming together of the tech theater community I’ve ever seen have been instances where a frantic high school student makes a post begging for help with how to rig a prop, or run a certain kind of light board, and dozens of professional theatre worked have joined forces to offer help and advice.

5) The Bloggers
My 5th award was always going to be to “the guy who films so many of the #Ham4Ham shows,” because those tiny snippets of silliness are full of joy and talent and delight, and the fact that somebody is filming them and putting them on YouTube fills my West Coast grounded heart with warm fuzzies. But then, as I was scrolling mindlessly through Twitter, I happened to discover that one of the primary sources of these delightful Broadway nuggets is actually none other than Howard Sherman, currently director of the new Arts Integrity Initiative at the New School for Drama, Senior Strategy Director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts in New York, and one of the most influential theatre advocates in the country, who is very well known for his blog. And I realized that the theatre bloggers of the world do deserve a shout-out, because most of us will never be as famous as Mr. Sherman, but we do it anyway, just so we can share out thoughts, insights, advice, opinions and love of this crazy world of the stage. Sometimes only one person may read a post…but sometimes our post is the only review a show gets, or serves as a reminder to that one read why they love theatre. And I think that’s pretty cool.

5 Things I Can See From My Couch That Remind Me Of This Year In Theater by Allison Page

It’s the end of the year, and most theaters wrapped something up around Christmas, and will start something new up in January. It’s a time to sit on your couch and think about the past year. And if you’re me, and who says you aren’t, you might be parked in your apartment, looking around at the things you haven’t taken care of. In honor of the theatrical downtime at the end of 2015, here are 5 things I can see from my couch that remind me of my year in theater:

1) A BOTTLE OF SRIRACHA MY BOYFRIEND LEFT ON THE COFFEE TABLE
Sriracha is a hot sauce many people are pretty dedicated to. It goes well on/with a number of things: tacos, pad thai, soup, dips, sandwiches, or if you’re my boyfriend, just slathered on some bread. What does this errant bottle of Sriracha remind me of? Easy. Megan Cohen’s THE HORSE’S ASS & FRIENDS, which I saw just a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it might even remind me of Megan’s work in general: always a good idea, no matter the vehicle.

2) A DIRTY PLATE WHICH USED TO INCLUDE FRENCH TOAST
2015 was, by far, the craziest, busiest year of my theatrical life. I counted myself as a produced playwright for the first time, in March. By the end of the year, I was involved in some way or another with 19 different productions, as producer, director, actor, writer, artistic director, or some combination of those titles. So there have literally been a lot of dirty plates in my apartment, because I didn’t have time to clean them. Worth it.

3) THREE BOTTLES OF CONTACT SOLUTION ON MY TV STAND
I’ve seen a lot of stuff this year. A LOT of stuff. Having been an adjudicator for the TBA awards allowed/forced me to see stuff I would never have seen otherwise. I went to a kids’ show. I went to some theatres for the first time EVER. I saw comedies, dramas, shows with expensive sets, shows without any sets, period pieces, modern tales, and it was an eye opening experience because it reminded me of the variety the Bay Area actually has. I think we forget that sometimes. It was a good reminder.

4) A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS TREE
Simple. Humble. Has a button you can push to play Charlie Brown Christmas music. Not big and showy. Not overcomplicated. Flashy though, in its way. Gloriously brilliant when the timing is just right. Gets to the point: HERE IS A SMALL TREE. YOU WILL LOVE THIS SMALL TREE. It does what it does and it does it well. That’s how I feel about the parts of the theater community that sometimes aren’t considered theater, ya know, by idiots. The Bay Area has a steadily growing community of improv and sketch performers and companies. We (yeah, I’m saying we) perform in traditional and non-traditional spaces alike. Great, big, beautiful theaters and teeny tiny stages meant for one person with a guitar. From Endgames to The Mess to BATS to Killing My Lobster (had to) to every small group of people who took one class together and then created their own thing in a basement, there has been significant growth in the last several years, and with the opening of PianoFight, there are more stages to occupy than ever. Here’s to the scrappy people with stick-on mustaches and open hearts, sometimes performing well after everyone’s gone to bed. Keep pushing that button.

5) A STACK OF BIOGRAPHIES ABOUT FAMOUS WOMEN
Ingrid Bergman. Lillian Hellman. Sophie Tucker. Gloria Swanson. Pola Negri. Carole Lombard. Elizabeth Taylor. (Okay, yes, I have a lot of old timey lady biographies) There were a lot of bright moments for women in theater this year. An obvious one is the outcry of theater artists everywhere that we just need MORE WOMEN IN THEATER. It can be hard, sometimes, to not just focus on that problem, instead of taking a minute for game to recognize game and point out people, places, companies, organizations that are doin’ it right. Here are some moments from 2015 that had me pumpin’ my fists in joy for women in theater, some of them shamelessly to do with my own stuff, some more broad: Mina Morita became Artistic Director of Crowded Fire, I saw Phillipa Soo in Hamilton and cried REAL HARD, Marissa Skudlarek produced SF Theater Pub’s Pint Sized Plays to PACKED, PACKED, PACKED houses, all the women in SF Playhouse’s Stage Kiss killed it: Carrie Paff, Millie DeBenedet, Taylor Jones (it’s still playing, you can see it!) Lauren Yee’s Hookman at Z Space, Heather Orth’s portrayal of Little Edie in Custom Made’s Grey Gardens: The Musical, Jessica Roux was the best stage manager in the entire world for multiple Killing My Lobster shows, Geneva Carr and Sarah Stiles being absolutely fearless in Hand to God on Broadway, Kaeli Quick became Artistic Director of Endgames Improv, Linda Huang once again stage managed the SF Olympians Festival at the EXIT dealing with just a HUGE quanitity of people and needs, Beth Cockrell’s beautiful lighting of gross things for Hilarity, Shanice Williams in The Wiz Live…I could go on and on but I’ll go way over the character limit.

Top 5 Surprising Performances of 2015 by Marissa Skudlarek
2015 marked my return to the stage after a long absence, in a role that I never expected to play (dizzy blonde secretary), so I’ve been thinking a lot about typecasting versus, shall we say, counter-intuitive casting. Moreover, I’m not always comfortable opining on what’s the absolute “best” acting I saw in a given year, but I do like writing about performances I admire. So here are five skillful performances that each involved something a bit out-of-the-ordinary. They are in chronological order according to when I saw each play.

1) Madeline H.D. Brown as the Stage Manager in Our Town at Shotgun Players

It was a bit of a surprise to hear that Shotgun Players had cast a woman in her 30s as a character that’s typically played by a middle-aged or elderly man, but it’s not at all surprising that Madeline triumphed in the role. She is deeply attuned to the spiritual cycles and undercurrents that run beneath our daily existence (check out her new tarot-reading business, You Are Magick) and she brought this intuition to her role of Our Town‘s narrator and guide. This was the Stage Manager not as folksy patriarch, but as androgynous angel of death: infinitely full of wisdom, with an unearthly tenderness that tempered the harsh truths she revealed to Emily, and to us.

2) Adam Magill as Con in Stupid Fucking Bird at San Francisco Playhouse

I’d hung out with Adam several times at Theater Pub and other events before I ever saw him onstage, which is always a little weird: what would I do if I liked him as a person but didn’t like his acting? Fortunately, I liked him a lot in the role of Con, the Constantine analogue in this postmodern riff on The Seagull. And in the surprising moment where Con breaks the fourth wall and asks the audience what he can do to get Nina to love him again, Adam employed his natural charisma and humor to make friends with the whole audience. The night I saw it, some wiseacre in the balcony shouted “Why don’t you kill a bird and lay it at her feet?” Without missing a beat, Adam retorted, “You know, some people here haven’t seen The Seagull, and you had to go and ruin it for them.” I was amazed at Adam’s ability to think on his feet, creating a moment that can only exist in live performance.

3) Heather Orth as Big Edie and Little Edie in Grey Gardens at Custom Made Theatre Co.

Heather Orth has made a career of playing musical-theater leading ladies who are several decades older than she actually is. The complex and emotionally demanding role of Big Edie/Little Edie in Grey Gardens is written for a woman of about fifty: in Act One, she plays a demanding socialite mother whose world is shattered; in Act Two, an eccentric daughter still dealing with the fallout from that shatter. Both women are indomitable yet fragile; they must register as separate individuals and also as mirror images. I was a bit surprised that someone as young as Heather would be cast in this role (and the fifty-year-old musical-theater actresses of the Bay Area must be gnashing their teeth that the role went to her) but as she hit every note with her clarion voice, paraded around in Brooke Jennings’ increasingly outlandish costumes, and embodied the two halves of this toxic mother–daughter dyad that has entered into American mythology, her calendar age became totally irrelevant.

4) Thomas Gorrebeeck as Posthumus and Cloten in Cymbeline at Marin Shakespeare

I was intrigued by Marin Shakespeare’s decision to stage the rarely-seen Cymbeline and further intrigued by their choice to have Thomas Gorrebeeck double as noble hero Posthumus and his silly rival Cloten. It didn’t seem to be for economic reasons – they had a big cast with plenty of extras. Instead, the doubling highlights how these characters are foils to one another – and also provides an opportunity for an acting tour de force. (Later, I learned that this is a rather common practice when staging Cymbeline: this year’s Central Park production had Hamish Linklater double as Posthumus and Cloten, and Tom Hiddleston won an Olivier for playing this dual role in London in 2007.) As Posthumus, Gorrebeeck was sincere and anguished; he also made the smart choice to play Posthumus as extremely drunk when he agrees to a wager on his wife’s fidelity — perhaps the only way that a modern audience will accept that plot point. As Cloten, he was a sublimely ridiculous, strutting, preening fool in a silly blond wig. It’s a cliché to praise an actor in a dual role by saying “the audience didn’t realize it was the same guy.” But in this case it would also be true.

As an aside, if any young men out there are interested in playing one of these roles in 2016, I hear Theater of Others is quite desperate for a Posthumus for their upcoming Cymbeline production. Write to sffct@yahoo.com for more info.

5) Siobhan Doherty as Florinda in The Rover at Shotgun Players

Florinda is a tricky role because, especially for modern audiences, she can come across as too nicey-nice and boring when compared with the other female leads of The Rover. Hellena is bold, witty, and sexually forward; Angellica Bianca is an elegant and passionate courtesan; but Florinda is a virginal young lady who wants to marry her true love. With a generic ingénue in the role of Florinda, she’d be a forgettable or even an annoying character, but Siobhan is a quirky ingénue. She played Florinda without overdoing the sweetness and sighs, concentrating on the truth of her situation and the actions she takes to get the man she loves. She was brave and spunky and a heroine in her own right.

Alandra Hileman, Allison Page, and Marissa Skudlarek are San Francisco Theater Pub bloggers who each wear many many other hats and look good in all of them.

The Five: Olympians Opening Night Rundown

Anthony R. Miller checks in after a night of revelry and faux-congeniality.

Hey you guys, so last Sunday was the big opening night party for the Olympians Festival, where a bunch of regularly bookish and shy people dress up and revel in the kind of self-confidence that comes from knowing 80% of the people in the room. Wine was consumed, dolmas were eaten, and plays were read. I have a few thoughts about it, astoundingly, there are five.

Small Talk Olympics
Some people are natural conversationalists. Interesting things just fall out of their mouths like they were storing them in their cheeks like hamsters. At any given point you can engage them and they will have something witty and insightful to say, they are naturally comfortable and charming. I am not one of those people, but wine helps. When I know I have to be in a social situation for several hours, there is a process of preparation. I need to have a few topics in which I can talk about for 3-5 minutes with different people, I even plan a few jokes, I know it sounds ridiculous right? But for someone who really likes their alone time, it’s a necessity. The first person to engage me asked if I had heard the new Miley Cyrus record (“Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz”), and of course I had. That killed like 5 minutes right there. Other go-to topics for me were the “Squatty Potty” commercial, (If you haven’t seen it, drop everything and watch it now.) the new Star Wars movie (because even if you don’t have an opinion on it, that’s basically an opinion.) and of course “Are you excited for your show?” All the while the same mantra runs through my head “Make eye contact, don’t say something stupid and for God sakes, cover your mouth when you laugh so your giant teeth don’t frighten anyone.” Good Times.

Fancy Pants
Before the TBA awards came along, The Olympians Festival Opening Night Party was the original Theatre Nerd-Prom. Turns out we all clean up pretty nicely. After years of getting flak (Good-naturedly of course) for my go-to v-neck shirt/ suit jacket combo, I shook things up with a v-neck sweater under the jacket. Cause every girls crazy bout a sweater wearin’ man. And as much as I’d rather wear jeans and a t-shirt to everything, getting’ gussied up can be kind of fun. But I draw the line at ties, ties are for weddings, funerals and job interviews. What am I, a banker?

image1

Meet and Greet
A fun part of the night is meeting the actors who will be in your show. With the exception of fellow blogger Marissa Skudlarek (Whom, incidentally is going to change American “Theatre forever with her performance.) and Mr. Jeremy Cole, my cast is comprised of people I saw for the first time at auditions. It’s great to chat, get their input on the script and meet the people who are making your play happen for the first time. I still get weirded out when people talk to me like I’m important, but again, wine helps.

Dolma-Mania
Every year there is pretty awesome spread of Mediterranean food. So if you’re a fan of hummus, dolma, and falafel, you’re in luck. But it was the giant plate of cheese that created the most internal conflict. As I stumble into my late-thirties, my stomach just can’t party like it used to. In fact two days before the party, my doctor said I couldn’t eat diary for a month. So there it was a giant tray of pepper-jack and cheddar temptation. To be honest, I gave in pretty quick, I assume they serves cheese sandwiches in heaven. And until the wine kicks in, eating is a great thing to do when you’re nervous. But once I got my fix, I stuck to dolmas, lots of them. I ate so many dolmas, I’m pretty sure my blood is at least 37% olive oil. But hey my doctor didn’t say stop eating things with olive oil in it.

The Future is Bright
This year’s festival is going to be great, a lot of returning writers and some new faces. So make plans to see at least a few of these readings. There will good plays, ok plays and total trainwrecks, but that’s the fun of it. What was really exciting was hearing the list of writers for next year’s festival. There were so many new names, less returning writers and the introduction of Egyptian gods (Polytheism, it was a thing.) So yeah this year is gonna rock, I’m genuinely excited for some these plays. But man, next year is already looking like the most exciting year yet. So stay posted, do what your doctor tells you and drink wine, grapes are good for you.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer, producer and introvert. His play; “CHRISTIAN TEEN DOLPHIN-SEX BEACH PARTY” will be performed on November 18th as part of the San Francisco Olympians Festival , and promises to be at least mildly amusing.

The Five: One Crazy Busy Summer

Anthony R. Miller Checks in with a million different things to do.

Hey you guys, I don’t know about you, but I’m having one crazy summer and I’m not talking about the 1986 classic starring John Cusack. I’m talk about how crazy busy I have been the last few months. The crazy part is that they have been some of the best in a long time. Best Summer Ever? Perhaps, and perhaps not. But I do a have a few thoughts I’d like to share with you, predictably, there are five.

Everyone Should Be Using “Slack”

TERROR-RAMA 2: Prom Night has opened shop. The first Public Reading / Fundraiser is this October, Pre-Production and Dramaturgy Meetings are happening and I’m pretty excited. One of the big changes were making this time is that all communication for the show runs through one place now, a delightful little app called “Slack”. It’s basically a social network for your project and the people working on it. Instead of long email chains, group messages on Facebook, and back and forth texting, all communication happens through the app. You can share files, do direct messaging and tag certain members for specific messages. It makes communication so much simpler, and in theatre, bad communication can kill a show, seriously try it. I’m a believer.

Oh Wow, This Might Be Kind of Good

The crazy adventure of my Olympians play begins with writing bits and pieces of whatever scene I think of and then go back linking them all together. I never write like this, and now I know why. It’s so friggin inefficient, I mean how can you really be sure how someone is going o talk in scene six when you haven’t written scene 3 yet? I’ve been finding myself re-working previously written scenes so that they all serve one narrative. The fun has been finding the story in all my goofy ideas. Usually, I start with an outline and then build my script from there, I always write chronologically, except for this play. It’s been pretty fun seeing how scenes and characters change as you start shaping scenes and characters. Seeing the story come out kind of organically has been fun thus far, but again super inefficient. The crazy part is what started as a goofy idea is becoming actually kind of good and maybe even actually about something. And by god, it’ll be under 45 minutes.

Sentence by Sentence

I took a new freelance job recently that involves me taking congressional records for the early 1800’s and formatting them into a script. It’s a whole new level of tedious. I’m basically taking one person’s record of what people did and said and having to change the tenses and make it dialog. Because I am such a nerd, this is actually really fun for me. It’s basically dialog boot camp. I’ve had to break up speeches that go on for PAGES (these guys could talk) sentence by sentence. I have never examined a sentence so closely. To have to obsess over every word and intention has been a really fascinating learning experience and also payback for all the English classes I duly ignored.

Disposable Art

Another freelance gig I took this summer was creating content for a nifty new social media app that didn’t last too long. For three months I made all sorts of neat stuff and got paid to basically screw around on my phone. I wrote a ton about music, made web-comics about my cat talking to Taylor Swift, and created different ways to say “Go Fuck Yourself”. Some of it was actually pretty good, and now it’s gone forever. The app has shut down and all this content, or dare I say, art, created by people is just gone. I often joke about “Disposable Art”, which I call art that is enjoyable at the time, but doesn’t stay with you forever, just long enough for the next one. But this was truly and literally disposable art, art that once existed and is now gone, much like all of my poetry from High School. (Which is probably a good thing.)

Whoa Did I Just Direct the School Play?

Over the last few years, I’ve been teaching more and more. I find myself a little shocked at how much I enjoy it and how I seem to be pretty decent at it. This summer gave me my busiest teaching schedule yet. The summer began with the big performance for an after school drama program I had been teaching. Since it was first year working there, I kept expectations low and promised very little. We had spent a few months working on scenes from Alice in Wonderland and I figured it’d be good to have a few kids there, maybe some parents. “Nothing major, maybe just 20 people” I said, but on the day of the performance, the whole school was there, along with parents. Before the show began I took a minute to look out at the crowd and I thought to myself “Whoa, did I just direct the school play?” It seems, however inadvertently, that I had. An odd sense of accomplishment swept over me, and sure all the things that are supposed to happen in a junior high play, happened. One kid was better than everyone, I had to stall in between scenes, and one girl forgot her lines and ran off crying. I also saw the odd phenomenon of my most difficult students who almost never listened to me, be suddenly struck by the reality of 100 people watching them, and become incredibly dependent on me, hanging on my every instruction. The best part was that I handled it, pep talks were given, mothers thanked me and the kids seemed genuinely happy. It was the first time I myself as a legit educator, so that’s something.

So that’s been my summer so far, and it’s been fulfilling as hell. I’ve been working, being creative and doing stuff that I’m happy with. It’s amazing how many way there are to create art for a living. Till next time.

Anthony R. Miller does many things; learn all about them at www.awesometheatre.org.

Theater Around The Bay: Year-End Round-Up Act 2, The Best of the Blog 2014

2014 was another year of change on multiple fronts and our website was no exception. We lost Claire Rice but gained Charles Lewis III, as well as bringing on Anthony Miller, making us a team of nine now. Everyone, including our lengthy list of occasional contributors, gets to share in the success of the blog, which has continued to increase its traffic over this past year. With 51,112 hits and counting in 2014 (compared to 45,819 in 2013, 27,998 in 2012, 11,716 in 2011, 8,435 in 2010), 228 subscribers, and 2814 Facebook followers, there can be no doubt that the San Francisco Theater Public (as we’ve taken to calling the blog amongst ourselves) continues to be “kind of a thing.” With our current all time total at 145,024 hits, we wanted to use the next to last blog entry of this year to celebrate the different voices that make our blog unique, while also paying homage to the vast and diverse world of online theater discussion. To everyone who makes our blog a success, a gigantic thank you for making 2014 the best year so far! Here’s hoping that 2015 is even better!

STUART BOUSEL by Dave Sikula 

I’ll admit I don’t know Stuart all that well. He’s directed me in one show, and is about to direct me in another, and we cross paths reasonably frequently, but if you work in Bay Area theatre at all, it’s almost impossible to escape him. He’s everywhere, and that’s something I really admire about him (despite his own admiration for the fatally-flawed Into the Woods). If I may indulge myself for just a moment, I’ll confess to massive inertia and procrastination in my personal and professional lives. It takes an external stimulus just short of an earthquake to get me out of my easy chair and into action. (For example, I’m using the writing of this as an excuse to not work on my translation of The Imaginary Invalid.) But Stuart should be studied by the people at the Department of Energy: He’s as close to a perpetual motion machine as I can think of. He is constantly either coming up with an idea for something, or writing it, or producing it, or all three simultaneously.

Stuart Bousel, alone at work... in the 40s. That's how dedicated he is.

Stuart Bousel, alone at work… in the 40s. That’s how dedicated he is.

Most of us are more comfortable sitting in a bar or a living room bitching about the lack of opportunity or parts or shows in the city, but Stuart isn’t there. He’s off writing yet another script or arranging a venue to produce it in or creating spaces for other people to be creative or seeing shows or directing someone else’s script or holding meetings or readings. If you haven’t worked with him yet, you will. He’s the Tasmanian Devil of Bay Area theatre. Meanwhile, this is my favorite of Stuart’s posts of the last year. It’s not particularly analytical or insightful, but is, perhaps more importantly, a reminder of a very pleasant occasion; the wedding of two good friends.

From the outside world I’d like highlight something from Mark Evanier’s blog. Mark is a writer who’s worked in comics, sitcoms, variety shows, animation, and any number of other areas. It’s not, strictly speaking, about the theatre or the arts, but is about the effect that a creative artist can have on others, how that creation is received, and (probably of most importance to me), the vital need for artists to know history and what has gone before them in order to have a foundation upon which to either build the future or knock the past down in an informed way.

ASHLEY COWAN by Stuart Bousel

My boyfriend and I often refer to Ashley, with tremendous affection, as “the cool babysitter you always wanted as a kid.” This is because Ashley is uniquely gifted with seemingly endless patience, bottomless love and forgiveness, incredible creativity, and a plethora of cookie recipes. Seriously, invite her over to stuff at your house, and make sure she knows she’s supposed to bring treats. She’s like a fairy tale princess who conquers through kindness and she sets a sterling example for anyone looking to be just a little bit sweeter, a little bit nicer, a little bit more understanding. Like all incredibly good people, she also struggles not to be a doormat, cause the truth is, we live in a world of witches, wolves, and humans, and those of us who aspire to be a force for light often radiate “I Will Help You!” and “Come Fuck With Me!” at the same time, whether we intend to or not. Learning to draw lines with others, learning to stand up for ourselves, learning to speak up even when it’s not polite, is just as important as setting a good example and taking the higher road. This year Ashley took a tremendous step as a human being and risked her “nice girl” reputation to stand by a statement she felt she had to make, something I wish I had the courage to do more often, and in typical Ashley fashion she both learned a lot from that action and shared it with the rest of us. This blog entry is like a song from Into The Woods, Ashley’s “I Know Things Now” and just like Little Red, I love how Ashley celebrates her knew understanding of herself, while at the same time admitting how it weirds her out. So real, so human. So Ashley.

Ashley Cowan: my favorite fairy tale bride.

Ashley Cowan: my favorite fairy tale bride.

Outside of Theater Pub, the article that gave me the most pause this year was this interview with Marsha Norman. I have long been a fan of Norman’s work: ‘Night Mother was the first really serious, non-musical play I saw as an adolescent and connected to, and The Secret Garden remains one of my top five musicals of all time, so it was wonderful to get Norman’s analysis of her own process as a writer. On the other hand, while I respect her opinions on new play development I found them to be suspiciously New York/Ivy-Leage Institution centric, out-of-touch with the larger reality of most playwright’s lives and the indie theater scene that I personally work in and advocate for. Additionally, while I respect and share her desire to advocate for more women playwrights and more exposure for their work, as a man it was disappointing to read that she thinks the formation of women-only teams is the solution, as I am more and more adamantly of the belief that mixed-gender teams are the key to a future that achieves actual progress instead of just recreating the problems of the past with a new mask. That said, I love that she recognizes the value of male allies, and that they often need to be invited in, rather than expected to show up of their own accord. So why am I sharing this article when I don’t agree with half of it? Because in the end, to me, our principal job as artists, writers, intellectuals, is to share ideas, including and especially ones we don’t entirely agree with. Comparing our beliefs is how we figure out who we are, how we form bonds with others, and how we continue our quest, as human beings, for meaning and truth. When an experienced and thoughtful practitioner of something (in this case playwrighting) speaks, you listen, because you will certainly hear something you want to respond to. Listen to Marsha. And then respond. The worst conversation is almost always the one you don’t have.

BARBARA JWANOUSKOS by Marissa Skudlarek

Barbara Jwanouskos has had quite a year! She finished up her MFA in Dramatic Writing at Carnegie Mellon, returned to the Bay Area, re-branded her Theater Pub column from “Higher Education” to “The Real World, Theater Edition,” got accepted into Just Theater’s New Play Lab, and discovered quite the talent for interviewing local theater-makers about how they develop new works. She’s also been admirably open about her own writing process and her doubts, fears, and struggles throughout this eventful year.

“Won’t you be my neighbor?” It’s great to have Barbara back in the Bay Area!

“Won’t you be my neighbor?” It’s great to have Barbara back in the Bay Area!

I especially want to highlight Barbara’s piece “Meeting the Fear Barrier,” from toward the end of her time at Carnegie Mellon. In the past few years, Barbara has committed herself to two very different, but intense and disciplined, pursuits: playwriting and kung fu. She combined these two passions in her thesis play this year, The Imaginary Opponent (which deals with violence at a kung fu studio), and some of her Theater Pub columns also draw on the way that these two activities often teach her complementary lessons. In writing about how kung fu can seem “completely masochistic and insane” to someone who doesn’t practice it, she allows us to draw the inference that producing indie theater can also seem like a masochistic, insane pursuit to outsiders. She also makes a connection that theater and kung fu require both vulnerability and strength, and can bring up unexpected emotions. I’m pretty much a couch potato, but I admire Barbara’s physical courage and drive. And even if I never learn how to break a board with my bare hand, I can at least try to emulate the way she strives to break through the mental barriers that can hold us back from making great art.

Favorite article elsewhere online: Frank Rich on Moss Hart, New York magazine, April 11, 2014. I’m recommending this partly because the absolute best theater-related thing I read this year was Moss Hart’s memoir Act One, but it was published in 1959, so I can’t exactly put it on this list. But I can tell you to read Rich’s article about Hart’s book! Act One is a tale of struggle that ends in triumph: Hart’s first Broadway production, at the age of 25. It’s glamorous and romantic and engaging and funny and inspirational. (My mother very thoughtfully gave it to me for my birthday this summer as I was producing Pleiades, and I intend to reread it every time I produce a play.) But Rich’s article reveals what Hart left out of his autobiography: he was bipolar and bisexual in an era when both of those things were considered shameful secrets. “The more we learn about the truth of Moss Hart, the more powerful Act One becomes, not just as a book but as a heroic act of generosity from a man whose heart and mind were breaking down even as he was writing it,” Rich writes.

2014 was a hard year for a lot of us. The headlines were alternately depressing and rage-inducing. In the span of two months (August-September), I produced a play, had a health crisis, and got dumped. I don’t understand people who are cheerful all the time, but I have the utmost respect and sympathy for people who are acquainted with the darker side of life and will themselves not to give into despair. They create joy and hope that is all the more profound for its proximity to sorrow. That’s what Moss Hart did in Act One, and what I strive to do in 2015.

WILL LESCHBER by Allison Page

It’s time to talk about Will Leschber, my friends. Yes, he is a writer here at the blog, but I knew him before that. We acted together in Prelude To A Kiss last year, where we spent the one chunk of the show where neither of us had anything to do chatting backstage on the couch every night, talking about life. That’s also where he told me about his plan to propose to his now wife, who also happens to be a close friend of mine. INTERTWINED, YA’LL. He’s a gentleman if there ever was one, manages to be the only dude I know who can pull off wearing a vest, and laughs all the time. These are solid, solid qualities.

Focus on Will Leschber. Literally.

Focus on Will Leschber. Literally.

He’s a thoughtful guy with thoughtful thoughts. And my favorite blog of his this year is on a topic ever-so-close to my tiny black heart: sad clowns. I’m caught up in my first full length production as a playwright and it’s about that very thing, so it’s crazy relevant to me right now (and let’s face it, always).

As for the rest of the internet, I’m having my own personal HOLY SHIT I’M FALLING IN LOVE WITH CHRIS ROCK AGAIN moment right now. I had heard about his new movie TOP FIVE and was interested but didn’t think much about it. Then this Vulture interview with him came out and I was then obsessed with seeing it and having more Chris Rock in my life. He didn’t/doesn’t shy away from talking about difficult, uneasy stuff (Ferguson, Cosby, etc) and still manages to be hilarious and personable. Also Top Five was magnificent and you should see it, but here’s the article.

CHARLES LEWIS III by Anthony Miller

As we were all assigned to write about a fellow T-Pub (That’s what I’m calling it now) Blogger, I am here to tell you all about our newest regular writer; Charles Lewis. Here’s why I like Charles, better yet, here’s why I think his existence is pivotal to the Indie Theatre Community; he is indisputably this scene’s flag bearer. His belief and passion for the SF Indie Theatre World is undeniable. He has the ability to talk about the people and the work involved with such reverence, he simply elevates the importance of it all. When you read Charles’ posts about the Olympians Festival it’s as if you’re getting a backstage look at The Humana Festival. His interview with Marissa Skudlarek reads like a New York Times in depth look at the career of Dame Judi Dench. He embodies the very feeling that we all have as we struggle to self-produce our work in Black Box Theatres in neighborhoods that smell like pee, the feeling that what we are doing is important. Nobody can articulate the importance we all place on our work as Charles does. He speaks about our work and experiences as we would speak of them, but he is also reverent, critical, and observant and unites the scene by saying “What we are doing counts, and here’s why”.

Easily my favorite quality about Charles is that he believes what he believes and worked real hard in figuring out why he believes it. So his thoughts and opinions are devoid of bullshit. His own confidence in what he thinks is immeasurably valuable. After the first reading of Terror-Rama, Charles quickly left the building. As I saw him leave, I thought; “Oh man, Charles must have HATED it, I gotta talk to him”. So I chase him down out front and ask him about the show. He takes a breath and says, “The first one has potential but the other is a misogynist piece of shit.” Boom. Honest, critical and to the point. It was my favorite comment the whole night because it gave me a clear notion of what I had to do in developing those two plays over the next year. It was a simple, no bullshit, State of the Union.

So the post by Charles I want to recommend is part of his ongoing series about the SF Olympians Festival. See how he paints such a clear picture of everything that goes on behind the scene. Most importantly, see how he so perfectly embodies the excitement we all have for this festival . The way he tells it shows just how important and special it is without just saying “This is very Important and Special to us”. That’s why Charles is a kick ass dude, he believes in the work we do, and he takes it seriously. He successfully embodies the collective excitement and passion the people in this scene feel for every project they do.

Here’s the link. Oh and read this one too, it’s awesome.

Charles Lewis III. What else is there to say?

Charles Lewis III. What else is there to say?

OK Part 2, here’s where I recommend a Theatre blog that isn’t T-Pub. A task in which I will fail miserably because I just don’t read a lot of theatre blogs that aren’t T-Pub. But I do listen to a shitload of podcasts. So go and check out the Podcast of Bret Easton Ellis (Ok not a theatre guy, but go with me.) What makes this show a must-listen for anyone who does something creative is the interviews he does with guests are fascinating explorations of how artists think. He doesn’t ask boilerplate questions, asking about their new project or their background. Usually he starts the show, with a monologue about whatever is on his mind that day, be it a play, film book or a celebrity (His observations on Miley Cyrus are fucking brilliant.) and then he engages the guest in a conversation about it. We get to know how artists we admire feel about their work, others work and their own feelings on their respective mediums. They feel like Master Class Lectures on the creation of art and those who create it. Check out the show here: And go to the interview with Michael Ian Black. Do it.

ANTHONY MILLER by Will Leschber

Anthony R Miller- With his brazen wit and ah-fuck-it attitude, Anthony weaves his endearing yet self-depreciating voice around many Bay Area theater issues in his column The Five. One of my particular favorites was his internal discussion surrounding his experience at the TBA Awards. The ragged thoughts he displays, sweetly gets to the heart of what many artistic folk and theater-makers have to balance: The opposing desire to turn inwards to replenish and the need to turn on social extroversion. Get out of my head Anthony! You see my pain! Also this article uses one subheading entitled, “I’m a loner Dottie, a rebel”. Anyone who uses a Get Up Kids song as a subheading just made my short list of bloggers I have to read. You the man, Anthony. You the man.

Anthony Miller: ah-fuck-it attitude

Anthony Miller: ah-fuck-it attitude

This was the year podcasts reached a new level of cultural awareness and breached the bubble of relevant pop culture. This mainly had to do with the runaway success of the Serial podcast. More importantly, the new attention paid to the medium of podcasting has ushered in a time where podcasting can be taken seriously as a creative / media outlet. The quality is higher than ever, the variety available is more diverse than before and the a la carte funding “from listeners like you” signals a shift in radio that looks something akin to the Netflix revolution. This all boils down to: there are a lot of great audio selections out there and it’s time to listen up. One of my favorites this year was the 99% Invisible podcast episode entitled “Three Records from Sundown“. It’s an award winning radio piece rebroadcast, that chronicles the music of Nick Drake. It reminds me why I love music, why I love good storytelling and why I love great radio.

ALLISON PAGE by Charles Lewis III

The thing that always gets me about Allison’s column is that it (often) eschews the normal “tears of a clown” shit. Oh, she’ll get personal and it can be heartbreaking, make no mistake, but what I love is that she doesn’t go for the easy route of “Yes, I want you to laugh, but more than that I want you to cry at the pain – oh, the pain – that my laughter covers up. Oh, the pain! The pain of it all!” No, Allison’s spiel is more of a “Remember we said someday we’ll look back on this and laugh? Today’s that day.” By taking the latter route, she earns our sympathy because she isn’t fishing for it. Her scars are no less prominent or legitimate, but she doesn’t feel the need to be solely defined by them. And yet the blog of hers I’m highlighting today is one of the less intimate: “How to Make Actors Never want to Work with You Again”. Sure, an argument can be made for the other side (and other blogs did just that), but she said things that needed saying in that piece. Just as performers are not above reproach, neither are the backstage folks who keep the wheels moving. Someday we’ll all look back on That One Bad Production and laugh…

Allison Page, one second away from flinging yet another brilliant witticism your way.

Allison Page, one second away from flinging yet another brilliant witticism your way.

This was a funny years for me, in terms of thinking of my “career” as a performer. When I wasn’t being rejected after auditions and – as I mentioned yesterday – burning bridges, I was acting in Sundance films, taking the stage at prominent Bay Area theatres, and being forced to seriously consider whether or not to join SAG and/or the AEA. I mean, union reps were mailing me paperwork. It got me thinking that maybe I actually could make a living out of this, but would it be a living I want? In the middle of all this, Theatre Bay Area re-tweeted this NY Post article about Broadway actors who have done the same role for over a decade. Normally the Post is only good for the bottom of a birdcage, but this article – combined with the fact that I acted in a play, Pastorella, about theatre-folk coming to terms with their careers – stuck with me. It would require major changes (most notably the geographical kind), but I’m certain I could make a living at this, and a comfortable living at that. But would I be happy if I wound up just another cog in the theatrical machine rather than the corporate one? Is it worth giving up all the control I’ve gotten for the guarantee of having rent on time? I haven’t stopped asking myself these questions, nor have I found any wholly satisfying answers. But I’m comforted by the fact that it wasn’t too late for me to consider that kind of life.

DAVE SIKULA by Barbara Jwanouskos

I don’t know Dave as well as the other TPub bloggers and was a little nervous when I selected his name at our last meeting because he always struck me as a more serious theater person than I was. In reading “It’s a Suggestion, Not a Review” however, I’m struck by Dave’s continuing discussion about very relevant themes in theater like censorship, copyright issues, controversy plays, and creator’s rights. It’s actually surprising his articles don’t illicit further discussion in the comments section because he brings up some very valid points in a direct, comprehensive way. With Dave, I always feel like I’m learning something – the way you would listening to your well-traveled uncle give his observations of what he’s seen out there. Beyond his series on directing choices vs. playwright intent using fascinating stories of productions of Endgame, Oleanna, and Hands on a Hardbody (which is extremely informative and worth a read), Dave is a phenomenal storyteller. It’s easy to get sucked in by his wit. One of his most recent posts, “Boo!” was particularly engaging for its discussion of theater ghosts and the other worldly nature of being in spaces that many, many others have passed through. I had goosebumps at the end because of Dave’s knack for turning a casual activity into something much more dramatically interesting.

Dave Sikula, not a man to mess with on Jeopardy or on stage

Dave Sikula, not a man to mess with on Jeopardy or on stage

There have been a lot of great blog articles and podcasts on theater this year, but I very much appreciated a recent article by Lisa Drostova (who is also a co-worker and desk buddy at Ragged Wing Ensemble!) because there is usually a dearth of quality writing on professional playwriting/dramatic writing programs. As someone who was on the other side of this a couple years ago, I found it inspiring and informative when I could find someone lay out what exactly was out there. I tried to write a bit about this back in August too, and would like to continue adding to that on my own blog, but what I appreciated about this article is how it gave an expansive look at the various different playwriting programs specifically in the Bay Area. We have phenomenal resources available to those wishing to sharpen their skills right at our fingertips and this article highlights the ways to find that in universities and community colleges around the Bay.

MARISSA SKUDLAREK by Ashley Cowan

Marissa Skudlarek had a pretty great year in the Theater Pub World. In reviewing her blogs it was nearly impossible to pick just one to celebrate. Should I go with her incredibly popular, https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/hi-ho-the-glamorous-life-whos-a-horses-ass/, or https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/hi-ho-the-glamorous-life-chestnut-tea-with-the-other-me/, which I found to be lovely and creative? Nah. Think outside the blackbox, Ashley. I’m going to go with: https://sftheaterpub.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/hi-ho-the-glamorous-life-things-of-darkness-and-of-light/. Did I love that my husband, unborn baby, and I got a shoutout? Duh. But I also loved reading Marissa’s honest discussion of certain challenges while still choosing to search for stars in seemingly dark skies. For me, I found this to be a relevant theme of this action packed year. We all had some ups and downs throughout the past twelve months, but what a beautiful way to stay positive.

It's always spring time when Marissa is in the room!

It’s always spring time when Marissa is in the room!

I’ll be honest, I’ve read way too many wedding and baby related online articles this year that I didn’t think would be appropriate to share. So the article I picked was one that made me laugh. if you’re involved in any theater community, I think you’ll appreciate this comic take on casting and the strong, critical nature such a group can occasionally possess when a cast list is revealed. My favorite line may be, “…but that at a big-boned 5’9”, she doesn’t exactly present the unique mixture of Dixie elegance and delicate vulnerability that ticket holders will expect to see come opening night.” As a 5’9’’ actress who would love to one day play Blanche Dubois, I found this piece for The Onion to be pretty great.

We’ve got one more act tomorrow! See you then! 

In For a Penny: Running in Place

Charles Lewis III, reflecting.

“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that, reverse it.”
– Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I had an entirely different entry planned for today. I’d been working on it since I’d finished my last entry. It was going to be about the labels used to identify us as artists, those we choose for ourselves and those often placed upon us. It was going to be about how those labels can simultaneously be a help and hindrance, how the definition of each label seems to change on a daily basis, how frustrating it can be to constantly be typecast as one particular sort when you have a menagerie of other sorts trapped inside you just bursting to get free. But I’m not gonna write that one; not yet anyway.

You see, like all of you, I read Allison’s most recent piece and it resonated with me. After reading it I was suddenly struck by the fact that once I’ve finished this Saturday’s performance in the Olympians Festival, I’ll be done performing for 2014. Given that I hit a stride and have been working for almost a year straight – which came right on the heels similarly prolific years – you think I’d be glad to finally have a proper break. It’s right at the start of December and the rain has finally arrived, so I can spend the final month of 2014 catching up on my reading, doing a helluva lot of writing, and binge-watching to my heart’s content as El Niño promises to finally lift us from this drought.

So why do I feel like a kid lost in the middle of an airport?

like this, but with less Wilmer Valdaramma

like this, but with less Wilmer Valdaramma

Maybe it’s because there’s nothing solid for me on the horizon. Yes, I’ll be writing in next year’s Olympians, but I’ve got nothing locked down performance-wise. Even in my “down” years, I’d have at least two or three projects for the next year set in place by December. Hell, that’s usually one of the first questions on the audition form: “Are you free this time next year?” And when those down years did come (and boy, did they), I took comfort in the fact that those few solid projects were assurance that I hadn’t been completely forgotten by the performing arts community at large. ‘Cause let’s be honest: when you go to see a friend in show after show as your Inbox fills with rejection e-mails from directors, it doesn’t take long for your mind to go from “Maybe I should find a better monologue?” to “Oh God, am I the redheaded stepchild of local theatre without anyone telling me?”

I’m the sort of person who finds it really hard to brag, so I tend to downplay even the good things that come into my life: an unexpected financial windfall; a date that goes really well; and even an audition for a company and/or director whom I admire. Even when those things do happen for me, I take a pretty Zen approach to them and try not to get too excited because I know they might not last. I don’t do that for the pure sake of pessimism, but rather to give myself a little long-term perspective.

Which is really stupid, I know, but it actually has given me the ability to brace myself for unforeseen rejections. The trade-off is that there are times – though not always, I’m glad to say – when I can’t seem to enjoy the blessing right in front of me.

The flip-side to that is a mistake I’ve made far too often: accepting work I knew I wouldn’t like just so I had something to do. Two years ago I was cast in a project that I regretted almost immediately. It was for a well-renowned local company and respected director. I got along with the cast – one member of which I knew beforehand – and a few of the backstage folks were people who I’d worked well with before. But I wasn’t fond of the script, which I had a chance to read before the audition. Furthermore, the director and I did not see eye-to-eye. At all. Apparently every little thing I did was wrong and she had an incredibly condescending way of telling me so. When I was finally able to get out of the production, it was less “Damn, I blew my chance to work with a beloved company and director” and more “This is why you shouldn’t accept every fucking role you’re offered just because you like being busy!”

A sobering lesson that I haven’t forgotten. Now whenever I feel unsure of a project, but feel I should take part anyway “just for the experience”, I have a mental crossing guard with a big “Stop” sign telling me to look both ways first.

Gandalf copy

Last night I got to see a friend of mine perform as part of the Olympians Fest. I haven’t seen her on stage in over a year, so it was a nice surprise to watch her in action again. I’ve always admired her variety of skills and her spot-on timing. As those of us who follow her on social media know: she has a life outside of theatre. A really good life, at that. I mention that because I think our biggest fear is that when we aren’t busy on That One Thing we feel is most important, then we probably think that life is passing us by. I know I did. It took me quite a long time to think otherwise. I can’t tell the future, so I don’t know if the coming year will bring me as many projects as this year – let alone so many as artistically fulfilling – but I now know that I don’t have to worry about that yet. I’ve been given something most people would kill for: time off. Maybe I should try to enjoy it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been so busy with all this theatre shit that I’m only at the halfway point of 2666 and it’s really starting to get gruesome.

You can see Charles Lewis’ final theatre production of the year this Saturday as part of the closing night of the SF Olympians Festival. The festival runs tonight through Saturday at The EXIT Theatre. http://www.sfolympians.com.

The Five: Five Crowdsourcing Campaigns You Should Check Out

Local Playwright, Director, and Ticket-Shiller Anthony R. Miller returns with a 2 Parter on the rise of Crowdsourcing in Bay Area Theatre.

It’s been quite the two weeks since my last post; the closing of my hometown theatre company, San Jose Rep, a double whammy of bullshit from the Tony Awards (Seriously, instead of hearing the speech from the winner of “Best Book from a Musical” I get a special performance by Sting?”), there’s really no shortage of lists. But another event this last week was a personal one for me, the show I am producing and co-writing; TERROR-RAMA, made its Kickstarter goal. Thanks to the support of friends, family, and the Bay Area Theatre Community, we have enough money to pay everyone who works on the show, not have to charge a ridiculous amount of money to break even, and perhaps even a smidge of production value. One thing that struck me was just how many campaigns went on at the same time as us; The Lost Church, Diva-Fest, friggin Reading Rainbow. So I did a little research, and if you add up every theatre campaign in SF alone for 2014 (finished, current, and projected), almost $450,000 has been, is, and will be asked for via crowdsourcing. Sure, there are people living in the city right now that could fund all of those projects at once and still manage to have a sweet vacation, but it’s a big sum none the less, and it’s only destined to rise. Even now, you can easily find 10 different arts campaign just for the Bay Area. This inspired not one, but two lists. This week, I present: Five Bay Area Arts Crowdsourcing Campaigns You Should Check Out and in two weeks; Five Questions About The Future of Arts Crowd Sourcing. One thing crowd sourcing has allowed is that any once can at least try now. Sure, they might not make it, but they have the opportunity to even ask. This means there’s a whole crap-load of incredible companies looking for help; here are a few current campaigns you should check out.

Do It Lives’ 2014 Season

Ambition, ambition, and a big dose of moxie are the words I use to describe this young SF theatre company. They’re raising money to fund their, that’s right, ambitious season of 7 plays from writers all over the world. On top of that they’re doing them in repertory, a rotating line up of plays for 8 months. This group is dedicated to doing active, visceral, and challenging theatre. I hear they also plan to build a theatre in space, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. This group is worth looking at, they’re different, focus like a laser on a younger audience, and give the artists they work with a lot of freedom.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/do-it-live-s-2014-season

Great Star Theater

Nestled in Chinatown is the Great Star Theater, I have seen some crazy shows here. It’s a classic 1920’s theater that hosts a variety of exciting theatre. They are currently raising money to restore it to its former glory. 90 years of dust, old ass ropes that people dangle from and a million burnt out light bulbs are just a few of the things they’re trying to tackle. This place is worth checking out. Last I checked, we need all the venues we can get, and this one is rad.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1927498591/great-star-theater?ref=discovery

2014 FURY Factory Festival of Ensemble Theatre

From July 6-20, The FURY Factory festival will bring 24 ground-breaking theatre companies from around the country to The Mission District. This festival has an incredible line-up and promises to be 2 weeks of really exciting theatre. They are raising money to pay all the artists and personnel of the festival. This is worth checking out, because bringing some of the most innovative companies in America to SF is one thing, but paying them too is a darn fine cause.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/2014-fury-factory-festival-of-ensemble-theater

Pleiades

Birthed from the loins of the SF Olympians Fest (They have a campaign coming up too.) writer Marissa Skudlarek is DOIN’ IT and self-producing her play about 7 sisters coming of age in the early 70’s at the height of second-wave feminism. And to top it off, its very production addresses a situation in Bay Area Theatre, a lack of women writers, directors and roles. Pleiades features a female writer, director, lead-producer and 8 female roles. Check this out if you’re ready to see more talented women doing theatre.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pleiades-world-premiere-female-driven-play-in-san-francisco

Mugwumpin 10

With just a day and half left, this company gets and A for urgency. These bad-asses of Theatre are raising money specifically to pay the performers and directors of their two revivals; This is All I Need and Super:Anti:Reluctant, both plays are audience favorites that creatively question American ideals. You should check them out because they’re very close to goal (and their deadline) and these guys have been doing incredible work for ten years and changing the relationship between audience and performer.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mugwumpin10-celebrate-a-decade-of-live-art

Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Director, Producer, and that guy who won’t stop calling currently living in Berkeley, Ca. His show: TERROR-RAMA opens in October 2014.