Theater Around the Bay: Theater Pub At Short-Lived!

Will Leschber has the day off, so we’re going to plug his wife Ashley’s show instead!

Tickets have gone live for PianoFight’s ShortLived: Round 2! That’s right! That IS the week Theater Pub and our play, THIS IS WHY WE BROKE UP, will be competing! We’d love you to be a part of the fun (and yeah, we’d really love your vote) so get those tickets for March 12th -14th: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/shortlived-round-2-tickets-15752196243?aff=efbevent

Be sure to take note of the awesome group discount for groups of 6 or more; tickets are only $12! So grab your pals, reserve some seats, and support Theater Pub. Only you can get us to the next round and hey, after the show, maybe we can celebrate over a round of drinks. Dream big, kid.

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In For a Penny: Shedding the Pounds

Charles Lewis III, contemplating sound body and sound mind?

“Heartthrob? Never! Black ‘n ugly as ever…”
– The Notorious BIG, “One More Chance”

I have this thing I do before every show. It’s really not all that different from the pre-show ritual of any other performer: a series of physical warm-ups and vocal flourishes that, to the untrained eye would probably give the impression that I’d been possessed by the kind of demon only Max von Sydow could defeat. Y’know, the usual. At least I think it’s usual. One of my physical moves is to do a handstand against the wall, with a few push-ups for good measure.

It’s a move of such fundamental simplicity that it’s taught small children. But for some reason it’s become my “signature warm-up move”. I’m not even kidding. Claire Rice mentioned it in her intro for me during the third Olympians Festival. Granted, her comments were nice. Usually people tell me that this simple maneuver – which, again, is so damn simple that it’s taught to toddlers – is just me showing off. As if I were a Dell’Arte alumnus flaunting my skills in front of a room of paraplegics.

Cirque du Soleil – Ovo – Spider contortionist

Cirque du Soleil – Ovo – Spider contortionist

I used to just laugh off this baseless accusation. Then I got annoyed. More recently, I’d get angry. But lately I’ve just felt sorry for those other folks. I took a moment to remember that someone who cares that much about something as insignificant as a pre-show warm-up is likely speaking from insecurity. And what would artists – theatre folk in particular – be without our sense of insecurity?

I actually wanted to write about this in my last piece. Early February 2015 was a perfect storm of body issue articles appearing in mainstream media: both Cindy Crawford and Beyoncé Knowles had un-retouched photos from their most recent photo shoots leaked to the public; the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was revealed to include an advertisement (not an actual photo spread) with model Ashley Graham as the first-ever plus-sized model to appear in the magazine; the same day of the SI announcement saw the release of the trailer for the upcoming film Magic Mike XXL; a million articles were written about stars getting into shape for the Oscars red carpet; and I read this article about one of my heroes, Kate Winslet. And that’s just the stuff I can remember off the top of my head. Apparently it was Body Conscious Week, but no one told me.

Now one would think that the pressure to achieve “perfection” wouldn’t be as important to the average indie theatre person as it would to the average red carpet all star, and that’s true to a degree. We’re all low enough on the totem pole to where it’s rare to have anyone following us around with high-speed cameras, asking how we intend to get in shape for bikini season (hell, most people don’t even believe what we do is “real acting/directing/writing” simply because it’s theatre – the last thing they care about is what we eat). But that doesn’t change the fact that we notice, both in the mainstream and in our little “underground” world. When the Ashley Graham thing was announced, a stand-up comedian friend of mine joked that “Ashley Graham gives me hope that one day I too could have my luscious bod airbrushed within an inch of its life, featured in SI, and called ‘plus-size’.” I’ve mentioned before that backstage can easily turn into an area of silent tension as performers positively and negatively assess their own bodies with those of their colleagues. It’s that oft-mentioned “junior high mentality” that we find ourselves unable shake. Being artists affords us an outlet for these anxieties, if not an actual relief.

Eventually – seeing as how so much of our work (writing in particular) is based on a mental acumen in which we take pride – some wiseass will ask “Well, if you’re so smart, why don’t you try exercising your body as much as your mind?” Honestly, it’s not a bad question – it’s just one for which it’s incredibly easy to make excuses.

My workout regimen (if it can even be called that) is very rudimentary. It has to be: I can’t afford a gym membership (hell, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a professional gym in my entire adult life) or exercise equipment, so what I do is done around the house. I’ve just made a habit of incorporating it into my everyday life. I work my stretching and balance in the morning as I’m waiting for the stove to heat up as I make my breakfast. I spend some days adding in jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and lunges. Days when I don’t do that, I make it a point to go jogging at least three miles. That’s about it, really.

No, really, that’s it. Without any personal trainer or set plan, I just know enough to raise my heart rate and not injure myself.

And yes, I enjoy it. I enjoy jogging more than anything because it’s when my mind is at its most fertile. I don’t play music when I jog or exercise and jogging relieves me of the burden of having to count reps. As such, I spend a good amount of time coming up with what-I-think-are-great-ideas and the rest of the jog trying to remember them, so as to write them down when I get back home.

This is just the latest version of a routine I’ve tried to keep since my early 20s, with varying degrees of success. Last month I turned 34, which means I’m officially in my “mid-30s”. My metabolism isn’t the same as it was when I was 17, and it’s just gonna get slower from here. I don’t smoke or drink coffee (I tried both when I was a teen, instantly hated them both, and never went back), have no known food allergies, and I try my damndest to get as close to eight hours of sleep as I can – and believe me, that one is the hardest. And I’m still not satisfied with how I look or how much I get accomplished.

To say nothing of the fact that as a Black man in America I’m far more prone to every ailment and illness in the Western world, not to mention more likely to have his jogging mistaken as running from the scene of a crime. (Yes, that has happened to me. More than once.) This is why my sympathy disappears for most folks who say “I’d work out if more, if I could.” Barring any serious injury or other condition, it’s often that they just don’t want to. I make the same excuse for whenever I don’t write. I write on a non-electric manual typewriter, so when I’m sitting in my room and I don’t hear that “klack-klack-klack” sound, I know I’m not doing something I should be doing. And I’m pissed off at myself for it.

But I’m still not satisfied with how I look. Now I know that as a guy there isn’t nearly as much pressure on me to conform to bodily norms as there is for a woman (if only someone would explain that to Russell Crowe), but that doesn’t make me any more secure about my lack of a six-pack. Or my increasing number of gray hairs. Or the crow’s feet around my eyes. Or the zit marks and moles all over my fa—Jesus H. Christ, how does the woman I’m dating even stand to look at me for more than fifteen seconds without her face melting?!

But as lacking as I am in admirable physical traits, I’m secure in the knowledge that at least I’m healthy by most counts. I can easily pull off the “sit and rise test” (sit on the floor, stand without using your hands or arms) and simple balance tests (stand on one leg for 20 sec. without falling over). Maybe one day I’ll have enough money to be under the guidance of a personal trainer on a regular basis, but until then, I’m happy to be healthy.

More importantly, I actually like how my exercise fits into my artistic life. As I said above, I love jogging because all of my best ideas happen when I’m jogging. If I have any skill as a writer – and I’ll be the first to say that I don’t – then I’d attribute it regular exercise. And, like all things artistic, it’s great when you find others with whom you can share it. A theatre artist I admire has been aiming to start an exercise group for some time now; should she ever get it up and running, I’d love to take part. About three years ago I was part of a weekend exercise group composed of SF State alumni-turned-theatre folk (I never went to SF State, so I’m still not sure how I got into that group?) and the sweat-inducing routines were presented as being just far more exerting pre-show exercises. And I’m always someone who will take part in pre-show warm-ups with the rest of the cast. I don’t think it should be required – for some actors, it’s akin to putting a gun to their head – but it’s an invaluable bonding experience for people who will spend the next few weeks/months/what-have-you running around playing Make Believe together on stage.

So no, I’ve never done my physical work to show off. It’s so rudimentary, I don’t know where “showing off” would even begin. No, I do it for the same reason I do everything else in theatre: I’m passionate about it. As the month of February draws to a close, so too does Theater Pub’s month-long look at the themes of Passion and Desire. I desire to be the best artist my skills will allow, and I’m passionate about taking the steps that will make me better at it. Plus I just like the view from this angle.

Charles – upside-down handstand

Charles – upside-down handstand

Charles Lewis’s biggest physical goal is to one day be able to pull off a “human flag”. Look it up. His next feat will be having four actors join him in the 20-yard dash that is spending one week producing Ashley Cowan’s This is Why We Broke Up for ShortLived 2015. See you at the finish line.

Theater Around The Bay: So Much Going On At Theater Pub!

TONIGHT!

Final performance of H/D: A Symphonic Romance In Space!

Tonight, Theater Pub invites you to emerge from stasis to travel through the vast expanse, seeking music, violence, and romance in the outer limits of the cosmos! This Theater Pub transmission explores instinct, evolution, and technology through a reading of original monologues and adapted text from 2001: A Space Odyssey, set to a live soundtrack.

This transmission brought to you through the mind of Tonya Narvaez and cinematic musical stylings of Storm Door. Featuring Stuart Bousel, Xanadu Bruggers, Andrew Chung, Neil Higgings, Dan Kurtz, and Meg Trowbridge.

Final Show TONIGHT, Monday, February 23, at 8 PM at PIANOFIGHT (144 Taylor Street)

February Theater Pub

As always, admission is FREE, with a $5 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!

And don’t forget- you can even get dinner at PIANOFIGHT!

AND SPEAKING OF PIANOFIGHT…

Theater Pub Returns To Duke It Out In PianoFight’s ShortLived Competition!

Big news! PianoFight’s audience-judged short play competition, ShortLived, returns to San Francisco next month and Theater Pub will fighting for the chance at the glory!

Featuring five season rounds, Theater Pub will be competing in round two with Ashley Cowan‘s play “This Is Why We Broke Up”, which will be directed by Charles Lewis III and performed by Andrew Chung, Caitlin Evenson, Dylan Pembleton, and Kitty Torres. The romcom explores one couple’s rocky relationship in the present and past through their drunk decisions on a quest for love. It will be performed Thursday, March 12th at 8pm, Friday, March 13th at 8pm, and Saturday, March 14th at 5pm and 8pm against five other short plays.

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The winner will move on to the Championship Round and the second place finisher will return to compete in the Wild Card Round (for a second chance at a place in the final round). And the stakes are high! Not only are we fighting for bragging rights but the winning play receives $5,000! That could buy a ton of booze.

So we need you! Yes, you. If you love Theater Pub as much as we love you, you’ll come support this awesome and fun competition and vote our play forward! The power’s in your hands.

AND DON’T FORGET…

We’re still looking for folks to join us for…

ON THE SPOT
A Night of Brand New Works by Emerging Playwrights!

Seven playwrights are put “on the spot” and given 24 hours to write a new ten minute play. They are assigned two-four actors, a director, and given a line of dialogue, a prop, and one set piece they must incorporate into their script. TheaterPub will produce these plays at PianoFight’s incredible new venue on March 23, 24, 30 & 31.

Are you a playwright looking to challenge yourself? Are you a director who is quick on your feet and full of ideas? Are you an actor who likes performing in bars? Then this show was MADE for you!

If you’re interested, please email Artistic Director Meg Trowbridge (thesingingwriter@gmail.com) with the following information by March 1st:

Name
Contact info
Resume/Headshot
Desired roles (playwriting, directing, or acting- or combination)

Confirmation you are available on the following days:
Rehearsals: March 14, 15, 21, 22 (12pm-6pm),
Performances: March 23, 24, 30 & 31 (6:30pm-10:00pm)

We’d love to see some new faces on stage or on the page, so if you have a friend you know who is looking to get involved with us, please forward them this post!

See you at the Pub!

Cowan Palace: ShortLived Returns And Other Spring Sequels

ShortLived is returning! And Ashley’s feeling things about it!

The spring of 2010 was an exciting time for me. Well, at least I can say that now because back then it just felt like everyday life.

After playing all the bridesmaids and many other female characters in Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding, I was finally given the chance to perform as the drunk bridezilla herself, Tina; I was working as a theatre teaching artist for over 100 kids in a week; I managed the box office/house/lounge at Magic Theatre and volunteered as their audition reader where I had the chance to listen in on all the big casting choices; and I was finally getting my start into playwriting, an area that had both scared me and called to me for years. In fact, I was #blessed with some beginner’s luck and good fortune in that department because during that spring of 2010, I was working on my first Olympian’s piece, had a play accepted into the first Pint Sized Festival, and had just been given the chance to submit something for PianoFight’s ShortLived competition, that time on behalf of No Nude Men Productions.

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Sure, I was constantly stressed about my lack of finances and health insurance but I was also involved in all these creative outlets. And yeah, I may have questioned my life in comparison to all my school classmates who were getting married and having babies more than was necessary as a hopeless single, but ultimately, I was having fun as a young 20-something in San Francisco. I was a poor gal’s Carrie Bradshaw! … or something.

Which was why being involved in ShortLived was so rad. Thanks to a chance meeting after a Theater Pub show, I was introduced to Rob Ready who was inquiring about involving Theater Pub in PianoFight’s current show. I awkwardly barged into the conversation. And I immediately jumped at the chance to take on writing something without having any idea of what I could submit… or who would direct it… or who would act in it… even though we had a limited time in which to get all these pieces together. I didn’t care! I was eager! It would work out!

Luckily, it did. There were a few hurdles and tears along the way but I dusted off some notes I had about a short piece involving the role texting can play in dating and then was so thankful and delighted when Julia Heitner said she’d direct it. She fought for a cast and then used her wonderful creative powers to quickly stage and ready it for an audience. When it opened, I took some time off from performing in Tony ‘n Tina’s to watch from the back of a sold out theater. I nervously drank BudLight Lime from a brown paper bag and saw my short play, Word War, come to life. It was the first time any of my scripted words had been produced and performed in front of a crowd and the experience was as delicious as my drink with a side of cupcakes and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos: nothing short of magical.

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Fast forward to today. Well, to last week, I guess. Theater Pub gets an email from Rob asking if we’d like to submit something for ShortLived. Because after a few years away, it’s back! Which is so great! Eager Ashley responds within just a few minutes (again, without any real idea of what to submit or any of the needed production details). Stuart, wise leader that he is, kindly inquires if it’s a doable project for someone so far along in her pregnancy. Oh, right, I remember. I’m eight months pregnant now. Huh.

I’m very excited to have a daughter on the way. She’s apparently the size of a pineapple now (which I try not to think about coming out of me because, well, that’s just an awful image… sorry for putting it in your mind, you pervert) and in just a few weeks, she’ll be here bringing a new kind of magic to my life. There aren’t really enough words to describe the feeling. It’s kind of like waiting backstage to make your first entrance on opening night after a rocky dress rehearsal. You’ve never felt so alive and charged but terrified and anxious all at the same time. The experience is the current star of my reality show.

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And it’s times like these, I realize that years of “shortlived” moments have moved me to a whole new place. Somewhere you hadn’t really realized you had arrived at until you turned around and realized what was behind you.

But here we are. While I can’t help but miss the energy I had five years ago and the passion I possessed to say yes to every opportunity without much thought, I realize it’s not 2010 anymore. Russell Brand and Katy Perry are not together. Thankfully, Theater Pub has continue to grow and develop a core group of fellow eager yes-to-theatre-opportunity-makers. I’m in good company. So when Stuart suggested teaming up with Barbara and involve our team, I was into it. Selfishly, I’m not quite ready to forgo the spirit I possessed five years ago but I’m also super thankful to be involved with a group that still humors me and lets me feel included, even as the super pregnant gal.

While we’re in the very early stages of figuring out our involvement in this year’s ShortLived competition and I sadly may not be able to drink BudLight Lime in celebration, I have to say, the spring of 2015 is looking like it may be pretty exciting too (plus, I can still eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and cupcakes and boy, will I). And I hope this time, I’m old enough to fully appreciate it.

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For more information on ShortLived or to submit your own work, check out: www.pianofight.com/shortlived-open-challenge/!

Cowan Palace: PianoFight Resolves to Open the Damn Venue

Things are changing in the San Francisco Theater scene and PianoFight needs your help! Ashley Cowan profiles the ambitious folks behind this ambitious attempt to open a new space in the ever-emerging downtown theater scene!

Happy 2014! If you resolved to see more theater this year or become a more active participant in the community, I may have a suggestion. The fellas at PianoFight (Rob Ready, Dan Williams, and Kevin Fink) have made the ultimate resolution: to open a landmark entertainment venue complete with two theaters, a full restaurant and bar with a cabaret stage, rehearsal and office spaces, and even a film studio. It’s going to be huge. It’s going to be epic. It’s PianoFight.

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In the midst of their fundraising, I had the chance to ask the guys a few questions this week and learn a bit more about the project.

To those who are unfamiliar with PianoFight, can you give us a brief introduction?

Sure! PianoFight is a San Francisco based production company. We produce theater, manage / build venues, play music and cut records, film corporate and other creative videos, produce comedy and interactive shows, stage dance, run a website and do other generally creative things. It’s fun and we make it a priority to have fun, and we’re committed to producing new work by new artists.

Super fun! Can you tell us a little bit more about your new space and what you’re currently working on?

The new space is at 144 Taylor Street, in the Tenderloin. It’s a 50-seat theater, a 90-seat theater, rehearsal spaces, office spaces, a film production studio and a full restaurant and bar with a cabaret stage. We’ll have a multi-camera setup in the larger theater so we can live-stream and record shows, and we’ll rent out the space and offer classes so anyone and everyone can get in on the action. Find out more right HERE.

This is a massive undertaking. What’s been the biggest surprise in leading a fundraising campaign of this size?

Hands down, the broad-based and energetic support for the project. We knew we’d need a ton of backers to reach our goal, and were excited to see our immediate community step up and financially support this vision. But it’s really cool to see interest from all kinds of folks excited to be a part of something like this happening in San Francisco. And then there’s the random/awesome people that come out of the woodwork – someone with whom you went to elementary school but haven’t spoken to in years dropping $50 on the campaign. That’s freakin’ awesome.

What can we, the awesome Theater Pub community, do to help?

Well, the most straightforward way is to back the project and recruit other like-minded folks to back the project. Talk it up, post in on FB, Tweet about it and email your peeps – getting the word out in general is a HUGE help. If you know anybody who works at cool blogs that would be into this, please email Rob at rob@pianofight.com. Beyond that, just keep making dope art so we’ve got tons of cool projects and artists to fill up the stages.

What project and/or dope art are you most excited to work on in the new place?

Can’t wait to reboot our audience-judged playwriting competition, ShortLived. This has always been a fun, big project for us because it involves the indy theater community in a really interesting and unique way. We’ve taken time to rework the rules and format to make it’s more of a theater competition with different teams staging short plays. It’s still audience judged, but this time we’re upping the production value and adding cash prizes for the winners. When we launch it, we’re gonna go big, and whoever wins is going to have to run the gauntlet and prove themselves real theater rockstars.

I can’t wait. Personally speaking, writing for ShortLived has been one of my favorite Bay Area involvements. But in the meantime, how do you get through some of the more challenging aspects of this process?

Beer. Lot’s of it. Also, it helps that the three of us have been friends for so long – we’ve all been friends since grade school. Sometimes that’s rough, because we’re comfortable with each other to the point that we can say whatever the hell is on our minds. This can be, sometimes, not the nicest most sensitive thing in the universe. But really, knowing what we’ve been through over the years, and that we’ve had each other’s backs through all of that, there is nothing more reassuring than knowing your two best friends are in the trenches right beside you.

If PianoFight could be made into a drink, what beverage would it be?

Cutty Sark on the rocks. Or in two drinks – one shot, and one shitty beer.

What was your favorite theatrical experience of 2013?

Final run of Theater Pub at Cafe Royale. It was emotional and fun, and those kind of events mark phases of our lives and the life of the art-making community in the Bay. It was a very cool experience.

What’s the best part of being involved in the Bay Area theater community? And what’s the hardest?

Best part: the Bay Area is bursting with talent that tends to have a singular edge or rawness. Bay Area artists are highly motivated to take risks and be innovative, producing some extremely exciting work.

The hardest part is the lack of platforms / distribution channels / megaphones to propel that art and those artists into greater markets, so that Bay Area art can be better represented on the national and International stage. Thus, this venue.

Bang, kill, or marry: Shakespeare, Chekov, or Arthur Miller :

They’re all already dead so killing would be redundant, and banging or marrying would be illegal. How bout this – we promise not to produce any of them.

Any interesting, personal resolutions you guys have made for 2014?

OPEN THE DAMN VENUE!

What can we expect next from PianoFight?

In January, Mission CTRL will premiere an all new show at SketchFest, and Chardonnay (formerly ForePlays) will also play a show with SketchFest. And then in February, Chardonnay will premiere an all new show at EXIT Theater. Then after that, WE’RE OPENING THAT DAMN VENUE!

Back us on Kickstarter.
Like us on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.
Check out our website.

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A big thanks to PianoFight for taking a moment to chat about this exciting project. They have 9 days to raise the money and make this resolution come true. So spread the word, sing it from the rooftops, hire a carrier pigeon, or do whatever you can do because this is something worth (Piano)Fight(ing) for. (Did you guys see what I did there?) As always, I wish you all well and look forward to another glorious year of Bay Area Theater!