In For a Penny: The Benefit of being Let Go

Charles Lewis III, liberated from the proverbial last straw.

You're Fired fortune cookie copy

“No man likes to acknowledge that he has made a mistake in the choice of his profession, and every man, worthy of the name, will row long against wind and tide before he allows himself to cry out, ‘I am baffled!’ and submits to be floated passively back to land.”
– Charlotte Brontë, The Professor

I knew what it was about before I even opened the e-mail. We’d just had a meeting the week before and now I was being asked to attend another one right out of the blue. Just the tone of the words “Can you come in on Monday?” barely concealed the impression that my instincts had already picked up. I read it and thought myself “I’m clearly about to get fired.”

It’s not a new experience for me. Over the course of my life, it was inevitable that eventually I’d be fired from two jobs, as opposed to the others from which I quit or resigned. (Yes, I consider quitting and resignation to be two different things. “Resignation”, in my mind, goes through the standard operation procedure of two weeks notice and a boilerplate letter. “Quitting”, on the other hand, well… have you ever seen the movie Half Baked?) In this very column, I’ve briefly alluded to the two times I was let go from theatre roles just weeks before opening – both of which were for the best. In fact, I sometimes think about a production or two I probably should have left. But, as they say, “the benefit of hindsight…”

Ending a job – any job – is like ending a relationship: there are financial concerns, all of your friends have their unsolicited opinions on how it should have gone, and there’s a seemingly endless stream of platitudes to greet you at the end. Most similarly, it’s been obvious for some time that you two aren’t good for one another and it’s just a matter of time before someone did something drastic. Just get it over with now so you can both move on.

I have only myself to blame, really. I’ve mentioned beforetwice, actually – that I was going into 2015 with nothing set in stone. I tried to brush it off, even convinced myself that it was for the best, but I still got antsy and wanted to work. The two auditions I’ve had resulted in bupkis and I don’t have much coming up acting-wise. So I accepted work. Lots of work.

A running joke of late amongst some of my theatre colleagues has been the fact that I’ve been seen manning the box office “at so many theatre companies lately”. (It’s actually just two.) In addition to that, I’m also part of the writing pool of a show going up this summer; I’ve been offered the chance to polish off an old script for an entirely new audience; I’m one of the directors of this month’s Theater Pub; I’m directing the ‘Pub’s entry for ShortLived; I need to take another look at the pages I’ve already written for this year’s Olympians Fest; and I just expanded my role at my part-time job. That’s just what I can remember. So… yeah, it’s been a very relaxing year thus far.

After reading the e-mail about the Monday meeting and taking stock of all the above, I thought to myself “Would it be so bad if I got fired?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer not to have another blemish on my employment record (to say nothing of a lack of income as I continue my never-ending quest for a full-time job). But I’d been doing so much in addition to all of the above that I’m pretty sure my health was beginning to suffer. I barely had time for any of the exercises I mentioned in my last entry and I didn’t even get to see the shows I was house managing. I became so determined to be the best at each job that I was falling behind on almost all of them: I was late for – or missed – a few deadlines and began to lose track of dates. And I won’t even get into family health matters. When a friend of mine happened to see me, noticed I looked a bit ragged, and asked me what was wrong between condolence hugs, all I could do was quote Hamlet: “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.” My first-world problems bring out my melodramatic side.

After I got that e-mail on a Friday, I wound up having to miss one of my box office shifts that Saturday. Not because of the e-mail, but because of “the outside world”. Long story short: I had to take someone to the hospital. I don’t know if it was being around sick people or if the stress of the world finally got to me, but I actually did get sick in the days that followed. So as it got closer to the meeting on Monday, I took a moment to say to myself “I really hope I get fired.”

It’s a tricky business leaving a job staffed with people you know. At the meeting, the woman who hired me – someone for whom I still have a great deal of respect – said she regretted at moving to this point. I, likewise, apologized for not being able to do my job at 110%. We both acknowledged the fact that my increasingly crowded schedule was starting to show in other aspects of my life. Everyone agreed that it was for the best to let me go. Afterward she told me that she’d like me to remain a part of her network, and for once, I actually believed that to be true.

And with that, a straw was removed from the camel’s back.

The theme(s) of this month’s Theater Pub is “Luck and Chance”. I’ve had the chance to expand my skill set and strokes of luck both good and bad. I had a chance encounter with a friend who gave a hug when I wasn’t yet ready to spill my guts. I’ve had the chance to prove myself outside of my normal comfort level. If nothing else, I’d like to think that I’ve proven how dedicated I am, even when possibly to my personal detriment. But then, that’s the reason I named this column “In For a Penny”. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe in Destiny, but I do believe in Fate. It was my fate to do this amount of work for the amount of time in which I did it. Now that it’s over, I’m able to give my other work the proper attention it deserves.

Tonight begins the first of a three-day/four-performance run of This is Why We Broke Up , the SF Theater Pub short play written by Ashley Cowan which I directed. Ashley’s offer to direct came at a time when I really needed it, so I’m willing to believe luck was on my side. As you fine folks watch it (multiple times, and vote us to the top!), I’ll be in the back in a Zen-like trance.

Charles Lewis III is serious about you showing up to ShortLived tonight. In fact, show up all weekend! Tickets are super-cheap AND they’re even cheaper with a group of six-or-more. Buy them right now!

The Real World, Theater Edition: An Interview with Alan Olejniczak

Barbara Jwanouskos interviews, Alan Olejniczak about his upcoming show, “Present Tense.”

I had to feel instant comradery with Alan Olejniczak and having a complicated last name with a silent “J”. In case you were wondering, Alan gives you a little tip on his website on how to pronounce his name, which I’m totally going to steal for my own forth coming website.

“How in the heck do you pronounce that last name?”
OH/la/KNEE/check

We had the chance to bond over email about opera libretti. I was inspired by Alan’s story of the serendipitous outcome of a little facebook post he put out to the world when he had submitted to a company he admires that actually didn’t take unsolicited playwriting submissions. Partially because while I make adjustments to my own playwriting trajectory, I’m feeling the need to be bold and put myself out there more and more.

What follows is my email exchange with Alan. I am looking forward to meeting him, geeking out about Pearl S. Buck and of course, seeing his plays.

Alan-by-ChrisTurner892

Babs: I’m interested in people’s trajectory into writing. Tell me how you got involved in the Bay Area theater scene. Did you come in originally as a playwright? Was anything an impetus?

Alan: While I have a BFA with a focus in Performing Arts, I studied the classics but had little idea of how plays were written or even developed. Up to that point, I never considered the idea of writing one. About six years ago, I saw a developmental reading of a play by Lauren Gunderson at Marin Theater Company. I was inspired and strangely determined to write one myself. After all, how hard could it be? For me, playwrighting has become a passion and continues to be the most difficult and most rewarding personal endeavors I have ever undertaken.

Babs: This tends to be such a loaded question, but do you think you have a writing style, and if so, what is it like? How would your friends describe your writing and the subject matter that you’re attracted to?

Alan: It’s too early for me to claim any particular writing style, and in many ways, I’m still finding my voice. I enjoy writing dramas and I’m naturally drawn to mythology and the stories of powerful historical figures. My work has been described as classically-styled, intellectual, but most often, operatic. I believe theater should be distinct from film and I’m not always attracted to realism, despite Present Tense being written this way.

Babs: Tell me about your upcoming production of “Present Tense” at ACT Costume Shop. What is it about? Where did it grow out of? What might we expect?

Alan: Present Tense is really my second play. It’s a play cycle of five separate vignettes. It’s about loving families and dilemmas that some us face. It’s drawn from personal experiences and those of people I love. The focus is on intimate stories rather than the grand and the characters are drawn from real life rather than archetypes. I wrote the Present Tense with my friend, Rik Lopes in mind and I’m thrilled that he is able to direct and perform in this play.

Babs: I read on your website that you are also very much interested in opera. Could you talk a little about that? What drew you to it and have you written any libretti, out of curiosity?

Alan: While working on my undergrad at UW-Milwaukee, I studied theater production, but outside of school, I sang in the chorus of the Florentine Opera Company. I graduated, moved to Atlanta, and didn’t sing again for another fifteen years. I loved working with the Atlanta Opera and sang three seasons before moving to California. For now, I simply enjoy being a season ticket holder with the San Francisco Opera.

I love opera and believe it’s one of the greatest western art forms. It combines the highest expressions of vocal and orchestral music with the greatest demands on stagecraft. Currently, I’m in the early stages of developing a play for We Players. It’s drawn from Greek mythology and combines spoken drama with song, spectacle, and dance. I’m excited for the opportunity to work with such amazing and dynamic company. My crazy dream is to adapt Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth” into a grand opera.

Babs: I mentioned that this month’s themes are “luck and chance”. Can you tell me a story of how this might have intersected with your playwriting/theater trajectory?

Alan: Connecting with We Players was certainly serendipity. Last summer, I posted on Facebook that I foolishly submitted an unsolicited script to a company I love. Never a smart move, but I was feeling bold and guessed that my email was already deleted. By chance, my friend Arthur Oliver, who I worked with at the Atlanta Opera read the post and privately messaged me, asking which company it was? He knew Ava Roy personally and he really made this connection happen. I’m forever grateful.

Babs: What keeps you writing?

Alan: Humans have always had a deep need for sharing stories. It’s primal. We are also drawn to meaningful and satisfying work and playwrighting for me fills both of these needs. I find I’m most productive and inspired in the mornings. I wake early, make a pot of coffee, and write. Playwrighting, for me, has become literally the reason I get up in the morning.

Babs: Any advice for those that might want to write a play and have it produced?

Alan: Frankly, I’m still learning myself. However, I would say to write a play, one must learn the mechanics of dramatic structure and how to develop compelling characters and dialogue. You must also really love the subject of your play as it may take years to develop. Lastly be persistent and be open to thoughtful critique. I know the surest way to bring your play to the stage is to self-produce. Take the risk yourself rather than ask others. I remember speaking to Stuart Bousel who stated there is no right way to produce a play or be successful in theater.

Babs: Any plugs for anything of yours (or others) coming up?

Alan: Well, certainly We Player’s Ondine. I hope to work front-of-house on the production after the run of Present Tense. Ondine will be spectacularly staged at the Sutro Baths and will not be a show to miss. I would also recommend Patricia Milton’s Enemies: Foreign and Abroad with Central Works Theater. I’m also looking forward to Impact Theater’s Richard III and Piano Fight’s ShortLived.

PRESENT TENSE_Poster_draft 6 (Final)

You can find out more about Present Tense and ticket information at the ACT Costume Shop website. For news on Alan Olejniczak, check out his website at www.alanolejniczak.com.

Barbara Jwanouskos is a SF Bay Area-based playwright with an upcoming reading of her untitled punk play through Just Theater’s New Play Lab on April 28th. You can follow her on twitter @bjwany and now on Facebook.

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: ShortLived, but Long in Memory

Marissa Skudlarek, romancing the past.

I didn’t realize how deeply I had romanticized PianoFight Productions’ 2010 edition of ShortLived, their audience-judged playwriting competition, nor how short half a decade can feel, until I learned that PianoFight is bringing ShortLived back this month. Of course I’ll go see at least a couple of the shows, vote for Theater Pub’s contribution (“This Is Why We Broke Up,” playing the weekend of March 13), root for my friends and hopefully be introduced to the work of impressive new writers and actors.

But—and I feel prematurely old saying this—I know it won’t be the way it was. It couldn’t possibly be the way it was.

In 2010, I was a hungry upstart; now, I’m someone who’s been referred to as “an established playwright” in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2010, I had limitless energy and enthusiasm but was a bit lacking in tact; now, I think, the balance has shifted. In 2010, I was a girl; now, I am an adult.

It was only (only?) half a decade ago, but we were all so much younger then.

When ShortLived happened in 2010, I’d been living in San Francisco for a year and a half. My period of post-college instability was over, I had a decent job and great roommates and some friends to do things with, and I was ready to plunge into the local indie theater scene. However, I was also in a low-grade panic over my inability to write a good short play.

This may sound like an odd problem to have, but when I first started writing plays as a teenager, I found it much easier to write long than to write short. I knocked out three full-length plays before I was 21, and two of them won awards; but the short plays I wrote for my high school and college playwriting classes were weak, trivial efforts. Trouble is, after you leave college and are trying to get your plays seen, most of the opportunities for newbie playwrights are for short plays, not full-lengths. I knew that in order to have a fighting chance at this whole playwriting thing, I’d have to learn how to write shorts.

I decided that I found it easier to write long than short simply because, as a teen, I was exposed to more good full-length theater than to good short plays. So, in order to teach myself how to write a one-act, I’d need to expose myself to as many short plays as possible and figure out for myself what worked and what didn’t.

Enter ShortLived: a festival of sixty ten-minute plays by local writers. The tickets were cheap, the audience was vocal, and the voting component made it crystal-clear which plays worked and which plays failed. By the end of the competition, I’d been introduced to the work of playwrights who I’d come to know much better in the intervening years: Ashley Cowan, Megan Cohen, Kirk Shimano (and I’m still miffed that Kirk’s charming play “Inner Dialogue” got robbed in the final round). Best of all, somewhere in there, I figured out how to write short plays that I felt proud of, and that other people seemed to like, too. In May 2010, I wrote a play called “Drinking For Two,” which was accepted into Theater Pub’s first series of Pint-Sized Plays. It was my first production in San Francisco.

The thing is, though, that ShortLived was tied up with everything else that happened to me in the spring of 2010, the springtime of my early twenties. I burned through life like a dynamo. I was working long hours at my day job. I was running all over town, seeing plays like crazy. I was reading books like crazy, writing in my diary like crazy. I was in the throes of a feverish crush that felt like the most important thing in the world at the time but now seems half incomprehensible. After the March 2010 Theater Pub, I vomited from excessive drinking for the first time in my life. I read The Secret History for the first time. I listened to the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs for the first time. It was a second adolescence, a time of limitless possibility, and I don’t know how I managed to absorb it all.

After the ShortLived plays performed, we’d all go drinking at the Tempest, an exceptionally seedy bar whose Shakespearean name nonetheless lent it an air of ragged glamour. The Tempest still allowed people to (illegally) smoke cigarettes indoors in those days, and I remember carefully planning my Tempest outfits, trying both to look hot and to wear clothes that could be thrown in the wash immediately after I got home, reeking of cigarette smoke. I made some major decisions those nights in the Tempest, and briefly regretted them six or twelve months later (why had I thought it a good idea to plot the course of my life in such a seedy bar?). And later my perspective shifted again: from the perspective of five years on, there doesn’t seem to be anything to regret.

One night when we theater folks trouped into the Tempest after a ShortLived show, one of the Tenderloin regulars in the bar took a glance at us and said, “Oh, it’s the yuppies.” We had a good laugh about that. Of course we weren’t yuppies! We were artists and rebels! Though we were, for the most part, young and white and clean-cut, we were not the Establishment, we were upstart kids making theater on a shoestring.

But here we are in 2015, and ShortLived is coming back, taking place in PianoFight’s own purpose-built venue rather than a strange black-box theater in an office building on Fifth and Mission. PianoFight’s new space is gorgeous, sleek and clean. Yet it is also, I must admit, kind of yuppie. (Or “bougie.” Isn’t that what the kids are saying these days?) The people who run PianoFight are still fun, unpretentious guys, but they’re no longer as footloose as they were – they’re landlords now. We all still enjoy a good drink, but we’d prefer to get it from the solicitous PianoFight bartenders rather than the somewhat intimidating guys at the Tempest. Ashley Cowan wrote a play about modern-day dating for ShortLived in 2010 and has written another play about modern-day dating for ShortLived in 2015, but in those five years, she met her husband, got married, and is about to have a child. And, while my external circumstances haven’t changed so drastically, I feel exponentially more settled and stable – which is both a boon and a curse.

Even though I didn’t have a play in ShortLived 2010, I feel like it marked the beginning of my participation in the indie theater community here in San Francisco. I hope that ShortLived 2015 may do the same for some other early-twenties writers and actors and directors who burn with the same eagerness and energy that I once burned with.

I hope it’ll be like that for them. Because I know it won’t be that way for me again.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. Find her on Twitter @MarissaSkud or online at marissabidilla.blogspot.com.

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/!