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.

Theater Around The Bay: It’s Alright, You Can Take Your Foot Off The Clutch Now

Our guest posts continue with a piece by Sam Bertken. Enjoy!

I hear you, I hear you—“Help, Internet! I am really nervous about this new thing that I’m going to start trying out, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle it! Can you please provide me with witty repartee and insight from people that have ‘been there’ so I feel less overwhelmingly nervous?”

Alright, alright, sure, I wasn’t doing anything, anyway.

Okay, let’s play a game: close your eyes. No, wait, actually, open them. You’re going to need to read this in order to see where I’m going. Sorry.

Alright, low start, but we can come back from it, because I got an ace in my back pocket:

Do you guys like Kermit the Frog?

Yeah, there we go, everyone’s on board now. Who doesn’t love a gangly, felted frog with weirdly-shaped pupils, opining for the greener grass on other side of that oft-ode’d rainbow? I mean, when you put it that way the list gets a little longer, but for the most part I’d say there’s a collective nod of recognition when anyone listens to The Rainbow Connection. It’s about achieving a dream, it’s a promise to strike out for one’s self. It’s not a lament about the lilypad upon which you currently find yourself, but more of a love song that’s about the one right over there.

If only it wasn’t out of hop’s reach…

But it isn’t! Not always, anyways. And sometimes, with the right wind current and enough hamstring training, you might land easily in a wholly different context, catching new flies, writing new love songs to different sorts of weather phenomena; sometimes you’re widely considered a performer and then suddenly you find yourself in the director’s chair. Sometimes you’re part of a group ensemble making decisions collectively for your art and then you’re leading a group as the even-keeled captain to achieve that same aesthetic. Sometimes you get really bored while taking time to do some tech work, but when you’re back in a performing role, the whole world behind the lights has turned itself on its head. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, sort of like a long, pink, sticky tongue primed for catching passing insects.

Let’s leave the frog metaphors behind from here on out, shall we?

As someone who recently sat down with his accomplishments from 2013, I came to a few realizations, all of which primarily oriented around trying out new paths, to see if I wanted to explore them a little bit further: Write more (here I am)! Try directiong, somehow! Produce something! But where does that impetus lie? How do you get off the couch and start making calls, writing manifestos and making it happen for yourself?

I interviewed a few of my acquaintances about their experiences shifting gears, so to speak, in their creative lives, to help you—YOU!—make a decision on whether that impossible dream may not be so impossible as you may think.

Adam Smith is the Artistic Director of the newly-formed San Francisco Neo-Futurists, and was active for years prior in their New York chapter. Siobhan Doherty is a local performer (also originally hailing from New York), who recently took a gig directing for the Bay One Acts and is running with the same wild abandon as a preschooler holding scissors. Eli Diamond was a high school performer who, for college requisites, spent some time in the lighting booth and painting sets, and has since returned to the limelight with a different take on what makes him look so good.

To get at the impetus, that tipping point where things start to really come together for someone whose just shifted gears that these fine folks share, I asked our group about the origin story behind their decision to make a creative change. Adam Smith had this to say about the new run of the SF Neo-Futurists’ ongoing production, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind:

AS: I learned I was going to move out here in the middle of my last New York Neo-Futurist production called “On the Future.” The immediate thought was, “Oh the Bay would be a great place to start another Neo-Futurist company,” but didn’t really think much of it. A few months later Lucy Tafler (now our Managing Director) and Ryan Good (one of our bi-coastal Neo-Futurists) were out for an extended vacation. We saw a couple of shows in the Bay, and eventually came to the conclusion that there was room in the scene here for Too Much Light.

SB: Yes, I can definitely see how having an established structure and group of experts working with you can make things start happening at a nice, easy clip.

AS: Needless to say Ryan and Lucy’s vacation has been extended even longer.

SB: Okay, no need to start crowing about it, okay? Congratulations. But what if you’re not motivated to break borders creatively just because you’re breaking them geographically? Siobhan has been performing around the Bay Area for years now—where did this itch to sit in the director’s seat come from?

SD: After acting for so many years, I started to form opinions about what makes successful theater. My impulse to direct sprung from my desire to see how those opinions would play out in performance. Also, morally, I longed to have more ownership of the overall messages I was putting out into the world.

SB: I hear ya! The more experience receiving direction on the actual stage, the more your own ideas percolate, is that it?

SD: I have experienced many, many times as an actor when I think a scene could have been more effective if a director had used more active, actor-centric language. For example, instead of “do that section faster”, saying something along the lines of “let the excitement of each new idea build and carry this section forward”, would have made a world of difference.

SB: Who better to know how to direct an actor than just another actor? I’m following your train of logic so far.

SD: Lastly, I would say about 80% of the theater I see is TOO SLOW. I hope to counter-act that instinct. I also hope to explore new formats for an old medium. Site specific theatre, and one on one performance, are two arenas in which I think there is lots of contemporary and relevant fun to be had.

SB: As a creative person, wacky-awesome ideas are always pulling you in different directions, like an unfortuante medieval criminal and his quartet of horses (perhaps an overstatement to the uninitiated, but just you wait—it can feel this intense.) Eventually, it seems, it just becomes too much, and you have to use the experience and the connection and the artistic will you’ve been cultivating to make your dreams finally happen, darn it!
What about you, Eli? What prompted your brief time dangling from catwalks, hanging gels and focusing lights?

ED: Well, the tech work mostly started at NYU. First year students have to run tech on all the shows. I did lots of lighting and set design. Set design was far more my thing than lighting. There’s something that feels really powerful in creating the world the characters live in, plus I feel like a MAN with my powertools.

SB: No arguments there, that’s for sure. Also interesting that your creative change, like Adam, didn’t really come from a place of internal need, but from a source of external compulsion (such as a degree requirement, or a job offer). Or maybe just a need to make screwguns make that awesome “WHIRRRRR” sound, in this case.

SB: So once you pick up the manly powertools and you find yourself other side, what’s happening now? It’s all started, sure, in a boring, general way, but once you’re in the thick of it, that’s exciting, right? Or does the floor open up beneath you, and you’re dangling above an entire universe of new opportunity? Is it breathtaking in a good way or a pants-shitting way?

AS: Ask me again in a year. It’s too early. The real test will be after about 3-4 months when everyone is really acclimated to the performance schedule and we’re trying to do gigs and workshops, and making big decisions about direction.

SB: This sounds like the dangly feeling I mentioned earlier.

AS: As Artistic Director, there are more tasks to accomplish, and there is more pressure to meaningfully contribute to the local, national and international art conversation.

SB: Yikes.

AS: I’d say it’s largely positive. As an artist, I’m creating work that I might never have created if I stayed in New York. Between the life experience of picking up and moving, and being in a role of leadership, it has been pushing me to re-think my artistic choices and impulses.

SB: Not so yikes. That actually sounds pretty compelling to any artist out there whose eyeing some fresh new challenge. I’d say that’s the dream a lot of people hope for when they do jump into something new. A different perspective, a more nuanced view of the work you were creating before—it’s like a boot camp for better artistic expression! What do you think, Sio?

SD: Directing has been satisfying in new ways. It forces me to find a succinct, verbal way to express the meaning of a scene. It may even force me to find several ways of doing so if an actor is not comprehending my message. I must understand the piece extremely well in order to do that successfully.

SB: Yeah, like, you gotta read the whole script, definitely.

SD: Also, it is a great feeling to be surprised by your actors with their own ideas about a scene. In many ways, I think a great deal of good direction depends on casting actors that are willing to experiment and then just helping them to shape what they are naturally drawn toward. Not top-down, but bottom-up. If it comes from them, or (a la Inception) feels as though it comes from them, the results are more connected and resonant for the actor, and therefore, the audience.

SB: It must be kind of weird to have these thoughts about molding people who are in the position you were once in. I mean, you can’t have been the first, right? But that’s a whole ‘nother blog topic, isn’t it?

SD: The ego-centric part of me misses some of the focused praise afterward, since people often have no idea that you are the director. Although, that anonymity does give you excellent opportunities to overhear unfiltered audience opinions…

SB: Sneaky! Would you consider abandoning directing for acting, or vice-versa?

SD: No.

SB: Oh. Well. That’s, actually, liberating, and a good reminder for folks hoping to make a switch in the near future. It’s not like a door closes behind you—nothing’s that dramatic. You can sort of skip between them as your mood shifts. That’s a comfort, to find one other form you really rise to, find great satisfaction from, isn’t it, Eli?

ED: Lighting’s a little bit more monotonous and tricky to pin down. Lots of the work involves changing minor details. The lens of the light, the filter, etc. Things that wouldn’t really be noticed by the common person watching.

SB: I can see how going from creating a work of art, a character, that’s the center of everyone’s focus, a part of the show that, to the general audience member, makes-or-breaks the production in a certain sense, is a little more interesting than picking between Light or regular Amber for a general wash.

ED: The satisfaction is just different for me. I’ve never been an artist in that regard, so when I do scenic work or lighting, ther’es a detachment. I simply don’t get as attached to my work there the same way I do when I’m spillig my guts, sometimes literally, onstage. When a sets onstage, the sets on display, not the designer, or his intention, or his inner life so much.

SB: I see where you’re coming from here, yes. I’m sure the opposite is true for the artist’s who end up making their actors look and sound as good as they do. And now that you’re on the other end, in the role that you presently inhabit, I’m sure things are different. Your world’s opened up! The hue of everything is this crazy, LSD-neon shade of blue, AM I RIGHT?

AS: I think the main difference is, if you’re cast in a company that already exists, it has a history and a wealth of knowledge to pull from. You can see different writing styles and how each ensemble member’s fits with each other. As a new company we’re establishing that with each other. As someone who has done it before, I want to support the expansion of ideas, but without being prescriptive to define what we do as being only one or two people’s perspectives.

SB: Okay, so perhaps switching your creative role isn’t completely earth-shattering. But it certainly isn’t back-tracking, from what I can tell here. Especially in the case where you’re adopting greater responsibilities and taking performers less experienced in your style and collective vision under your wing, there’s a lot of almost paternal excitement to see it grow.

SD: It has helped me as an actor empathize with directors. I have a first-hand understanding of just how difficult it is to juggle a mountain of variables when it comes to casting and scheduling.

SB: So now there’s this whole side-wink to every director you’ll be working with from here on out, now that you understand their pain.

SD: Also, it can be a blessing and a cruse to work with actors that you know from past projects. On the one hand, you can cut to the chase and you know what they are capable of, and on the other hand, they may not have fully made the mental adjustment that you are now in a position of authority.

SB: Directing friends. Another lengthy topic—let’s go get beers and hash it out!

ED: Doing these jobs gave me far more respect for them as an actor. I’m not going to lie. I was a dick in high school to some of the techies. When you haven’t been fully exposed to what it takes to make a show, you fail to realize – they are working.

SB: What was that far of chorus of “Finally, they realize!” I just heard from the stage manager’s box?

ED: Not to say that actor’s don’t work, but there’s a huge element of play in our profession that, for me, was lost in technical work. I’m sure there’s someone out there who gets the same thrill form changing filters in a light as I do from being on stage, but it’s not me.

SB: I’m not going to ask you to describe what the “thrill” feels like. Entrapment and everything, ya know?

ED: There’s also the respect you have to give when you’re working and you realize, “My job is to make this guy on stage look good. “ When I just acted, I didn’t even think about that. Now, I hope to make the techie I’m working with WANT to make me look good.

SB: And then spill in the chocolates, the roses, the invitations to dinner… But for real, it seems to me that, even if a creative role didn’t “do it” for you, there’s a whole different world that has opened up to you. One becomes less of a high school dick and more of a compassionate theatre professional who is sometimes a dick to high schoolers (but just the ones who deserve it, of course). That’s important for professional development, but as an artist, entering a new world, having everything turned upside-down, that’s only going to add to your empathy engines. And while that alone may not make you a better actor, or artistic director, or director, or writer, or stage manager, or blessed box office volunteer, it’s going to make you a better person to work with.

So there it is! The lilypad is in clear sight, and you don’t need to stay over there for the rest of your damned life. Why not leap and take the plunge? From what I can tell, the benefits speak for themselves.

Adam Smith and the other Neo-Futurists have begun their sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, always edifyingly personal run of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, which runs every Friday and Saturday.

Siobhan Doherty is going to be lending her new-found love of direction to an exciting Rough Readings piece for Playwrights Foundation by Anthony Clarvoe called Early Romantics, and it plays at Thick House 2/10. In addition, she is directing a solo-performance festival called Modern Lovers: Women & Technology for All Terrain Theater in the spring.

Eli Diamond is going to be laying low until DivaFest mounts Kristin Hersh’s Rat Girl in May. He’ll be playing the role of Dave- and the drums.

Sam Bertken is an actor and a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A company member with Naked Empire Bouffon Company and an intern for the SF Neo-Futurists, he has performed with various companies, such as SF Theatre Pub, Custom Made Theatre Co. and the Exit Theatre.

The Stuart Excellence In Bay Area Theater Awards for 2013

Stuart Bousel gives us his Best of 2013 list. 

Three years ago I decided that I wanted to start my own Bay Area Theater Awards, because my opinions are just as legitimate as anyone else’s, the awards I give out are as valuable as any other critical awards, (recipients of the SEBATA, or the Stuey, if you prefer, get nothing but my admiration and some free publicity), and also because there’s a fairly good chance that I’ve seen a lot of theater the usual award givers haven’t seen. The best thing about the Bay Area theater scene is that there is a huge diversity in the offerings, and so much on the table to begin with. No one person can see it all, and therefore it’s important to share with one another the highlights of our time in the audience seat, if only to create a greater awareness of what and who is out there making stuff.

Also, there are some people who think I don’t like anything, and I feel a need to not only prove them wrong, but to do so by expressing how much of the local color I do love and admire, as opposed to just pointing out that the reason they think I don’t like anything is because I generally don’t like *their* work (oh… I guess I did just point that out, didn’t I?). Normally I post these “awards” on my Facebook page, but this year I decided to bring them to the blog because the mission statement of the SEBATA is pretty in-line with the mission statement of Theater Pub, and having come to the close of an amazing year of growth for the blog, it now has a much farther reach than my Facebook page could ever hope to have. Congratulations SF Theater Pub Blog- you just won a Stuey.

Anyway, because I am a product of the generation that grew up with the MTV Movie Awards- and, because I’m the only person on the voting committee and thus can do what I like- I have decided that my categories are purely arbitrary and can be stretched to allow me to write about anyone I feel like. The two limits are 1) I can’t give myself an award (though I can have been involved in the show on a limited level) and 2) I won’t go over thirteen (though there may be ties for some awards). Because seriously, how (more) self indulgent would this be without either of those rules? Oh, 3) I won’t give out awards for how bad something was. I’m here to be positive. And chances are those people were punished enough.

To all my friends and frenemies in the Bay Area Theater Scene… it’s been a great year. Let’s you and me do it again sometime. Well… most of you.

And now, presenting the Fourth Annual Stuey Awards…

BEST THEATER FESTIVAL
“Pint Sized IV” (San Francisco Theater Pub)
Pint Sized Plays gets better each year, and it’s honestly one of two things I actually miss about working at the Cafe Royale (the other is the uniqueness of doing Shakespeare there, which for some reason works in a completely magical way I wish it worked more often on traditional stages). This year the festival was put together by Neil Higgins, who did an amazing job, and I think we had some of the best material yet. The evening as a whole felt incredibly cohesive, with a theme of forgiveness and letting go, archly reflective of our decision to leave the Cafe Royale, and I think incredibly relevant to a lot of our audience. We knew Pint Sized could be very funny, and very socially pointed, but I’m not sure we had ever conceived of it as moving and this year it was, thanks in no small part to our writers (Megan Cohen, Peter Hsieh, Sang S. Kim, Carl Lucania, Daniel Ng, Kirk Shimano and Christian Simonsen), directors (Jonathan Carpenter, Colin Johnson, Tracy Held Potter, Neil Higgins, Charles Lewis III, Meghan O’Connor, Adam L. Sussman) and actors (Annika Bergman, Jessica Chisum, Andrew Chung, AJ Davenport, Eli Diamond, Caitlin Evenson, Lara Gold, Matt Gunnison, Melissa Keith, Charles Lewis III, Brian Quakenbush, Rob Ready, Casey Robbins, Paul Rodrigues, Jessica Rudholm). The evening would start off with a magical performance by the Blue Diamond Bellydancers, whose combination of skill and spectacle got our audiences excited for what was to come. As we moved through the pieces, each by turns funny and poignant, each in some way or another about finding something, losing it, letting it go, and then coming back stronger, you could feel the audience grow warmer and closer each night. By the time Rob Ready gave the closing monologue, fixing each audience member in turn with a smile, you could feel everyone really listening and you could hear a pin drop in the room, and that’s saying something for the noisy by nature Cafe Royale. I think a lot of love went into the festival this year, and not just because it might be the last, and the product of that love was real magic and like the best theater- you had to be there. And if you weren’t, you really missed out.

BEST SHOW
“The Motherf**ker With The Hat” (San Francisco Playhouse)
I saw a lot of decent, solid, well done theater this year but I had a hard time connecting to a lot of it, which was rarely a flaw with the show and probably had more to do with where I was/am as a person (lots of change this year). Then again, something about really good theater is that it can get you out of your own head and into some other world, for a while. Towards the end of the year, I saw three shows I really really liked: “Crumble, or Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake” at Bigger Than A Bread Box Theater Company, “Peter/Wendy” at Custom Made Theater Company, and “First” at Stage Werx, produced by Altair Productions/The Aluminous Collective and Playground. Still, San Francisco Playhouse’s production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s “The Motherf**ker With The Hat”, directed by Bill English, was probably my favorite show of the year. Who knows why it has an edge on the others? Maybe because as someone who spent most of their childhood weekends in New York it seemed oddly familiar, or maybe it was the deft handling by the universally excellent cast (Carl Lumbly, Gabriel Marin, Rudy Guerrero, Margo Hall, Isabelle Ortega) of the complex relationships and dialogue that Guirgis does so well, or maybe it was just refreshing to see such a simple, honest play in what, for me, was a year characterized by a lot of stylistically interesting but emotionally cold theater. There is something very passionate, scathing, bombastic and yet also humble and forgiving about Guirgis’ work that I think makes him such an important voice in modern American drama and English’s production brought all that out with an easy grace. The show really worked, and got me out of my head, and when I went back to my life I felt much better for the journey. What more can you ask of a theater experience?

BEST READING
“Paris/Hector” (San Francisco Olympians Festival)
I attend a lot of readings every year, and run a reading festival myself, so I’ve come to greatly value a really well done reading. This year, the award goes to director Katja Rivera and writers Kirk Shimano and Bridgette Dutta Portman, whose pair of one acts about the pair of Trojan princes Paris and Hector made for one of the best nights of this past year’s San Francisco Olympians Festival. Part of what I loved about it was that in one evening we saw the amazing variety the festival can offer: Kirk’s play was a comedy with a poignant moment or two, while Bridgette’s was a faux-classical drama- written in verse no less. Though the writers are the center of attention at the festival, credit really has to be given to Katja Rivera, who as the director of both pieces, made many simple but effective choices to highlight the best elements of both works and utilize the talents of her excellent cast: Yael Aranoff, Molly Benson, Jeremy Cole, Mackenszie Drae, Allison Fenner, Dana Goldberg, John Lennon Harrison, Michelle Talgarow, Alaric Toy. With the combined excellent story-telling of the performers (including beautiful and surprising singing from Yael, Molly and Dana), the thoughtfulness of the scripts, and the cohesiveness of the whole, this night of the festival stood out best in what was a consistently strong year at the Olympians.

BEST SHORT PLAY
“My Year” by Megan Cohen (Bay One Acts Festival)
Megan Cohen’s “My Year” is the kind of thing I wish more short plays would be: dynamic, personal, and complete. In a sea of short plays that are really fragments, or meet-cute plays, it’s always lovely to see something with a beginning, a middle, and end, and full-formed characters having actual interactions and not just feeling like Girl A and Guy B, thrown together by the whimsy of the playwright to make a point (though of course, the right playwright can pull that off- which is why so many people try to ape it). A friend of mine described “My Year” as “A fun little 90s indie film on stage” and my reaction when watching it was “Oh, Dear God, convince Meg to let me write a companion piece to this!” because let’s face it: at least a third of what I write is a 90s film on stage. My own vanity aside, what I loved about this play (directed by Siobhan Doherty, starring Emma Rose Shelton, Theresa Miller, Nkechi Live, Allene Hebert, Jaime Lee Currier, and Luna Malbroux) was that it felt constantly on the move, while still being mostly composed of intimate moments between a group of women at a birthday party. Like a lot of the theater that I really loved this year, it also just struck a personal chord, watching this young woman (Emma Rose Shelton) trying to enjoy the party her friends have thrown for her (though she doesn’t like surprise parties) despite there being no food and a random stranger (Theresa Miller) who worms her way in only to turn out to be the troublemaker she’s originally pegged for. Megan’s writing had its usual combination of smart and sentimental, but whereas a lot of her other work heads into absurdity and/or extreme quirkiness (not that this is bad), “My Year” stayed very grounded and found its meaning in that effort to stay grounded, making what might be a quiet little play in anyone else’s oeuvre, a nice change of pace in Cohen’s. The final moment, where the characters howl at the moon because what else are you going to do after a shitty birthday, felt like a communal sigh even the audience was in on, probably because we could all relate to Shelton’s character, and while having always loved and admired Meg’s work, this is probably the first time I related to it so wholeheartedly.

The Peter O’Toole Award For General Awesomeness
Linda Huang (Stage Manager, Tech, Box Office, Everything)
You know how the Oscars and Tonys give out Lifetime Achievement Awards for people whose contribution is so massive that it would kind of be criminal to pick one work or contribution so instead they just get an award for basically being themselves? You know, like how Peter O’Toole got that award because at some point somebody realized that he was pervasively brilliant and always in fashion and therefore easily forgotten because things like “Oh, well, he’ll win next year” often times factors in to who we recognize, meaning things like reliability and consistency do not? Well, for the first time ever in the history of the SEBATAs, I’m creating The Peter O’Toole Award for General Awesomeness and giving it to Linda Huang, without whom, in all seriousness, I believe that small theater in San Francisco would probably grind to a halt. Earlier this year, I got recognized by the Weekly as a “Ringmaster” of the theater scene, but frankly I (and people like me) could not do what we do without having Linda (and people like her) constantly coming to our aid despite being paid a fraction of what they’re worth and half the time being forgotten because what they do isn’t in the immediate eye of the audience. Linda is a total gem of the theater scene. She wears many hats, though she’s probably best known for running light boards, and one of my favorite things when attending the theater is running into her, usually working in some capacity I previously was unaware she was qualified to do (note: Linda is qualified to do everything). What I love best about Linda (aside from her cutting sense of humor and tell-it-like-it-is demeanor) is her incredible generosity: she does so much for local theater and rarely gets paid, and even when she does get paid she often says, “Pay me last.” A true team player, and one we don’t thank enough, especially as she’s the only person who seems to know how to get the air conditioning in the Exit Theatre to work.

BEST BREAK THROUGH
Atticus Rex, Open Mic Night In Support of the Lemonade Fund (SF Theater Pub/Theater Bay Area Individual Services Committee)
I never expected to include a note about someone who performed at an open mic/variety show, but I wanted to shout out to Atticus Rex, a young performer who literally made his performance debut at the San Francisco Theater Pub/ISC fundraiser for the Lemonade Fund this year. A last minute replacement, Atticus and a friend performed some original hip-hop for our audience of mostly performance professionals and their friends, and despite the formidable crowd and the first time nerves, he basically killed it. Even when he made a mistake it worked: he’d call himself out, apologize, and start again, somehow without ever missing a beat. His lyrics are very tight and poetic, and the contrast between the power in his words and his humbleness at approaching and leaving the stage works so well you’d almost think it was an act- except he later confessed he’d never performed live before, and it couldn’t have been more sincere. With genuine hope he never loses his sincerity, while also continuing to grow his confidence and experience, I wanted to take a moment to say congratulations once again, and thank you for reminding us all what it looks like to really take a risk onstage.

BEST CHEMISTRY
Genie Cartier and Audrey Spinazola (Genie and Audrey’s Dream Show, SF Fringe Festival)
What’s potentially cuter than “Clyde the Cyclops?” Very little, but these two ladies and their breathless, funny, and surreal little clown show come dangerously close to giving Clyde a run for his money, and it’s the only show I saw at the Fringe this year that I wished my boyfriend had also seen. Bravely straddling the bridge between performance artists and acrobats, this collage of monologues, poems, jokes, mime, clowning, puppetry, stunts, music, and children’s games, is like watching two hyper-articulate kids on pixie sticks go nuts in a club house, but only if those kids had an incredible sense of timing and arch senses of humor (not to mention very flexible bodies). I’ve never been a huge fan of circus stuff (I like it as an accent, sometimes, but as entertainment on its own it doesn’t tend to hold my interest long), but I think I’d be a fan of anything that had these two women in it. Their ability to play off each other is the key to making their show work, and when you watch it you have that sense of being let into the private make-believe world of people who have found kindred spirits in one another. It’s an utterly magic combination and from what I know of other people who saw it, it basically charmed the pants off everyone. Or at least, everyone who has a soul.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR
Ben Calabrese (Apartment in “Crumble, or Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake”)
I saw a lot of great performances by men this year (Sam Bertken in “Peter/Wendy”, Tim Green and Gregory Knotts in “First”, Paul Rodrigues “Pint Sized Plays IV”, Will Hand “Dark Play”, Casey Robbins “Oh Best Beloved!”), but this one really took my breath away (though since Sam Bertken actually got me to sincerely clap for fairies in Peter/Wendy, he gets a second shout out). Ben’s role, which is to literally embody the voice of a neglected apartment, is the kind of role that could either be the best thing about the show, or the worst. Luckily for Bigger Than A Breadbox’s production of “Crumble, or Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake (written by Sheila Callaghan), Ben rocked it. Bouncing around the stage, dive bombing the furniture, all the while spouting, eloquently, Callaghan’s beautiful and complex monologues, Ben was so utterly watchable it was impossible not to buy the conceit of the role, and so moments when he has an orgasm from having the radiator turned on, or turns his fingers into loose electrical wires, don’t seem ridiculous, but made immediate and total sense. It’s usually not a compliment to tell an actor they did a tremendous job being an inanimate object, but what Ben did so well was illustrate that a home, while not “alive”, does indeed have a life to it. And if that life occasionally fixes the audience with Ben’s particular brand of “scary actor stare” why… all the better.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS
Brandice Marie Thompson (Georgia Potts in “First”)
Oh, this was a tough one. As usual, the actresses of the Bay Area are kicking ass and taking names no matter what their role, and my decision to pick Brandice above the rest is because I think she best exemplified that thing which so many actresses have to do, which is take a relatively underwritten role in a play about men and turn it into a rich, believable character who somehow manages to steal the show. Evelyn Jean Pine, who wrote “First”, is a fantastic writer and she writes women and men equitably well, and due credit must go to her for the creation and inclusion of this character in a story mostly about male egos, but in a lesser capable actresses hands, this role could have been annoying, or forgettable, or purely comical, and Brandice avoided all of these traps while making the character utterly charming at the same time. The truth is, her arc became much more interesting to me than that of the main character, and I think a strong argument could be made that “First” was just as much about Georgia as it was about Bill Gates. Director Michael French no doubt had a hand in this too, but in the end it’s a performer who makes or breaks a role and Brandice’s ability to combine mousy with spunky with unexpected and yet thoroughly authentic character turns was deeply satisfying to watch. Georgia kicked ass and took names, because Brandice does. Runners up: Melissa Carter (“Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake”, Bigger Than A Breadbox), Allison Jean White (“Abigail’s Party”, SF Playhouse), Sam Jackson (“Oh Best Beloved!”, SF Fringe Festival), Courtney Merril (“Into the Woods”, Ray of Light), Elissa Beth Stebbins (“Peter/Wendy”, Custom Made Theatre Company).

BEST FUSION THEATER PIECE
“Nightingale” (Davis Shakespeare Ensemble/SF Fringe Festival)
This little gem at this year’s fringe festival was adapted from the myth of Philomel by Gia Battista, with music by Richard Chowenhill, directed by Rob Sals (with Battista), and staring Gabby Battista, April Fritz and Tracy Hazas as three remarkably similar looking women who each take a turn playing the heroine of a bizarre fairy tale (all the other characters in the story are played by them as well). Dance, pantomime, narration, song and traditional theater techniques all came together in a way that was astonishingly clean and charming in its simplicity. The black and white aesthetic used to unify the look of the show and performers gave the whole thing a quality both modern and timeless, and in its gentle, dreamy tone the sharp elements of social commentary and satire often seemed more brutal and impactful. Of everything I saw at the Fringe this past year, which included a number of excellent works, this piece has stayed with me the longest.

BEST SOLO SHOW
“Steve Seabrook: Better Than You” by Kurt Bodden (The Marsh)
I saw a lot more solo performance than usual this year (including works by Annette Roman, Laura Austin Wiley, Alexa Fitzpatrick, Jenny Newbry Waters, Rene Pena), and realizing how good it can be is, in and of itself, kind of a miracle because I used to say things like, “Theater begins with two people” and “If Aeschylus had wanted to write sermons he wouldn’t have added Electra”. Kurt’s show was not created this past year, it has a long history, but I only saw it in its most recent Marsh incarnation and I’m hoping he’s been able to find ways to keep it going (his Facebook feeds indicate this is so). A satire of motivational speakers and the cult of self-improvement, “Steve Seabrook” manages to be so much more by combining satirical fiction with moments of the kind of personal monologue (still fiction) that permeates solo shows. The result is a sense of development, of a story (Steve’s) unfolding in real time while another story, (Steve’s Seminar) plays itself out over the course of a weekend. Playing off the convention of a backstage comedy (we see the seminar, then we see Steve when he’s not “on”), Kurt’s brilliance as a performer is evident in the seamless transition from one to the other, again and again, carrying a throughline that shows us not only why Steve buys into his mantras, but why any of us buy into anything we’ve come up with (or adopted from someone else) to keep us moving through life’s ups and downs. At once very funny and cutting, while also moving and real (and yes, fuck it, kind of inspirational), Kurt’s show also gets a nod for its fantastic takeaway schwag: a keychain light with Steve’s name on it, with which every audience member is encouraged to shine their light in a dark world.

BEST DIRECTOR
Rebecca Longworth and Joan Howard, “Oh Best Beloved” (SF Fringe Festival)
“Oh Best Beloved” got a lot of attention and deservedly so- well acted, well designed, it was a genuinely fun piece of theater. Perhaps most deserving of being singled out in the project, however, are director Rebecca Longworth and partner Joan Howard, who share credit for conceptualizing the show (in which Joan also played a part and had, in my opinion, the single best moment in the show), and who lead the rest of the company in adapting the material from Ruyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories”. Anyone who saw the show could easily see that it had about a million moving parts, and Longworth and Howard’s ability to keep all those plates spinning on a small budget and under the strict conditions of the San Francisco Fringe Festival (they literally put up and pulled down a full set with each performance) is worthy of award in and of itself, but the level of commitment and craft they were able to pull from their design team and performers was equally as impressive. Everything about the show, even the parts that didn’t work as well as others, felt thought through and done with panache, making this ambitious and unique experience a delightful jewel in the SF Fringe Festival’s crown.

BEST DESIGNER
Bill English, “Abigail’s Party” (SF Playhouse)
Scenery in general doesn’t do much for me. I enjoy good scenery, but the best scenery should kind of vanish into the background, in my opinion, and be something you barely pay attention to. As a result, I’m often just as happy with a blank stage, or really well thought out minimal set, as I am with a full one, so long as the play I’m watching is good. That said, every now and then I will see a set I just adore, and this year it was Bill English’s set for SF Playhouse’s “Abigail’s Party”, by Mike Leigh, directed by Amy Glazer. Basically a living room/dining room/kitchenet combo, this fully realized “home” was very well crafted as a place, but more importantly, it really worked as a place where people lived. The 70s style was at once present without being overwhelming, evoking the time period without looking like it was a homage to the time period, or a museum dedicated to 70s kitch. I mean, it honestly reminded me of numerous homes I’d played in as a child (I was born in 1978) and all the wallpaper looked like wallpaper in my parents’ home before my mother completely re-did the house in 1990 because “we can admit this is ugly… now”. The amazing thing about English’s set is that it didn’t seem ugly, in spite of being made up entirely of patterns and colors we now find appalling. He made it all work together, the way people once did, and the final result was simultaneously comfortable and dazzling. I remember thinking, waiting for the play to begin, “I could live here.”

And last, but not least, every year I pick…

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE EXPERIENCE TO WORK ON
“The Age of Beauty” (No Nude Men Productions/The Exit Theatre)
I had taken a break from directing my own work, but with this nine performance workshop I allowed myself to re-discover that, as much as I like directing plays by others, there is nothing quite as satisfying as feeling like I’m telling a very personal story of my own and having the final say on how that happens. Of course, such experiences are only rewarding when you get to work with great actors, and I was lucky to have four amazing women (Megan Briggs, Emma Rose Shelton, Allison Page, Sylvia Hathaway) who were willing to go on this adventure with me, always keeping stride as I made cuts and changed lines, memorizing a mountain of material in Emma and Sylvia’s case, and crafting subtle characters who had to be both different from each other and relatively interchangeable at the same time. When I had a hard time articulating what I was going for, they would nod and smile and then show me what I meant by doing it better than I could describe it. When the show opened by the skin of its teeth it had one of those minor miracle opening nights, where even though you’re just a tiny bit unprepared (all my fault, I kept changing the script), it somehow all comes together and really works. Over the course of the show, as their performances grew and refined (our final two nights were simply perfect), I was able to see what flaws still remained in the script (two pages, middle of scene of scene two were cut the day after we closed), and any writer of new work will tell you that’s the best experience you can hope for on a first production. Shout outs to my awesome design team Cody Rishell, Jim Lively and Wil Turner IV! “The Age of Beauty” helped restore some of my lagging faith in the theater process, and made me commit to doing more of my own work in the coming year.

Stuart Bousel runs the San Francisco Theater Pub blog, and is a Founding Artistic Director of the San Francisco Theater Pub. You can find out more about his work at http://www.horrorunspeakable.com.

Cowan Palace: The Woman Behind BOA 2013

Ashley Cowan asks Sara Staley a thing or two about BOA’s Program I and II.

It’s been a busy week for the Bay Area theatre scene. With plays opening, auditions on the horizon, and new works being brought to life, it’s a fun time to play for this artistic community’s team. The Bay One Act Festival officially began its run over the weekend and behind that magic is Producing Artistic Director, Sara Staley. Sara kindly agreed to answer a few questions in the midst of the excitement.

First things first! How did you first get involved with BOA (Bay One Acts Festival)?

I first directed for the Bay One Acts Festival in 2008 for Three Wise Monkeys Theatre, which is now just the name of the non-profit organization that is connected to BOA, and that founded the festival. The festival was helmed by Richard Bernier (who passed away in 2010), and held at the Eureka Theater for many years.

Out of all the many hats you’ve worn being involved with the festival in the past, which has been your favorite?

As Producing Artistic Director for the first time in this BOA go round, I really enjoyed the process of selecting plays (with the help of my BOA Lit. Committee), coming up with an engaging and dynamic line-up for both BOA programs, and then having so many great “page to the stage” moments during final dress rehearsals. And it’s all because of this talented and dedicated BOA 2013 company.

How is this year different than BOA festivals of the past?

We have a new venue at Tides Theatre and many of our 13 Producing Partner theater companies, directors, playwrights, actors and production staff are involved in BOA for the very first time. We have new to the bay area theater companies on board, and we have BOA actors like Siobhan Doherty and Brian Trybom, who are directing for BOA for the first time. So there is a mix of old and new, different but the same.

What is something about this year’s festival we may not know? (Keep in mind, a lot of us have done our fair share of facebook stalking and would love a juicy scoop!)

Well, for you Theater Pub beverage lovers, Rob Ready stocked our concessions at Tides Theatre, so we are ready to serve you. AND we have Kirsten Broadbear covering a lot of BOA bases with graces as my Festival Coordinator AND she’ll be running concessions for Program One AND understudying TWO roles in TWO plays on Thursday in Program TWO. So get your tickets now because they are only $13 (shameless plug).

Cheers to that, those are my favorite plugs! Now, everyone always wants to talk about women in the industry, am I right? And how there continues to be a lack of opportunity for us lady-folk. As a woman in charge of a huge theatrical festival, do you have any observations or words of wisdom to share on the topic?

Well, I can say that I am proud of the diversity of BOA 2013 across the board from playwrights, to directors, cast, to our production team, which does happen to be all female. I feel like opportunity should be given to those who want to do engaging or innovative work, or tell a story that needs to be told, or support artists and community in a positive and productive way, regardless of their gender, color, or sexual orientation.

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve encountered while working on this show?

There was a surprising connectedness in the themes of the plays, and I had to see both programs open this weekend and I had to see the work on stage to really see those common threads come to the surface. There were obvious theme connections that drew me to the 13 plays in BOA 2013, but there was another connection that formed between direction, vision, risk taking, vulnerability, humor, fear, loss, and magic that connected the programs together in way that was pretty unexpected for me. You’ll have to come see both programs of BOA 2013 to find your own connections. 😉

In ten words (or less), what can we expect to see at this year’s festival?

Thirteen new plays, thirteen theater companies, one BIG BOA 2013.

Many thanks to Sara for giving us a moment of her time! Between a stocked concessions stand, new plays, and ultimately, a celebration of Bay Area theatre, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to be a part of BOA 2013. Now running through October 5 at the Tides Theatre (533 Sutter Street, San Francisco). For more information, check out: bayoneacts.org or https://www.facebook.com/bayoneacts.

Don’t Miss The Dead! One Night Only!

Every year on June 16th, fans of James Joyce celebrate “Bloomsday” – the day upon which the novel Ulysses takes place. But what is to be done on the day after?

Join us today, June 17th, for San Francisco Theater Pub’s staged reading of Joyce’s famous short story, “The Dead!”

Performed Reader’s Theater style, this adaptation of The Dead, by our very own Jeremy Cole, ran for six seasons at Hunger Artists Ensemble Theater in Denver, CO!

The year is 1904. It is a snowy winter’s night in the city of Dublin. Gretta and Gabriel Conroy are among the guests at the Morkan Sisters’ annual dinner on the Feast of the Epiphany and the last day of Christmas. An evening of laughter, music and dance ends in introspection and Gabriel has an epiphany of his own.

The Theater Pub cast features: Melissa Clason, Siobhan Doherty, Jean Forsman, Cameron Galloway, Heather Kellogg, William Leschber, Theresa Miller, Rhio Ossola, Vince Faso, and Sara Breindel on the harp.

Admission is, as always, FREE with a suggested donation, and of course, we’ll have Hide Away Blues BBQ there so arrive hungry and get there early to ensure a seat!

See you tonight!

The Dead Will Rise One Week From Tonight!

Every year on June 16th, fans of James Joyce celebrate “Bloomsday” – the day upon which the novel Ulysses takes place. But what is to be done on the day after?

Join us on Monday, June 17th, at 8 PM for San Francisco Theater Pub’s staged reading of Joyce’s famous short story, “The Dead.”

Performed Reader’s Theater style, this adaptation of The Dead, by our very own Jeremy Cole, ran for six seasons at Hunger Artists Ensemble Theater in Denver, CO.

The year is 1904. It is a snowy winter’s night in the city of Dublin. Gretta and Gabriel Conroy are among the guests at the Morkan Sisters’ annual dinner on the Feast of the Epiphany and the last day of Christmas. An evening of laughter, music and dance ends in introspection and Gabriel has an epiphany of his own.

The Theater Pub cast features: Melissa Clason, Siobhan Doherty, Jean Forsman, Cameron Galloway, Heather Kellogg, William Leschber, Theresa Miller, Rhio Ossola, Vince Faso, and Sara Breindel on the harp.

Admission is, as always, FREE with a suggested donation, and of course, we’ll have Hide Away Blues BBQ there so arrive hungry and get there early to ensure a seat!

Bring Out The Dead!

Every year on June 16th, fans of James Joyce celebrate “Bloomsday” – the day upon which the novel Ulysses takes place. But what is to be done on the day after?

Join us on Monday, June 17th, for San Francisco Theater Pub’s staged reading of Joyce’s famous short story, “The Dead.”

Performed Reader’s Theater style, this adaptation of The Dead, by our very own Jeremy Cole, ran for six seasons at Hunger Artists Ensemble Theater in Denver, CO.

The year is 1904. It is a snowy winter’s night in the city of Dublin. Gretta and Gabriel Conroy are among the guests at the Morkan Sisters’ annual dinner on the Feast of the Epiphany and the last day of Christmas. An evening of laughter, music and dance ends in introspection and Gabriel has an epiphany of his own.

The Theater Pub cast features: Melissa Clason, Siobhan Doherty, Jean Forsman, Cameron Galloway, Heather Kellogg, William Leschber, Theresa Miller, Rhio Ossola, Vince Faso, and Sara Breindel on the harp.

Admission is, as always, FREE with a suggested donation, and of course, we’ll have Hide Away Blues BBQ there so arrive hungry and get there early to ensure a seat!