Cowan Palace: Why Closing A Show Is The Worst

As Ashley prepares for Closing Night, she reflects on the hardest parts of the process.

Back in early February, closing Middletown seemed so far away. 2016 had only just started and I was feeling both anxious and excited to dive into my first full length show in three years. Rehearsals were only just starting, lines were still new and not memorized, and I hadn’t even met the entire cast yet. It seemed like we had a long road ahead.

I’m a believer that sometimes plays find you. They grab a hold of you before you even realize it and strive to teach you something, leave you with something, before that grasp is forced to let go. It could be the language in the text, an emotion it brings out, or simply, just a shared quiet moment between you and an audience member. And so, here we are. Months later. The long road approaches its finish line. Our last four performance of Will Eno’s Middletown at Custom Made Theatre start tonight and by Saturday evening our show will be closed.

Sure. We’ll all get some more personal time to catch up on our poor neglected friend, TV and maybe get a little more sleep to dream about TV. But there’s a lot of stuff that sucks about ending a show, too. Here’s just a few things I’ll miss

1.) Justifying a dinner consisting of those delicious individual sized Sabra hummus and pretzel cups, a Quest bar, and a venti Starbucks caffeinated beverage

Oh, hummus. I think I’ll miss you most of all. Nothing compares to you. Certainly, not a bigger hummus container of the same flavor at home.

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2.) The cast and crew
I mean, duh.

3.) Big Booty
Okay, I love cast warm ups. They’re such a great way to connect with your team before you’re out together on stage and sometimes they offer enough physical activity for me to sort of feel like I’m at the gym! Big Booty. Whenever someone suggests we play it, I’m filled with an incredible anxiety and excitement that can not be matched! If you don’t know the game, look it up. It’s a crazy rush!

4.) The play within the play
There’s a lot of beautiful stuff that happens backstage. Between the very tight quarters and our large set pieces and some creaky floor boards and a big cast, there’s a delicate dance that goes on each night that the audience never gets to see. Sometimes it’s not so delicate and suppressing some of the giggles that result from those more difficult maneuvers can be a challenge but that just makes it all more fun.

The cast (and stage managers) of Middletown snuggling in the Green Room!)

The cast (and stage managers) of Middletown snuggling in the Green Room!)

5.) The constant stream of lines running through my mind
When I hear a certain word or phrase that is either in the show or reminds me of the script, I’m immediately transported to where I am when that moment of the play is happening. I know when the show closes, this feature will start to fade away as it always does, which makes my heart ache just a bit.

6.) Those moments when you’re putting your makeup and first costume on while someone else bares a life story you’ve never heard before or shares a secret.
Like I said earlier, I think plays find you. And sometimes that’s to bring new cast mates together. When I think back on this production of Middletown, I know I’ll remember those surprising moments in the girls dressing room (lovingly called, “The Boudoir” when we’re in the middle of a show) when we sat putting on makeup and someone told a wondrous story from their past or quietly offered a truly honest, bare event from their life and how it’s shaped them. Mainly we laugh together, but we’ve also created this space that allows us to explore some other colorful feelings, as well. Those moments have made me so thankful and emotional, which I think is a big lesson from Middletown and I know I’ll forever miss it.

So many feelings, only so much hummus to sustain them all.

So many feelings, only so much hummus to sustain them all.

7.) Taking a moment to dedicate each show to a past me
As part of my own personal, pre show ritual, I take a moment before each performance and “dedicate” the show to a past version of myself. To the 4 year old who told her parents she wanted to be an actress, to the 12 year old who hated looking in the mirror and longed to grow up, to the senior in college scared that she’d never be cast in anything in the real world, to the young twenty something living in NYC waiting hours just to sing her 16 bars at an audition, to the woman who moved to San Francisco on a whim, to the February Ashley who worried that it’d be impossible to manage being in a play again with a baby at home, etc. The ritual helps me to focus and be grateful to be exactly where I am.

Closing a show always makes me cry. Even thinking of closing a show gets me teary eyed. Not gonna lie, I’m probably crying as you read this. Closing a show is the worst. But the journey, the whole experience, is as beautiful and wonderful as you allow it to be. So, to the cast and crew, those that shared this story with us, and to the folks we hope to see in these final four performances – thank you. While closing is the worst, I think you’re all the best.

You can see Ashley either crying or not crying at Custom Made Theatre’s Middletown playing tonight at 7:30 and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm!

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Cowan Palace: Wizards of Words: Sorting our Favorite Playwrights into Hogwarts Houses

In this two-part blog series, Ashley Cowan and Marissa Skudlarek attempt to sort some notable playwrights into their proper Hogwarts House.

Anyone else needing an escape from the adult world of taxes and other miscellaneous boring stuff? I am! Which is why I was so delighted when Marissa reached out to me about writing a blog together involving placing playwrights into their respective Hogwarts House. I was like, Marissa, are you Sirius? That sounds prefect.

And we aren’t the only ones contemplating Harry Potter “types” in the theatre world these days. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 and II, a world premiere new play based on a story by J.K Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, will be opening at the Palace Theatre in London later next month!

But in case you can’t quite afford a plane ticket to England (F you, evil taxes!), we will celebrate all this magical, theatrical fun Theater Pub blog style. So grab that sugary new Starbucks drink that’s supposed to taste like Butterbeer and read on!

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Now, if you’re a muggle who hasn’t jumped aboard the glorious Hogwarts Express Train, here’s a quick rundown of the four Hogwarts Houses as told by the Sorting Hat himself in Book Four, The Goblet of Fire:

By Gryffindor, the bravest were

Prized far beyond the rest;

For Ravenclaw, the cleverest

Would always be the best;

For Hufflepuff, hard workers were

Most worthy of admission;

And power-hungry Slytherin

Loved those of great ambition.

–Sorting Hat (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

In other words, we’ve got four houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin. Gryffindors are daring and bold folks who value a sense of honor. Ravenclaws are witty and steady minded and love academic achievements. Hufflepuffs are truth abiding, loyal friends who care for others often above all else. And Slytherins are cunning and passionate with a strong focus and drive. There’s so much more to say about each of their characteristics and attributes but I’ll leave that to JK Rowling for now.

If you had asked me a few years ago which house I best identified with, I would have told you I saw myself as “Gryffin-claw” (so, a hybrid between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw). It seemed like a good balance for someone who adamantly moved to California against the wishes of her friends and family at the time to follow a dream but who also spent a great deal of time alone reading whatever she could get her hands on while crafting detailed lists of new goals and color-coded schedules. But after researching the Houses a bit more for this blog, I gotta say, I think this Hugs and Cuddles blogger may be more of a Hufflepuff! I’m totally that person that stresses that I haven’t “liked” enough of someone’s Facebook content because I wants to make sure they feel loved and appreciated when I can’t see them in person.

And, this should come as no shocker, but Ravenclaws everywhere would be proud to have Marissa as a part of their crew. She’s totally that babe in the library casually taking in another book who will probably forget more facts than I’ll ever know. Marissa is the person you want on your debate team, your trivia team, and the gal you call for fashion advice when you want an authentic, beautiful look to wear to a themed party. So teaming up with her for this blog was a no-brainer.

Over a ginger-y cocktail in a dimly lit bar, we chatted about playwrights in between sharing select secrets from our earlier days as writers for the San Francisco theater scene and its residents. It was as delightful as it sounds. So without further ado, here are some of our thoughts as Sorting Hat Hotties.

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Tom Stoppard
“It’s the wanting to know that makes us matter.”

Sorting Hat Marissa: Schoolboy wit, punster, lover of books and ideas, cramming his plays with erudite references, the favorite playwright of the academic classes: there’s no doubt about it, Tom Stoppard is the Head Boy of Ravenclaw House. “It’s the wanting to know that makes us matter,” from Arcadia, is the line that sums up Stoppard’s ethos, and also sums up the key values of Ravenclaw. He also once claimed to write plays because it’s the only socially acceptable way of arguing with himself, and of all the Houses, Ravenclaws are most likely to welcome a good debate and be swayed by a good argument.

Oscar Hammerstein II
“I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices. But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about slums. I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”

Sorting Hat Ashley: When I brought up Hammerstein over drinks, Marissa knowingly said something along the lines of, “only a Hufflepuff could help create Oklahoma!” and as the Ravenclaw she is, I believe she’s correct! Hammerstein was a known collaborator, co-writing nearly 900 songs! He was involved with creating a community of artists that would go on to pave an encouraging path for future music makers and lovers. He was known for being fairly sentimental, which seems obvious given his musical theatre resume, but he was also a socially conscious spirit who wrote with sincerity. He guided and influenced countless collectives, filling their hearts with love and music. Well, mine is pretty full, anyway. As Hufflepuffs are thoughtful team players with a strong sense of justice, Hammerstein would be a cherished Hufflepuff alumnus.

Caryl Churchill
“What’s poetry? It’s not real but maybe it’s more than real. It’s dreaming while you’re awake.”

Sorting Hat Marissa: Another candidate for Greatest Living British Playwright, and another Ravenclaw, though of a less flashy variety than Stoppard. Her plays are coolly perceptive and draw inspiration from a wide range of sources; while they often deal with political themes and reflect her socialist and feminist beliefs, they do not feel polemical (as a Gryffindor’s plays might be). Her work has also gotten more, rather than less, experimental over the years, testifying to her Ravenclaw creativity and questing intelligence. Churchill shuns publicity and does not grant interviews, preferring to let her plays and their ideas speak for themselves – a very Ravenclaw thing to do.

Will Eno
“I think we’re born with questions, and the world is the answer.”
Sarah Ruhl
“This is what it is to love an artist: The moon is always rising above your house.”

Sorting Hat Ashley: I’m linking Eno and Ruhl on this thought bubble because I feel like they share some similarities in their House placements and I go back and forth between sorting both of them in either Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. I think I’ve landed on Will Eno being a Ravenclaw (who probably marries a Hufflepuff) and Sarah Ruhl as a Hufflepuff with an endless stream of Ravenclaw crushes. Eno writes (and writes) questioning our roles and our humanity while forever swimming in this sea of existential thought and meaningful observations. And Ruhl’s writing often plays like a dreamy poem. Her work seeks to explore love’s communication style and it’s impact on relationships. If Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff had a love child House, I think these two would be in it. But for now, Eno’s wearing a Ravenclaw hoodie and Ruhl’s decked out in cozy Hufflepuff knits.

Tony Kushner
“The work of artists is to find what’s humanly possible – possibility’s furthest reaches.”

Sorting Hat Marissa: A very smart guy who writes verbose and encyclopedic plays, so there is a temptation to put him in Ravenclaw, but look closer, and you’ll see that he’d do better in Gryffindor. The most memorable moments in Kushner’s plays often revolve around the key Gryffindor trait of bravery: think of Baz’s monologue in A Bright Room Called Day about how he lacked the courage to kill Hitler; or the epilogue of Caroline or Change, where Emmie describes how she and her friends vandalized a Confederate statue. Kushner also values the Gryffindor traits of hope and optimism: he once said “It is an ethical obligation to look for hope; it is an ethical obligation not to despair.” And writing a fantastical seven-hour drama that climaxes with the protagonist going to heaven and arguing with the angels to give him “more life”? You can’t get much more Gryffindor than that.

Tennessee Williams
“A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.”

Sorting Hat Ashley: My goodness, y’all. I thought about this placement for awhile. Like four coffees and two episodes of Fixer Upper on Netflix worth of thought. I texted friends and chatted to castmates over it. Because it seems like he could almost go anywhere and nowhere at the same time! Williams was gifted with a beautiful grasp of language but vowed to write honestly, once stating, “I only write about what I experience – intuitively or existentially”, which could be a Ravenclaw thought but also seems like a Hufflepuff promise. And while his characters populate Slytherin and Gryffindor, as a writer destined to tell the truth about social realities and humanity, I think I’m going to keep Williams in Hufflepuff!

That’s our start to this glorious conversation; fun, right?! And we’d love your thoughts! Marissa will be discussing a well known writer within the Slytherin House tomorrow but if you have a playwright you think needs to be sorted, let us know so we can keep this Hogwarts party going! See you tomorrow, fellow witches and wizards!

Cowan Palace: Shut Up And Act

Ashley Cowan has ten auditions for you to sign up for right now. Well, maybe read the blog first. Then get out there, kid! It’s time to be a star!

Fall is coming early, friends. And I’m of course referring to the return of Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks. Which will be available in a mere FIVE DAYS (on August 25)!

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Also, keeping with the Theater Pub trend of looking ahead at autumn offerings and reading about the upcoming theater we all have to look forward to coming this season, I started to wonder how the audition scene was looking for non-AEA San Francisco based actors.

The good news? There’s a scene! The better news? I’m going tell you ten auditions to sign up for right now. They may not all strike your theatrical fancy, sure, but if you’ve been sitting around all summer missing the stage, here’s your chance to get back on it. In between double fisting your pumpkin caffeine juice, of course.

Well, this first audition is for a film and it’s TODAY. But it can’t hurt to try and submit, right? Who knows maybe you’re perfect for it!

1) Banquet Productions’ “Labyrinth in Time” – August 20 (THAT’S TODAY!)

Shakespeare nerds! They’re searching for: actors for short film written in iambic pentameter. 2M (30-40); 1F (30-40).

Writer/Director: Hank Voge; the film will shoot in early October in a variety of Bay Area spots. To book a last minute appointment contact: Producer, Gabriel Brown, gabe@banquetproductions.com.

Looking to break out into well rehearsed song and dance? Here are a few auditions of the musical variety for you to check out!

2) FOGG Theatre’s “The Cable Car Nymphomaniac” – August 24.

Okay, the title alone is intriguing, right? Well, for this sexy piece, you’ll need two contemporary songs (one minute each). They are hoping to find: 3M (20s-30s, tenors, 1 to G, 1 to G & dancer, 1 to B & dancer); 4F (20s-30s, 1 belter & dancer; 1 2nd soprano, low A to high F#, & dancer; 1 belter to high E-flat; 1 low alto, low F to D4, & dancer).

The Playwrights are: Kirsten Guenter and Tony Asaro and the Director is: Terry Berliner. The audition is August 24 from 10AM-6PM (callbacks August 26 from 7-11PM). Salle Pianos, 1632C Market St., San Francisco. Rehearsals start on December 2 and the show performs January 15-February 1 at Z Below, 470 Florida Street, San Francisco. And it pays! $600-$1,400 bucks. For more information and to schedule your audition, contact: namnguyen@foggtheatre.org.

3) Indelible Voices Project’s “The Little Match Girl”

If you love puppets like I do, check this out. They’re looking for: performers with strong musical theatre skills for multimedia puppet show. 1M (20-50, baritone); 3F (30-60, soprano/alto), 1F (10-18, soprano); 2 any gender (10-15, soprano/alto).

Playwrights: Marcus Duskin and Katrina Cameron
Send voice recordings via email; those called back will sing samples from score. Stipend available. Callbacks will be middle to late September. Rehearsals begin in November and the show performs December 13-21 in San Francisco and Berkeley. To apply for an audition, send voice recordings and information to: marcusd@igc.org.

4) Steve Silver Productions, Inc.’s – “Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon” – September 13

For this iconic show, you need one ballad and one uptempo number (please be ready with sheet music in your key as an accompanist will be provided) Bonus points if you can imitate some pop culture icons and you come ready with your dancing shoes!

Playwright: Steve Silver. Auditions are September 13 at 2PM at Club Fugazi, 678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd., San Francisco and the performances are ongoing. The show also provides a competitive salary and sweet benefits!
Info: auditions@beachblanketbabylon.com; ­beachblanketbabylon.com/auditions/index.shtml

5) General Singer Auditions for High Seas

Sponsored by the St. Francis Yacht Club, this one is just for the ladies! They’re seeking two singers to join their 12-voice, female jazz vocal group. The auditions will take place in early September and they’ll be looking for a first soprano and first alto. For more information and details contact: Auditions Chair, Janet Mansinne: janetmehlhop@yahoo.com

Always wanted to do a play for kids? Awesome. Get out there and audition for this!

6) San Francisco Youth Theatre’s “In and Out of Shadows” – September 4

You’ll need: 16 bars to be sung acapella and clothes to move around in to dance.
They’re looking for: 2M & 3F (18-26, Latino, Filipino or other Asian). Spanish, Chinese &/or Tagalog language facility a+.

The Playwrights are: Soto, Klion and Brooks and the Director is: Cliff Mayotte. Auditions are September 4 from 4:30-7PM (callbacks are September 9) at Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., San Francisco. Rehearsals begin September 11 and the show performs November 23-December 7 and Brava Theater and Fresno City College with a possible tour to follow. Stipend and travel expenses available! To book an audition slot, send your headshot/resume to: Emily Klion, sfyouththeatre@gmail.com.

Are readings more your thing right now? Who wants to memorize words, anyway? Then you need to check out this audition!

7) San Francisco Olympians Festival – September 28 and 29

They are looking for literally DOZENS of actors for this festival of new plays running November 5-22! Rehearsals will be in October and November and will include a maximum of 3-5 meetups for each show.

For more information about the festival and the plays involved, visit: http://www.sfolympians.com. Auditions are September 28, 2PM-10PM, and September 29, 7-10PM, at the Exit Theater. Please email: sfolympians@gmail.com to schedule an audition slot.

Straight up theater is your jam, huh? These are all for you, actor face!

8) Alma Theatre Company’s “You Are My Sunshine” – September 19

Bring a contemporary monologue and prepare to cold read. They’re looking for: 1M (20s-60s), 1M (20s-50s), 1M (20s-30s); 1F (mid-40s), 1F (20s-50s), 1F (20s).

Playwright/Director: Kelli Colaco, auditions are September 19 with rehearsals beginning in mid November at the San Francisco Playhouse Rehearsal Space, 323 Geary St. Ste. 211, San Francisco. And, yes, there’s pay. To book an appointment, contact Kelli Colaco: kellicolaco@gmail.com. Info: bykennethjones.com.

9) Custom Made Theatre’s “The Braggart Soldier (or Major Blowhard)” – September 2 and 4

Written by Plautus and adapted and directed by Evren Odcikin, they’re looking for: 3M/2W/2 any gender, any ethnicity. Auditions are September 2 and September 4. Callback will be September 6 with rehearsals beginning on February 24. The show performs March 27-April 26 (with a possible extension to May 2) at Custom Made Theatre, 1620 Gough St, San Francisco. There is a stipend available. For more infomation and to sign up for an audition slot visit: http://www.custommade.org/open-auditions-blowhard/

10) No Nude Men Productions’ “Desk Set” – October 20

This one is just for the fellas! Written by William Marchant and directed by Stuart Bousel, they are seeking men of all ages, races, etc. who have evening and weekend availability in June and July of 2015. The show runs for nine performances, July 10-26 at the Exit Theater in San Francisco and there is a $150 stipend available.

To schedule an audition, send those handsome headshots and resumes to Stuart at: sfolympians@gmail.com with “DESK SET” in the subject line.

So whether you submit to all of these auditions or just get inspired to grab a Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Bay Area theater scene is ready for you. Get off your butt, dust off that monologue or song, and act. That’s all you have to do. As always, I’m rooting for you, kid!

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Theater Around The Bay: Mischief. Mayhem. Playwriting.

Peter Hsieh brings us this theater/alcoholism as blog entry as part of our ongoing series of guest bloggers. Enjoy!

It’s a warm, windy Saturday night. Downtown Campbell. Girls in black dresses with guys in candy colored button ups, walking around in groups of four and five. Playwright Peter Hsieh sits down with Other Peter Hsieh to talk playwriting and writing producible plays over a few rounds of drinks.

There are two of me. I am not Special. I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake.

There are two of me. I am not Special. I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake.

Round One: Peter – Long Island Iced Tea. Other Peter – Jack and Coke.

Other Peter: How’ve you been?

Peter: Great.

OP: Keepin’ busy then? Got any plays opening?

P: Yeah I got a few, one in Ohio and two in New York.

OP: No Bay Area productions?

P: No.

OP: That’s because everyone hates you here.

P: What?

OP: You’re on the ‘do not work with list’.

P: Says who?

OP: Everybody.

Peter laughs and rolls his eyes.

P: Whatever. Aren’t you supposed to talk to me about probability or something?

OP: Producibility.

P: Producibility? Is that even a word.

OP: I think so, and if it isn’t it should be…what?

P: Nothing. Just go on with the thing.

OP: Alright but first I gotta tell you this funny story.

Round Two: Peter – Long Island Iced Tea. Other Peter – Margarita

OP: Bro, another Long Island?

P: I need to wash the taste of that story out of my mouth.

OP: C’mon, it was funny.

P: Not really.

OP: To each his own. Anyway, I want to talk to you about writing “producible” plays. For emerging playwrights there is sort of a, uh…pressure I guess to have your plays produced, and to have more plays produced.

P: Yeah, of course, and I’d say that pressure exists for all playwrights though it’s probably easier for David Mamet to be produced than…

OP: Everyone else.

P: Basically.

OP: So for all the emerging and indie playwrights out there with less swag than Mamet, I’d imagine that production opportunities are harder to come by and in order to get their plays produced they write more producible plays.

P: One of the things I’ve noticed when looking through play submission opportunities is that a lot of them are looking for world premiere plays with small casts, simple staging, easy technical demands, unit sets, etc.

OP: For sure.

P: Length is a big one too. There are a lot more opportunities for shorter plays to be produced, for obvious reasons, so that’s definitely a factor in uh, in determining what kinds of plays people write. And I understand that it’s a time and money issue for most theaters and that for a theater, especially a smaller theater, to be producing new works is definitely a risk. The fact that there are so many theaters out there putting out calls for new works is something to be really happy about.

OP: I’ll drink to that.

P: Cheers.

They clink drinks and drink to that.

P: I guess the problem comes from the idea that if your plays are getting produced, you’re a good writer and that the more productions you have the more successful you are, so in order to get more productions they write those plays with the small casts, simple sets, and what not.

OP: So basically a fuck load of plays featuring two women having tea and talking.

P: I guess.

OP: Good grief.

Round Three: Peter – Vodka Redbull. Other Peter – Pink Panty Dropper

Peter smiles at Other Peter and shakes his head.

OP: What?

P: You know, instead of ordering a pink lemonade with double shots of Everclear and Tequila with a Corona on the side you could’ve just had them bring you a pink panty dropper, because that is exactly the same thing.

OP: I know, I just…

P: Couldn’t bring yourself to order that.

OP: So what are your thoughts on playwrights writing more “producible” plays in order to get more productions?

P: Personally I’m kinda against it. I mean, I would never hold it against anyone for doing so and I’ve done it too but it feels a little bit like selling out. People should write what they want to write and encourage others to do the same. They shouldn’t worry about whether or not it’s going to get produced a bunch. You are not your plays. You are not the number of times you get produced. You are not the length of your resume. And you are not the reviews you get for your plays. You wanna write a play about time traveling dinosaur hunters, go for it. You wanna write a play featuring trendy vampires and a toy bunny rabbit come to life, go wild because there is somebody, some director or theatre company that will love it and produce it and they are gonna do it right. You might not get a whole lotta productions, you might just get the one, and it might take years but that’s all you need.

OP: I like how you referenced one of your own plays. That’s very Tarantino of you.

P: What is?

OP: To reference yourself. Anyway back to- Peter interrupts Other Peter

P: Hang on. I gotta use the restroom. I’ll be back in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Peter smiles and finishes the rest of his beer before getting up and walking over to the restroom. He returns a few minutes later with a toothpick in his mouth.

OP: Where did you get the toothpick?

P: I carry them, around. They are green tea flavored. But after ten seconds they just taste like regular toothpicks. So what were you going to ask me?

OP: So you are part of two different playwriting groups, Asian American Theater Company’s New Works Incubator and City Light Source New Play Development Series, and within those groups playwrights give feedback on each other’s plays.

P: Yeah.

OP: Based on your experiences within those groups and outside, do you think that playwrights are being told to write more producible plays and do you think that is a prevalent problem?

P: No I don’t think it’s a prevalent problem, but here and there people will give feedback in regards to producibility rather than content or quality of writing. I personally find the latter more helpful but I understand that producibility is very important to a lot of playwrights and that they would like to know if people did not think that their play was producible and what they can do to change that.

OP: Right, who wants to spend time writing a play that never sees the light of stage?

P: Exactly. Feedback is there to help you and you take what you can from it.

Round Four: Peter – Gin & Tonic. Other Peter – Diet Coke.

P: Throwing in the towel already?

OP: Taking a break. The Pink Panty Dropper is really hittin’ me.

P: So I had my full length play Super Turbo Overdrive read at Incubator back in October and it’s got flamethrowers, gatling guns, fast cars, and stuff. And the story itself is pretty out there too, it’s a coming of age dark comedy about two high school friends and the trouble that ensues when one tries to take the other’s mom out on a date because of a video game based wager.

OP: Really?

P: Yeah.

OP: And does he?

P: Take her out on a date? Yeah, and part of the play is set in the future and it follows a bounty hunter driving around through the desert.

OP: You just don’t give a fuck about producibility do you?

P: I guess not. I mean I do but I really love flamethrowers and fast cars, and I feel that theatre can benefit from having more of that.

OP: What you just described to me sounds more like it’d work better as a film.

P: If I got a nickel every time I heard someone say one of my plays would work better as a film I’d have a stack of nickels tall as my dick.

OP: So how many nickels is that?

P: A lot.

OP: Let me rephrase that. How tall is your dick?

Round Five: Peter – Blue Moon. Other Peter – Shock Top.

P: The message I’m trying to get across is to write what is in your heart and don’t be afraid to go against convention. Try to have fun with it, otherwise what’s the point. Especially if you’re an emerging playwright. And all that stuff I said earlier about the flamethrowers and stuff, that’s just me – that’s just what I am into, find what inspires you to write and go for it. At the end of the day it’s good writing that counts. Does your story move people? Does it feature complex and well developed characters? Is it interesting? Does it have good dialogue? No amount of explosions, werewolves, and high tech weaponry will save a bad story. I would take ‘Before Sunrise’ any day over The Avengers or any of the fuckin’ Marvel movies.

OP: Scarlett Johansson though.

P: Good dialogue and dynamic characters though.

OP: And that’s why you don’t have a girlfriend.

P: Currently. But when I find one she will be smart and beautiful and fun and we’d stay up late drinking wine, talking about movies, planning weekend trips, while listening to Francoise Hardy on repeat.

OP: That’s weirdly specific.

P: I have insomnia so I find the time to be weirdly specific.

OP: Insomnia actually explains a lot about you…who are you texting?

P: This girl I know.

OP: Yeah?

P: I’m trying to see if she wants to come have a drink or something.

OP: What did she say?

P: Nothing yet, I just texted her.

OP: Does she also like ‘Before Sunrise’?

P: Yeah, actually she does.

OP: I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

Round Six: Peter: Trenta Iced Green tea with 2 pumps classic. Other Peter – Venti Coffee.

Peter and Other Peter decide to go to a Starbucks, because the caffeine in Peter’s system is running low.

P: I’d like to give a shout out to some really great work I saw recently that I feel exemplifies what I’ve been talking about.

OP: Cool. P: My favorite show that I saw during the 2012-2013 season was Spacebar: A Broadway Play by Kyle Sugarman by Michael Mitnick at City Lights Theater Company. Lisa Mallette directed it, it was a world premiere and it’s got jet packs, futuristic stuff, outer space, drunk Keith Marshall in outer space, Morgan Voellger on rollerblades, and at the center of it all, it was a very beautiful written play about a teenager with big dreams trying to reconcile and make peace with the things in the life that aren’t going so well. And like…it was so good. Just fucking excellent like…I dunno.

OP: I know. I saw it. It was excellent.

P: Right? Another awesome play was Stuart Bousel’s play for this past year’s Olympians festival See Also All, which covered like the entire Trojan War like some sort of magnum opus compendium, it’s got a big cast and more characters than the fuckin’ Simpsons and it’s violent and sexy and funny and like there was this game show section too. And it’s not grandeur for grandeur’s sake either, it made sense and it was good story telling. I brought my buddy Pastor Fred Gilham to the show and we were talking about it on the way back, and about how refreshing it was you know? Most of the time when you see a bigger show it’s usually like a kid’s play or musical so it’s good to have something like this. Something with teeth. And balls.

OP: There were balls? At a staged reading?

P: I’m talking figuratively. And on the topic of big casts I gotta give one last shout of to my friend Steve Boyle and the work he’s done with San Jose Rep’s Emerging Artist Lab. He’s worked with big casts, brought out dry ice and buckets of water, had live musicians and stuff. One of my favorite shows he put on was a modern retelling of Macbeth set amidst the Arab Spring conflicts and he beautifully blends the two to create something fresh, new, and edgy. The adaptation he did was definitely not playing it safe and being the director, he brought out the big guns and killed it – which just goes to show, that if you write it, there will be someone out there to direct it.

OP: Dude, hot twins just walked in.

Peter turns to see that indeed hot twins have walk in.

P: Nice.

OP: Do you think we should see if they wanna sit with us?

P: Sure, if you want to.

OP: Did that girl text back?

P: Yeah, she’s busy.

OP: For sure. So anything you’d like to say in closing?

P: Yeah. I’d like to share a quote from one of my favorite authors of all time, Mr. Chuck Palahniuk. He said “The first step – especially for young people with energy and drive and talent, but not money – the first step to controlling your world is to control your culture. To model and demonstrate the kind of world you demand to live in. To write the books. Make the music. Shoot the films. Paint the art.”, and this is something I believe in strongly and with every beat of my heart.

OP: That was the smartest thing you said all night.

P: What about all that stuff on producibility?

OP: Anyway, the twins are looking this way, I’m gonna go ask them to come over. They can be our Marla Singers.

P: Why, cause you’re my Tyler Durden?

OP: That’s funny because I always thought you were my Tyler Durden.

P: Conceited much?

OP: Oh, the irony of that statement.

P: Just go.

OP: Let’s get together yeah yeah yeah…

Other Peter gets up and walks over to the twins while Peter smiles and shakes his head.

Peter Hsieh is a playwright from San Jose, California. Like him on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/peterhsiehplaywright. Other Peter Hsieh is a soap salesman.

Falling With Style: Keeping One Eye On My Goals And The Other On … Everything Else

Helen Laroche, better late than never… 

My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.

-Robert Frost

So, I started my Starbucks job this week.

I have a confession to make. I have never had a foodservice or retail job (though I realize Starbucks does not quite qualify for either of those), and before this, the only job I had with early morning shifts was a cushy university service desk job in the dead of summer — my customers were few and far between. The job involved a lot of surfing the internet and using the copier for personal projects.

After a week working the opening shift, which encompasses this store’s peak and where my lunch break is at 9:30am, I … am full of feelings.

On the one hand, I am absolutely blown away by the energy and camaraderie that goes into making the bar work. Everyone appeared to be selfless and constantly moving — in a smooth, well-oiled way, not a frenetic one. I got the feeling that everyone worked selflessly because, it was implied, that useless fat would be trimmed off, and not just by the manager. Somewhere down the line, you’ll need someone else’s help. And if you haven’t built up good karma, there will be no one willing to help you. (Not a bad life lesson, either!)

In the midst of this display, it really became apparent to me how lazy I generally am. I can be sort of a slob. (In college one time, I was forced to do laundry because literally every piece of clothing I owned was on the floor. And we had a washer/dryer set in the apartment. I’m getting better, but I’m still far from spic or span.) I tend to rely heavily on others, especially in moments of crisis. I sort of tune out of my own life. So I can see how working at a place like Starbucks might be a great kick in the psychic ass.

On the other hand, working 2.5 jobs on top of trying to make some art feels like it will be hard to keep up. Even this week, the art suffered. (Case in point: this column, which is a day late. Fail.) I look at upcoming auditions and wonder: “is it worth staying up to prep when I could just sleep? Man, I miss sleep.” So the number of jobs and their ratio to art creation are still up in the air. I don’t want to forget what’s important to me. I don’t want to forget that my survival jobs are in service to my art.

Ultimately, I keep myself on track by having a (www.sayshelen.com/2012/08/8-simple-steps-to-becoming-professional.html) list of goals that I wrote for myself. As new performing opportunities come up, I check them against this list of goals that I made — does the opportunity sound like something I’d really like to do; i.e. does it match up with a goal on the list? Or am I just grasping for something to do? I find that, when I am honest with myself while writing the goals, and then patient with myself when waiting (www.sayshelen.com/2012/09/waiting-for-fat-pitch.html), I am not disappointed.

Indeed, today I booked my first play, which will run in late January. Patience led me to that booking, as I had already auditioned for a number of shows in that slot. And patience and honesty will lead me to finding the right ratio of survival jobs to art in my life.

Helen Laroche is a Bay Area actor and singer. She can make you a 5 shot venti soy half-caf no whip salted caramel mocha. Learn about upcoming performance dates at www.helenlaroche.com.