Theater Around The Bay: Listening To You

The Five has the day off, so our Executive Director, Stuart Bousel, is publishing a little follow up to last night’s final performance of the year. Did you know 116 people have come together to make Theater Pub happen this past year? That’s 116 writers, directors, bloggers, actors, artists, musicians, dancers, and crazy creatives coming together for virtually no pay to revive the company that aspires to be our common community theater. Excellent work everybody! Last night was for you!

Today I walked to work singing “Listening to You” and felt like I knew everybody on the street. I smiled at everyone, and they smiled back. I wanted to hug people. That is RARE for me.

The best thing about the annual sing along is that it bring us all together. We’re all nervous. We’re all under-prepared. We’re all hopeful. We’re all suddenly caught up in the magic of it. We’re all hitting balloons around the room and singing to one another, and then we’re all suddenly done and back to every day life. ‪#‎igetthemusic‬

As Marissa Skudlarek wrote on Facebook today: “Last night, as I stood in front of a packed house at PianoFight belting out the final chorus of “Pinball Wizard,” the giant blue balloon “pinball” that the crowd was batting around came my way, and as I hit the last note, I gave the balloon a mighty push and watched it SOAR over the tops of everyone’s heads ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE ROOM, and I think it might’ve been the fucking coolest thing I have ever done in my life.”

It was magic. Real magic. And just like real magic, if you blinked, you might have missed it.

The ephemeralness of theater is a huge part of what makes it so good. “Everything dies. I want to die when you die!” the heroine of my favorite novel (The Last Unicorn) tells her prince when he urges her to accept immortality instead. She gets it because she’s been acting a part for some 100 pages by that point and she doesn’t want to stop. But he knows the finale is coming, and it’s going to be incredible- and then over. ‪#‎igettheheat‬

And then on to the next thing. Keep yours eyes posted for the new 2016 Theater Pub schedule and January events. They’ll be hitting digital pages soon. Meantime, here’s the opening speech Marissa Skudlarek and I wrote together in my bedroom Sunday night, and that I lost at the bar before the show, and had to more or less improv over the roar of the overture. Thanks again to everyone who came out last night and made it such a success. And if you missed it- well I hope you found some magic of your own. ‪#‎iclimbthemountain‬

Clare Prowse, Marissa Skudlarek, Sam Cohen, Juliana Lustenader, and Amanda Ortmayer rehearsing "Sensation" on the co-opted set of "Dead Dog's Bone"

Clare Prowse, Marissa Skudlarek, Sam Cohen, Juliana Lustenader, and Amanda Ortmayer rehearsing “Sensation” on the co-opted set of “Dead Dog’s Bone”

“Welcome to Theater Pub- THE LAST Theater Pub of the year.

Through the years it has become a tradition that, annually, we take off our serious thespian hats and put on our secret musical theater sparkle hats- the ones most of us haven’t worn since we were seventeen and singing along to cast albums in our bedrooms instead of having sex. OR WHILE WE WERE HAVING SEX.

For those of you joining us for the first time, we want to stress that this is not a musical theater production, but rather a bunch of mostly non-musical theater actors, impersonating a rock band, a rock band that only covers musicals. We’ve given you hymnals so you can sing along- especially the songs we’ve printed the lyrics for, especially the sections in bold- but if you know the rest, feel free to join in. This is our version of a holiday mass.

This theme will be coming back later. I’ll be singing it. Perhaps badly.

This year’s holiday selection is a tale of a young man born to a World War 2 widow whose lost husband returns, murders her new boyfriend, and swears the boy to secrecy- instantly striking him blind, deaf, and dumb. What follows is a series of mystical encounters as first the young man is sexually molested by his uncle, then tortured by his cousin, then given LSD by a prostitute. He then miraculously becomes a pinball champion, and a quack doctor identifies a link between his symptoms and the mirror in front of which his father’s crime of passion occurred so many years before. His mother smashes the mirror, setting him free, and he instantly becomes a world celebrity- Just like Jesus.

Eventually, after some wandering, he meets a young woman named Sally, whose innocent questions teach him the true meaning of Christmas. Now, if at any point you’re thinking, “This doesn’t make a lot of sense” I want to remind you that this story was first told by a bunch of people on a whole lot of drugs. Just like the story of Jesus. And what’s more Christmas than adultery, muder, denial, molestation, abuse, drugs, pinball, magic-mirrors that steal your soul, rock star allegories, celebrity melt down, the hero’s journey, forgiveness, true understanding, miracles and unresolved endings?

Nothing. That’s what.

So now is the time to open your hymnals and get ready for the 20th century’s answer to Jesus: the one and only Tommy. Yes… Tommy. The bar remains open the whole time. Please get yourself a festival beverage or six. I’m going to ask Duncan and Charles to join me here at the stage. Our run time is 70 minutes. The bathrooms are over there. Thank you very much for coming out tonight to celebrate with us. And now… Guess Who?”

Photo "Go To The Mirror" taken by Rob Ready, from behind the bar, at last night's show.

Photo “Go To The Mirror” taken by Rob Ready, from behind the bar, at last night’s show.

Want to sing along? Now you can! Just click HERE!

The Five: At the Intersection of Art and Politics

Anthony R. Miller checks in to see if he can just turn off his brain and like the dang show.

Hey you guys, so we all know SF is a liberal place, we just had an election where the Democratic mayor did not have a conservative opponent, just more liberal ones. We have naked parades and theatre companies whose ideals and personal politics play a big role in programming. Now, I consider myself a pretty progressive fella, but still a beneficiary of white male privilege. And lately there were some moment where I found myself almost in conflict with my personal politics and my ability to just enjoy the show I was watching. Naturally, I have some thoughts on it, and wouldn’t you know it, there are five.

Dare to Be Traditional

Last Friday, I attended the opening night for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It was the inaugural production of SF’s newest company, Bay Area Musicals. Without doing anything resembling a review, what really stuck with me was how daring it all felt. I don’t mean it was daring because it applied some greater concept and turned the show on its head to make a stunning new interpretation, I mean the exact opposite. Here we are in SF, a city at war with itself and the looming shadow of large tech companies and corporate culture, and they put on a show about a guy who basically schemes his way to the top and relies on the privilege granted by the corporate patriarchy to get away with all of it. Let’s get something straight, I’m a fan of the show. It’s funny, the music is great, and it’s entertaining and nothing but. But man, is it dated. The female lead aspires to marry up, the boss is cheating on his wife and it’s basically fine, everybody hits on their secretary, and in the end when our hero is seemingly doomed, he simply relies on the notion of “Hey, c’mon, we’re all bros here.” So to put this show on in SF in 2015 felt daring. Because while the play is a fun satire of corporate culture in the early ’60s, it’s a fairly forgiving one. So in light of that, you would think in SF the play would be given some kind of political facelift, some kind of new angle that shows us why the play is still relevant. Nope, they just did the show exactly how it’s always been done; it was big, fun and unapologetic. It had a punk-rock-like defiance. In the cradle of liberalism and progressive politics and artists who strive to make theatre that has its own identity and relevance, they said “fuck it.” Here I was watching a traditional musical comedy performed as it was traditionally intended and apologized for none of it, and that felt non-traditional. To not re-invent the show, felt inventive. Now to be fair, BAM’s season also includes Hair and La Cage Aux Folles which are liberal as fuck, so it all balances out. Where the culture of SF did really sink in, was the exciting diversity of the casting, actors of all sizes and color were used in a show that traditionally would have white people with perfect bodies. Oh, and I really enjoyed it.

Art vs. the Artist

This one is a cheat, but go with me. I’ve been a longtime fan of the band Eagles of Death Metal, the band that was playing in Paris the night of the horrific attacks. With all the newfound attention on them, a dirty little secret (unless you’re an obsessed fan like me who reads everything about them) is that the lead singer is super conservative, like Trump-supporting. Here’s the problem, the band kicks ass, they’re fun, riffy, boogie-down rock and roll. There is no agenda in the music, just a rockin’ beat. So I ask myself, “Can I still like this band when the lead singer holds views I find abhorrent?” It is the notion of choosing the Art over the Artist, does the artist need to be a good person who is in compliance with my politics to create art I can enjoy? If the art has nothing to do with the artist’s political views, am I still allowed to like it? Does the artist need to comply with my personal politics in order for me to like their art?

Giving Tuesday

Ok, this one is a non-sequitur, but hey it’s for a good cause. Apparently we have a name for the 5 days after Thanksgiving, so after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, today is Giving Tuesday. Today we can put aside our frothy-mouthed consumerism and give our money to some great causes, and Bay Area Theatre has lots of them. Here’s a few suggestions, SF Sketch Troupe Killing My Lobster, who had an amazing 2015 and are doing some great educational partnerships. SF’s Ray of Light Theatre has begun its Illumination Campaign (speaking of musicals in SF) and the Diablo Regional Art Association, who are giving free theatre tickets to kids. Custom Made Theatre Company, who just moved to a much larger space, is recovering from a robbery, and is one of the Bay Area’s fastest growing companies, is also doing a drive, and will be launching a New Works Development program next year, amongst other exciting changes.

Feeling Bad for Laughing

I’ve been lucky enough to attend several productions that are part of the Curran: Under Construction series at the under-renovation Curran Theatre. It’s pretty awesome; the shows are performed with the audience onstage to create exciting, intimate and interesting new shows. I recently saw Steve Cuiffo is Lenny Bruce, a one-man note-for-note reenactment of the work of Lenny Bruce. And while the guy was incredible and I laughed a great deal, there were uncomfortable moments. There is a whole bit laden with racial epithets, a bit that uses lots of colorful language for homosexuals, and while Bruce’s work was daring, controversial and a brilliant examination of what we find offensive and why, I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable at times. And I’m not here to say whether or not it’s OK to reenact this material, personally I enjoyed it for what it was, but MAN I couldn’t help but think that Lenny Bruce would be savaged for his work these days.

The Whyness of it All

A big question we like to ask ourselves in seeing theatre is “Why this show?” Why does it exist? Why is it being performed? Why am I watching it? When I think about all these things, I wonder about the conflict of theatre that exists just to entertain and theatre that is trying to say something. Is one more valid than the other? Is being entertaining enough? I would say yes, escapism is just as important as work that is critical of the world around us. Is it OK to like work that hasn’t kept up with our own progressive attitudes? Am I a bad liberal for appreciating Lenny Bruce or philandering bosses or music written by people I probably would dislike in person? Is it OK to not worry sometimes and just enjoy myself? That’s a lot of questions, and I don’t really have the answers, but if there is one thing that makes me think these plays are still important is that even though I enjoyed myself, I’m also asking myself all these questions. Which may be exactly why they’re important.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer and producer, and enjoys laughing as much as he enjoys thinking. Keep up with him at www.awesometheatre.org

The Five: The I Didn’t Go to the TBA Awards Round-Up

Anthony R. Miller stayed home from the Prom.

Hey you guys, so if you’re here for an exciting round-up from last night’s Theatre Prom known as the Theatre Bay Area Awards, you have barked up the wrong tree, because I didn’t go. But let’s be clear, I’m happy for those who did, happy for those who won, performed, presented, and whatever else, good for you, way to leave the house and wear nice clothes. These kinds of events just aren’t my thing, they just aren’t, I’ll go next year I promise, or maybe the next. However, it is not to say I did nothing last night, in fact I had quite the evening which had many highlights, and remarkably, there are five.

I Made Tacos
They were pretty good tacos too, breakfast tacos to be exact. What was most remarkable about them is that my girlfriend (also a theatre worker) and I actually sat down at the table and ate them together. We talked about our days and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a theatre-miracle.

I Made a Prop
I’m using “I” here pretty liberally. I bought the materials, and then once my beloved girlfriend was weighted down by breakfast tacos, I managed to get her to actually assemble the prop for me. She can sew better than me; seriously I would have just hot glued the thing together. It looks pretty magnificent. Curious to see the prop? Well then you will just have to come see CHRISTIAN TEEN DOLPHIN-SEX BEACH PARTY at the SF Olympians Festival Wednesday, November 18th at 8PM (also known as tomorrow.) to find out, and you should, because the cast is so darn funny.

I Watched Wrestling
Because it was Monday. Besides, it was the Quarterfinals for the WWE World Heavy Weight Championship Tournament. Priorities people.

I Cleaned My Office
My home office / large closet where the cats poop had gotten pretty bad, it had to be done. But I find sorting through 6 months of crap (figurative) on the floor is a pretty effective “look back” on the theatrical year. I went through programs of all the shows I saw, prior drafts of old scripts, yellow pads full of production notes and receipts, lots of receipts. (Remember kids, if you buy someone a drink, talk about working for them, and then end up working for them, that drink is a tax deduction.)

I Got Into the Morrissey Plays
In January, Theatrepub is presenting a night of plays inspired by and about Morrissey. I am thrilled about this because Morrissey is, in fact, my spirit animal. I mean, c’mon guys, I would have gone out last night, but I didn’t have a stich to wear. Around 7pm, with my slipper-adorned feet resting on my now clean desk, I went through my emails to discover my short play, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” got accepted. I’m pretty excited and Thankful about it and it’s about an awards show, so that kinda brings us full circle right?

In all seriousness, congrats to everyone involved, according to Twitter, it looks like it went well. I’ll go one of these years. Also, on an unrelated note, it doesn’t take much effort to realize the world is a big scary place right now, so even when it seems really hard or maybe even a bad idea, be excellent to each other. The world needs love sweet love.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer and producer, he’s not much for fancy parties. Keep up with his doings at www.awesometheatre.org.

The Five: Olympians Opening Night Rundown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Five: Have You Written Anything Lately?

Anthony R. Miller checks in with tales of inactivity.

Hey you guys, so last Monday was the TERROR-RAMA 2 reading/ fundraiser. I gotta say, it went pretty great. We had a packed house and a very game audience, it was nice to see two plays we had put so much energy into making great be so well received. Not to mention I finally got my Olympians play done (OK, OK the first draft, I gotta fix a few (hundred) things. I just turned in a huge amount of work for that freelance dramaturgy gig I do. So on Tuesday evening, as I got home from my trusty day job, it occurred to me “I don’t have anything immediately pressing to do”. Oh sure, there’s things I could do; research for the freelance gig, Olympians edits, (which I’m sure my director and cast would appreciate sooner than later.) Not to mention a preponderance of half written scripts. But none of it was due right now. Since I work better with a little bit of pressure; I took this opportunity to do…nothing. Which is not to say there were no highlights of the last seven days, on the contrary, there are five.

EDITORS NOTE: This article is enhanced by listening to “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars while reading. Give it a whirl.

Netflix and Stagnate
For me, finishing a major project (Or three) is usually celebrated by turning my brain off for a few days. When I’m knee deep in a script, I’m basically a court stenographer for the voices in my head. Scenes that aren’t working or aren’t finished replay over and over in my head. It isn’t until the words “END OF PLAY” are written do they actually stop talking. I usually celebrate this time with a grand re-watching of a favorite TV show (“Lost” and “The Sopranos” are my go-to’s) but, this time around, I have fallen into a rabbit hole of “The Wonder Years” , which was a huge show for me growing up. When Kevin was 13, I was about 13, so as I grew up in the early 90’s I lived parallel to Kevin Arnold’s Baby Boomer coming of age tales. This is the first time I watched this show since it originally aired. So with this aged perspective, I noticed a few things, like how each episode is just Kevin being a selfish prick and learning a valuable lesson, or how it’s clear that Winnie Cooper just isn’t that into him. The episode where they put on “Our Town” is especially fantastic.

“I’m Natalies Boyfriend”
So recently, Natalie, my significant other scored a pretty great job working for Curran: Under Construction. While the Curran theatre is being renovated, a series of smaller, experimental shows are being produced for weekend runs. And like a good boyfriend, I’m there to represent, and see stuff for free. On Saturday, I saw “The Object Lesson” a crazy immersive theatre piece where you are surrounded by hundreds of boxes of stuff. I’ve been loving this series, It’s fun to sit on stage and look into the historic Curran’s house lit up by a giant chandelier. Not to mention, wandering around the place is like going through a museum of SF theatre. The first show I saw in SF was “The Phantom of the Opera” when I was 15. It was at the Curran, so now, a hundred (or 20) years later, I’m standing on that same stage, drinking free wine and introducing myself as the Venue Managers boyfriend, and a playwright, life is weird.

Nerd-Out
Keep an eye out for what’s happening at the Curran, because there’s a lot of cool stuff happening. As things come together, they’re going to be inviting a lot of local theatre artists to perform on that stage. And it’s pretty cool that such a big money group has decided to put a focus on smaller, off the beaten path theatre and try to be a really presence in local theatre. Another great event they had on Monday was a talkback with theatre critic Michael Riedel. Riedel is a notorious critic from the NY Post and most recently got a lot of buzz for calling “Hamilton” overrated. Riedel has just written a book called “Razzle Dazzle” that tells the story of Broadway from 1975-present. He spent a lot of time talking about the impact of “A Chorus Line” the incredible influence the Shubert organization had and how Broadway became a billion dollar tourist attraction. I am a big fat theatre history nerd, so naturally, I loved every second, I was told that a few time I actually smiled. Oh, and I got a free book. So that was awesome.

Hello Laundry My Old Friend
I think any theatre artist can directly correlate how busy they are to the amount of dirty laundry they have. So upon looking at my empty dresser drawers, I’ve been swamped. I consider it one of the great accomplishments of adulthood that I can go several weeks while still having clean underwear. But there is something peaceful and zen-like about sitting on the couch and folding laundry for several hours. I get reunite with T-shirts I haven’t seen in weeks, that sport jacket I forgot to hang up and is now caked in cat fur, and my two dress shirts that I have to alternate between when I need to look like an adult. This is leisure folks.

I Make A Pretty Good Housewife
So with Natalie’s new gig, she’s been working crazy long hours, and with me being home a bit more, the domestic responsibilities have shifted. It’s been hard guys, I’ve grocery shopped, made my own doctor appointments, and even made dinner a few times. (Please note I make 4 things pretty well.)I made her a sandwich for lunch the other day, I don’t even know who I am anymore. It’s weird being the theatre widow for once, but it’s also nice being the supportive one for a change. For the hundreds of times I’ve interrupted her catching up on “The Leftovers” just to pitch a few story ideas at her, or randomly texted not to say loving things but to make sure the deposit check on the venue was mailed. It’s a chance for me to thank her for always being the supportive one.

That’s all for now guys, I’m halfway through season 4 of “ The Wonder Years” and my submission for theatrepub’s Morrissey night is due in a few days, we’ll talk about theatre in two weeks, I promise.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer, producer and avid procrastinator, keep up with him when he’s productive at www.awesometheatre.org or read about his new play “Christian Teen Dolphin Sex Beach Party” which will be read at the SF Olympians Festival next month at www.sfolympians.com.

The Five: Everything I Need to Know about Storytelling I Learned From Professional Wrestling

Anthony R. Miller checks in to ruin any credibility he had as a writer.

Hey you guys, In keeping with Septembers theme of “Breaking the Rules”, and following up on my “Tips for Doing Reasonably Well” I have one more installment of rules I actually follow. Which I suppose is my clever way of breaking the rules. Now I make no secret of my passion for the Art of Professional Wrestling, I have long considered it theatre at its base, undistilled if you will. One thing that most fans can agree on is that feats of athleticism are great and all, but when Pro Wrestling is truly great, it is because of its adherence to strong storytelling. So along with Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing or Stephen King’s On Writing, being a lifelong fan of pro wrestling has taught me some important rules in compelling story telling, and wouldn’t you know it, there are five.

DISCLAIMER: I am still not famous, so these shouldn’t be seen as rules that will make wildly successful, but they do work for me.

Black Hat/ White Hat

Even in a world of grey area and anti-heroes, it comes down to one basic principle; there is a good guy and a bad guy. Call it Protagonist / Antagonist or Babyface / Heel, but there’s the character you feel compelled to root for and there’s the jerk who keeps messing it up. The good guy is not seen as such just because he smiles or says things that make us cheer, he is supported by just how awful the bad guy is. Sometimes we want the good guy to win simply because the bad guy does such awful things; we are invested in him getting what he deserves. The good guy is simply a representation of what we want to see most in the world: justice.

Why Did You Do That?

Sure, we know Johnny Skullcrusher is going to bust out his steel chair at some point. But what makes that moment exciting is when and why he does it. While it is in the nature of the bad guy to cheat at some point, it comes at a time when he is afraid he will lose. It should be seen as an act of desperation. Because of that act the bad guy is seen as a cheat, or a coward. So, like in any story, there is a reason for the character’s actions. A series of moves with no real motivation is the same as a series of events that are not connected to each other. It is the difference between “This happened AND THEN this happened AND THEN this happened” and “This happened, BECAUSE OF THAT, this happened.”

Pacing, Pacing, Pacing

Like any good story, you can’t just have action, action, action. The same goes for an exciting match. There can’t be just spectacular moment after spectacular moment. There has to be peaks and valleys. Sometimes you slow things down to build tension, sometimes you speed them up to create excitement. Great matches, like great stories place major events at just the right time, and they take the time to build up to those major events.

Winning is Better When You Think They’re Going to Lose

I’m a sucker for a good underdog story, and if your story is told well, I am emotionally invested in the good guy getting what he wanted. In the case of pro wrestling, it is a victory for a championship or it is to settle a grudge. This make the moments leading to his victory pivotal. This might be the moment when our villain has seemingly overpowered our hero. And then, our hero digs deep and pushes himself harder than he ever has and fights back at the last moment to get his victory. But the weight and emotion of his moment of victory are dictated by two questions; did we want him to win and was there a moment when we truly thought he wouldn’t win? Everyone likes a happy ending, but it still needs to be earned. Victory is so much sweeter when we truly believe if just for a moment, it’s not going to happen. Equally, a loss is more upsetting when you truly believe everything is going to work out.

The Only Thing They Remember is the Last Thing They See

Also known as “Stick Your Landing”. End strong, the final moment of your story and the emotion it carries is what your audience takes with them as they walk into the lobby. Were there a few botched moves? Sure. But these moments can be forgiven with a strong impactful ending. Maybe it’s our battered hero, almost unable to stand, hoisting the belt above his head. Maybe our hero only wins because he has turned to villainy. Whether your ending is happy or sad, it should have emotional intention. Does it make me feel happy? Do I feel excited? Do I feel emotionally exhausted? Whatever the feels may be, the ending has to make me feel them. A great ending in pro wrestling is like any story, we’ve gone somewhere with the character, we have experienced things along with them. Everything is just a buildup to the end, where we feel the triumph or the tragedy. Now there are bad feelings too, like bored, or relieved it’s over, or dissatisfied. No matter the medium, those feelings are the result of weak storytelling. A great ending should be something we feel along with our hero.

Anthony R. Miller is a writer, producer and wrestling nerd. His play “Sexy Vampire Academy” will get its first reading in October, learn more at www.awesometheatre.org. His other play “Christian Teen Dolphin-Sex Beach Party will be read as part of the San Francisco Olympians festival in November.

The Five-5 Reasons To Donate To The San Francisco Olympians Festival

Anthony R. Miller checks in with a public service announcement.

Hey you guys, my favorite time of the year in Bay Area theatre is the Fall. New seasons are starting, folks are prepping their spooky plays for October and The SF Olympians Festival is on its way. Speaking of which, The SF Olympians is trying to raise some money, and I have a few reason why you should donate, predictably, there are five.

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It’s All in the Family

If you read Theatre Pub, you know somebody in this festival. Every SF indie-theatre face you know and love will play some role. Most of our Theatre Pub contributors (Myself included) are writing a play, or directing, or both. If you include Artists, Actors, Writers, Directors, and staff, there are close to 200 people involved. So just one donation supports a lot of people.

It’s a Dream Factory

There just aren’t a lot of opportunities out there for writers like the ones the SF Olympians Festival offers. Most festival requires the submission of a full script, but the Olympians Fest only asks for an idea. It’s one of the few submission processes based on the quality of your idea, and then you get the opportunity to write it, and then it gets a reading. This makes fertile ground not just for established writers, but also up and comers, and even folks who just want to give it a try. The festival also hires about a 100 actors a year. So supporting this festival is supporting opportunities for artists, you like opportunities for artists don’t you?

The Clock is Ticking

As I’m writing this, there is only 36 hours to go and we’re 500 bucks away, so if you were waiting to donate at a dramatic moment, now is the time.

There’s Nothing Like It

The SF Olympians Festival is incredibly unique, where else can you see so many new plays in just one month? Some will be great and some will be disasters, but that’s the fun of it. It’s a massive collection of diverse talent, a sampler of all the great work the SF Indie Scene has to offer. You’ll get comedy, drama, horror, satire, experimental work, one person shows and god knows what else. So supporting this festival is one thing you can do to help keep Bay Area Theatre full of exciting new voices and ideas. It’s something that makes SF unique and different, and just like everything in SF that is unique and different, it needs your help to survive.

Don’t Be a Jerk, Just Donate.

Everything helps, so give. Like I said, if you read TheatrePub or go to the shows, or you’re in the shows, you know at least 7 people in this festival. These are your friends, fellow theatre artists, and maybe even your significant other, and this festival is a very special thing that makes us all happy. It’s an opportunity for so many of us to do something creative and fun. So just donate, because you’re not just supporting a festival, you’re supporting a community. And if you’re reading this article, chances are, it’s your community.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

Anthony R. Miller’s play “Christian Teen Dolphin-Sex Beach Party” will premiere at the SF Olympians Festival, Read more about it and all of the shows at this year’s festival at www.sfolympians.com

The Five: Things Smart People Told Me

Anthony R. Miller checks in with some good advice.

Hey you guys, so full disclosure; I am not famous, nor am I a wildly successful theatre producer. I’ve done Ok, but one thing is for sure, I’ve worked with and learned from some amazing people. Over time and throughout my adventures, these people have bestowed upon me various nuggets of knowledge. I want to recognize that it might be a bit audacious of me to make a “Tips for success list”. So think of this as “Tips to Not Fail Completely” or “Tips to Do Reasonably Well.” As usual, there are five.

“Know Thy Tree”
Basic, but a rule I still follow. Don’t pick a project beyond your means. Instead, tailor your projects to the resources you have. Know what’s possible, know where to push. I recently wrote a fog machine into a script. Why? Because dramatically it made sense, it served the story and also because I have one, and I really want to use it. I have bent this rule once or twice, I have also seen projects that should have been beyond their means, but the show was re-worked to fit their resources. Sometimes this can be very cool; but it helps if you are brilliant. Know what you have to work with and build your ideas off of that.

“Nobody Needs to Know What You Really Think of Them”
This isn’t as cold as it sounds. This not to say “Pretend to be nice” or “Be fake”, being disingenuous is not the point. In the context of the original conversation, I was venting about a particular person who was very hard to work with. I expressed how badly I just wanted to tell this person how terrible they were in a big dramatic fashion. So what I think it means is simply “Don’t Be Drama”. If there’s somebody you’re working with that drives you crazy, deal with it. Nothing lasts forever in theatre and before you know it, you both will have moved on. At that point you can just not work with them, or find a way you can. But save the dramatic speech where you tell them every awful thing you’ve been storing up, it won’t work. You will have to play nice because it what’s best for the project as a whole. Also, no one likes a yeller.

“Assume You Are Not The Smartest Person in the Room”
Also known as “Shut Up and Listen” or “Hire Brilliant People and Get Out of Their Way” and “Don’t Mansplain”. I know this one to be true because every time I have not followed it, the results were pretty god awful. Theatre is problem solving and sometimes the damnedest people have the perfect solution. I have been part of more projects that have done well when everyone involved felt listened to. Don’t micromanage, hire people you trust will do a good job and then let them their job.

“At Some Point in Your Career, you will stop and ask yourself; ‘What the Fuck Am I Doing?”
When I first heard this, I laughed. It was a funny thing to say, and I didn’t realize its importance at the time. Not until the moment came. I was working for a theatre company full time and for a while it was a fantastic opportunity. I got to meet all sorts of people and bay area artists, every day I was in the middle of the craziness of start-up theatre. I had a lot of jobs there, very few of them artistic. A big part of my job was just being a facilities manager. I just kind of fell into it, and I was working for a theatre for a living, so I went with it. After a few years the magic was gone, I felt demeaned, disrespected and taken for granted. After years of work, I will still getting stuck with the most undesirable jobs. Nobody really recognized me as artist and all my time and energy was being given to someone else’s vision. Now the thing about this place is the theatre was in bad shape and had a few holes in the ceiling. Eventually the holes got big enough for Pigeons to get inside of the theatre. So on any given day there would be a gang of pigeons just hangin’ out onstage. Getting rid of the pigeons was my job. This was my life. After one exhausting bout of pigeon chasing, I sat down for a moment only to get up realize the worst had happened. I sat in pigeon shit. There I was, 33, not happy, and with pigeon shit on me. That was the moment it happened; I thought to myself “What the fuck am I doing?” Things had to change. Not long after that day, I gave my notice and had a big reorganizing of priorities and promised myself the only theatre I would ever chase pigeons out of would be mine. My life has changed for the better in so many ways because of it. My point is, a moment will come when you ask yourself if this is the place you should be. Take that moment seriously.

“Hard Work Will Always Beat Talent That Doesn’t Work Hard”
I realize that sounds like something you would tell a football team but hear me out. I am constantly inspired by all the brilliant artists living and working in the Bay Area. Part of that inspiration comes from just how less brilliant I am than all of them. And that’s not meant to be self-deprecating, but I try to be honest with myself, I have a modicum of talent and it’s easy to be a little intimidated. But I’m here to tell you, being marginally talented shouldn’t stop you if you have the passion and a good idea. Just work harder, work twice as hard as the most talented person you know. I will always take the hard worker that’s pretty good over insanely talented people who are lazy. Outwork everyone, keep your head down, and don’t be a dick. Good things will come if you work harder than everyone else.

Again, none of these tips have brought me fortune and fame, but have yielded many positive things in my life. Any success I do experience comes from heeding this advice. And full disclosure, I have broken all of these at some point, it doesn’t work out.

Anthony R Miller has a lot going on, you can get more info on those things at http://www.awesometheatre.org and http://www.sfolympians.com

The Five: One Crazy Busy Summer

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

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

Everyone Should Be Using “Slack”

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

Oh Wow, This Might Be Kind of Good

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

Sentence by Sentence

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

Disposable Art

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

Whoa Did I Just Direct the School Play?

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

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

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

The Five: The Truth Is, They Don’t Give A Fuck

Anthony R. Miller checks in with some sad facts.

Hey you guys, so there has been a lot of news these days about theatre patrons gone wild. Whether Patti Lupone is drop kicking people texting or people are plugging their phones into sets during the show and taking a selfie, theatre makers of the highest or smallest budgets don’t know what the fuck to do. We want to blame iPhones, social media, millennials, casual theatre goers, but the truth may be easier than that. The truth is, when a theatre patron does something so tacky you could implode, it’s not because they were unaware of the standards, or rules, or theatre etiquette. It’s because they didn’t give a fuck.

As it turns out I have some thoughts expanding on the topic, and it turns out there are five.

Nothing New

About a million years ago, back in the late ’90s, Patrick Stewart performed at my college. Every year he would do a one man version of “A Christmas Carol” as a benefit for Shakespeare Santa Cruz. I got to work the light hang, and as a bonus we got to watch the show from the light booth. Now here’s the part I’ll never forget; an audience member was taking photos and Sir Patrick spots her, and all of a sudden, looks her dead in the eye and says: “We can have a performance, or we can have a photo shoot, it’s your choice”. You bet your bottom dollar that she put it away, and then he snapped right back into the show like nothing happened, like a god damn boss. Now, this was in 1996, long before everyone had a cell phone, much less a phone that took pictures. No, this lady brought a regular old 35mm film camera. She knew she wasn’t supposed to, but she did anyway, because she wanted a picture of Patrick Stewart acting and she didn’t give a fuck if there was rule against it. This of course Is not an isolated incident, because we have a rule about it in curtain speeches. That means, people bringing cameras that were nothing else but cameras was a big enough problem, there’s a rule about it. Which brings me to-

Curtain Speech In Vain

Curtain Speeches, the necessary evil. Often times an unwanted 15 minute live commercial from the Artistic Director or Development Director, going on about subscribing, the theater’s mission statement, and how you can donate (Here’s a secret: the very people you’re trying to reach would really just like to watch the fucking play already), but at its core the curtain speech we all get at the top of the show is the same, and starts with “Turn Off Your Cell Phones”. It also usually includes “Don’t take pictures”. Just so you know, my HM curtain speech is “Best Speech” in three counties and YET, there’s always someone who doesn’t follow it. Did he hear the speech? He did. Was the HM not clear? He was. Is it the patron’s first time here? No, his wife is a subscriber. The fact is, he knows the rules, and he’s not a result of timid curtain speeches or inept ushers or the downfall of western theatre etiquette. He just doesn’t give a fuck. His phone being on is more important (which I suppose it could be if you’re a doctor or have a babysitter who drinks). Taking a cool picture he’s not supposed to take is half the fun. Sneaking some video and posting it on the internet is what life is all about and those rules aren’t THAT important right? Is it that big a deal? Well, we all know one dude who thinks it isn’t…

The Guy in The News

Nick Silvestri is a 19 year-old lacrosse player and junior college student from Long Island. Every year, his family gets together and they see a few shows in New York. While he describes himself as “Not a play guy” he still attends at least once a year. This makes the Silvestri Family the bread and butter of commercial theatre: the casual theatre goer. The Silvestris had a lovely time at a restaurant not far from the theater. At the restaurant, they all had a few too many drinks, including Nick. Now, we can assume that Mrs. Silvestri is well aware of the alcohol laws in the country, prohibiting 19 year olds from drinking. Hell, the restaurant could have gotten in huge trouble for it. Was his mother not aware of the laws? She was. Is she a bad Mother? Of course not. She just didn’t give a fuck. When Nick tried plugging his phone into the USB port of the TV at the restaurant, he “Got yelled at by the manager”. Was Nick raised badly, and never taught to ask first? Assumedly not. Shit, that should have been a big sign to everyone in the group. “Uh hey, you might wanna get your drunk teenager under control”, but it didn’t happen. Because they didn’t give a fuck. This all leads up to the Don’t Give A Fuckery of the century, when he climbed up on stage before a performance of “Hand To God” and plugged in his cell phone, into a fake outlet. Now, for the sake of this article, let’s put away the tin foil hats and assume this was real and not a brilliant marketing ploy. Nick is not a first time patron, he knows the rules. He had a few drinks, “Girls kept calling” and his phone was dying. As they sat down in their orchestra seats (which by the way, are real fucking expensive, this bring us back to “Bread and Butter”), he saw the plug and in his words, “Ran for it”. He just figured “It wasn’t a big deal”. He only made a big public apology after folks tracked him down on Twitter and Facebook and savaged him. In the end Nick knew what he was doing, he just didn’t give a fuck. He wanted something, so he went for it. This embodies the privilege that these trouble making patrons all display. A notion that if they want something that they think is reasonable, they should have it. As Nick said to the wide eyed ushers, “What’s the problem buddy?”

What Do You Mean “No”?

If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know this face. The face someone makes when they are told “no.” It’s almost dumbfounding. The patron comes ten minutes late and asks if they can get a drink and go to the bathroom before they go in. You say no because it’s your one late seating cue and you need to get them in now. But they don’t get it: “I asked, that’s all I’m supposed to do right?” The thing that unites all these people who make us crazy with their behavior is simply privilege. The notion that someone wanted something, they saw what they wanted, so they took it, because that’s what it’s there for right? The notion that rules are just for suckers who don’t go for the brass ring. The idea that every rule is negotiable, you just gotta ask nice. I can basically spot this patron a mile away, they put a hand on my shoulder and say “Hey Buddy” or “Hey Boss” and then ask to break a rule. They explain why this rule should not apply to them and when you disagree, they just don’t understand. Now I’m not being a dick here, I have busted ass for patrons whenever I can, but when there’s something I can’t do, I’m direct about it. And even then, sometimes the patron does it anyway. Not because you didn’t explain the rule clearly, not because they’ve never seen theatre, it’s because they didn’t give a fuck, they wanted what they wanted, and they’ll be damned if some dickhead in a sweater and nametag who would have to work a year to make what he makes in a day tells them no. For some, a feeling of entitlement beyond seeing the play often accompanies a $150 theatre ticket.

#NotAllPatrons

So here’s where I backtrack a little. Because I don’t think these stories are examples of the downfall of society. I don’t think we need to start hanging up “No Assholes” signs at the lobby (they wouldn’t read it anyway). My point here is this: calm the fuck down. Unruly patrons who only care about themselves are not a new thing. We just have phones to record them now. 98% of patrons I meet are swell people. They’re happy to be there and understand the rules and the behavioral expectations we have of them. And these expectations are not evidence of theatre being a stodgy, old fashioned art form that needs to loosen up. It’s live theatre god dammit, the people entertaining you are real, and are subject to distraction. When a patron pulls out a phone in the front row, it’s offensive, because we know they know the rules, they just don’t give a fuck. It’s offensive to audience members who wanted to see a play and not sports scores from the row in front of them. It is the central idea of the Social Contract: we all behave a certain way for the benefit of everybody else in the room. So while we chastise the 2% of theatre patrons who make us crazy and make us think that accessible theatre is just letting in the riff-raff, (I’d like to note that sometimes disruptions and riff-raff actually have their place, I mean hey, “Hand to God” has gotten huge publicity for it) let’s also remember the other 98% who didn’t give you trouble at all. The Patrick Stewart Fan, Nick Silvestri, and every patron who ignores no re-entry policies all share a “Don’t give a fuck” connection. They knew the rules but a sense of privilege and entitlement led them to ignore it. And they’re never going away, but take heart in the notion that they are a minority. They are targets for shaming and without them we wouldn’t have living examples of what NOT to do. Obviously it’s still a problem, but let’s all agree on the exact problem. This is not solved by tweet seats, or cell phone signal jammers in the theater, or ushers carrying big tacky signs pre-show that say “Turn off your cell phone”. Respecting the human beings performing a play for you is not some stodgy, old fashioned rule. While American Theatre has issues it really needs to catch up on (Women outnumber men in theatre classes almost regularly and yet, we’re still doing 1776) Privilege is a larger cultural problem, and until a smart, effective way to deal with it presents itself, shame them, record them misbehaving, and post it on YouTube, let the fear of public embarrassment override their “I want what I want when I want it” attitude. People are most likely to be an asshole when they feel justified and think they can get away with it. Does that sound insensitive and counterproductive? Probably, but hey, I don’t give a fuck.

Anthony R Miller is a doer of many things, read about them at www.awesometheatre.org