Theater Around The Bay: Looking Back/Looking Forward At The Annual Musical Spectacular

James Grady, our music director, brings us his year-end update and continues the blog tradition of talking to one’s self.

December 24, 2016

Dear One Year Ago James,

How are you, you handsome bastard? Ha! I should know since I’m writing to you from the future. Yeah,*that* future. One year to the day, in fact. Besides Donald Trump leading in the polls and the fact mass shootings having killed of 15% of the U.S. population, the last year has been great. Oh, er, uh… all the polar bears have drowned, too. #spoilers

(I know receiving a letter from your future self may be a bit weird, but rest assured the last year has gone exceptionally well. Keeping the weirdness in mind, I’m gonna just ease you into your future knowledge. But remember! Any interruption or deviation from the path set forth will wreak havoc! and mayhem! upon the future.)

1. (And I’m sorry) you don’t get a raise at work. You work for the City; don’t be so stupid to think that would ever happen.

2. San Francisco sucks worse than ever. The “bubble” hasn’t burst and it’s still overrun with pretentious douchebags without a cultural bone in their body.

3. Despite said boneless patrons, the local theater scene has been kicking some ass. Seriously. ACT has tacked in response to extensive, expensive focus group testing and has been so desperate for new, young blood they’ve started poaching actors from Custom Made and SF Olympian Festival auditions.

4. Just… for the love of gods just stop listening to the Dave Matthews Band once and for all. I’m embarrassed to have to say it out loud, as it were.

5.Remember to buy your airline ticket in the next couple of days for Chicago. Getting the opportunity to see 2666 at the Goodman Theatre will be a life-changing event.

Ok, now on to the good stuff!

6. I know last year’s annual Theater Pub Holiday Show, The Who’s TOMMY, was a smashing success but don’t rest on your laurels. Yes, there was a standing room only audience. There’s *always* a standing room only audience. Yes, the performers were amazing. They’re *always* amazing. What I’m trying to say is, three years success doesn’t promise future success. You may want to re-think your initial impulse of going with FIDDLER in 2016. Just trust me on this. Stick to your guns with AD/BC.

7. Stop buying lottery tickets. It’s not an “investment strategy” when you don’t see any returns.

8. Make more time for theater. I’m you so I know you know that these people are some of the smartest, weirdest, beautiful and most genuine people you will ever met. All the other things you occupy your time with have their place but don’t reciprocate love like your theater friends.

9. Speaking of which, make sure to treat those around you with kindness, love, and respect. You’ll be surprised what a difference it makes.

10. Ok now listen up. I know you’ll want to hear this because I used to be you. Well, I’m still you, but I used to be, too. Your idea for BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL wasn’t good. It wasn’t great. It was fucking amazing! The week after an impromptu table read in Stuart’s living room, it was amazingly fast-tracked for a debut off Broadway. That was quickly followed by an open-ended run at the Nederlander. It’s thus far broken lots of records. Spielberg and Zemeckis have decided to remake the original films because that subtle, yet remarkable change you made which improved the films twenty-fold. Word on the street is that because of this one masterfully written show, you may EGOT.

I don’t want to get to ahead of myself so I’ll leave it at this: 2015 was draining and difficult, yet ultimately rewarding. 2016 will be much more so if you work hard, stick to your guns, and above all treat people with kindness, respect, and love.


a.k.a. you

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!