Working Title: Pint Sized Recommendations…or One Llama to Rule them All

This week Will Leschber discusses Pint Sized Play Festival film pairings with Stuart Bousel, Emma Rose Shelton & Rob Ready.

Reflecting on this year’s upcoming Pint-Sized Play Festival has led me to realize what I miss about being at university. The constant consumption of new things and new ideas is the lure, and, of course, those things are generally missed. But the crux, the essential thing that I pine for, is the structured ascension. You feel as if your path is laid before you and that you are constantly improving and growing as you walk down the road towards knowledge…or maybe the road was just leading to semester’s end. Either way, it’s easy at times in our daily lives, our daily grinds, to feel stagnant and/or circling or floating with less aim than we used to know in the past. There is an absence of hope in aimlessness. But the powerful thing is that we are all moving forward, and the trick is to remind yourself that your constant road can be one that ascends, if you mind the way. Nothing like an annual event to rock us back to reflection…or maybe drinking like we are college kids!

Of all the pints, in all the bars, in all the world…you had to laugh into mine.

Of all the pints, in all the bars, in all the world…you had to laugh into mine.

It is time again for the Pint-Sized Plays. This jovial event comes but once a year and it is glorious. A fruitful fun evening that turns over a handful of laughs in the time it takes to finish a beer. This may not obviously link to an evening of what you may call ascension… but many things can be found in the swirls of a pint glass. The quick cycle of the night is part of the allure. If this play isn’t for you, finish your beer and worry not, for another play is 10 minutes away…and maybe another beer too. 😉 Our constant companion in the years that we’ve seen Theater Pub’s Pint Sized Plays has been the Llama. His pint consumption knows no bottom. His wisdom knows no limits. And his beard is just spectacular.


The three pillars of this year’s Llamalogue who I had the pleasure to speak with are Stuart Bousel, Theater Pub’s Executive Director, Bay Area Ringmaster and playwright of the infamous Llamalogues; Emma Rose Shelton, all-around wonder woman and director of this year’s “Llama VI”; and of course, Rob Ready, Artistic Director of PianoFight and the amazing aforementioned bearded Llama himself.

To get you in the headspace of the Llama (oh God NO…you say…don’t worry, it’ll be OK…this will all wear off in the morning) and the Pint-Sized Plays in general, we have three recommended film pairings to play along with the festival’s themes and schemes.

Lets start with the the Rob-a-Llama recommendation…ready, steady, drink and go!

The Apartment, the 1960 classic directed by Billy Wilder and starring the splendid Jack Lemmon and stunning Shirley Maclaine… To move up the ladder at work, Lemmon lets executives use his apartment for their affairs… hilarity and heartbreak ensue. It’s kind of a similar aesthetic and tone [to our dear Llama]…Lemmon does a ton of over-the-top physical comedy in the role while also coming off as a grounded, fully-fleshed-out person with a big heart. Most of the film is really funny, but there are parts that just tear at your heartstrings. And I think that’s roughly what the Llamalogues aim to do.

The Apartment foreign

Well said, and great recommendation! Now let’s hear what Llamalogue director Emma Rose Shelton has to pair with the indomitable Llama…

Groundhog Day, the 1993 Bill Murray comedy classic… There’s something about Bill Murray’s character coming back each time needing to learn the same lesson and just failing miserably at it. Something about him trying to figure his shit out while being lovably melancholy and self-loathing reminds me of our Llama.

God I love that Punxsutawney Phil. Don't drive angry. Don't drive angry!

God I love that Punxsutawney Phil. Don’t drive angry. Don’t drive angry!

OK, last but not least since this is supposed to be the length of a beer…a slowly nursed beer. Let’s get to Stuart Bousel and close this mother out. Bousel brings to the table a beautiful and less well-known film…but boy is it a treat.

Sally Potter’s Orlando, 1992… Sally Potter, perhaps one of the most underrated filmmakers in the world, is one of my favorite directors, and her film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is, like the source material, many many things. For me, the film is about finding your place in the world, and not just the world, but time itself, coming to terms with the infiniteness of human experience but also the limited scope of any one life, including your own. Or in less fancy speak: it’s about accepting your own mortality, and by doing so, finally beginning to really live. It’s no big secret Theater Pub is coming to an end this year, though Pint-Sized may continue. Will the Llama continue with it? I rather hope so. But I have already decided it won’t be me writing it anymore. So this last Llamalogue is my kiss goodbye to this incredible, rewarding, and demanding period of my life that I’ve loved living through and am also looking forward to having behind me so I can move on to other things. As the angel sings at the end of the film, while Orlando and her daughter watch: I am being born, and I am dying.


That rounds out this pint. I promise the night of Pint Sized Plays at PianoFight is hugely entertaining and there will be more laughs and guffaws than bittersweetness…but like any good night of entertainment the presence of both light and dark will be in attendance…or possibly ascendence.

The season’s change is upon us, as it ever is. Soak it in. It goes fast. This is the last Llamalogue as we have come to know it. Come out, have a beer, a laugh and nod to see the shadow of the Llama pass. You know what they say about a Llama who sees his shadow…or maybe that is something else. This shadow pint is for you, Llama.


Editor’s note: our Pint-Sized Tzarina, Marissa Skudlarek, points out that this is the first year of Pint Sized where we have THREE one-person shows. Says Marissa:

Three of the 11 plays in this year’s Pint-Sized Play Festival are one-person shows. In addition to the return of the drunken llama played by Rob Ready, a beloved character who has appeared in every Pint-Sized Festival since 2010, we’re telling the stories of two women who are on the brink of major life changes. There’s the title character of “Julie Kopitsky’s Bat Mitzvah” by Jake Arky: at the age of 36, Julie has finally earned the right to call herself an adult by the standards of her Jewish faith. And there’s Meredith — or should we call her Olivia? — in Caitlin Kenney’s “Why Go with Olivia?”, a woman who’s preparing to cut ties with her old life and start anew.

Julie, the Llama, Meredith… they’ve all been around the block a few times. They’re adults, thirtysomethings, with histories and backstories and opinions. And yet they don’t always make the right choices, especially when pints of beer are involved. They are brash, opinionated, and very fun characters, but they’re also all seeking meaning and fulfillment in their own ways. I know, that sounds like a lot to ask from a proudly self-proclaimed slut who gets drunk at her own Bat Mitzvah, or a woman whose quest for a new life means turning her back on everything that came before, or a boozy llama who started out in 2010 as an absurdist sight gag. But it also happens to be true.

Don’t Miss Pint Sized Plays VI, playing 8/15, 8/16, 8/22, 8/23, 8/29, 8 PM, only at PianoFight! 

Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: A Monologue of One’s Own

Marissa Skudlarek, acting sensation.

After The Desk Set closed two weeks ago, I was pretty sure that my summer-of-2015 flirtation with being an actor had ended. I truly enjoyed the experience of acting in a play again after seven years, but I wasn’t sure where to go next. I’m well aware that there are more talented 20-something female actors in the Bay Area than there are roles for them, and, as I wrote in a comment to Ashley Cowan’s post on the same subject, I am philosophically opposed to audition monologues.

Well, never say never, I guess. A week ago, I opened up my inbox to find an email from playwright Jeremy Cole, saying that the actress who was originally supposed to perform his piece in the “Repro Rights – Women @ Risk” theatrical benefit had unfortunately had to drop out. Would I be interested in replacing her in the role of Virginia Woolf, delivering a monologue called “A Womb of One’s Own”?

I’m always up for a challenge and I know how much of a headache it is to lose an actor a week before the show, so I said yes. Wow! To go from playing a Marilyn Monroe-esque sexy secretary in The Desk Set to playing a Bloomsbury bluestocking of famously formidable intelligence… well, no one could say I was being typecast, that’s for sure. It was a nice reminder of the reasons so many people go into acting in the first place: to be able to take on roles that are very different from one another and from their real-life personalities.

Furthermore, because I am a good deal younger than the actress who was originally cast in the role, it’s a nice reminder of theater’s flexibility, how the same role can be played by different types of people. One does tend to think of Virginia Woolf as a middle-aged woman (perhaps because she published most of her best-known works when she was in her 40s) but why can’t she be played by someone younger? I started to research the twentysomething Virginia Woolf and even to identify with her. In 1909 (when Woolf was 27, and unmarried, and still named Virginia Stephen), Lytton Strachey wrote to Leonard Woolf: “You must marry Virginia. She’s sitting waiting for you, is there any objection? She’s the only woman in the world with sufficient brains, it’s a miracle that she should exist; but if you’re not careful you’ll lose the opportunity…She’s young, wild, inquisitive, discontented, and longing to be in love.” I would be thrilled if someone wrote such words about me.

Communing with Virginia.

Communing with Virginia.

But each new role brings challenges. If my role in The Desk Set was about becoming confident with my physicality and sexuality onstage, this role is about becoming comfortable with doing a monologue, a one-woman show. Never before has anyone asked me to fill eight minutes of stage time all by myself, and that can feel daunting. My role in The Desk Set was quite small — I think I had 10 lines, meaning that when my scene partner and I accidentally dropped a line on opening night, I later teased him about making me mess up “10% of my role.” With “A Womb of One’s Own,” it’s just me out there — and I’m opening the show!

My opposition to audition monologues mainly comes from the awkwardness of being asked to deliver a speech to the empty air, whereas if you were actually performing that monologue in a play, you’d most likely be speaking to another actor onstage. Fortunately, “A Womb of One’s Own” is written as though Virginia Woolf is giving a lecture at a college, which relieves much of that awkwardness. Instead, the challenge is to be more than just a “talking head.” The words of the monologue, and the point the Woolf character makes about women’s bodily autonomy, are very important, but I have to remember that this is a play, it isn’t an actual lecture. As such, I have to act the text rather than merely speaking it. This isn’t always easy. There are still moments where I’m not sure what to do with my hands.

I believe this is also the first time I’ve been asked to play a real-life historical figure, rather than a fictional character. As such, I dove into doing research. I found a clip of Virginia Woolf’s speaking voice, featuring one of those fluty, cut-glass English accents that don’t exist anymore. I realized I’d have to brush up my RP accent: I looked up resources on pronunciation and phonetics, and underlined words in the script that I thought might be tricky. I rewatched The Hours – one of my favorite movies when it came out – and paid close attention to Nicole Kidman’s acclaimed performance as Woolf. Somewhat to my relief, I discovered that while Kidman employed an RP accent to play Woolf, she didn’t mimic Woolf’s cadences or elocution. She used her natural voice, which is much huskier and harsher than Woolf’s plummy murmur. Well, if it’s good enough for Academy Awards voters, it’s good enough for me: I also plan to employ the accent but not the tone or cadence.

I know, this is a one-night-only benefit performance and, cerebral woman that I am, I’m probably over-thinking it. No matter what, tonight I’m going to go onstage and, for eight minutes, play Jeremy Cole’s version of Virginia Woolf. And who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Not I.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright, arts writer, and (occasional?) actress. She’s performing in the ReproRights benefit tonight at Thick House. For more, follow @MarissaSkud on Twitter.