Pint Sized Plays Interviews 5: The Directors

As the count down towards this year’s Pint Sized Plays Festival continues, we thought we’d take a moment to chat up some of our directors. With voices as distinct as the writers whose work they get to direct, these backstage snapshots offer a window into some of the indie theater scene’s best and brightest. Enjoy!

Who are you, in fifty words or less.

Meg O’Connor: I am Meg O’Connor, marketer for immigration law by day, but by night! – theater junkie. Playwright, director, improviser, expert in reading Stage Directions.

Neil Higgins: I’m an actor, writer and director who loves the SF theatre scene and is excited by how much it has been growing in the past few years.

Eileen Tull: I am Eileen Tull. I have met Hanson. I was on Oprah once. I moved to the Bay Area about a year ago from Chicago. I direct and generally do theater all of the time.

What’s the play you’re directing about?

Meg O’Connor: Beeeeeeaar by Megan Cohen is about love, loss, dancing, and roaring. Llama, by Stuart Bousel and Megan Cohen is about a Llama at a crossroads, and it will take a heroic act to bring him back to his former glory.

Neil Higgins: This play, Celia Sh**s, by William Bivins, is about a little-discussed issue that arises between the sexes. And existential crises. And, to a lesser extent, beer.

Eileen Tull: Loss, love, and hate. This is what makes up Leah M. Winery’s To Deborah.

What drew you to this kick-ass show?

Eileen Tull: The cleverness in its simplicity.

Meg O’Connor: I’ve been involved every year and have had a blast each time. The bar setting makes for a great atmosphere, the audience is inebriated enough to find us funny, and I get to pay my actors in beer. It’s a pretty sweet gig.

Neil Higgins: It’s a really fun script that talks about something that doesn’t really get talked about a lot. The situation and characters are at once comically exaggerated and realistically relatable.

What are you discovering is the challenge of working at Theater Pub?

Eileen Tull: This is my second time working with Theater Pub (though I’ve been a wallflower fan since I got to the Bay Area), and I feel like the challenge lies in filling the space, which is non-traditional and spilling full of people.

Neil Higgins: Time is always an issue; both in how little there is before the show compared to a traditional production schedule and trying to get all of one’s actors in the same place at the same time to rehearse.

Meg O’Connor: In rehearsal, I make sure to have water to practice with…so, there are lots of pee breaks.

What has you most excited to be there?

Meg O’Connor: Theater Pub’s community is fun, intelligent, and passionate. Working with them is the epitome of the phrase “Work Hard – Play Hard.”

Eileen Tull: The vibe is just super positive. From the producers to the collaborators to the audience. It’s as if everyone has the Theater Pub motto on their mind: “Make it good, keep it casual, have a beer.”

Neil Higgins: It’s a talented group of people and I can’t wait to see all the great pieces that come out of it.

What’s been your biggest, craziest, most HA! I PULLED THAT OFF, BITCHES! moment as a director?

Neil Higgins: An actor broke his leg a week or so before we opened. I had to add a couple lines, change almost all the blocking and some choreography.

Eileen Tull: The first play I ever directed ended with the stage direction “Then, spring.” It was a ten minute play about a post-apocalyptic freezing Earth run by robots. I am still dating the playwright. But it was a daunting playground of a stage direction for a little first time director. I ended up using costume changes, pastels, and Louis Armstrong to bring it to life.

Meg O’Connor: This one time, I had an actress enter the stage through a giant vagina. That was pretty cool.

If you could direct anything, with limitless budget and stars, what would it be and why?

Meg O’Connor: Mourning Becomes Electra starring RuPaul

Neil Higgins:
Tie between The Importance of Being Earnest and Titus Andronicus because they are such
amazing shows and my ideas for them require a lot of money.

Eileen Tull: I would do a marathon in rep of The Rover, Cyrano de Bergerac, She Stoops to Conquer, and Twelfth Night. And then commission re-imagined adaptations of each one. And then direct those. Rinse and repeat with Doctor Faustus, Macbeth, and Hamlet.

What’s up next for you?

Neil Higgins: Acting in Measure for Measure for Theater Pub in August!

Eileen Tull: Directing and producing Flesh at the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival, performing an original solo show Jesus, Do You Like Me? Please Mark Yes or No. at the San Francisco Fringe Festival, and directing a couple of Olympians Festival plays in the winter.

Meg O’Connor: My play In the Deep about the titan Tethys will be featured in this year’s Olympians Festival in December.

What else in the SF Theater scene has you excited?

Eileen Tull: I just wrapped up stage managing The Odyssey on Angel Island. Woof. I’m so excited about the work We Players and other site specific companies are doing to transform spaces and redefine what it is to have a theatrical experience.

Meg O’Connor: Banana Bag and Bodice’s Space//Space has got me jazzed (they have to bring it to SF now, plz) and the piece The Collaboratory is working on (Dirty Laundry) sounds fascinating.

Neil Higgins: Olympians III in December is going to be most marvelous.

What is your favorite beer?

Neil Higgins: I’m more of a cider man.

Eileen Tull: I would be lying if I didn’t say PBR. But I did have a chocolate beer in Chicago one time that blew my mind. Still recovering from it.

Meg O’Connor: I’m currently having an affair with Alaskan Amber, but I’m fickle. I break beer-hearts like it’s my job.

Don’t miss the Pint Sized plays, opening July 16 and playing July 17, 23, 30 and 31 with a special performance at the Plough and the Stars on July 18. All the rest are at our usual stomping grounds, Cafe Royale, located at the corner of Post and Leavenworth in San Francisco’s lovely Tendernob neighborhood. Performances are free, no reservations necessary, but show up early and stay late- we’re bound to be sold out and the crowd is always the best part of Theater Pub!

Pint Sized Plays Interviews 2: William Bivins and Seanan Palmero

Next up in our series of interviews behind-the-scenes of this year’s Pint-Sized Play Festival, we have two staples of the San Francisco Theater scene. Bill Bivins is a very established Bay Area playwright, with working having appeared in the BOA Festival, at SF Playhouse, PianoFight and Central Works, just to name a few. Seanan Palmero is a real jill-of-all-trades, having worked with a number of companies, including No Nude Men and Atmostheatre, wearing a lot of different hats- writer, assistant director, stage manager, tech. Both are making their Theater Pub writing debuts with this year’s Pint Sized plays!

So how did you hear about Theater Pub’s Pint-Sized Play Festival and what possessed you to send something in?

Seanan Palmero: After seeing two hilarious Pint Sized Play Festivals, it dawned on me that submitting something is the way to get in on the fun.

William Bivins: I can’t remember how I heard about The Pint-Sized Play Festival, but I came to it last year for the first time. I love the “bar-specific” aspect: the spontaneity and immediacy of having a dramatic scene not involving my family suddenly occur at the next table. As it happened, I had a play, Celia Sh*ts, that takes place in a bar. The characters in the original draft were drinking bourbon, not beer, so I did have to do a major structural rewrite before submitting the play. I’m glad I did; I’m excited to see it on its feet… or in its corner table.

William Bivins

What’s the hardest thing about writing a short play? 

William Bivins: Staying lean. You have only ten minutes to develop full-bodied characters, build a complete story and fit in all those product placements.

Seanan Palmero: Character development.

What’s the best thing about writing a short play? 

William Bivins: It doesn’t take a year to finish.

Seanan Palmero: Editing. Cut, cut, cut. When in doubt, chuck it out. Unless a really smart person tells you otherwise.

Who do you think is a major influence on your work? 

William Bivins: Madame Deadline.

Seanan Palmero: I’m not sure yet. I’m still learning to steal, um — borrow, I mean, “find inspiration” from the greats.

If you could pick one celebrity to be cast in your show, who would it be and why? 

William Bivins: Woody Allen about thirty years ago.

Seanan Palmero: Allison Janney. She exhibits a higher level of awesome, so much so that I think she has super powers.

What is a writing project you are currently working on? 

William Bivins: I’m finishing final rewrites on The Education of a Rake, which, since you asked, opens at Central Works in Berkeley on July 28th. You can get tickets at http://www.centralworks.org/

Seanan Palmero: I’m co-authoring Hyperion for the San Francisco Olympians Festival this year.

What’s next for you?

Seanan Palmero: One thing at a time.

William Bivins: After Rake, I don’t know. Anyone want to commission me to write a play? Will work for gin.

So what upcoming shows or events are you most excited about in the Bay Area Theater Scene? 

William Bivins: Besides Pint-Sized Plays and The Education of a Rake–which, did I mention, opens July 28th?–I’m excited about PianoFight’s upcoming show, Duck Lake.

Seanan Palmero: Custom Made’s production of Merchant of Venice, which opens July 10th.

Seanan Palmero

What’s your favorite beer?

Seanan Palmero: Redhook, at the moment.

William Bivins: Theakstons Old Peculier. (Yes, that’s how it’s spelled.)

Don’t miss the Pint Sized plays, opening July 16 and playing July 17, 23, 30 and 31 with a special performance at the Plough and the Stars on July 18. All the rest are at our usual stomping grounds, Cafe Royale, located at the corner of Post and Leavenworth in San Francisco’s lovely Tendernob neighborhood. Performances are free, no reservations necessary, but show up early and stay late- we’re bound to be sold out and the crowd is always the best part of Theater Pub!

Artistic Director Julia Heitner Announces This Year’s Pint-Sized Plays!

I spent a marathon day on Monday getting inspired at the Theatre Bay Area annual conference, gathering information about interactive experience from Burning Man founders and tips from site-specific mavens, Kim Epifano (Epiphany Productions/Trolley Dances) and Lauren Chavez & Ava Roy (We Players.) With this knowledge fresh in my mind, I am so pleased to announce the line-up for our annual bar-specific play festival, The Pint Sized Plays!

We have 10 new plays by 10 fantastic local playwrights. For Pint Sized III I plan to include everything our audiences love about the festival: entertaining theatre, great acting and direction, live music, beer drinking, and of course, our resident llama! For the first time this year, we are also taking the show on tour to other bars around San Francisco. First stop, the fantastic Irish Pub, The Plough and Stars on Clement Street!

The Line-up:

Beeeeeear
by Megan Cohen
Third time Pint-Sized fest playwright, Megan Cohen continues to surprise us with this play about a beer-drinking bear.

Beer Theory by Marissa Skudlarek
Boy meets Girl. Dionysian meets Apollonian.

Celia Sh*ts by William Bivins
What happens when all the mystery is lost from a relationship?

Circles by Seanan Palmero
Watching a Nascar race brings up philosophical questions from the bar patrons. Are we all just going in circles?

Circling by Nancy Cooper Frank
Don’t we all deserve… a parking place right out front?

To Deborah by Leah M. Winery
Friends and family reveal their true feelings about the dearly departed.

Llama by Stuart Bousel
The llama is back!!!

Man vs. Beer
by Sunil Patel
A Teetotaler is peer pressured by a talking beer.

Play it Again, Friend
 by Tim Bauer
Man contemplates life through the music of the bar pianist.

Put it on Vibrate
by Tom Bruett
Pleasure party + Mother-in-Law = Hilariously Uncomfortable

The festival runs July 16,17, 23, 30 & 31, 8pm @ Café Royale, (800 Post St @ Leavenworth in San Francisco) with a special touring performance, July 18, at Plough and the Stars, (188 Clement St. @ 2nd Ave in the Richmond District), SF. Additional dates for the festival TBA.