On Sunday, I had a jam-packed day of theater and food. First of all, our show closed on Saturday night, so Sunday morning came way earlier than I’d have liked. I rushed off and would have been late to Ghosts of the River by Octavio Solis at Brava, except much of the audience was also late (probably because a Veteran’s Day Parade coincided with a Forty-Niners’ game).
Ghosts of the River was a shadow play performed by ShadowLight, a group that does stunningly beautiful work with shadow casting, puppets, actors, cutout sets and live music. Combined with Octavio’s gorgeous storytelling — switching rapidly from hilarious to tragic and back again — it made for an astonishingly brilliant afternoon.
After grabbing a maple bacon donut at Dynamo Donuts — since (a) it’s right across from the theater and (b) it’s a donut with freaking bacon on it! — I rushed off to an early Burma Superstar dinner with a friend of mine who’d flown in from Austin to see closing night of our play, then headed straight back across town to Off-Market for Three Wise Monkeys‘ Short Leaps Festival.
This was three things at once: a fundraiser, a night of staged readings, and an announcement of the plays that are being produced as part of the Bay Area One Acts Festival this spring. I was a bit late, ducking in right before intermission, but got to see the second half, with some pretty cool short plays, including a very funny one by someone named “M.R. Fall,” who I didn’t know I knew until I found out afterwards. Them initials can be tricky, which I believe is the point.
And here’s the news I alluded to in an earlier post, which I not-so-cleverly bury at the bottom of this too-long post: my one-act Three Little Words will be produced as part of the festival. Rehearsals probably in January; show in February; posts about it all somewhere in between.
San Francisco’s coolest (and nicest) playwright, Octavio Solis, has a new play coming up called Ghosts of the River, debuting first in San Jose and then in San Francisco. Just the one-liner sounds amazing: “A collage of puppetry, movement and text, this shadow play tells the story of the [Rio Grande] through time, from the Mexican Revolution through today.”
And Octavio’s descriptions, in an interview with Karen D’Souza in the San Jose Mercury News, have me even more intrigued:
Puppets have fascinated me for a while. You can do things with puppets that you simply cannot do with live actors. With puppets you can make a man fly, you can give a coyote (the people who smuggle people across the border) the head of a coyote and the body of a man. You can’t do that with real actors. I wanted these stories to have a supernatural atmosphere, I wanted them to be richly metaphorical, as well as very real, and that’s what makes puppetry perfect….
Some [of the stories] are based on the truth, but some are very metaphorical. There is the story of a troll under a bridge, a monster who attacks people as they try to cross. He rips them to shreds, tears them limb from limb. It’s a fable. The river has taken on mythical proportions. There are many legends about it, told by people on both sides. So many have perished crossing that river that it’s very much a ghost story. It’s very dark. Some of the stories start out comically, but they all turn. The border is a heavy place. It feels as if it were filled with ghosts.
I’m not sure exactly when I’m going to fit it in, given that the dates coincide with my own play, but I definitely need to find a way to work it into my schedule.
Read the rest of the Merc article, including a discussion of what made writing this play different from writing a traditional play, here.
Ghosts of the River by Octavio Solis, at Teatro Vision, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose, Oct 1-Oct 11. Tickets at teatrovision.org. It’s then at Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St., San Francisco, Oct 28-Nov 8. Tickets at brava.org (scroll down).
Just found out Octavio Solis was on NPR a week or two ago:
Director Juliette Carrillo says one of the things that distinguishes Solis’ work is what she calls his “in-your-face emotional rawness.” He’s provocative to the point that some producers are scared off by his work, she says, and by his darkly hilarious subversive streak.
Solis says the literal border between El Paso and Juarez has its own presence in Lydia, but the border is also a metaphor he explores in much of his work.
“That’s so much a part of my fabric now, the way I see things,” he says. “There’s always a threshold one crosses, between dark and light, life and death, between one country and another, between one consciousness and another.”
Listen here (about 6 minutes).
Last night I went to Marin Theatre Company for the first time. For some reason, I think nothing of driving over the Bay Bridge, but ask me to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and I start whining like you’re asking me to drive to Ukiah.
In reality, of course, Marin Theatre is probably closer to my house than Berkeley Rep. And if they keep putting on incredible plays — which they will, I happen to know, because I already posted their next season — they’re going to be seeing a lot more of me.
I think everybody knows Octavio Solis is one of the best and most important writers in the Bay Area. I definitely knew his play Lydia was going to be poetic and lyrical and beautiful. But I had no idea how fierce and funny and stunning and just plain good Lydia was. It’s fantastic.
Almost everyone I know has already seen this play, so I won’t recommend you rush out to see it because (a) you have and (b) it closes today. But I will say, if you happen to live in some other city, when this play comes to you — and it most definitely will — see it.
Last night I attended PlayGround’s annual benefit — with Octavio Solis as guest speaker! — and was super-excited to receive a commission to write a new full-length play for them, as one of two PlayGround Fellowships this year.
And it just so happens that the other commissionees — Ken Slattery and June Anne Baker Prize winner Erin Bregman — are also regulars at Playwrights Pub Night.
So if you were thinking of buying each of us a drink to celebrate, it turns out you can do it in one quick round all on the same night….
Everyone’s favorite Bay Area playwright (and possibly the nicest man in the world) Octavio Solis is profiled in an article by Robert Hurwitt in the SF Chronicle. And if you think you’re busy….
Solis is undergoing yet another interview during his lunch break from rehearsals for his play “Lydia” next door at Marin Theatre Company. He’d taught a class at Stanford the day before, after flying up from Los Angeles, where “Lydia” is in rehearsal at the Mark Taper Forum, and his newest play is about to begin rehearsals at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
On top of all that, Solis has just learned that “Lydia” is a finalist for the 2009 Steinberg/ATCA (American Theatre Critics Association) new play award, which is one reason he’s been giving more interviews than usual this week. It also means he’ll be adding Louisville, Ky., to his itinerary.
Read the whole thing here.
Last night was the second installment of Playwrights Pub Nite, our every-three-month slow-motion pub crawl where playwrights get to meet, hang out, drink beer, catch up and have conversations where you don’t have to stop and explain who Brecht is.
For reasons that I no longer remember but that I think had to do with most plays running on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we had this one on a Wednesday, which meant that a few people were unable to make it because they either had work conflicts or are big-shot writers for Killing My Lobster and had a meeting.
But plenty still came, and the mellow environs of The Bitter End were a great complement to the evening. I got a chance to finally meet Octavio Solis, who may be the coolest guy ever. Super-friendly and interested in anyone and everyone. It was great to talk to him.
And of course, Marisela was there, Erin Bregman biked in, and even M and our housemate Jeff, who still owes me for the beers I bought him. (His trick is, he buys the first round, then suggests you open a tab, then disappears to buy a fish from a nearby fish store when the bill comes. Luckily, I know where he lives.)
Next time will be in another part of town, quite possibly on a Saturday again, probably in August. So block out every Saturday for the next four months, just to be sure you can make it. And if you are a playwright and want to be invited, don’t be shy. Email Marisela with the secret code, “I like beer; put me on the list.”