The Bay Area Teen Theater-Going Initiative

I just learned about this from Melissa Hillman’s twitter feed and it’s the highlight of my day so far: there’s a new group that…well, here. This is from their About Us page:

Up Next is a not-for-profit organization of Bay Area teens, by Bay Area teens, and for Bay Area teens. Our mission: to get our peers interested in attending live theater (specifically focusing on bringing teens to the smaller, more experimental and cutting-edge theaters in the Bay Area). This mutually beneficial relationship will allow teenagers to engage with and learn from the local theater community while building new audiences for the theaters.

Their upnextbayarea blog has reviews, announcements and articles about lots of theaters that I love — which surely speaks more to their exceptional taste than to my emotional maturity. Follow it!

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Resource For Finding Bay Area Rehearsal/Performance Space

Hey, there’s a new online search thing put together by Theatre Bay Area and Dancers’ Group that has information about just about every theatre rental space available in the Bay Area.

Super-easy to use and there are way more places around than you (well, I) ever suspected. It’s called BayAreaSpaces.org:

Search the most comprehensive free online rehearsal and performance space guide in the San Francisco Bay Area! BayAreaSpaces.org offers numerous search options that allow you to identify spaces according to size, cost, features, location and more. The directory includes spaces throughout 11 counties from Sonoma to Monterey….

Profiles include photos, detailed descriptions, dimensions, pricing info and many other features. An online map shows the geographic distribution of your search results, so you can find a space near you. Each profile includes contact information so you can easily get in touch with the right person for reserving the space. Now you can spend your time making art instead of worrying about rehearsal space.

It’s ‘Fall Theater Preview’ Time

September’s here, and so are the various Fall Theater Previews:

  • In the SF Bay Guardian, Robert Avila’s “The Final Act” has 10 events highlighted, again including the Fringe Festival.
  • Karen D’Souza’s preview in the San Jose Mercury News (with the SEO-optimized headline “Fall Arts 2010: Theater”) highlights seven events across the Bay.
  • Most impressive of all, Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle breaks them out by month and features a stunning 39 shows in “Fall Arts Preview: Theater.”

Photo courtesy of A.C.T.; no photographer listed.

The most mentioned, in my non-scientific, don’t-bug-me-if-something-else-is-actually-mentioned-more study of these listings: Tarell Alvin McCraney’s highly-anticipated The Brother/Sister Plays, which premiered at the Public Theater in New York.

It’s a trilogy being produced by three San Francisco theaters: In the Red and Brown Water at Marin Theatre Company (Sep 9-Oct 3); The Brothers Size at Magic Theatre (Sep 9-Oct 17); Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet at A.C.T. (Oct 29-Nov 21). Learn more at www.brothersisterplays.org.

Things To Read

Some good stuff from around the web recently:

  • Travis Bedard has a “call to action” for critics: “Give your audience context for each show you talk about. An extra online paragraph. Feature the author, or a performer, or the venue – how does this production fit into the town? Or the season?”
  • Speaking of Shotgun, Robert Hurwitt has an article in the SF Chronicle about their busy August, which not only includes the Norman trilogy but also the first of Jon Tracy’s The Salt Plays.

‘boom’ at Marin Theatre

So I finally saw Peter’s show, the one I’ve mentioned a few times already: it’s being produced by almost every theater in the country this season; I got a chance to read part of it as a work-in-progress but didn’t know how it ended; etc.

I’m going to assume that you’ve seen it (since it closes tomorrow), and that you know it’s a great play, and that you know Peter is a hilarious writer, and that you now finally know this play’s got a killer ending. So instead…let’s talk about Joan Mankin.

Wow! Joan plays Barbara and part of her job is talking to the audience. But unlike a lot of actors who address the audience by talking over the audiences’ heads, or just sort of facing in the general direction of the audience while appearing to talk to an invisible person — Joan talks to the audience. She’s mesmerizing and charming and seems utterly spontaneous for every second of her performance.

I’m going to attribute it not only to her brilliance as an actor but to her years as a Pickle Family Circus clown. I’ve found that every actor that’s ever done clowning — Joan Mankin, Bill Irwin, Geoff Hoyle, Ron Campbell, to name a few — has a way of bringing that thing that theater people always say is the whole point of theater but don’t always provide: the liveness of the performance.

At boom, you were simultaneously sucked into the reality of the scenes happening in front of you and yet somehow never forgot that you were an audience watching a play. Quite an experience. And one I’ll attribute to both Joan Mankin, because I really like actors who used to be clowns, and Peter Nachtrieb, because I’m a playwright and thus my default is to attribute anything I like in a production to the writer.

boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, at Marin Theatre, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, Nov 12 – Dec 6. Tickets at marintheatre.org.


SF Chronicle Interviews Peter Nachtrieb

Robert Hurwitt interviews Peter Nachtrieb in today’s SF Chronicle. Peter is not only a fantastic writer and a super-nice guy, but he’s one of the few playwrights in the country, let alone the Bay Area, actually making a living as a playwright:

With “Boom” now a national success, and “T.I.C.,” which premiered here with Encore Theater in January, getting some interest in New York, Nachtrieb is turning his attention to two new commissions, for Orange County’s South Coast Rep and American Conservatory Theater’s master’s of fine arts program. He is, in other words, making his living as a full-time playwright.

“It’s coming up on three years,” he says. “Hopefully, I can make it last. At this point it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m good through May or June,’ but I hope I can keep pushing that termination date farther out. I’m committed to being a Bay Area-based playwright. Living here definitely colors everything I write.”

Go see his play and keep him in SF writing plays and not in LA writing Desperate Housewives. And read the interview; it’s a good one.

boom by Peter Nachtrieb, at Marin Theatre, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, Nov 12 – Dec 6. Tickets at marintheatre.org.


Peter Nachtrieb Article: 14 Theaters Can’t Be Wrong

Today’s Marin Independent Journal has an interview by Sam Hurwitt with Peter Nachtrieb, whose play boom is finally playing in the Bay Area — as well as at 13 other theaters around the country:

Q: What’s it like seeing so many interpretations of the play?

A: It’s pretty wild. It had a workshop production at Brown in 2007, then I had a quick turnaround to its world premiere at Ars Nova. Last fall I got to go to two productions, one at Wooly Mammoth — and I felt I finished the play there — then the following week in Seattle. All of those productions were very different. Getting a chance to hear it with different audiences, different casts and different directors was really helpful for me to see what was working consistently and where were the bumps. If I made any changes now I think it wouldn’t make the play any better.

Read the whole thing here. See the play here:

boom by Peter Nachtrieb, at Marin Theatre, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, Nov 12 – Dec 6. Tickets at marintheatre.org.


‘Meet The Critics’ Follow-Up

Karen McKevitt, on the Theatre Bay Area Chatterbox blog, and sirtorgo, in the comments on this here blog, have both graciously posted a bit of follow-up to the recent critics panel for those of us (like me and Travis Bedard) who couldn’t make it.

First up, sirtorgo did a brief summary that I’m excerpting in this post because nobody ever reads comments:

I am not so naive to have thought that they did not have pressures from editors and dwindling dwindling space. But I had no idea how bad it was…. Almost all of them repeated a refrain of wanting us to ask our audiences to write the papers they work for and talk about the articles they read — whether good or bad. But I just don’t see that happening….

Robert Hurwitt made this great point about online versus print. He said that people who read the paper can be reading an article about a movie or whatever and stumble on a theatre review and possibly become interested. When it is online, in a blog, whatever — people have to go find the article. In other words, people who are already interested in reading about theatre will be the main consumers. And new audiences will continue to shrink, etc.

Oh boy. I wish I had some great ideas about this. But I don’t. I just know how to make good shows.

Karen picked up on this in her first post, which does a quick summary of what happened that night:

Papers are collapsing, and the arts section isn’t the only section that’s getting smaller. All of the sections are getting smaller, all of the news staffs (business and sports included) are being decimated. It seems completely unrealistic to think that we could ever expand coverage in the short term. Yet, it seems equally impossible to come up with a solution to save papers — how many stories have we seen across the blogosphere from Arts Journal to Slate to the papers themselves, etc., on how to do this?

In a fantastic second post, she then submitted some questions that the panel didn’t have time to get to. There are too many to excerpt, making it essential that you go read the post, but one gets to the “this whole thing seems impossible” theme above. “What can theatre companies do to keep arts coverage available?”

Robert Hurwitt: All I can say is that the more the editors are made aware that the readers want more arts coverage, the more likely they are to put resources there….

Jean Schiffman: I can’t think of anything other than encouraging your audiences to write letters to the press in response to reviews (or lack thereof)….

Chloe Veltman: Encourage foundations about providing philanthropic support to people who write about the arts, e.g., bloggers. For example, artists who serve on the TBA CA$H grant committee might consider providing bloggers and podcasters with support. Some small efforts are being made…e.g., Andy Warhol foundation paying $30,000 to each of a number of bloggers in the visual arts (so far no one to my knowledge has stepped up to the plate for theatre journalists or other disciplines).

The more I stew about this, the more I end up in the whole “I can’t think of anything; I wish I had some great ideas but I don’t” camp. So it’s slightly encouraging that Chloe brings up at least a little something that I had never thought of and that just might be a start.

But overall, it’s still kinda depressing, which might be why people have yet to jump in over at Chatterbox. But I hope people do; Karen said, “There’s certainly a lot here to discuss, and if the conversation really takes off, I’ll be writing new posts on it,” and we definitely need new posts — and new ideas.


Theatre Bay Area Is Hosting A Free Critics Panel

TBA is hosting a free panel tomorrow night with a bunch of Bay Area theater critics: Robert Hurwitt (SF Chronicle), Karen D’Souza (SJ Merc et. al.), Robert Avila (SF Bay Guardian), Chloe Veltman (SF Weekly), Sam Hurwitt (Marin IJ), moderated by Chad Jones (Theater Dogs/Berkeley Rep).

It’s a chance to hear how to up your odds of getting a feature story or a review, to ask questions, and to report back to me what they said, since I’m not going to be able to make it. (Dammit!)

TOMORROW!! Tuesday, Oct 13, 7PM to 9PM, at Brava Theater Center. It’s FREE, but you should RSVP to Karen McKevitt. Her email is her first name followed by @theatrebayarea.org. I’m not making it a link for obvious spammy-spam related reasons.