I usually do a post on this theme a little earlier, but I didn’t want to pre-empt my appearance in Theatre Bay Area Magazine, where they asked a few local theater types what they’re looking forward to in the 2009-10 season. But here’s my list, in case you are a heathen and don’t subscribe. (Which you should do. Right now.)
Here’s what appears in the magazine:
Playwright and Blogger
- Marin Theatre’s boom by Peter Nachtrieb. Partly because Peter’s a genius; partly because he let me read the first 2/3 of the play a couple years ago and I just want to see how the damn thing ends.
- Central Works’ Blastosphere by Aaron Loeb & Geetha Reddy. Because Aaron and Geetha are fantastic local writers, Molly Aaronson-Gelb is a great director, and “a new comedy about pop rocks, hollow balls and the biological imperative” may be the best sentence I’ve ever read.
- Cutting Ball’s The Bald Soprano by Eugène Ionesco. Because Rob Melrose is the best interpreter of absurdism in the Bay Area and possibly on the planet.
- Impact Theatre’s Learn to Be Latina by Enrique Urueta. Because Enrique, Mary Guzmán and Impact each individually kick ass, so combining them may seriously bring on the Apocalypse.
- Berkeley Rep’s Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West by Naomi Iizuka. Because I’ve loved Naomi’s masterful and beautiful writing for about a million years.
- Sleepwalkers Theatre’s Zombie Town: A Documentary Play. Because (a) it’s a documentary theatre piece about a town that was attacked by zombies, (b) it’s produced by SF Weekly’s “Best Theatre Company of 2009” and (c) I wrote it.
Another article on the economy’s effect on Bay Area theaters. Maybe a bit more pessimistic than what I’ve heard from people anecdotally, but the part about audiences being more selective in what they see is probably true.
And it is interesting to think about 10 years into the future, when we could very well look back and see that all the plays that were written were little chamber pieces and that big, epic theatre pretty much just disappeared:
At Z Studio Space, a San Francisco company that develops new theater work, executive director Lisa Steindler admits she passes up on scripts with a cast of 12 or more. She simply can’t afford it.
These days, she said, even playwrights realize they must write scripts with two or three actors if they want a play produced. “It’s interesting how the economy is shaping the canon of work that being made,” she said. “Ten years from, now we’ll look back and see how artists tailored their work [to the financial situation of this time].”
Read the rest here at sfbg.com.
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.
Marin Theatre Company is one of the first to solidify its new season:
- My Name is Asher Lev by Aaron Posner, adapted from the Chaim Potok novel, Sep 10 – Oct 4. A West Coast premiere.
- boom by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Nov 12 – Dec 6. Finally, the Bay Area gets to see one of Peter’s biggest recent hits!
- Sunlight by Sharr White, Jan 21 – Feb 14. By the 2008 Sky Cooper award winner.
- Equivocation by Bill Cain, Mar 25 – Apr 18. Behind the scenes story of Shakespeare’s writing of King Lear.
- Woody Guthrie’s American Song by Peter Glazer, May 27 – Jun 20. A musical about Guthrie’s life, with his songs.
While my January and February were mostly big plays in big theaters, it looks like March is going to be a month of cool little black box theater. I might actually be able to schedule all of these shows that I’m interested in:
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Impact Theatre (Feb 12 – Mar 21). Shakespeare goes New Wave in Impact’s 1980s production, selling out like crazy already.
- Skin by Steve Yockey at Climate Theater (Feb 26 – Mar 21). A take-no-prisoners, humorous and fantastical exploration of lust and fidelity. Directed by my friend Mark Routhier!
- The Window Age by Christopher Chen at Central Works (Feb 21 – Mar 22). A play exploring the moment in time when modernism was reframing art, literature and the human mind. Written by my co-Magic Artist Labber Chris Chen!
- Pure Shock Value by Matt Pelfrey at Killing My Lobster (Feb 27 – Mar 22). They don’t produce full-on plays all that often, but when they do, they’re usually awesome.
- The Short and Happy Life by Ryan Michael Teller at Sleepwalkers Theatre (Mar 05 – Mar 28). After the incomprehensible death by combustion of his best friend, Manny tries to navigate the monsters looking to capitalize on his story. You know I love this company’s aesthetic.
- Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno at Cutting Ball (Mar 13 – Apr 05). Five out of four stars from The New York Times, who called Eno “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.”
- Lydia by Octavio Solis at Marin Theatre (Mar 19 – Apr 12). A play that amazed audiences and had critics freaking out at its world premiere. Written by my friend Octavio Solis!
Sunday afternoon I went to see Ron Severdia’s fantastic one-person version of A Christmas Carol. In keeping with the previous few shows I’ve seen, the theme was once again “doing the impossible.” Ron plays about 40 characters in the show, from Scrooge to each ghost to Tiny Tim.
I loved the stripped-down staging, the brilliant characterizations, and most especially the language of the piece. By doing it as a one-man show, Ron’s able to keep much of Dickens’s original writing, and it’s great to let those words wash over you.
I also really loved the theatricality that comes from the less-is-more approach. Ron brings each character to life simply by a shift in posture and a change of voice, and each character is distinct, lively and well-drawn. In fact, the performance won a Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle Award for Best Solo Performance last time around. So when Ron adds a moment or two of true stage magic, it’s even more amazing.
The fact that the show’s in the Ross Valley Players’ barn, which has been around since the 1940s, makes it even more charming. And the mulled wine at intermission is not to be missed.
If Ron’s willing to keep bringing the show back (and he might; it’s toured Europe and been done at RVP once or twice before), I could easily see it becoming a holiday tradition. Who knew the old chestnut had new life in it?
Ron Severdia’s A Christmas Carol at Ross Valley Players, 30 St. Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo (near Ross), through Dec 24. Tickets at rossvalleyplayers.com.
Chad Jones has a fascinating article up about a theater company that this SF/Berkeley-centric playwright had never heard of: Marin’s Alternative Theater Ensemble, or AlterTheater.
They put on plays guerilla-style: working out of storefronts, getting furniture and costumes donated by Goodwill:
Now in its fourth season, AlterTheater has made this formula work by performing in storefronts all around San Rafael – art galleries, furniture stores, you name it….
“In many other companies, the first thing cut is actors and Equity contracts,” Harrison says. “The first thing we cut is the production budget. We do a lot of collaborative partnerships so that we can borrow or get donated most of the things we need for a show. One of our sponsors is Goodwill, which has been a wonderful relationship for us. We’re able to use what’s in their stock and return it at the end of the show. Also, when people donate items to us, we pass them on to Goodwill. In Moscow they have a theater position called `the procurer,’ who basically reads the script, determines what’s going to be toughest to find, then sets out to procure those items. That’s a little like what we do.”
Their current play is Justin Warner‘s American Whup-Ass, a spoof of the election process about a Senator who’s challenged to a wrestling match on national TV. Sounds like it’s worth the drive. And a new link in the list of theaters off in the right column there.
Through Nov 9 at 1299 Fourth Street (at C Street), San Rafael. 415-454-2787 or altertheater.org
I did a terrible job seeing plays in May and June, what with all the prep for traveling, then the traveling, and then the catching up when I got back. I think I planned to see six or seven shows, and I ended up seeing one.
This month should be a little smoother because (a) I’ve already seen one of the plays I’m putting on the list and (b) July is a pretty slow month in the theater world.
Anyway, here’s what you would see if you were me:
- Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood by Porchlight Theatre. Features a performance by my friend Ron!
- Killing My Lobster Springs Forward, Falls Back by Killing My Lobster. (Jul 10 – Jul 27.) Features sketches written by my friend Ken!
- Liz Duffy Adams’ The Listener by Crowded Fire. (Jul 12 – Aug 03.) Features a performance by my friend Lawrence; written by my friend Liz!
- Bay Area Playwrights Festival from Playwrights Foundation. (Jul 25 – Aug 03.) Features plays by my friends Geetha, Erin, Greg and Jonathan!
Wow. I guess I have more friends than I thought. Well, please note that I’m picking shows based on the fact that they sound cool and not to suck up to my friends. (Except for Ken, who I’m hoping buys me a beer.)
Also, it’s interesting (to me only, probably) that all of them are “by” a theater and not “at” a theater. In other words, if it’s “at” ACT, I would say “at.” But all of these are presented “by” companies “at” some theater they rented. Sleepwalkers are at the Phoenix; Crowded Fire is at the Traveling Jewish Theatre.
I guess my aesthetic runs toward theater companies that can’t afford theaters.
Theatermania has an article that Jason Grote’s 1001 won’t be coming to Marin Theatre Company this year, after all. My guess is that it’s partially because Berkeley Rep is doing Mary Zimmerman’s THE ARABIAN NIGHTS and they may not want dueling Scheherazades. Bummer! I was really looking forward to seeing 1001; it’s an amazing script. (Don’t ask how I got to read it; I have friends.)
Update: Jason Grote posted on his blog that we WILL get to see 1001, just not until 2009. And not for any nefarious reasons:
1001 is getting postponed until the 09/10 season for entirely pedestrian reasons having to do with production, scheduling, etc. This is a real postponement, not a “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” postponement, and I’m on board for it. I’m disappointed, of course, but so is the company — we all want the production now. … So don’t worry, folks, this has nothing to do with Middle East politics (to my great dismay, 1001 has yet to actually offend anybody anyway). Nor does it have anything to do with a fear of programming unconventional work, unless by “unconventional” you mean “big and hard to produce.”
So good news and bad news. We will indeed get to see it; just not until way off in the future.