Third Quarter Problems →

Third Quarter Problems →

From an article by Marissa Skudlarek:

“Second-act problems” are a proverbial part of playwriting, but I propose that we could also call them “third-quarter problems.” When people say “second-act problems,” they don’t mean that the very end of the second act sucked (when that happens, they just say “the ending sucked”) — they mean that the playwright had trouble getting through the second act, managing the climax without bungling it….

Playwrights have been having second-act or third-quarter problems since our profession existed — frankly, you could even make the case that Hamlet has third-quarter problems, what with Hamlet being sent to England, captured by offstage pirates, etc. And human beings, too, have always had third-quarter problems; indeed, isn’t a “midlife crisis” the archetypal “third-quarter problem”? Third-quarter problems — the plateau, the struggle, the eventual breakthrough — are common to most people and most narratives. So, despite everything, they bring us together. So, despite everything, they’re problems I love to have.


Interview with Jonathan Moscone on HowlRound →

Interview with Jonathan Moscone on HowlRound →

In art you can actually shape something in a creative way that goes underneath what people think they want or need. You don’t take polls, you don’t ask people what they want to see and then do it. You do it and you hope that because it’s an authentic reflection of who you really are and what matters to you, it is going to awaken something in somebody else and they say, “god it’s amazing, that play spoke to me.” Yet if I had asked them if they would like to see this play, or what kind of play they would like to see, they wouldn’t know the answer.


‘Stage Left’ Film Spotlights S.F. Theater History

From an article by Chad Jones on SFGate:

Three years ago, documentary filmmaker Austin Forbord set out to create a comprehensive look at the rich theatrical history of post-World War II San Francisco, from the experimentation and headline-grabbing antics of the ’60s to the glittery free-for-all of the ’70s and up to present day. The completed film, which amazingly condenses that history into less than 90 minutes, screens twice this week at the 34th Mill Valley Film Festival….

There are big names — Robin Williams, Peter Coyote, Bill Irwin — and then there are the pioneers themselves. Chief among them is Herbert Blau, co-founder with Jules Irving of the seminal Actors Workshop. From 1952 to 1965, Blau’s company was one of the most forward-thinking companies in the country, producing plays by the likes of Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and Jean Genet, often in some of their first American productions…The impact of the Actors Workshop is felt throughout the documentary. Artists who worked with Blau went on to create the San Francisco Mime Troupe — another landmark San Francisco company — and Mabou Mines, an influential New York company, among others.

I seem to be posting a lot about San Francisco history. Must be a nostalgic time of year. This is from an article about a new documentary called “Stage Left,” which has excerpts on vimeo.

Playwright at Large: Steve Yockey

From an interview of Steve Yockey on Theatre Bay Area, by Lisa Drostova:

The Bay Area has been so supportive in a number of ways. Audiences here see a lot of theatre and, as a result, have clear ideas about what they like and what they find resonant—which is incredibly refreshing and gives you a solid read on how a play is landing. You hear it from them. And any day of the week, I would rather have someone passionately hate one of my plays as opposed to walk out after, untouched, and talk about where to have dinner.

Steve Yockey is a great and prolific playwright. And the Bay Area loves him. As the article says, “Berkeley’s Impact Theatre introduced him locally with Cartoon in 2007 and has produced three more of his plays: Sleepy, Large Animal Games…and the world premiere Disassembly last year.” With the addition of Octopus, Skin and the upcoming Bellwether, that’s seven of his plays produced around here. This article delves into how it all happened, and it’s a good read.

Sidebar: I should be getting a chance to hang out a bit with both Steve and Lauren Yee soon, since we all have plays being developed as part of PlayFest at Orlando Shakes soon. I suppose I need to do a “what I’ve been up to” post to announce some of that stuff; it occurs to me that I’ve been mostly linking lately. Anyway…go read the article.

The Federal Government Used To Fund SF Theatrical Productions

From an article in SF Weekly:

Between 1936 and 1939, the American federal government paid San Francisco theater workers to do what they did best: write plays and put on shows. The San Francisco Federal Theatre Project was part of Franklin Roosevelt’s nation-wide relief program to put starving artists of the Depression back to work. At its height the Federal Theatre Project funded more than 13,000 workers in 31 states and produced plays for an audience of over 30 million, many of whom had never previously seen a live theatrical performance.

Two Federal Theatre groups operated in San Francisco. The first group organized in 1936 and performed at the Alcazar Theatre, when it was still located at 260 O’Farrell Street. ​The Alcazar group quickly became notable for their quality shows and successful experiments. When Eugene O’Neill saw pictures of the Alcazar group’s production of Beyond the Horizon, he said “Photographs of my productions usually disappoint me but this is exactly the way I imagined [my play].”

Worth a look for the artwork alone!

Theater and the Importance of Being Local

From an article by Trisha Mead on Oregon ArtsWatch:

Recently, Carey Perloff, the artistic director for the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, posting on her Huffington Post blog, posited a new potential mission for her regional theater — stop trying to be a New York pipeline and start becoming a theater by and for San Franciscans. This notion of a “locavore theatre” is hugely appealing on the big-picture level, but it had the San Franciscan theater community a bit riled up.

Their concern: Can ACT champion “local culture” — plays about San Francisco in this case — if it is not hiring local artists to do the work? The flourishing indie theater community in San Francisco defines itself very deliberately in opposition to the big companies (ACT especially, but also Berkeley Rep and the like), while at the same time clearly craving acknowledgement from and inclusion by those larger organizations.


The San Francisco Olympians Festival Is (Almost) Back

Thirty-two new plays. Twenty-nine local writers. I was seriously thinking about pitching an idea about Gemini, until I realized I didn’t have any ideas about Gemini. Instead, I am seriously thinking about the “buy four, get the fifth one free” option:

Over the course of twelve nights each play will be given a staged and rehearsed reading at the Exit Theater by some of the best and brightest of the San Francisco acting scene….This year’s festival has been themed around the celestial myths and deities, with the planets, constellations and various sky gods as the themes of the evening. Performances run Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 6-29, 8 PM at the Exit Theater (156 Eddy Street, San Francisco). Admission is $10.00 a night, with a “buy four, get the fifth one free” option (and yes, we had lots of people who saw as many as ten shows last year). Every night is unique and draws a new audience, so reservations are not necessary but more information can be found at

Read more about it on Stuart Bousel’s blog.

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!

A Link To A Response To A Critique Found In An Essay

My friend, colleague and fellow pub night host (I almost said “beer drinker” but then I remembered she always drinks cider) Marisela Treviño Orta has a post up at 2AMT:

Plays come to me first as images. And when I write I consider the visual world of the play and, at times, even the soundscape. In my first plays I explored how the emotional world of the characters impacted the physical world. The results would be moments of theatrical magic, if you will. Pomegranates bled. Missing posters wept ink. Paintings melted. A desert floor was covered in marigolds instead of sand.

But I didn’t add these elements ad hoc. They weren’t included to “seduce” anyone into producing my play. Nor was I doing it because others were, because it was en vogue….They’re part the narrative, included because the narrative demanded it. They arise organically because that is how I tell my stories.

First, though, you have to read the recent HowlRound post On Theatricality by Lydia Stryk, because Marisela’s post is a response to that. And then you’ll start reading J.C. Lee’s response, and the comments on the original post, and pretty soon an hour will go by. So be prepared!

Roll On

Lauren Gunderson has a post on 2AMt about the rolling premiere of her play Exit, Pursued By A Bear, following its journey from ten pages stuck in a drawer to a rolling premiere by Synchronicity Theatre in Atlanta, Crowded Fire here in San Francisco, and ArtsWest in Seattle:

A play becomes itself in production, less so in readings, and even less so alone with my laptop. Alive onstage is where plays belong, become, grow, and fight for their lives. The rolling premiere of Exit, Pursued By A Bear gave me and this play the truest place to create something that I think is important, bizarre, and theatrical….

Everyone asked right away if this was an NNPN project but it wasn’t. The National New Play Network rolling premiere program is totally on it though, and has helped great plays become greater. But these three theaters weren’t NNPN member theaters. So. They just made it up themselves. There was no grant involved for these theaters. None of the theaters got any money outright for doing the premiere. It was excitement about the play and excitement about producing something in a national and immediate way that got everyone on board.

I particularly agree with the number one reason on her list of why rolling premieres are getting to be essential: “Plays are designed to be on stage (yeah duh), alive in actors bodies, in the company of reactive audiences. That’s new play development. Plays and playwrights need a second/third production to really understand the play’s true realized self.”

The Crowded Fire version runs through Sep 17 at Boxcar Playhouse, FYI.