Tonight was the benefit for the PlayGround at Berkeley Rep. For the past two years, I’ve been part of the PlayGround Writers Pool: thirty-six writers picked to write 10-minute plays on a variety of themes throughout the season. We get the topic on a Friday and have to turn in the play on the next Tuesday. They pick the best six for staged readings, and then the pick the best of those for a full production in a festival.
This year, my play NOWHERE MAN got selected for the Best of PlayGround festival. It’s an odd little play, different for me because it features direct address and nothing but. I’m not usually a fan of direct address (despite the title of this blog) because I’d rather see the characters going after each other; which is why I specifically decided to try my hand at it. I guess people dug it, because it’s in the festival, it’s getting published, and it’s led to me being named a PlayGround Emerging Playwright.
Since this is the 10th anniversary of PlayGround, they’re also doing a Best of The Best, with some of the best from the entire ten years also being featured, including the one that led me to apply for PlayGround in the first place: Tom Swift’s MY NAME IS YIN. Goddamn, that is one awesome play. I saw it three years ago and I can still picture every second of it.
Not a lot of people in San Francisco know this, but back in my Austin days, I was the literary manager (officially called the “literary associate”) of Frontera@Hyde Park Theatre. This was right after the legendary Megan Monaghan left to go to Minneapolis, and I was brought in first as an intern and then ended up running the department, coordinating the volunteers, computerizing the responses, and answering letters addressed to Megan because the Dramatist Sourcebook listing was about two years behind.
I really enjoyed the job, particularly getting a chance to read great stuff hot off the laser printer by people like Erik Ehn, Daniel Alexander Jones, Naomi Iizuka, Sharon Bridgforth, Ruth Margraff and Steven Tomlinson. And I was missing it. So, since I know the Magic’s Mark Routhier from the PlayGround, I asked if he needed any help reading submissions. And I just so happened to ask right at the exact moment that someone left the Literary Committee. So I’m in!
The committee meets once every two weeks, and about 10 of us report back on the exciting submissions we’ve read recently. The nice thing is, almost the entire discussion is about things that people like, so it doesn’t spiral into negativity. And I get to read the occasional hot off the laser printer stuff by people like Elaine May. Plus, there are bagels. Cool!
Tonight we ushered for GLASS MENAGERIE. Before the show, I realized I hadn’t seen a production of this play since college. In my mind, I’d remembered it as dark and sad, with very little humor, and with Tom completely closeted. This production surprised me: it’s full of humor, especially from Rita Moreno, and Tom is funny, witty and overtly gay.
I heard or read somewhere that Les Waters had never read it before this production. I have no idea if that’s true, but it definitely has the feeling of someone approaching it without any baggage. The set is fantastic, with a fire escape that loops around the entire stage, trapping the living and dining room like it’s Tom’s prison.
Afterwards, we went to Night/OUT. (A couple nights per season feature post-show parties for the LGBT community, with fabulous food, drinks and music.) Jimbo found Rita Moreno standing in the lobby of the small theater; no one told her the reception was across the way outside the Roda, so he escorted her over in exchange for a photo with her. Jimbo claims that there originally wasn’t going to be a Night/OUT party after this show, but that Rita insisted. Again, no idea if that’s true, but I’m not one to hold off printing gossip just because it’s completely unsubstantiated.
Tonight we saw Culture Clash’s ZORRO IN HELL. I love these guys. They blend commedia with street theatre to do something amazingly inventive. It’s all fast and furious, with political jokes and sight gags and hilarious characters thrown at you as fast as you can take. And they add to the mayhem with multimedia, using film clips and animation and parodies of classic movies. The audience was roaring within ten seconds.
Best of all, they bring out a crowd that doesn’t normally see theater. (And a few that don’t understand why you can’t show up at 9:00 for an 8:00 show, apparently, according to a staff member. “They think it’s like a rock ‘n’ roll show,” he told me, “so they assume there’s an opening act.”)
I love, love, love good satire — and these guys do everything that the Mime Troupe wishes it could do. (Did I say that? I guess I did.) It’s a mashup, comedy, call-to-arms, hell of a fun show.
Thanks to Mariella, who has been doing a blog about travel that’s taking the world by storm, I’m now an official blogger. I’ve had humor sites and business sites and other sites, but this is my first step into the actual blogosphere. So blame her.