Science on Stage

I suppose I’m mostly known for my play Zombie Town: A Documentary Play, which has had a number of productions around the country. But I’m also really into science and science plays, as perhaps evidenced by my plays Gyroball (which is about the physics of baseball and was a Sloan Foundation commission) and Harold the First (which is about the invention of radio and the first radio broadcast of a baseball game). (Which I guess means I’m also into baseball.)

So it was much joy that I saw several of my local Bay Area playwright friends (Lauren Gunderson, Geetha Reddy, and Anthony Clarvoe) interviewed by Theatre Bay Area about the inherent theatricality of science on stage:

As playwright Lauren Gunderson points out, science has theatrical juice. “It’s the power of a well told story, with a great climactic moment. Science is great drama: people risking for something they believe in that may sound crazy to other people, something that will create great change at the climactic moment. When the fight is fought, science changes the world; you can’t really have a bigger change than that….”

Check it out!

Playwrights, Rewrites, Multiple Productions

My colleague Peter Sinn Nachtrieb is interviewed by my colleague Laura Brueckner and mentions a bunch of his colleagues who’ve all had rolling premieres lately. I bring this up only because this is most definitely how theater should be headed:

Three different spaces, three different casts, two directors, very different design approaches all helped stretch and test the play…. I was able to try stuff out, and then change it for the next production–and see not only where different people can make fantastic discoveries with my play, but also where maybe I was being too ambiguous or unclear; where a production where I’m not around might go astray. I think I was able to make the machine more tightly wound that way, but still keep it inviting enough that different productions can find a home in it.

On HowlRound and worth reading!

Learning from the Gamification of Theater

In light of my work on San Francisco’s own immersive theater piece, “The Speakeasy”, this article really struck my fancy. It analyzes different styles of immersive theater, from “Sleep No More” style open-world productions to more directed on-rails style productions.

I’m in the beginning stages of developing a piece of immersive theater; I imagine that I’m not alone. I look at the droves of people playing ‘Sleep No More’ and wonder if there is a better experience to be had for the audience. The answer might lie in the audience size—an open-world theater performance could be enjoyable to everyone with only a fraction of the current ‘Sleep No More’ attendees. It might be in removing the anonymity granted by the masks, or setting the performance on-rails to control all of the variables. The combination of games and theater is too full of new possibilities to not explore it more. I’m interested in an exploration that respects the artistic experience as much as the gameplay involved.

Very much worth reading!

‘The Speakeasy’ is Everything I Love About San Francisco

I’ve been posting about The Speakeasy a lot, but what else am I going to talk about? So here’s a great (and great-looking) review of the show, written by The Bold Italic magazine. It’s got a pretty good description of the experience, too, if you’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is:

The Speakeasy is less a straight narrative and more a choose-your-own-adventure collection of character studies of the folks who populate a San Francisco speakeasy in the 1920s. There are the mob bosses and the showgirls, the fallen heroes and the families they (tried to) leave behind. The dramatic tension here is romantic and political, it comes out through dialogue, song, and dance, and it’s performed in the chair next to you one moment and behind glass the next…

It also feels very San Francisco in more than just concept. The narrative theme of coming to this city to make your fortune, and then watching that dream become a fantasy, is something that repeats throughout the ages here. And it’s especially poignant now.

TheatreStorm Reviews ‘The Speakeasy’ (*****)

Charles Kruger reviews “The Speakeasy”, gives a shout-out to the Associate Head Writer, and says it’s “theatrical art of a high order” that should “run forever.” Not bad:

Director Nick Olivero has collaborated with a stellar troupe of writers, designers, musicians and actors to create an immersive experience that will blow your mind…

Just give yourself over and play along for an experience you will never forget…

The company of “The Speakeasy” has achieved a marriage of lowbrow and highbrow that is unlike anything else. The themes are complex, and all the stories interrelate. In short, “The Speakeasy” is much more than a novelty; it is theatrical art of a high order.

SFist Reviews ‘The Speakeasy’ From Boxcar Theatre

Hey, hey, the play that I was Associate Head Writer for got a really nice review from SFist:

As immersive, progressive performance experiences go, you aren’t going to find much that isn’t fun and cool about the Boxcar Theatre’s latest….

All told, Olivero and his Boxcar ensemble have pulled off an innovative and impressive piece of theater that’s unlike anything I’ve seen in the Bay Area, and it’s likely to be a lasting hit, if I [were] to guess, for that very reason.

Stop Complaining that Young People Don’t Like Shakespeare

Melissa Hillman rocks, and this article is all you need to know about producing, directing or acting Shakespeare:

If we’re going to go out of our way to teach “Acting Shakespeare,” then what we should be teaching is how to step away from the idea that it’s any different than any other play that uses heightened language. It should be a detox class more than anything else. You’re discovering the language as you say it; it’s the only way you can express what you need to say, focus on your objectives rather than the poetry or states, make your characters real, complex people. Make sure you know the meaning of every single thing that comes out of your mouth, and why you’re saying it. You know: acting.

And as a side note, this:

Older people are given the shaft as audience members these days. Everyone complains about them and no one seems to value them. I *LOVE* having them in our space. They’re smart, sophisticated viewers who have been seeing shows since before we were born, and have insights and opinions well worth listening to. People who look down on older audience members don’t know what they’re missing. And bear in mind that 75 isn’t what it used to be– that 75-year-old woman in your front row was in her 20s, naked, at Dionysus in 69. So don’t judge.

Awesome post. Go read it.

‘Zombie Town’ is an irreverent hit

It’s that time of year! My play “Zombie Town: A Documentary Play” is playing in three cities this year, and here’s how it’s going in Kentucky:

Set in small-town Texas, Tim Bauer’s inexhaustibly irreverent “Zombie Town: A Documentary Play” views like the unholy child of “Monty Python” and “The Last of Us,” whose creepy uncle is the original “Evil Dead.” Basically, it’s fiendishly awful and brilliantly good.

PlayGround Announces 20th Season and Writers

At PlayGround’s 20th Season Kick-Off this past Monday, PlayGround Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann introduced the 2013-14 PlayGround Writers, including the 20 Resident Playwrights. Some of the names may look familiar:

PlayGround Resident Playwrights, representing some of PlayGround’s most distinguished alumni and a Who’s-Who of Bay Area writers, include Trevor Allen, Crish Barth, Tim Bauer, Cass Brayton, Erin Bregman, Garret Groenveld, Daniel Heath, Brady Lea, Aaron Loeb, Jonathan Luskin, Katie May, Evelyn Pine, Kenn Rabin, Mandy Hodge Rizvi, Robin Lynn Rodriguez, Diane Sampson, Ken Slattery, Martha Soukup, Tom Swift, and Ignacio Zulueta.