Theatre Seen

Because as much as I have going on with creative projects, it’s not all about me, so I’ve been seeing a lot of theatre lately.  Most recently, Fences at CalShakes which was achingly well performed, Hurt Village at Ubuntu Theatre Project which was powerful and fresh, and Emmett & Ava at Broadway Playhouse SF which was a more cerebral but still impactful experience; all of which I’d highly recommend, though Emmett & Ava is the only one still playing.  This week I’ve started off with Shelton Theatre’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire.  A very solid production and the woman playing Blanche is devastating; worth it just to see her. (For as many productions as I’ve spent in that space, I can’t believe that was actually my first time seeing a Shelton production there).

I read Awakening 30 years ago and it had a profound affect on me.  It’s a touchstone novel.  I am excited to see what Breadbox has done with their adaptation on the 13th and very thrilled that they’ve had a completely sold out run.

I admire Patricia Milton more than I can express, she’s been a mentor of sorts (though she might not know it) and colleague for more than ten years.  I’ve directed her work, produced it, performed it in readings, read it in progress, and avidly watched it performed.  I look forward to seeing her latest Hearts of Palm on the 20th.

Also on the list are You Never Can Tell (CalShakes), Dear Master (Aurora), Speed of Light (Quantum Dragon), Seascape (Role Players Ensemble), Margaret of Anjou (Those Women Productions), Real Women Have Curves (Douglas Morrison).

Maybe I’ll see you there!

ReproRights! Twitterviews Meet the Writers

Don’t miss the Twitter Interviews with ReproRights writers.  So far, Madeline Puccioni, Maggie Wilson, and myself.  Coming up Nicole Joost, Lorraine Midanik, Pamela Winfrey, and more.  One of the things I love about ReproRights! The Body Politic is the different stories and voices included.  The 8/25 show is sold out with a waiting list, but there may be other chances to see it and even if not, the dialogue about what inspired us, why we are telling these stories, and who we are is still interesting and important.

Walking the ellipses…

I picked the name for this little blog more because I liked the sound of it, than that I had anything I could articulate.  For most of my life I’ve abused that form of punctuation and relate to it in general more than I do to others.  But as I write this, I feel like right now nothing sums up my life and the world in general as well as the ellipses.  Gaps being bridged. Volumes communicated in silence. Answers pending. Work behind the scenes.  The things not said.  Suspense.  Exasperation.

While I’m in the middle of a job search for the professional life I don’t have much interest in talking about here, I’m working full time on several theatre projects.  Taking advantage of the downtime to be productive elsewhere.  I have a big announcement to make about something that I hope will be a grand creative journey, but not yet.  I can’t announce it yet. I’m directing for another show this fall, but can’t announce that yet either.  I also submitted to a writer’s program that I don’t believe I’ll be selected for (it’s rare for people to be selected the first time they apply), but there’s a possibility I could be, which would be a great opportunity.

Of the things I can talk about …  ReproRights! The Body Politic has a one night only performance on August 25th as part of the 3Girls Theatre New Works Festival.  I announced previously that my play AS OF ONE is included, but since then (aside from actually writing the play, which had been merely a proposal before) I also took on directing one half of the show.  It means a lot to me.  Women’s body and personal autonomy, now especially, is such a critical, important conversation to be had. The pieces in this show are all – every one of them – powerful in different ways.  Different voices, different stories, different topics.  I’m very very proud to be part of it and thrilled that it has sold out already with a waitlist – that’s more than two weeks out it’s already fully reserved.  As a director I’m especially excited to be working with the cast, I feel like Santa brought all my presents this year.

On August 19th I’ll be playing Decima again in the fifth installment of Ex Nihilo’s Tera Incognita at the Octopus Literary Lounge in Oakland.  It’s free but reservations are strongly recommended.  The playwright has asked me to sing a little bit for this episode, which is not something I normally ever think of myself doing, and I’m glad it’s just a little snippet, but also kind of looking forward to trying it.

I will also be taking on a challenge that is new to me on August 19th.  I’ve joined one of the creative teams for the 48-Hour Film Festival.  What this means is that I’ll have a few hours on the evening of the 19th to write a 4-7 minute screenplay, which will be filmed and edited that weekend.  Since I’ll be in rehearsals for ReproRights as well as seeing a couple of shows that weekend, I won’t be able to participate in the filming or editing.  But as terrified of this as I am, I’m also really really looking forward to stretching these skills.  I’m thankful to Wesley Cayabyab and Colin Hussey for asking me to take part.

In September I’ll be reading a part in another developmental reading for PCSF as part of their reading series.  THE SEPARATION by Aren Hahn on September 26th at the Shelton in SF.

I will also be directing one of the nights of the Olympians Festival in October.  Three one-acts, dubbed The Servants (October 14th at the Exit) which will include plays by Marissa Skudlarek, Bridgette Dutta Portman, and Elizabeth Flanagan.  I’m really pleased to have been asked and can’t wait to explore these plays and work with these intelligent writers.  Knowing them, I know that each is going to have a very different voice and style and good, as in don’t miss it good.

My own writing is also making slow, if sometimes painful, progress.  UNDERNEATH THE ABOVE AND BELOW has shape and theme, about 34 pages so far and even plot!  I’m exploring what happens when we break the rules, in a common way, one that is very low risk, one that people do frequently enough to have normalized it, but it goes terribly wrong.  What does it say about us?  How do we handle it?  How do others judge us, and is that fair?   PITCHFORK AND LIGHT is at about 54 pages and while I have the mechanics of the murder that’s at the heart of this, as well as a strong sense of who each of these characters is, I struggle with some of the plot points.  P&L is looking at what happens when something from our past intrudes on and disrupts our present.  I explore different kinds of abuse and how we have to change our view of people after they die.  What excites me about this one is incorporating dance (and I have my eye on a choreographer I want to collaborate with).

So my theatre life continues to be full and sometimes overcommitted, but always in flux and always stretching and growing.  Two years ago I would have scoffed at the idea that I’d be doing so much directing, that I’d have acted in anything, that I’d be trying a screenplay.  Life’s not too bad on the ellipses…



Upcoming Projects – Spring/Summer

2016 is proving to be a very fulfilling year already.  The Musical Cafe Showcase was a perfect way to kick things off.  In March I had the joy of acting again in Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads with Spare Stage.  In April I had the pleasure of channeling my inner Velma (a la Scooby Doo) for Ex Nihilo‘s episode four of Terra Incognita, directed by the fantastic ShawnJ West and featuring sound engineering by Jason Jeremy.  I also got to play with an old friend reading Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star in a private workshop reading.

In May, I’ll be directing Vonn Scott Bair’s modular play The Possibility for a staged reading at The Playwright’s Center of San Francisco.  The play is a full-length “modular play” depicting the internal struggles of a man and a woman who think about the possibility of adultery–and who might act upon that. In this iteration, we’ll be exploring the circular nature of the possibility.  The cast includes Richard Wenzel, Erika Anne Soerensen, Geoffrey Malveaux, and Ria Meer.

In June, I’ll be returning to the role of Decima in Ex Nihilo’s Terra Incognita episode five, directed by Kelli Krump at the Octopus Literary Lounge.

Today Repro Rights announced their line up for The Body Politic an evening of short plays, songs, poetry and monologues about women’s reproductive rights and body autonomy.  I’m thrilled to have my short play, AS OF ONE, included.  This will be my second year participating in this important and powerful evening of theatre.  It’s presented as part of Three Girls Theatre‘s New Work Festival in August.  AS OF ONE examines how centuries of cultural silence and squashed debate about the issues women face with regard to their autonomy and body have affected our perception of things and how the breaking of that silence is having various results.  Auditions will be in Mid-July.


I also have a huge project in the works, but will have to wait to announce it.  Everything should be finalized in early Summer.


Re Acting Again

As the first weekend of performances is nearing its end, I’m reflecting a lot on what this journey has been for me. I’d given up on acting. Made an active decision that it wasn’t happening so with gut-wrenching grief officially gave up on it – except in the most incidental circumstances. I had been too busy, too preoccupied with producing and writing, had started to think I was meant for behind the scenes roles. I’d had the awkward and humility inducing experience of mentioning acting to others and, because it was not something they associated with me, had received that grimace-smile we all give when we think someone is trifling with something they don’t really know. I wanted to protest, “no really, I used to be legit. I was fucking great.” I was tired of being relegated to the stage directions ghetto, on the rare occasions I was asked to do anything. I recognized I was doing NOTHING to further that long ago held dream, so maybe it was just that, an old one. Maybe holding onto it while not really pursuing or even identifying with it anymore was holding me back from something else.
Then an old friend who had always known me as an actor first and foremost asked me to come play with her, exploring some plays she wants to possibly produce, floated the idea of actually performing together. It was fun, though a bit like waking up a limb that had gone to sleep. All prickly and odd. But it was an opening.  
Then another call out of the blue. Would I be interested in playing a role? From my theatre mentor, whose directing I admired a great deal. Who knew intimately my capabilities. Who has an impossibly high standard for theatre and performers, who would never ask me if he didn’t think I’d bring gravitas to the part. Even I, who does not believe in signs, could not pass this off. Yes!

Then the reality, the doubts. The “what the hell was I thinking?” Performing a rehearsed, language laden, accent required, 30 minutes on stage alone, piece after 30 years?! Was I insane?

Every step of this has been a revelation; either peeling away years of blocks, or discovering surprising new things about myself. Do I think I’m still great? Eh. Depends on the day and the hour. But I have proven to myself that I can do it. That I can do it well. That it feels as amazing as it used to… Maybe more so, because I just have more life experience and can appreciate it more. And because I’m more mature, I am experiencing it without the same defensiveness, insecurities, misplaced ego, and etc that I can see now held me back before.

I have no idea if it means I’ll be jumping into auditioning or what I’ll be doing in future. But one thing I do know. My fractured dream is still a part of me and the next time someone raises an eyebrow at me, I’ll shrug it off. 

That and feeling an audience respond just the right way at just the right time to something I’m doing is so fucking awesome.

We have 7 more performances.  Spare Stage TALKING HEADS, by Alan Bennett, directed by Stephen Drewes

The Right Note wraps

Yesterday evening was the second and final performance for the Musical Cafe’s 2016 Winter Showcase.  Everything was spot on and so much fun to watch.  The casts for all four plays were terrific and the energy from the audience was warm, excited, engaged, and ready to be pleased.  It felt like we were part of something incredibly special.  I can’t wait to see where things go from here for all of the plays, but since I am not – as Jane Austen would put it – disinterested, I am of course biased to The Right Note.   There’s the opportunity for some depth along with the fun and the music is just so beautiful.

I’ve learned many things about myself in this process and hope that this is just the beginning of a longer journey.  Most rewarding of the whole process was how happy Jerome (Joseph Gentes, book and lyrics) and Rice (Majors, music and lyrics) were with their piece.  The entire cast hit each of the various moments they needed to, distinguishing themselves and the story.  It was fulfilling the showcase promise in every way.

Richard, Jerome, and Sandy have really hit on a niche that needed filling.  As popular as musical theatre is, and as resource heavy development of that work is, it is great to have that forum for presenting work in progress the way non-musical works have in abundance.  Their Spring showcase submission period is open until Feb 15th and I strongly recommend going to see the show when it comes around (next time at Flight Deck in Oakland in March).



The Mountain Top

I just got home from seeing Pear Theatre’s production of The Mountain Top by Katori Hall.  When I’d heard the controversy last year about a Kent University director that made the mind boggling decision to cast Martin Luther King Jr. with a white actor, my curiosity about the play was piqued.  When I saw that a local theatre was putting it up, I knew it was a great opportunity to check it out for myself.

I’m not a theatre critic and this isn’t a review.  I’m just trying to process what I saw and the wave of emotions I’ve been tossed around in since I left the theatre.  Though I will say that Michael Wayne Rice and Nathalie Autumn Bennett were wonderful.  The former in imbuing his Dr. King with a grounded humanness that allowed me to feel completely lost in eaves dropping on this great man’s last night.  The latter absolutely devastating me (in the second half in particular) with a clever vulnerability I found completely beguiling.  I’ll leave it to others to hash out the design, directing, script, etc.

For me, right now, the bottom line is ultimately that after I left the theatre and safely made it to my car, where I could be alone and relatively unobserved, I sobbed.  Ugly crying, sobs.  It took me a little while to understand that the emotion I was feeling, the thing that I’d been overwhelmed with, was anger.  I was so angry.  The kind of anger that’s bourn of heartache, disappointment, confusion, frustration.

IMG_6196As I watched the show, I kept thinking, how is it possible that we had this man in the world, that his legacy is far reaching and pervasive, and yet we still have any significant portion of our population embracing so much fear and racist dogma?  With the lessons we already learned, how is it that nearly everyone, especially the media, aren’t recoiling in disgust and shame when they encounter it in their public figures.  How?  How can we be where we are? Again. Still.

When Camae (the maid) describes herself as “a poor black woman, the mule of the world” I felt my heart tear into shreds in my chest, not just from the actress’s delivery, which was very powerful, but from the devastating truth still underlying those words.

When Dr. King finally makes a sermon to the audience, I heard and felt the weight of hundreds of years worth of members of our society trying so desperately to get the rest of us to open our eyes and hearts and really understand their daily reality, to understand just how much of that is in our power to stop.  And we just don’t.  Plain and simple we chose to not stop it every single day – most effectively by not listening, by not believing, by refusing to accept reality.   How does this not break one’s soul?

The last time I was reduced to unchecked tears after a show was Angels in America, which I saw while in the midst of losing so many people to AIDS.  I watched in a charged state of recognition for the battle between despair and hope being played out on stage in front of me.  It has stayed with me for decades.

I walk away from this experience tonight convinced that even if the only opportunity you have is to read the play, you should.  If you have a chance to see it performed, go … see it performed.

If I could do anything differently tonight, I would have stuck around to wait for the cast to let them know how impacted and affected I was by what they did.  Because, and this is part of what made the show so emotional to watch, theatre is made up of people in a room experiencing things together and the cast shouldn’t be excluded from the emotional dialog that something like this work demands.