A New Holiday Play Jane Austen Might Enjoy

Part of me would like to think that plays spring from playwrights’ pens (or keyboards) as almost inevitable outpourings of inner voices and passions yearning to break out — “Art”.  But of course, even to the extent that is occasionally true, writing plays is very hard work and there can be a lot of engineering and design involved.  This was the case with Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, now playing at Marin Theatre Company as part of its national rolling world premiere. The playwrights started with the intent to write a holiday play — in high demand by regional theatre companies.  On a long road trip, using napkins for notes, they decided on a Jane Austen theme and focused on Mary Bennet...

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New York Theatre Recommendations Fall 2016/17

Ah, New York.  We have great theatre throughout the country, but I would love to live in New York for the theatre alone (plus the bagels), if I wouldn’t have to give up closeness to family, friends and the life I’ve built in California. I do try to go when I can, and when I don’t actually go, I read extensively about New York theatre and who’s doing what and when, and I yearn.  I am often asked, and cheerfully share, my recommendations for New York theatre selections, with the caveat that these are plays and musicals that personally intrigue me, not necessarily the “best” theatre (whatever that means anyway), and often I haven’t seen them.  I might love the playwright’s prior work, or know a particular director chooses edgy, exciting new plays...

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Noticing the New Works Festival

In August, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley had its 15th annual New Works Festival, hosting almost 100 theatre artists reading 2 new plays and 4 new musicals, and featuring many special events such as the Meet the Artists panel, and several up close and personal meals and interviews with various artists. It’s not news that I always love the Festival, and this year was no exception.  While there were many exciting and promising works (my personal favorites being Rajiv Joseph’s play Archduke and Min Kahng’s musical The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga), the real zenith for me is the opportunity to feel like I get to know these artists as people, not just as talents.  They are around and they love to talk theatre!  When they’re not rehearsing or...

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Sarah Jones’ “Sell/Buy/Date”

If you get a chance to see Sarah Jones in her new one-person, multi-character show Sell/Buy/Date, take it!  The opportunity might be either in the last few days of her workshop performances ending July 31 at Berkeley Rep or in New York at Manhattan Theatre Club opening in previews September 27, 2016 – or wherever she may go after that. Sarah Jones is one of the very few performers who can really pull off a compelling metamorphosis from one character to another, with her toolbox of myriad accents, varying body language, voice tones,  and overall affect, without resorting to overly broad or stereotypical gestures.  Her people are young and old, male and female, of many ethnicities and national origins.  All are recognizable and authentic.  As one...

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Stuart: I Wish You Could Quit Your Day Job

If any one person is close to the center of the vortex that is San Francisco theatre it could be Stuart Bousel.  An award-winning playwright (2014 TBA best world premiere play Everyone Here Says Hello, among others), director, founder of the 7-year old Olympians Festival, San Francisco Theatre Pub, New Works Director for Custom Made Theatre, actor, and more (including guest blogger for TheatrePlaybyPlay.com: “I’m Not Sorry I Hate Your Play“), Stuart knows and is known by most San Francisco theatre artists and he still has to have a day job to pay the rent — not to mention an incredible amount of passion and energy to do it all.  I enjoyed getting to know him a bit better this past weekend. Last Saturday I had a marathon theatre day in San...

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Get Thee To A Play!

The San Francisco Bay Area is enriched with theatre companies, large and small, that do good theatre of all kinds.  I rarely go a weekend without seeing a play, or two, and it’s often hard to choose among the high-quality, eclectic offerings we are spoiled with.  But every now and then a moment comes along when there is a large number of very special pieces all on offer at the same time.  Such a moment is nigh.  This short list of plays to enjoy mid-May through June (or so) is so far from exhaustive that it doesn’t even include all the potentially GREAT theatre, so check around for more if you have the time, but at least see some of these if you can: –  The Velocity of Autumn by Eric Coble at Theatreworks Silicon Valley playing in Mountain View June...

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Pacific Playwrights Festival 2016

I recently attended the Pacific Playwrights Festival in Southern California where I saw five play readings and 2 world premiere productions over three days.  I’ve been thinking about why I enjoy play readings so much.  There are no production values – just actors with scripts at music stands on a blank stage (or a set meant for another play), a few days of rehearsals with a director, and probably script changes from the playwright up to the last minute.  Yet there is something about an exceptionally well-done play reading that can be just as satisfying as a well-done production.  The words, the actors and your imagination have to supply the details.  You can really focus on the language. The readings filled the 500-seat theatre to capacity and I would...

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