Meet Eliza Bent

One of my favorite benefits from writing TheatrePlayByPlay is meeting playwrights.  My Eliza Bent story is illustrative both of that benefit and of how engaging and committed many young playwrights are. Years ago when it was still conceivable that one might not have heard of Kickstarter, I had just discovered it and wrote a post called Help Kickstart a Dream about this great way for artists to crowd fund their projects.  As an example, I found and donated to a project to produce a new play called The Hotel Colors by a new playwright named Eliza Bent, whose name I recognized as a writer from American Theatre Magazine.  Well, she was pleased with the donation from a stranger and recognized my name a couple of months later on the attendees list of the Humana...

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“FINKS” – Would YOU Name Names?

I wish I could say that Finks, opening this week at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, was just an historically interesting play. It’s not.  It’s a current and frightening portrait of what might happen next week. Written by playwright and screenwriter Joe Gilford, this comedic drama was inspired by the real-life experiences of his parents, Jack and Madeline Lee Gilford, actors who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era communism “Red Scare”, one of the more shameful times in America’s history.  The play was a Drama Desk Best Play nominee for its production in New York at the Ensemble Studio Theater in the spring of 2013. Jack and Madeline Gilford in 1949. Courtesy of Joe Gilford The playwright Joe Gilford, from a New York Times article in...

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“AN ENTOMOLOGIST’S LOVE STORY” at San Francisco Playhouse

Three years ago I posted a piece called “THE SPRING OF MELISSA ROSS”.  It has been (and still is) my most clicked-on post ever in the 5+ year history of TheatrePlayByPlay — presumably due to the insufficient media about this remarkable playwright.  In it I discussed having seen and loved a reading of a very smart and very funny play called An Entomologist’s Love Story which is just about to open in full production at San Francisco Playhouse and run through June 23, 2018.  I am re-posting the 2015 piece here and strongly encourage you to go see this play!  I can’t wait.   THE SPRING OF MELISSA ROSS (April 29, 2015) A reader of this blog recently brought an interesting coincidence to my attention: all three of the female...

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LAUREN GUNDERSON’S “NATURAL SHOCKS” ANTI-GUN VIOLENCE PROJECT

I received an email recently from Playwrights Foundation, one of the top playwright development organizations in the country. Playwrights Foundation is based in San Francisco and has been a new play launch pad home for playwrights to explore, create, and collaborate for 40 years. I attend some of their Rough Readings, and their annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival in the summer.   The email I received this week was mostly about Lauren Gunderson — one of the Bay Area and the country’s most well-known and produced playwrights. In addition to recently winning a prestigious new play award, Lauren is about to launch a fascinating anti-gun violence project called “Natural Shocks”. Because time is of the essence (and they wrote it so well), I...

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THE INHERITANCE

An extraordinary two-part play called The Inheritance opened at the Young Vic theatre in London this week starring an all-male cast plus Vanessa Redgrave. Written by Matthew Lopez, it received a flurry of largely five-star reviews from the U.K. press, including this clause from a review quoted below: “perhaps the most important American play of the century so far.” I have not, unfortunately, seen it (yet). I do, however, know Lopez’s work well and have seen all of the other plays he has had produced, some many times. Matthew Lopez is the author of The Whipping Man, Somewhere, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Zoey’s Perfect Wedding, and other work. He was among the most-produced American playwrights for several years this decade and has...

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Playwright Kemp Powers

I was in Denver last weekend for the Colorado New Play Summit and my favorite reading was a play by Kemp Powers called Christa  McAuliffe’s Eyes Were Blue. Kemp is an established and accomplished television writer (“Star Trek: Discovery”) and playwright with awards and a movie in production (One Night in Miami) and other plays including one I’ll write more about below; this piece shows his mature hand.  The main characters in the play are three young men —  twin brothers born of a white mother and a black father, one of whom looks black and one of whom looks white (rare, but possible) and one of their childhood friends.  Since it is still considered to be a piece in development, I won’t say too much about it except that it is about many things...

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Make Theatre Part of Your Holiday

As lovely as it is, The Nutcracker is not the only holiday show out there.  Expand your holiday traditions and check out some additional seasonal offerings, and make theatre an integral part of your annual festivities.  Some of the most charming and enjoyable shows I’ve seen this season have been at small non-equity theatres where the joy of theatre-making is apparent and infectious. Two examples (among many) available in the Bay Area this season:   Holiday at the Savoy: a tribute at Tabard Theatre in downtown San Jose is set in 1945, in the famous Savoy Ballroom.  The show starts before the show starts:  with swing dance lessons offered to audience members for the half-hour prior to curtain.  Supported by a 10-piece “big band”,  the cast sings,...

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