The Show Must Go On

I have a friend who had a stunning home on a hill in Glen Ellen, California; until yesterday.  He emailed me this morning: “Our house can be rebuilt, and (most) of the stuff inside can be replaced. But shimmering green hillsides and hundred-year-old oak trees will not be replaced in my lifetime.” Amid all the horrific stories of destruction from the hurricanes and the on-going California fires, I want to write some good news.  I have several friends personifying the spirit of the theatre community who worked in Houston to mount shows there despite the devastating damage of Hurricane Harvey.  Both shows are now playing in Houston and will move on to a run in New York. DESCRIBE THE NIGHT Playwright Rajiv Joseph and Director Giovanna Sardelli had only...

Read More

London Blog

Ah London.  I was in London last week with my brother Bob and it was, of course, mostly about theatre for me.  I have been fortunate to come often to London in my life.  My first London theatre memory is as a teenager, seeing the glorious Equus by Peter Shaffer, where I cried sitting next to Malcolm McDowell (!!!) at the Old Vic.  Later, I went to London for a month before starting my first professional job.  Armed with a small signing bonus, a still working (but technically expired) student ID, and youthful stamina and enthusiasm, I saw 28 shows in 30 days.  I remember they ranged from the roller skating extravaganza Starlight Express to a marathon of Shakespeare in Stratford to some best forgotten British broad romps. Last week, a bit more tempered in...

Read More

Get Your Fringe On

For those willing to take a chance on very fresh theatre, consider the Fringe Festival.  Often odd, occasionally brilliant, and usually interesting, the San Francisco Fringe Festival runs September 8 through 23 this year.  Now celebrating its 26th season, the San Francisco Fringe Festival presents a bold line-up of eclectic theatrical offerings for adventurous and open-minded audiences of all persuasions.  Often over-the-top and under-the-radar of traditional theatre-going fare, the Fringe champions the motto No Risk, No Art and has its rabid devotees and wins more fans every year. Most performances run under one hour and it all takes place under one roof, allowing audiences to go from venue to venue, seeing as many shows as possible in a single day. Based on...

Read More

Good Time Had By All — TheatreWorks New Works Festival 2017

Last weekend marked the end of another surprising, evocative and fun New Works Festival for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.  Three new plays and two musicals plus these special extras: a kick-off dinner with the playwrights and keynote speech by Jeff Raz with some fascinating secrets about clowning; a late night performance of Blogologues, a bold, internet-inspired, sketch-based extravaganza created and performed by Jen Jamula and Allison Goldberg; an open rehearsal of Waiting For Next, a play by Jeffrey Lo; the Meet the Festival Artists Panel (one of my favorite events where the playwrights speak about their process and inspirations), preceded by: a performance of Lights Up On A Bar by the Westmont High School team, winners of the 1440 Countdown, the annual...

Read More

Companion Reading Series — Palo Alto Players

This is something new for the Bay Area.  We have many theatres with subscription series and we are fortunate to have many theatres who produce staged readings from time to time, usually of new, unproduced work.  Palo Alto Players recently announced their ”Staged Reading Companion Series”:  they are coupling each play in their season with a play reading of a different play, similar in theme or subject matter to the season play.  The plays being read (for free! — always nice) are not new plays, but have all had successful productions and are by seasoned and well known playwrights. Readers of TheatrePlayByPlay know that I am a big fan of play readings.  Readings can run the gamut from totally cold readings of the script by actors at music stands with...

Read More

“THE NORTH POOL” close to home — in more ways than one

I don’t usually just advertise an upcoming play — and I haven’t even seen this production!  But I think this play is so special that in 2013 I wrote a post about it called “The Best New Play of the 21st Century?”   It’s The North Pool by Rajiv Joseph and I know it is worth seeing.  Quoting from my earlier post: I have personally watched, talked to or eavesdropped on many hundreds of people who saw this play – from a sold-out high school student audience where you could hear a pin drop and not a single cell phone made a sound, to a mixed age crowd all leaning forward at a Sunday matinee — and they seemed to be unanimously in thrall.  It’s a mesmerizing cat and mouse dance between a high school student and his vice...

Read More

Nimble Theatre: “BUILDING THE WALL”

Several times this year, theatre festival conversations have turned to whether theatre can be nimble enough to react to current events, such as the myriad frustrations and terrors engendered and threatened by the election of Donald Trump.  At last month’s Pacific Playwrights Festival, the playwright Michael Mitnick expressed his opinion that theatre can be “one of the fastest forms of art”, which view was surprising and, frankly, not shared by many others there. [note: see below for response from Michael Mitnick] Afterwards, I spoke with the moderator of that panel, Madeleine Oldham, Director of Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor new works lab, who thought nine months was generally the minimum time it took to bring a work to the stage. But.  During the...

Read More