“Pear Slices” – A Taste of Something Fresh

Although this is the 14th of the Pear Theatre’s annual showcase of original short plays by members of the Pear Playwrights Guild, seeing it last weekend was my first taste of Pear Slices.  Eight short plays (ten to fifteen minutes each) were directed by Troy Johnson and Robyn Ginsburg Braverman and performed by a consistently strong ensemble of seven actors: Ariel Aronica, Tess Middlebrook, Briana Mitchell, Bryan Moriarty, Kyle Smith, Michael Weiland, and Alison Whismore. An entertaining mix of styles and themes, the plays ranged from funny to scary to historic to intense but were all thought-provoking and engaging.  With help from their press release, here is a brief description of the 2017 Pear Slices: For Art’s Sake by Elyce Melmon — the...

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Pacific Playwrights Festivals 2017 — The Company’s The Thing

Another balmy weekend in Costa Mesa seeing exceptional new work at the Pacific Playwrights Festival.  One of the best annual festivals in the country, South Coast Repertory does this so well it attracts top industry professionals every year.  They also invite dozens of playwrights to come as their guests — giving me the opportunity to meet and talk with them over meals and breaks! Those talks with other attendees are at least as much a draw as the great new work itself.  Just to give you an idea of why this is so much fun for me, here is a sampling of some of my personal interactions: After registration, there is a simple salad and sandwich arrivals lunch on the terrace where I join a friend, TheatreWork’s company manager and playwright Jeffrey Lo...

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Another Bite of the Apple Part II — New Musicals

My recent trip to New York was more about new musicals than plays.  In my last post, I told you about the three new limited runs plays I saw.  Here are the four new Broadway musicals I caught: Dear Evan Hansen.  This shatteringly good musical revolves around an anxiety-ridden 17-year old boy and a lie that gets out of control with the help of social media.  This production opened on Broadway a few months ago but had already had an award winning run Off Broadway and, even before that, one of my favorite national theatre critics, Peter Marks in the Washington Post, wrote  “The heart-piercingly lovely new musical, receiving its world premiere at Arena Stage, is a trip to the exciting place that musical theater sometimes takes you, a destination of wholly...

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Another Bite of the Apple Part I — New Plays

After an absence of several years, it was so good to be back in New York for six days of new theatre.   I saw four new Broadway musicals and three limited run new plays. (I also fit in the Whitney Biennial, two great restaurants — Esca and Butter, and a couple comforting bowls of matzo ball soup.)  Since  some of the plays are scheduled to end soon, I’ll start with them and tell you about the musicals (Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away, War Paint and Groundhog Day) in my next post.   Sundown, Yellow Moon.  I had been wanting to check out Ars Nova, the birthplace and nurturer of many a new work and emerging playwright, and I am an acquaintance and admirer of the playwright Rachel Bonds, so her new play beckoned.  Sundown, Yellow Moon is a play...

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Denver New Play Summit 2017

I have attended the New Play Summit in Denver often enough now to feel at home there.  I see a lot of familiar faces.   I know where I like to sit in each theatre.  I know I won’t be hungry and will have very little free time.  I know I will see five new play readings and three fully produced plays.  And, I know the theatre will be of such consistently high quality that we will all comment to each other on the great performances, direction and eclectic selection of good plays. Here is why it is so much fun to go to the Denver New Play Summit: 1.   THE WORK  At the end of the post I will list and tell you a bit about the specific plays I saw.  But, the readings are works in progress and are expressly not to be reviewed, and reviews are not what...

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“The Soap Myth” Reading in Marin

Living on the West Coast, it is inevitable that I will sigh over the theatre news and missed opportunities for limited engagement theatre in New York I would very much like to see.  One of those I was sorriest to miss was the 2012 National Jewish Theatre Foundation’s Off-Broadway production of Jeff Cohen’s The Soap Myth. A four actor show (including my friend since high school, Donald Corren, who the New York Times review called “a chameleonic wonder” in performing his several roles),  the play is about whether the claim that the Nazis made soap from Jewish bodies during the Holocaust would be included in a museum exhibit or excluded from lack of evidence other than stories from survivors. The Soap Myth was so good that it was filmed and broadcast...

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IDEATION at City Lights Theater

In addition to the terrific large regional theatre companies we have here, the Bay Area is also rich in small  jewel box theatre companies doing some great work.  One of the best is City Lights Theater Company in San Jose, and they are producing one of my favorite new plays of the century:  Ideation. Founded in 1982 as a collective dedicated to producing challenging, offbeat works by local playwrights, City Lights has grown and changed significantly.   Current Executive Artistic Director Lisa Mallette  (who is  also an actress and in the cast of Ideation) took the helm in 2001 and has led a successful artistic and fiscal restructuring effort which now sees the theatre offering six plays each season in its 100-seat space (which somehow feels larger to me)...

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