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...

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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...

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“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...

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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...

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“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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