TheatreWorks Silicon Valley — Your Tony Award Winning Regional Theatre!

As you probably know by now, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley has won the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award!

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I join the entire TheatreWorks family in being very proud and happy about this and hope to catch a part of our founding Artistic Director, Robert Kelley, accepting the award live from Radio City Music Hall on television June 9 (at this point it is not certain if CBS will show this or not).  In announcing the award in a joint statement, the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing could not have said it better:

“The work they produce celebrates the human spirit, they have helped develop hundreds of vibrant new plays and musicals that are now being performed in theaters across America, and they have pioneered education programs that inspire thousands of students each year, creating future generations of creative artists and enthusiastic audiences.”

When I started TheatrePlayByPlay in 2013, I disclosed that I was on the Board of Trustees of TheatreWorks and my first (and still favorite) post described my experience watching most of the rehearsals of Matthew Lopez’s play Somewhere under the direction of Giovanna Sardelli at TheatreWorks with the writer in residence.  Since then, I have tried to cover TheatreWorks’ shows only sparingly, wanting to write about new works and the artists who create them all over the country.

 

Robert Kelley TheatreWorks' Founder and Artistic Director photo by Terry Gannon

Robert Kelley
TheatreWorks’ Founder and Artistic Director
photo by Terry Gannon

This Tony Award, however, is a wonderful reason to write a bit more about this company I so cherish and comes at a terrific time in its history.  TheatreWorks will be 50 years old in April 2020 and our founder is in his final year as Artistic Director.  Robert Kelley founded TheatreWorks immediately following his graduation from Stanford University fifty years ago and never looked back.  To ensure an orderly succession, and with a lot of art still to come from Kelley, he will be stepping down next year.  So, to get this award at this time warms our hearts as an additional tribute to him for building this wonderful company.

In 2017, TheatreWorks presented the world premiere of "The Prince of Egypt", a soaring celebration of the human spirit inspired  by the acclaimed DreamWorks Animation film photo by Keven Berne

In 2017, TheatreWorks presented the world premiere of “The Prince of Egypt”, a soaring celebration of the human spirit inspired
by the acclaimed DreamWorks Animation film
photo by Keven Berne

[A brief note on my connection to TheatreWorks.  I am very proud of my affiliation and role as a member of the Board of Trustees from 2008 to 2016 and, after a two year break, my renewed position on the current Board.  I do not in any way intend to take credit for the remarkable and sometimes magical work of TheatreWorks’ artists and staff.  Please indulge my use of “we” when referring to TheatreWorks.]

Here are a few things I want you to know about TheatreWorks Silicon Valley:

  • New Works is a huge priority at TheatreWorks.  This season TheatreWorks will be producing its 70th (yes, 70th!) world premiere, and our next show, Archduke by Rajiv Joseph (opening June 8) will be its 168th regional premiere!   The New Works Festival  (helmed by national new work luminaries Kent Nicholson, followed by Meredith McDonough and Giovanna Sardelli) and Writers’ Retreat has included many now famous playwrights and composers including Stephen Schwartz, Beth Henley, Paul Gordon, Lauren Gunderson, Matthew Lopez, Marsha Norman, Rajiv Joseph, Jules Feiffer, Joe DiPietro, Andrew Lippa, and the husband and wife team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein, among many others.
  • Education is an enormous part of TheatreWorks daily life and a significant part of its budget.  Seven separate education programs add so much value to the community.  Here’s a brief description:
  1. an on-going partnership with Palo Alto Unified School District to commission and perform a series of “Oskar” plays (Oskar and the Big Bully Battle, Oskar and the Last Straw, etc.) for children written by Prince Gomolvilas, which performed for over 10,000 students this year alone!
  2. the 1440 Countdown where teams of high school students write and perform one-act plays during a 24-hour overnight marathon at TheatreWorks; the best play is performed during the annual New Works Festival;
  3. the Children’s Healing Project at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House where we bring in performers to help bring smiles, healing and joy;
  4. theatre Camps (spring and summer, K-6), several sessions at several locations bring kids skills and fun;
  5. elementary school students learn in fun, theatrical ways in TheatreWorks’ Concepts at Play programs – Playing with Poetry and Playing with Science;
  6. high school students work with playwriting teaching artists over 25 sessions in the Young Playwrights Project, culminating in staged readings of their 10-minute plays delivered by local actors and directors for a public audience; and
  7. special matinees of produced plays are made available to schools for students to attend followed by fun and thought-provoking discussions in our Student Matinee series.
  • Music has played a large part of the shows done on TheatreWorks’ stages over the years – both in the form of musicals (several each year) and in the form of music within plays.
  • TheatreWorks is committed to diversity and its choice of plays, playwrights, theatre artists, subject matter, and casting has consistently upheld and strengthened that commitment.
  • One of the most fun afternoons you can have in this world is to attend a Design Presentation for a show.  This is a special event on the first day of rehearsal of a play or musical — the first time the cast and crew meet each other; also attended by certain staff from the theatre they should meet, many of the show’s designers (costume, set, lighting, sound) if they are in town, and the director, and, if you’re very lucky, you. [In this case you're probably a donor helping to produce the show or a Board member or other very fortunate individual who wangled her way in to these fascinating glimpses into how the art is made.]  You get to hear from the designers about their research and their vision; see the model of the set — sometimes intricately made in miniature; see beautiful work-of-art costume renderings, meet the cast, hear the director (and on rare and wonderful occasions, the playwright) talk about the play and the concept and ideas to be evoked on stage.  The presentations are often followed by the first table read of the script by all the actors together.  My idea of a fabulous afternoon.
  • It’s all about collaboration at TheatreWorks.  Kelley and other senior staff and Boards through the years have developed and sustained a culture of inclusion and collaboration which tries to make everyone feel part of the art created on the stages and part of the TheatreWorks family, including our donors and our audience.
Robert Kelley cast teen-aged Jessica Chastain as Juliet, with Travis Engle as her Romeo, in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,": re-set in Belfast in this 1998 TheatreWorks production photo by David Allen

Robert Kelley cast teen-aged Jessica Chastain as Juliet, with Travis Engle as her Romeo, in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,”: re-set in Belfast in this 1998 TheatreWorks production
photo by David Allen

 

TheatreWorks' 2004 World Premiere of "Memphis" with James Iglehart photo by David Allen

TheatreWorks’ 2004 World Premiere of “Memphis” with James Iglehart
photo by David Allen

 

Aldo Billingslea and Rebecca Dines in TheatreWorks 2007 production of “The Elephant Man” photo by David Allen

Aldo Billingslea and Rebecca Dines in TheatreWorks 2007 production of “The Elephant Man”
photo by David Allen

Could it be better?  Of course.  Do I love every play we stage?  Not always; some are better than others.  (I like the newer, edgier stuff, personally.)  Do I wish we owned our own theatre or a big house or apartment building to house visiting artists?  Yes.   But all in all, I am deeply proud to be affiliated with this organization and I am joined in that feeling by so many others.  We include a Board of Trustees I am proud to sit on.  We include employees who work so hard and so well and with often apparent joy and pride and we are so lucky to have them. We include actors and other theatre artists who live locally and many who travel here from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other parts of the country to work here.  We include a broad group of volunteers, donors and loyal audience members who we hope will continue to grow, and bring their children and their friends.  We hope you will join us if you are not one of us already.

Stephen Stocking, Jeremy Kahn, and Adam Shonkwiler as hapless insurgents who spark World War I in Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph's "Archduke" photo by Kevin Berne

Stephen Stocking, Jeremy Kahn, and Adam Shonkwiler as hapless insurgents who spark World War I in Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph’s “Archduke”
photo by Kevin Berne

If you live in the Bay Area and haven’t seen a TheatreWorks show yet, Archduke is a good one to start with!  Playing in Mountain View June 5 – 30, 2019.  If you already know TheatreWorks, I hope you already have your Archduke ticket.  If not, get it soon!  Subcriptions are available for the new 2019-2020 season (check it out at theatreworks.org). Also, exciting things are on tap for the New Works Festival in mid-August!  We are now your local Tony-award winning theatre.  (That’s fun to say.)

Robert Kelley photo by Niko Kitaoka

Robert Kelley
photo by Niko Kitaoka

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5 Comments

  1. Peig fairbrook
    May 25, 2019

    Delightfully written and a great well deserved award for Theater Works. It would be lovely if you guys could get your own performance building.

    • Susan Fairbrook
      May 25, 2019

      Thanks Peig. I agree it would be wonderful!

  2. Hannah
    May 25, 2019

    Thanks for the nice blog post … very inspiring!
    Love that idea of a permanent theater for this company
    or A house owned by the company where visiting artists
    could stay… congratulations to TheatreWorks for this wonderful award!

    • Susan Fairbrook
      May 25, 2019

      Thanks Hannah! If wishes were raindrops . . . Maybe a donor will come along. Thanks for reading!

  3. Carl Jones
    May 27, 2019

    What a great blog post Susan. You are such a great writer it is a pleasure to read your stuff. Yes, I did read it all and it was beautiful!

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