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Welcome to Backstage: The TBA Blog! This is the place for Theatre Bay Area announcements, info on upcoming events, grant deadlines, ticket giveaways, shout-outs and special profiles of featured members. Visit early and often!

 

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Program Director Note: Getting Clarity

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, May 17, 2016

By Dale Albright


 TBA program director Dale Albright.

Time. It’s the one thing that I hear, over and over again, that artists wish they knew how to deal with better. It is the nature of our lives as artists that we, arguably more than many outside of our world, need to be masters of juggling numerous commitments in order to do and support our work. Other obligations to work, family, laundry, dishes, pets, health, sanity and many other factors too numerous to mention are all plates being tossed in the air hoping not to be the one to drop crashing to the ground.

As I write this, I am feeling that pain—I am in tech week for a show I am directing at the Douglas Morrison Theatre in Hayward (Lanford Wilson’s Book of Days, starting May 19). As my plates spin and I juggle many of the things listed above, I can’t help but observe my own struggles and those of the artists around me. My first interchange at every tech has been with our lighting designer and with our technical director, who compare notes on whose two-year-old woke them up first that morning. One of our actors, a single mom commuting from San Francisco to the show in Hayward, often gets to bring her (wonderful!) daughter to rehearsal. Another actor is losing hours daily, constantly fighting what sounds like one of the worst commutes I have ever heard of: from work in the North Bay to rehearsal in Hayward, then back home to SF. Three other actors, who commute from the South Bay, are also launching their own theatre project (not to mention other theatre- and non-theatre-related jobs) at the same time that they are getting this show off the ground. The list goes on and on.

People often ask me how I manage to juggle my work at Theatre Bay Area with outside artistic projects, but I look at these examples (and many others I hear), and know how lucky I am. Not only do I have a full-time job, but it’s incredibly supportive to boot. This job allows me take vacation during tech week—although, of course, I am writing this note in the middle of said “vacation.” I have a sympathetic partner at home. The theatre at which I’m currently working is a two-minute drive from my house.

But you know what else has been incredibly helpful to me? The kind of thinking taught in Theatre Bay Area’s ATLAS career development program, which I have administered for a number of years. For example: when I take on an outside artistic project, I know why I am doing it—the part it plays in what I want to accomplish in terms of my larger life and work goals. I know which things in my life come first. I limit the number of projects I do each year. I know to plan ahead as best I can to see when I need to take time off—and when I need a dog-sitter to help out. I have examined my own work (and distraction) patterns to have a better idea of how to formulate my day for maximum effectiveness. And I don’t beat myself up for taking some time to make sure my DVR doesn’t explode or to just take a nap. And it works.

If this kind of clarity sounds good to you, check out our career guide, ATLAS: Charting an Artist’s Career Map—especially the chapter on time management! The ATLAS manual is also available as part of the enhanced student membership, available now through June 30, perfect for the theatre majors and grads in your life.

Plates will still spin and—such is life—some will undoubtedly drop…hopefully no more than once in a while. We’re only human. But we do what needs to be done. The show (and life) must go on!

 

Dale Albright is program director for Theatre Bay Area, as well as an actor and freelance director. 

Tags:  ATLAS Program  program director's note  rehearsal  time management  training  workshop 

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Career Workshops Offering Drop-in Slots

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Hello, theatre-makers!

Have you ever wanted to know how to manage your time more effectively? How to set personalized, achievable career goals? How to balance your work with the rest of your life? Of course you have! Many, if not most, artists face these challenges.

As part of its commitment to equip Bay Area theatre-makers for success, TBA is offering workshops addressing these exact topics this month. Normally, these 90-minute skill-building sessions are available only to participants in the ATLAS career training program, but TBA is making a limited number of seats available to the public on a drop-in basis.

Read below to see what you’ll learn in each, and register today!

 

Workshop: Time Management

Instructor: Morrie Warshawski
Saturday, Feb. 20 (9:30-11:00 a.m.)


Ah, time. We all wish we had more of it—and artists, as a rule, consistently express frustration about how to utilize it best. This 90-minute workshop will help you identify what motivates you, accept what’s out of your control, and find out what the heck a circadian rhythm is—and why it might just be the breakthrough you need. This key career-boosting session, part of the 2016 round of our ATLAS for Actors career training program, is available to artists of any discipline on a drop-in registration basis.

 

 
About the instructor: Morrie Warshawski has worked in the nonprofit arts and culture sector for more than 30 years, bringing a commitment to the core values of creativity, thoughtful¬ness, transparency and tolerance. He has served as the executive director of three nonprofit arts organizations, including the Bay Area Video Coalition in San Francisco. Since 1986, he has been a consultant specializing in strategic planning with nonprofit organizations, individual artists, state arts agencies and a local arts council, as well as community cultural planning with cities and counties. He served for six years as a consultant and regional coordinator for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Advancement Program, which provided 15 months of planning support for arts organizations. 

As a writer, Morrie has created A State Arts Agency Toolkit for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and Lessons Learned, a website on planning for the NEA. He is the author of two books on fundraising: The Fundraising Houseparty: How to Party with a Purpose and Raise Money for Your Cause and Shaking the Money Tree: The Art of Getting Grants and Donations for Film and Video. Morrie is also the originator and moderator of the Strategic Planning for Nonprofits Group on LinkedIn (with over 50,000 members worldwide). 

Workshop location: Theatre Bay Area offices, 1119 Market St., 2nd Floor, SF
Cost: Theatre Bay Area members: $40; nonmembers: $65
Register today!


Workshop: Personalized Goal Setting

Instructor: Velina Brown
Saturday, Feb. 20 (11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) 


In this 90-minute session, Bay Area theatre luminary and Business of Show Business columnist Velina Brown will help you articulate what is important to you in your life and career, turn these important values into a framework for developing your own personalized goals and, finally, identify the steps that you can take to get there. Participate in this “dream big” workshop and emerge with the beginnings of steps to move to another level. This crucial career-transforming session, part of the 2016 round of our ATLAS for Actors career training program, is available to artists of any discipline on a drop-in registration basis.

About the instructor: Velina Brown is a singer, director, award-winning actor and career columnist for Theatre Bay Area. With a passion for challenging herself and her audience with socially relevant theatre, Velina is committed to fostering new works on stage and screen, and to supporting those vibrant voices shaping theatre and film, and that will change the world. Velina has appeared with many local theatres, such as American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, San Francisco Playhouse, Shotgun Players, Magic Theatre, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Eureka Theatre, TheatreWorks, The Willows and Thick Description as well as national companies Denver Center Theatre Company, Oregon Cabaret Theatre and many others. Velina is also a longtime member of the Tony and OBIE Award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe, where she has been a principal actor in over a decade and a half’s worth of world-premiere musical comedies and dramas, touring throughout the United States and internationally. Velina is a two-time winner of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle award as Outstanding Supporting Actress. Velina has credits in film, television, radio commercials and industrial films and has also voiced several computer games. 

Velina also graduated Magna Cum Laude from San Francisco State University, and has a Master’s Degree in counseling. Combining that training with her skill and experience as a working actor has developed her career and life coaching service, The Business of Show Biz. She also has a monthly column of the same name with Theatre Bay Area, where she shares her talent and advice with both novice and experienced actors as they strive to share their passions, becoming the brave, challenging artists they want to be.

Workshop location: Theatre Bay Area offices, 1119 Market St., 2nd Floor, SF
Cost: Theatre Bay Area members: $40; nonmembers: $65
Register today!


Workshop: Navigating Your Life as an Artist

Instructor: Valerie Weak
Monday, Feb. 29 (6:30-8 p.m.)

Individual artists usually wear many hats: stage actor, director, teaching artist, voice-over artist…the list goes on and on. How can artists establish a framework for themselves that allows them to search for work, negotiate agreements, complete the work effectively and balance their own individual needs? What kind of work should artists be looking for? What’s a job, as opposed to a career, as opposed to a calling? And what tools might you need for each?

About the instructor: Valerie Weak is an actor and theatre educator with a 15-year history in the San Francisco Bay Area with performing and teaching credits at theatres throughout the region, including San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Center REP, Word for Word and California Shakespeare Theater. Valerie also works on-camera and in voiceover, appearing in commercials, industrials and independent films. She stars in the irreverent indie comedy, The Snake, which was presented at SXSW by Patton Oswalt and can be streamed on Netflix. Valerie also uses her acting skills to train California police officers and medical students at UCSF and Stanford in communication and rapport building. 

Workshop location: Theatre Bay Area offices, 1119 Market St., 2nd Floor, SF
Cost: Theatre Bay Area members: $40; nonmembers: $65
Register today!

 

Tags:  Acting  ATLAS Program  time management  workshop 

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In Memoriam: Joe Weatherby

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, February 9, 2016

By Linda Ayres-Frederick and Dale Albright

The San Francisco theatre community has suffered an irreplaceable loss with the passing of Joe Weatherby, actor, director, writer, producer and all-around good guy. Born on June 28, 1946 in Nova Scotia,  Joe “shuffled off this mortal coil” on February 6, 2016. Joe truly loved live theatre, from the inside as much as from the outside. He would often travel to New York or London and see as many shows as he could, sometimes seeing two (or more) performances in a single day. He was a fine writer and his plays were always well received, also an excellent director who showed great insight into whatever scripts came his way, while always taking very great care of his actors. Anyone who had the great good fortune to be his friend can attest to what a wonderful, generous and fun-loving friend he was. 

Joe Weatherby.

Joe also served the art community with his business Taxes4Artists. Additionally, he founded a continuing education program at Kaiser to improve communications between doctors, their patients and their colleagues. Born Joseph Anthony Weatherby, he held a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Central Michigan University. Joe is survived by his sisters, Jeannie, Veronica and Nia, brothers Al, Bruce and Frank, many nieces, nephews and a host of loving friends. He will be sorely missed.

Theatre Bay Area is especially deeply indebted to Joe for his contributions to our community with his yearly tax workshop for artists, which he led for over 15 years, as well as numerous sessions for ATLAS participants. His knowledge and willingness to work with our community to “translate” such important financial information had an indelible impact on the lives of many artists.

A memorial celebration of his life will be held at the Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason Street (at Geary), Sixth Floor, SF 94102 on February 14, 2016 at 3pm. Please RSVP to Lbaf23@aol.com.


Tags:  ATLAS Program  training 

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Backstage at the TBA General Auditions

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, February 2, 2016

By Connery Morano


This past weekend marked yet another successful round of Theatre Bay Area’s General Auditions in San Francisco. One of the keystone events of our organization, it’s an essential tool for Bay Area actors and theatre companies alike. With nearly 100 auditors in attendance this year, actors had the unique opportunity to show off their favorite pieces in front of casting directors from all around the bay and beyond; auditors had the opportunity to see and take note of a wide sample of actors to call in for auditions throughout their seasons. 

The TBA General Auditions weekend is the biggest event of its kind in Northern California, drawing even Los Angeles-based actors to attend. This year, the auditions drew auditors representing the nationally recognized California Shakespeare Theater and the prestigious American Conservatory Theater, as well as San Francisco Playhouse, Aurora Theatre and many other well-respected companies. They were joined too by casting directors and independent directors.

The first two days, Jan. 30 and 31, consisted of the auditions of qualified Theatre Bay Area members, selected by lottery; on Feb. 1, the auditors saw members of Actors’ Equity Association. Throughout the process, actors participating in our Advanced Training Leading Artists to Success (ATLAS) program began their training by receiving invaluable, detailed feedback from all the auditors present at their auditions. 

On Actors’ Equity members’ day, I arrived in the morning, excited to see what these professional actors had prepared. Auditors began arriving, chatting and snacking. After two long days of watching actors give it all they had, the atmosphere was buzzing. TBA staff worked with my fellow volunteers to keep all the moving parts of this chaotic and exciting day running smoothly. 

As the actors arrived and checked in—some running through their monologues and songs one last time—the volunteers’ work had already begun. We arranged over 80 head shots and resumes per person into packets for the auditors in the theatre; every 15 minutes, in between sets of auditions, we would fan out into the theatre, distributing packets of photos to the auditors. TBA staffers James Nelson and Laura Ng led actors up and down the flights of stairs from the check-in to the green room dozens of times throughout the morning.  

I was able to watch several rounds of the auditions, and the actors were formidable. One actress’s portrait of a drunken woman begging a man to marry her had me nearly in tears. I was struck with envy every time an auditioner perfectly struck a note with our pianist, and happy to laugh along with the auditors whenever someone collectively tickled us. 

On one of our breaks, I had a chance to talk to auditor Jon Rosen from Landmark Musicals, who told me how pleased he’d been with the audition process. He told me he’d found plenty of people to contact for Landmark’s upcoming auditions for Boy from Oz and that he’d been impressed by the level of talent he’d seen all weekend. After all I’d just seen, I can’t say I was surprised to hear it!

After a long morning, I was exhausted, and as a new group of volunteers, excited to take on the afternoon, began arriving, I made my exit. I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to see the General Auditions this year. I’d been too intimidated to apply to audition myself, but after seeing the upbeat, positive, atmosphere and feeling the excitement from everyone around me, I’ve already started to think about what monologue I might want to bring in next year. 



Connery Morano is an intern at Theatre Bay Area, focusing on arts administration; he's also a Theatre Arts major at SF State with his degree expected May 2016.

 

Tags:  Acting  actor  ATLAS Program  Auditions  auditor  casting  casting director  TBA general auditions  training 

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Titan Award Winners Announced

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Updated: Monday, January 11, 2016

Happy 2016! TBA is delighted to announce the winners of TBA’s Titan Awards!

About the Titan Awards

The Titan Awards honor individual artists in the Bay Area who have completed Theatre Bay Area’s ATLAS program, during which they received 17 hours of training on the business side of their careers. The participating artists then submitted a personalized career map where they outlined their goals for the coming year and beyond. Based on this career map, each of the following artists was selected by a review panel of theatre professionals to receive a $1,000 grant for the implementation of this map, as well as a yearlong mentorship. 

Titan Award Director

Ariel Craft, Albany
Ariel has a BFA in theatre from New York University/Tisch School of the Arts and is the founding artistic director of the Breadbox here in San Francisco. Her directing credits in the Bay Area include Breadbox, Cutting Ball Theater, Wily West Productions, Impact Theatre, San Francisco Olympians Festival and others. She is currently directing Of Serpents and Sea Spray for Custom Made Theatre Co. 

Titan Award for
: Training costs
Mentor: Mina Morita

Titan Award Playwrights

E.H. Benedict, Muir Beach
E.H. has had plays performed as part of Bay Area Playwrights Foundation’s FlashPlays, as well as at Z Space, UWAC 36 Hour Playfest, Golden Thread, Lark Play Development Center and the SF Fringe Festival. E.H. has a BA in speech and drama from American University and is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Actors’ Equity Association. 

Titan Award for: Writing time and training
Mentor: Elizabeth Spreen


Barry Eitel, Oakland
Since arriving in the Bay Area in 2011, Barry has self-produced plays in bars; been published in play anthologies; participated in the SJREAL program at San Jose Rep and become the head writer for Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy, a 3.5-hour immersive theatre experience. His plays have also been produced with Arabian Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Theater Pub and San Leandro Players, among others. Barry has a BA in theatre and philosophy from Loyola University Chicago.

Titan Award for: Writing time
Mentor: Peter Sinn Nachtrieb


Austin Zumbro, Oakland
Austin’s commission for Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Lemony Snicket’s Lump of Coal, is currently in preproduction. BATC was the producer for his previous work, The Day the Crayons Quit, the Musical, which was a TBA Awards Finalist. Austin has also had work presented with Contra Costa Civic Theatre.

Titan Award for: Software costs, workshop costs
Mentor: TBD 


Finalists

In addition to the Titan winners noted above, the panel would like to acknowledge the following three finalists, each of whom also receives a mentorship. 

Director:
Emma Nicholls (Mentor: Evren Odcikin)

Playwrights:
Bridgette Dutta Portman (Mentor: Anthony Clarvoe) 
Noelle Viñas (Mentor: Mark Jackson)

Tags:  ATLAS Program  Director  playwright  Titan Award 

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Featured Member: Lily Tung Crystal

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Interview by Sal Mattos

Our latest featured member is a theatrical powerhouse. Learn more about this ATLAS alumnus, Titan Award winner, newscaster, off-Broadway performer, founder of Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company (a TBA Awards Recommended company), feature film actor, mother, George Takei entertainer (is there anything she can’t do?)—in short, one of the busiest pros in the business: Lily Tung Crystal     
                                                                 



TBA Featured Member Lily Tung Crystal. Photo: Stuart Locklear

 

Tell us a little about your background in theatre.

I always thought I was more of a singer in the beginning, even though now most people know me as an actor. I started singing lessons when I was seven and did musical theatre in grade school and high school. In college, I was in an a capella group and also did some theatre. After college, I moved to Shanghai and worked as a freelance foreign correspondent. While there, I sang in a couple of rock and blues bands and did one play—I played Amanda in Private Lives. When I moved back to the US, I got a job at KRON 4 News, and on the side, decided to pursue performing more seriously. I started taking singing classes at Jazzschool and acting classes at Studio ACT. There, I was inspired to pursue a professional career by my teacher/director Frances Epsen Devlin, who seemed to be one of the few people here that actually encouraged their students to turn Equity.

You’re quite a multifaceted artist: actor, writer, producer and company founder. Do you primarily identify as one of those over the others—and if not, how would you describe your body of work?

I feel like I have a true dual career. On one side, I’m an actor/singer, and on the other, I’m a writer/producer. It’s only been in the last five years that I’ve become an artistic director and only in the last year that I did my first directing job. So those are newer to me.

You’ve been involved in a number of TBA programs over the years. As an ATLAS alumnus, as well as a Titan Award winner, would you tell us how it’s affected your career path?

In a nutshell, ATLAS and the Titan Award changed my life. When I first started in ATLAS, I was afraid to identify myself as an actor. But ATLAS taught me to embrace that identity and stand in the knowing that I was a performing artist. 

Winning the Titan Award helped me gain even more confidence in myself as an artist. It helped me found the Bay Area Asian American Actors Collective (BAAAAC) and, ultimately, Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company. It not only helped my career, but helped me and my theatre company support the careers of many Asian American theatre artists. For the full story, please refer to my chapter in the ATLAS book.  

[Note: Lily’s full ATLAS story can be found in the new guide, ATLAS: Charting an Artist’s Career Map, now on sale in PDF.]

Would you tell us a little more about the BAAAAC?

The BAAAAC was a group I founded with Asian American Theatre Company (AATC) to offer support, networking, education and mentorship to Asian American actors. We meet occasionally, have a Yahoo! group where we post audition and show announcements and have offered a couple workshops. It was established as a way for Asian American actors to connect with and support each other. Early on, however, it morphed into Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company. Although we still run the BAAAAC Yahoo! group, we now accomplish much of that mission through Ferocious Lotus, especially since AATC has gone into hiatus. 

Even though I had thought the BAAAAC could perhaps eventually become a theatre company, I hadn’t intended for that to happen for at least five years. I was a new mother, and if you had told me then that I would birth a baby and a theatre company in the same year, I would have thought you were crazy. 

What’s something you really like about the theatre scene here in the Bay Area? Anything happening here that really excites you?

The Bay Area is diverse, and I’m excited that theatre here seems to be growing in diversity. I’m hoping that this is the wave of the future, and not just a temporary trend. If any region is going to lead the American theatre to diversity, it’s the Bay Area. It has that history of tolerance and acceptance.

I especially love that the Bay Area theatre industry people are so supportive of each other. When we started Ferocious Lotus, we got so much support from people of all cultures and backgrounds in the community—both mainstream and smaller, diverse theatres. It was touching and inspiring and helped give us the confidence to continue our work. For that, I’m incredibly grateful. 

What’s one of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?

In 2006, I played Mrs. Park in Jay Kuo’s new musical, Homeland. It was a watershed role for me—my first lead, and a character that I loved. It’s difficult for Asian American actors sometimes to find substantial roles, but here was a character who made people both laugh and cry; as an actor, you can’t ask for much more than that. That show was quite pivotal for me, as it propelled me to start thinking of myself as an actor/singer.

Then, in 2009, I got to do a fundraiser for Jay Kuo’s next show, Allegiance (which is now on Broadway), and got to perform with one of my favorite actors, George Takei. A month later, I went to New York with the workshop of Homeland and got to experience performing with some of my favorite Broadway actors. It was unbelievable; I felt like I needed to pinch myself. George Takei actually came to that performance, and after the show, he said to me, “Lily, you should be taken to jail!” I had no idea what he meant. Then he laughed and said, “You stole the show!” To get that enthusiastic response from an actor whom I’ve long idolized, who helped pioneer Asian Americans in entertainment, was a huge moment for me. 

[And] on Monday, as part of Intersection for the Arts’ 50th anniversary, Ferocious Lotus presented a staged reading of Christopher Chen’s I Mean to Do You Harm. We were honored to be included as “artists and thinkers who will help define Intersection for the next 50 years!” 

Any upcoming projects that you’d like to share with our readers? 

Right now, Ferocious Lotus is trying to do one production a year, so after the [Intersection] reading we’ll need to look at what production we’re going to do next.  

 

Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community. 

 

Tags:  Acting  actor  Atlas  ATLAS Program  director  Featured Member  Ferocious Lotus  producer  Titan Award 

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Featured Member: Justin Gillman

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Interview by Sal Mattos

Our next featured member is actor and ArtistRepSF company founder Justin Gillman. As an ATLAS alumnus, Titan Award winner and TBA Awards adjudicator, he’s been one of our most active members since he moved to the Bay Area in 2011. Many actors dream of making it to L.A. or NY to work, but it was landing in San Francisco that really got Gillman’s career started. 


TBA featured member Justin Gillman. Photo: Lisa Keating

 

Tell us a little about your background in theatre.

My first week of freshman year in high school, I was a loner and had nowhere to sit for lunch. I found this little room tucked away at the edge of campus with some friendly and lively people in it, and soon realized that I had inadvertently crashed a Drama Club meeting. Sign-ups were going around for auditions for the fall production, As You Like It. I signed up simply so I could blend into the crowd, eventually got cast as Silvius, and the rest is history!

I love all kinds of theatre, and I make it a goal to always try to switch it up whenever I can—new works, modern, classical, musical, experimental, etc. I have a lot of really great training from UC Santa Barbara and Columbia University, and one of the best things I’ve learned is to always strive to build theatrical muscle and to never settle for the expected or the ordinary. Though acting will always remain my first love, this sensibility has also led me to branch out into other theatrical arenas (writing, directing and producing).

You’re an ATLAS alumnus, as well as a Titan Award winner. Tell us what that experience was like, and how it’s affected your career. 

ATLAS was an incredible experience for me on many levels. It was beautiful to see so many artists participate in the program, and to be able to feed off of everyone’s passion and love for Bay Area theatre. The program also allowed me to focus on what was truly important to me as an actor. Prior to ATLAS, I felt like I was just jumping from show to show, without any sort of goal setting or plans for the future. ATLAS helped me to create my career road map; I refer to it every day now as a rubric for all my theatre-related decisions. For instance, I didn’t know how important it was for me to join Equity until I actually wrote it down. Now, I have a plan and I’m sticking to it! Also, I am so grateful to have received the Titan Award. Money is always tight, and to be able to pay for new headshots (thanks, Lisa Keating!), business cards, and a website will allow me to make the next leap in my career. And getting to have Liam Vincent (an accomplished and fabulous Bay Area actor) as my mentor has been such an enlightening experience.

How has your journey this last year held up to the career map you devised in ATLAS?

Acting can be a frustrating profession, and a lot of my own personal frustration comes from the fact that there is so much that is out of my hands (getting through the right doors, having the right look, getting that part you think you deserve). What I can sometimes forget is how much is in my hands! Some answers to my daily frustrations: My headshot is five years old and doesn’t even look like me any more. (Answer: Get a new one!) There’s never enough time in the day to feel accomplished. (Answer: Wake up earlier!) Why am I even submitting for this audition? It’s not like they’re going to seriously consider me. (Answer: You won’t know if you don’t try!) I know these seem like logical answers, but it can get very crowded in an actor’s head. Especially mine.

You’re a fairly recent transplant to the Bay Area. What was the transition like, and what advice might you give to those just moving here, looking for work?

I moved to the Bay Area from NY in 2011. And even though NY was a nightmare for me in many ways, I was still worried that the Bay Area would not provide me with as many opportunities. Boy, was I wrong. 

I think the most important part of my transition to the Bay Area was that, in NY, I had been labeled as a recent graduate student with a particular set of skills taught to me by my university; the Bay Area simply treated me as an actor. While labeling and typecasting still go on, there is such a plethora of opportunities that are truly within your grasp here. And if you’re not getting the parts you want, put on your own play and rent out space at the Exit and do it yourself! I did that this past winter with a friend of mine, with a small but well-received production of Rabbit Hole (in a role I would probably never have been cast in, but was crucial for me to attempt for my own growth)—that quickly transitioned into a full-fledged theatre company, ArtistsRepSF! That never would have happened for me as quickly in NY. Here in the Bay Area, I can go from my day job to a commercial audition to an industrial shoot to a musical theatre audition to rehearsal for a Restoration comedy, and I never feel like I’m a particular kind of actor. I’m simply an actor. The Bay Area is here to help you find out who you are as an artist. 

What’s something you really like about the theatre scene here in the Bay Area? 

Everyone is doing great and daring work here—the huge companies, the midsize companies and the small-but-fierce companies. It’s a pretty incredible town if you’re able to see The Pillowman, The Mystery of Irma Vep, and Company all in one summer season. Also, word-of-mouth is an explosively potent tool here, so if you see a show and like it, scream about it on social media. People will listen! I know I do!

What’s one of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?

I just played Katurian in The Breadbox’s production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman this summer, and it was truly the highlight of my acting career thus far. McDonagh’s play is one of the most vital pieces of literature on the topic of the importance of art. The production itself was hilarious, brutal, violent and pretty scary. And the process was guided by the firm, intuitive and graceful hand of Ariel Craft, one of the best directors working in the Bay Area today. It was a perfect storm of awesomeness!

What’s been your most memorable theatre moment thus far: good, bad, proud achievement or total embarrassment?

My family and my boyfriend’s family (who had not yet met) decided to come to the same performance of The Pillowman, and I had the pleasure of listening to them meet for the first time as they were taking their seats, while I was blindfolded onstage for 15 minutes during the pre-show. #OnlyInTheatre

Any upcoming projects to share with TBA’s members?

My next show, Aphra Behn’s The Rover, runs Oct. 15-Nov. 22 at Shotgun Players! I also highly recommend going to The Breadbox’s season-closer, Medea (directed by boyfriend extraordinaire Oren Stevens), playing Oct. 2-17 at Exit Stage Left.

A big shout-out to my theatre company, ArtistsRepSF, whose next show, Peer Gynt, runs Jan. 22-Feb. 6, 2016 at Exit Stage Left!

You can also see me later this season in Born Yesterday at Center Rep (Jan. 29-Feb. 27) and Will Eno’s Middletown at Custom Made Theatre Co. (Mar. 24-Apr. 23).

After that, I’m taking a long nap.

Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community. 

 

Tags:  Acting  Actor  Adjudicator  ATLAS Program  Auditions  career  Featured Member  TBA Awards  Titan Award 

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ATLAS Playwrights: Making a Craft into a Career

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, September 9, 2015

By Laura Brueckner

TBA’s ATLAS (Advanced Training Leading Artists to Success) program started in 2008 as a way to give actors crucial training in time management, goal setting and other professional skills necessary to turn a craft into a career. Seven years later, the program has expanded to address the needs of directors and playwrights as well—and a book on the ATLAS process, edited by TBA program director Dale Albright, is slated for publication soon!

The Summer 2015 round of the ATLAS program, for both directors and playwrights, is something special; both groups have been training together since Aug. 15, getting to know one another’s work as they refine their approaches to their own. For playwrights, whose work can sometimes be a little lonely, ATLAS provides an instant network of colleagues who share similar goals and struggles.

We asked the Summer 2015 ATLAS playwrights a few questions about their careers, and how ATLAS was preparing them to take their next steps. Check out the responses from five of our delightfully determined dramatists!


1. How long have you been writing plays?


E.H. (Elizabeth) Benedict: I have been writing plays pretty steadily for the past 10 to 12 years.

Tiziana Perinotti: Since 2008.

Lisa Sniderman: Three years.

E. Hunter Spreen (Elizabeth Spreen): 20 years.

Austin Zumbro: I think the first true stage play I wrote was Rudolph the Ugly Duckling and Other Cracked Up Holiday Tales for Bay Area Children’s Theatre in 2011. Before that, I’d written a few short screenplays and a few comedy sketches, but for these purposes, I don’t think they count.


2. What made you choose to participate in ATLAS training?

EHB: I chose to do the ATLAS program this year because I am sorely in need of the kind of psychological kick in the butt the program offers. It’s all too easy to let oneself off the hook, and ATLAS provides the time, space and tools to be proactive about the career, rather than moaning and being defeated. It helps me get back on my “front foot,” as the Brits are fond of saying. I have had readings of my work and two productions of short plays, but I really do want to go to the next step; for me, that would be having the full length plays produced locally and perhaps some commissioned work as well. My hope is to work in the Bay Area; I submit all over the country, but I really want to work here

TP: To learn about available resources, connect with the local theatre community [and] expand my artistic network; to find job opportunities, mentors, and supporters of my work.

LS: [I] wanted tools, training and resources to help me define my career path as an artist, including being a playwright; wanted to get immersed in the Bay Area theatre community, to meet and work with other playwrights and directors.


ATLAS playwright
E. Hunter Spreen.

EHS: It’s time to plan and dream for the next stage of my artistic life. Short-term, I want to create a plan that maximizes my residency with Playwrights Foundation. Long-term, I want a map out larger projects and goals that shift the course and scope of my work over the next 10 to 15 years.

AZ: I didn’t feel like I had a model of what it means to be a “successful” playwright in the Bay Area. Or anywhere, really. I had no examples of how people balance their writing schedules, what would be realistic goals and expectations for making a living as a writer. I didn’t actually know much about how new work is pitched or developed. ATLAS seemed like it would provide me with a skillset and a vocabulary to treat writing as a true career, and not simply “a fun thing I sometimes get to do for money.”


3. What are some of the best discoveries or insights you’ve had so far in the ATLAS program?

EHB: My number one realization so far is that I want Elizabeth Spreen’s career— she is being produced by smaller, scruffier (ATLAS uses the word “edgy”) theatres. She has had a play in the Bay Area Playwrights Festival (a goal of mine), where she is also a playwright in residence, and she has done commissioned work. Maybe she should be my mentor?

The other lightbulb insight has to do with the idea of success and what that looks like in my life. It has a lot to do with not finking out on my commitment to getting my work out there, which includes using all the current tools. I am not so good on anything technological; it’s baby steps for me. And I am a dunce about social media. All this I knew, but it was new to realize that, for me, success means doing everything I can do to get my work produced, and not backing away when I get anxious or frustrated.


ATLAS playwright
Tiziana Perinotti.

TP: 1. [ATLAS is a] good way to connect to other playwrights/artists;
2. [ATLAS is a] good way to learn how to apply for grants;
3. ATLAS uses a career map tool similar to what I have learnt as a student in ACT (American Conservatory Theater)’s music theatre program.

LS: Having dedicated time to work on my 80-year/five-year plan while in our session was such a gift and a blessing! During the session, I had insights into what I wanted (by [noting] what I didn’t include), and also realized I need to really start planning now financially to get to where I want to be in five years. Another insight was my biggest resistance for goals session and finding ways to keep that in check through my advisory board.

EHS: 1. My commitment to sustainable work/life practices has deepened and I have more clarity about how that translates into how, where and with whom I make work.
2. I’ve been slapped upside my head with the ways I sabotage myself (past and present). Just dealing with that has been difficult, and I’ve wanted to take time to absorb it before I try to develop tactics for dealing with it. 
3. “Where” is a big issue right now. [In] the last workshop, we focused on local theatre companies, identifying the types of work that gets produced locally, and where I fit into the overall picture. It’s a big unknown right now—and that’s also been something I’ve wanted to hang out with, instead of creating solutions in the midst of panic and fear.
Bonus: I’ve enjoyed connecting with other playwrights and directors. This isn’t a surprise or a discovery…it’s more of a side benefit of going through the program. 

AZ: Honestly, just increasing my awareness of grants and development opportunities has really opened my eyes. That kind of thinking—funding a project in chunks during the development process, rather than struggling through in my “free time” to create something that I could maybe sell to someone at the end—is a radical change for me. In addition to making life a little easier with some money behind it, that kind of development model also provides an external structure to the development process—one that isn’t just me berating myself for not working on something to meet a relatively arbitrary deadline.


4. What do working playwrights need most right now?

EHB: I consider myself a working playwright because I write every day. I am not, however a produced playwright. In my opinion, all playwrights need to find their “tribe.” And commissions and productions wouldn’t hurt as well.

TP: More opportunities for staged readings, easier access to directors and producers, mentorship, support networks and financing.


ATLAS playwright
Lisa Sniderman.

LS: Access to submission opportunities and someone to do footwork/a searchable database to identify all the theatre companies that do the kind of work we are doing to make the search less daunting and more purposeful—e.g., I would love a list of all national theatre companies who: 1. take original new work, 2. take musicals, 3. take full-length and 4. take youth or TYA.

EHS: Time and space to make work. Some kind of artistic home where we can be supported. Ideally, that involves getting their work onstage in some format (lab, reading, production or all of the above). 

AZ: For me, personally, I think what I need most is a sense of external structure, although one of the things I’ve been thinking about in ATLAS is how I can generate that for myself. That external structure would be timelines and goals dictated by programs outside the playwright with an eye towards development. So, things like grants, or readings, or workshops. We need both deadlines and the support—money, time and manpower—to meet those deadlines.


5. To which playwright, living or dead, would you most like to be compared?

EHB: A cross between Caryl Churchill and Bruce Norris—if my work could be compared to either of those writers I’d be thrilled.

TP: I don’t like to be compared to anyone. I write straight from my heart and soul, and strive to be my own original voice. 

LS: Dennis Kelly (Matilda) or Winnie Holzman (Wicked).

EHS: I don’t want my work compared to anyone’s. But if this is useful, two of my favorite living playwrights are Toshiki Okada and Kate Ryan.

AZ: Tim Minchin?

 

TBA’s ATLAS program offers several of training rounds per year. Check back often to see when the next round begins!






Tags:  ATLAS Program  career  Director  playwright  training 

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Featured Member: Ana-Catrina Buchser

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Our newest TBA featured member is Ana-Catrina Buchser, a Romanian-born director, singer, musician and mother who found her way to the Bay Area and brought her home country’s passion for the arts along with her. With a body of work that includes a translated adaptation of The Star Without a Name (Dragon 2nd Stages Series), Broadway musical Spring Awakening (San Jose Rep) and Victorian farce The Importance of Being Earnest (Santa Clara Players), Buchser has demonstrated serious directorial range. Learn more about this dynamic ATLAS graduate and CA$H Grant recipient! 

TBA featured member Ana-Catrina Buchser. 

 

How did you get your start as a theatre artist?

I grew up in București, Romania, going to the theatre a lot in a society where artists are revered. Although I thought I wanted to be a doctor, the artistic force that came from my mother-writer and father-painter was strong in me, so it didn’t really surprise anyone when my Stanford pre-med path turned into a master’s in directing. I have continued to direct and act in the Bay Area ever since, having a special place in my heart for plays about the theatre, such as Stephen Jeffreys’ The Libertine, which is on my bucket list. You can learn more about my work at ana-catrina.com and read my blog at modicumsofinspiration.com.

What’s one of your favorite shows that you’ve worked on?

Two months ago—although it feels like yesterday—I closed The Star Without a Name, a play I translated and adapted from Romanian, written by Mihail Sebastian. In addition to directing it, I also produced it, with the generous support of Dragon Production’s 2nd Stages Series, as well as a CA$H grant from Theatre Bay Area. This was by far the most emotional journey I have ever taken while working on a play, partially because I was responsible for so many aspects of the production, but also because it was an offering to Bay Area audiences of the culture, humor and poetic sensibility of my birth country.

What do you like about the theatre scene here in the Bay?

I appreciate the spirit of camaraderie. With very few odd-ball exceptions, individual theatre artists and companies in the Bay Area are very supportive of each other’s work and are willing to lend a helping hand when needed. I suppose there is a feeling of togetherness of all the talent in this region in the face of the dismal financial situation.

As a director, what would you say to artists trying to get their start in that role?

Read a lot, live a lot, meet a lot of people, see a lot of theatre, do a lot of theatre, get involved in every aspect of a play (act, build, paint, light, play with sound, etc.). Every experience you go through makes you a better director. Also, work on becoming an excellent communicator; you will have to explain your vision to many different people before any of your ideas can become a play.

How was the ATLAS experience for you? What did you take away from it?

I had a revelation during my ATLAS session. Before ATLAS I had been struggling for about seven years to balance my life as a theatre director—which came first—with my newer life as a mother. Dale Albright, who ran the session, had the brilliant idea of sorting the participants into several different categories, one of which was “parents.” After much conversation with actor Laura Espino—the only other parent in the room—I realized that I had been thinking of directing and parenting as two separate identities of mine, and had been frustrated whenever one demanded more attention than the other. The big realization was that my daughters are growing up very quickly, and I will still be a director when they go off to build their own lives. I am now happily both a director and a mother at the same time, I take fewer theatrical projects each year and spend more time with my daughters, and the balance just happens naturally.

Any upcoming projects you’d like to share with your fellow TBA members?

I am in the process of looking for a publisher for The Star Without a Name. Mihail Sebastian has been translated in several languages, but not English, so I am working with a Romanian foundation to look for a US publisher. I am, of course, always thinking about the next play on my bucket list, and have a few good ideas. 

There is also an exciting year of music ahead. I sing with Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale, and in August we start our new season, which will feature works by Sibelius, Gabriel Fauré and others.

If you could direct your ultimate dream show, what would it be like?

The next ultimate dream show involves lots of color; working with an excellent composer and several actors who play instruments; at least one violent, bloody scene and a kick-ass production manager. Also, reasonable wages for the entire cast, designers, crew and director.

The one after that might have elephants in tutus...

 

Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community. 

Tags:  ATLAS Program  CA$H Grants  Director  Featured Member 

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2015 Titan Award Winners!

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It is with enormous pride that we announce the winners of the 2015 Titan Awards: Bobby August, Jr., Caitlin Evenson and Justin Gillman

Each of these fabulous actors has completed TBA's ATLAS (Advanced Training Leading Artists to Success) program, where they created a career map that would guide them in their next professional steps. August, Evenson and Gillman will each receive an award of $1000 and a yearlong professional mentorship to implement this career map.

Read more about our amazing Titans below!

Bobby August, Jr. (Fremont) has a MFA in Acting from University of California, Davis, where he was seen in The Bacchae, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and The Way of Water. In the Bay Area, he has appeared with Shady Shakespeare, Savage Wilde Players and others. He is a non-Equity actor and is currently a cast member of Made Up Theatre. Visit BobbyAugust.com.

August will use his Titan Award funds for training costs. 
His professional mentor is L. Peter Callender.

Caitlin Evenson (Berkeley) has performed at California Shakespeare Theater, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Cutting Ball Theater, Ragged Wing Ensemble, Town Hall Theatre, Tides Theatre, Douglas Morrison Theatre and many others, and will be appearing with the Breadbox in Medea later this fall. A non-Equity actor, Caitlin has a BA from University of California, Berkeley.

Evenson will use her Titan Award funds for training costs. 
Her professional mentor is Jennifer Le Blanc.

Justin Gillman (San Francisco) - In the four years since arriving in the Bay Area, Justin has appeared with San Francisco Playhouse, 42nd Street Moon, Custom Made Theatre Co., New Conservatory Theatre, the Breadbox and others. He has an MFA in acting from Columbia University, is a non-Equity actor and will appear later this year in The Rover with Shotgun Players. 

Gillman will use his Titan Award funds for marketing costs.
His professional mentor is Liam Vincent.


Titan Finalists: In addition to the winners noted above, the Titan panel also selected two finalists, each of whom will receives a professional mentorship, Teressa Foss and Rowan Rivers.


Congratulations to all of our Titans, and best wishes for career success!

Tags:  Acting  ATLAS Program  Titan Award 

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