Wallace Goes South
American Conservatory Theater core acting company member Gregory Wallace is heading south to accept a tenured associate professor position at UC San Diego. After a thunderous ACT debut as Belize in Angels in America in 1995, Wallace joined the core company in 1999 as one of its four original members (with René Augesen, Marco Barricelli and Steven Anthony Jones), appearing in more than 30 productions over the last 12 years. Wallace got his BFA at the Stella Adler Conservatory at New York University and his MFA at Yale, and he’s taught and mentored young actors as a faculty member in the ACT MFA program for the last decade. He’ll continue to be involved with ACT as an associate artist.
Let’s Raze the Roof
It seems $10 million doesn’t get you what it used to. Just after opening to great expectations, the shiny new Performing Arts Center at Carmel High School needs a new roof. Inspections have revealed that those “minor leaks” have turned out to be major mistakes, with much of the interlocking roof system determined to be defective. The original “standing seam” roof was installed improperly, and more than half the panels on the 15,000-square-foot roof show some kind of problems. The contractor offered to bolt the panels together and cover the seams with weatherproof materials or to remove the flawed panels and replace them one at a time. But with over 50 percent of the materials not meeting specifications, the school district refused that solution. Both the theatre contractor and the roofing subcontractor eventually agreed to replace the entire roof at their expense, estimated at $250,000 to $275,000. Work began in early August to be completed by mid-September. Luckily there was little to no rain forecasted, so in the meantime life went on with classes and productions inside the venue, which includes a small theatre, classrooms and a TV studio. School officials insist the work posed no safety issues for students. —Lee Kopp
Jones Gets Grace
Last year, San Rafael actor Matt Jones made a powerful professional debut in AlterTheater’s award-winning staging of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, and his star has been rising ever since. In the spring he wowed audiences again in Nilo Cruz’s Two Sisters and a Piano, also at AlterTheater, and appeared in a number of productions with the African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco. Last month, AlterTheater announced that Jones has been awarded a Princess Grace theatre apprenticeship. The wildly competitive award, presented annually by the Princess Grace Foundation, includes a cash prize to the actor and much-needed production funds for the nominating nonprofit theatre company, intended to make possible a collaboration with the winning actor. To that end, this spring Jones will appear in AlterTheater’s References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, by the Obie-award winning playwright Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries). Coincidentally, the company’s 2011–12 season opens this November with A Man, His Wife, and His Hat, a world premiere commission by playwright Lauren Yee, whose play Ching Chong Chinaman was a finalist for the Princess Grace playwriting award in 2008. —David Templeton
You Know, for Kids
Founded in 2004 as Active Arts Theatre for Young Audiences, Bay Area Children’s Theatre has offered children’s theatre classes and summer theatre camps in San Ramon since 2008, and this summer it added a musical theatre camp in Berkeley in partnership with Freight & Salvage. Now it’s expanding its youth education empire—er, program—to Piedmont and Alameda. Classes started this September at the new Piedmont Center for the Arts and at Rhythmix Cultural Works in Alameda. Both programs are split into young performers (ages 7–11) and little performers (5–6) and are performing in The Aristocats Kids this fall. For information, visit bactheatre.org.
Easing Technical Difficulties
Z Space has been awarded $45,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support its new Technical Development Residency Program. This funding comes just months after Z Space received $30,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts to launch this program. Z Space programming director David Szlasa and executive artistic director Lisa Steindler developed the Technical Development Residency program in direct response to the needs of local and national artists. As Szlasa puts it, “Performance makers need more time in a full-production environment prior to opening if they are to develop outstanding new works, yet the typical production schedule in the U.S. collapses the most complicated technical and staging decisions into a ‘tech week’ that allows very little time for experimentation or exploration of ideas without the stress of opening night looming.” Each residency will span two to five weeks, depending on need, and will take place in Z Space’s versatile performance space, featuring world-class lighting, sound and projection equipment and a 42-by-64-foot stage. In addition to uninterrupted time to explore ideas, Z Space will provide full technical staff support and extended project management and consultation with senior staff on project resource development and partnerships.
Is NY Ready to Rock?
Man of Rock, Daniel Heath and Kenneth Flagg’s ’80s hair-rock musical of the Restoration comedy The Man of Mode, has hit Manhattan, where it plays through October 5 as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Considering that the show’s set on the Jersey Shore in 1986, it’s like it’s come within spitting distance of home. The hard-rocking romp played The Jewish Theatre last December in its Climate Theater world premiere.
Theatre Grows in Marin
While Marin Theatre Company has added a sixth production to its programming for the 2011–12 season, it is growing behind the scenes as well. Now in its 45th anniversary season, the theatre has invested over the past year in all technical aspects of its productions, including scenery, lighting, props, sound and costumes. This summer MTC added two full-time and two part-time staff positions to its production department, and in January it moved its scene shop from a 700-square-foot workspace backstage of its 24-year-old theatre complex on Miller Avenue in Mill Valley to a 5,500-square-foot warehouse in northwestern Oakland.
They’ll Go On
The 6th annual Silicon Valley Small Venue Theatre Awards were announced in early August, along with the decision that the awards would in fact continue despite the loss of partners such as the now-defunct newspaper The Wave. Given to small venues of 300 seats or fewer, the awards were too numerous to list with three honorees in most categories, but can be found at artsalot.wordpress.com.
That’s Our Town
The National Endowment for the Arts has announced the inaugural round of Our Town funding, totaling $6.575 million in grants to 51 communities in 34 states that have created public-private partnerships to strengthen the arts and shape the social, physical and economic characters of their neighborhoods, towns, cities and regions. San Jose’s Public Arts Program, in partnership with Zero1 Festival, was awarded a top-level grant of $250,000. Those monies will be matched by the Public Art Program and Zero1 and used for Silicon Valley Inside/Out, a program designed to build sustainable bridges between technology and art to define downtown San Jose’s “sense of place.” For this grant, a series of temporary and permanent arts projects will connect the South First Street Arts District with the Convention Center and San Jose State University via San Carlos Street. Our Town grants range from $25,000 to $250,000 and represent a range of rural, suburban and urban communities with populations ranging from just over 2,000 people to more than 8.2 million people. By requiring a partnership between local government and an arts or design organization, Our Town encourages creative, cross sector solutions to the challenges facing towns, cities and the arts community. —Lee Kopp
Valuing Public Value
The California Arts Council has announced that 87 California arts organizations will receive Creating Public Value grants. The program seeks to promote the positive impact of the arts in the lives of all Californians by supporting small arts organizations in rural and underserved communities in which geography, economic conditions, ethnic background or disability hinder access to the arts. A total of $773,163 of funds will be awarded. The CAC also awarded over $1 million to 135 arts organizations for its 2011–12 Artists in Schools program, supporting teaching artist residency programs in classrooms and after-school programs. Local recipients are far too numerous to list, but for more information visit cac.ca.gov/programs.
The San Francisco–based Creative Work Fund announced that it will be offering $810,000 in grants this year to performing or media artists and nonprofit organizations for collaborative projects. Artists and organizations should plan projects and prepare and sign their letters of inquiry together. Letters of inquiry are due by Friday, December 2. The Creative Work Fund will invite approximately 60 detailed proposals in February from those who have submitted letters. Through November, CWF is hosting a series of seminars and webinars to assistant potential applicants in applying for the grants. A schedule and more information are available at creativeworkfund.org.
Gather Your Laurels
Arts Council Silicon Valley is launching an artist laureate program to recognize the region’s finest creative artists and reward them for their commitment to developing their art forms. Replacing the Arts Council’s artist fellowship program, the artist laureate program was created to recognize not only mid-career artists, but also emerging artists with less than two years’ professional experience in visual, literary or performing arts. Recipients will each receive a $4,000 cash award in one of five artistic categories: On the Wall (art affixed to, hung on or projected onto a wall or screen); Off the Wall (freestanding or suspended art that can be viewed from all angles); On Stage (art performed for an audience); Off Stage (art created or developed by an artist offstage, backstage or pre-performance, such as music composition, choreography, stage directing, stage/set/costume design or all writing); and Emerging Artist (early career artists with less than two years’ professional experience). The Artist Laureate program is funded by a consortium including the County of Santa Clara, California Arts Council, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The Arts Council will also select one artist honoree for the Arts Legacy prize, a $4,000 cash award for lifetime achievement. Applications for the program are due on November 14, and artist laureates will be announced in March 2012. For further information, visit artscouncil.org. —Lee Kopp
New Day by the Bay
Broadway by the Bay artistic director Brooke Knight is retiring at the end of this season after leading the Peninsula musical theatre company for 18 years. She’ll be feted at BBBay’s annual benefit gala November 13 at the Four Seasons Palo Alto, titled Applause! Applause! A Grand Farewell to Brooke Knight. Started in the 1950s as part of the San Mateo Recreation Department’s Music Camp, the organization grew to become San Mateo Community Theatre in 1956, Peninsula Civic Light Opera in 1983 and finally Broadway by the Bay in 1999. Knight has directed 18 shows (one each year) and overseen 60 musical productions in her time running the company and has won multiple local awards. Amanda Folena has been named the company’s incoming artistic director. A South Bay native, Folena is currently the casting director and company manager at City Lights Theater Company. She got her BA in theatre from the University of Southern California and her MFA in acting from Purdue University, where she created a musical theatre curriculum for the undergrad program. She also works as a dance instructor and acting and vocal coach. Folena will direct Hairspray in BBBay’s 2012 season at Redwood City’s Fox Theatre.
We’ll Have What They’re Having
San Francisco Opera announced in September that Jan I. Shrem and Maria Manetti Farrow are making a $3 million gift to the company. In so doing, Shrem and Manetti Farrow assume the volunteer role of chairs of the Amici di Nicola of Camerata, a group of San Francisco Opera donors who make major gifts to fund the projects that build the company’s international reputation. They will also establish the Great Interpreters of Italian Opera Fund at the organization to...well, to fund great interpreters of Italian opera. Shrem is the proprietor of Clos Pegase Winery in the Napa Valley, where Manetti Farrow—a former high-end designer accessory distributor—owns and operates the estate Villa Mille Rose and produces upscale balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
The Opera Dances
“Today’s singers have to be fit,” exhorts San Francisco Opera choreographer Lawrence Pech. In his 15 years as a resident choreographer for the company, he has seen tremendous changes take place. In one of his latest assignments, the world premiere of Heart of a Soldier (with music by Christopher Theofanidis), Pech is responsible for creating movement for a scene depicting the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11. The San Francisco Opera chorus will inhabit a four-story structure and portray the final moments of those trapped in the World Trade Center. Pech is creating movement for the chorus to show the moment when the planes hit. “This is where opera is going,” he says. “There are contemporary themes and the singers must also be actors. It’s very moving.”
This ambitious premiere actually employs two choreographers. Rick Sordelet, from the Broadway stage, is responsible for the movement style of soldiers in the piece. Pech also describes a wedding scene in the opera that he’s working on where the stage is split between wedding celebrants and Muslims offering their supplications.
Pech also creates choreography this season for the rarely performed Donizetti opera Lucrezia Borgia, starring Renée Fleming. Directed by designer Michael Pascoe, the opera is in period costume, but Pech has been asked to create angular new choreography that will be challenging for the Opera Ballet.
Director José Maria Condemi, who hails from Argentina, also confirms that the training for singers is changing. He says that today’s singers must move and also act. “Foreign languages are hard to understand, so body language and movement are important ways to tell the story,” says Condemi. In fact, his version of Carmen at San Francisco Opera this season includes Brazilian baritone Paulo Szot, a Tony Award-winning actor for South Pacific. Condemi originally had an appointment as a director with the Opera’s prestigious Adler training program for singers, and from there he launched his directing career. He cites his time in the Adler program as formative. “It was a place to get experience. It is hard for directors to get that experience, as opera is so costly.” Condemi also enjoys working on a more intimate scale with smaller companies such as Santa Barbara Opera, where he is artistic director. Intimate stagings allow him to work more intensely on characterization, which informs his direction when he’s working on a larger scale. For his production of Carmen in San Francisco, he’ll focus on the character of Don Jose. “This is an opera about obsession. While Jose is very law abiding, he is also a killer. He has the murder instinct but it’s suppressed. Carmen thrives on danger, and she sees that in her relationship with Jose. She’s a female Don Juan.” Lawrence Pech is the choreographer for Condemi’s production, and he will work with the chorus and the leading singers to create movement that Condemi says will have “no boundary between the body and the hot summer environment of Spain.“
Dance will also be featured later in the season when the Opera presents Nixon in China. Vancouver-based choreographer Wen Wei Wang creates dances to the score by local composer John Adams. –Kathryn Roszak
Formerly and still better known as A Traveling Jewish Theatre, The Jewish Theatre San Francisco kicked off its 35th season with the news that it would close up shop at the end of it. “The artistic and administrative staff and board of directors have determined that it is time to complete the mission of TJT,” the company announced in an email. “In these challenging economic times, we simply cannot raise enough money to continue to produce work at the artistic level that is central to our mission of creating and presenting new Jewish plays. After months of discussion within the company, with our colleagues in the field, and with many of you—our community—we decided that it would be best to present one final season.”
The company’s gone through a lot of changes over the years. Founded in Los Angeles in 1978, TJT moved up to San Francisco in 1982. Its traveling days ended in 1994 when it gained its own 88-seat venue in the Project Artaud building, and last year it changed its name (but not its acronym) to reflect that. Faced with dwindling grants and mounting debt, the company had to resort to an emergency fundraising drive to keep its doors open three years ago, as well as greatly reduced seasons and shelved shows. Long known for new, often experimental work, TJT started experimenting with more well-worn material like Neil Simon and Wendy Wasserstein in larger spaces in the last few years, but the company is going out by going back to its roots.
The last season is very much focused on the work of company leaders. It opens in October with In the Maze of Our Own Lives, a play about Clifford Odets and the Group Theatre written by TJT cofounder Corey Fischer (interviewed on the last page of this issue). February brings Wrestling Jerusalem, a solo show by outgoing artistic director Aaron Davidman, and March sees a work-in-progress performance of Becoming Grace, cofounder and current AD Naomi Newman’s play about writer Grace Paley. And in May comes TJT’s swan song, a weekend-long Tribute to a Traveling Jewish Theatre: Celebrating 34 Years of Making New Jewish Theatre. After that the once-traveling theatre travels into the sunset. —Sam Hurwitt
Renee Fleming as Lucrezia Borgia. Photo: Karin Cooper.
Newsfeed: October 2011 by / Theatre Bay Area StaffPublished 2011-10-01
Wallace Goes South