Editors' Picks: September 2015
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Joining TBA’s communications manager Laura Brueckner and listings editor Kim Cohan this month is guest editor Evren Odcikin, director of marketing and new plays for TBA member company Golden Thread Productions, a member of TBA’s Theatre Services Committee. (Check out their upcoming ReOrient Festival!)
Julia McNeal,* Nick Day, Jessi Campbell,* Terry Lamb,* Katharine Chin and Donald Sage Mackay* in Magic Theatre's US premiere of Fred's Diner by Penelope Skinner. (*Member of Actors’ Equity Association) Photo: Courtesy of Magic Theatre
Editors’ Picks: Laura Brueckner, TBA communications manager
Magic Theatre, SF
Sep. 17-Oct. 11
Traveling through Northern Ireland around the turn of the millennium, my friends and I happened across something called the “Ulster-American Folk Park.” Turns out that some Irish folks had decided to open a tourist attraction based on frontier America; through the fence slats it looked odd, and a bit sinister, emphasis placed on all the wrong contours. In this darkly comic turn by UK playwright Penelope Skinner, Fred’s Diner is a similarly nostalgic—and artificial—attraction: a 1950s-style American diner, complete with jukebox, where three women, Chloe (Jessi Campbell), Heather (Julia McNeal) and Melissa (Katharine Chin), hide secrets behind picture-perfect period waitress costumes and freshly starched smiles. In Fred’s Diner, Skinner, whose plays The Village Bike and Fucked likewise examine sexual violence and power, explores what happens when women’s socially enforced veneer of compliant cheerfulness cracks. All I’m saying is, Fred had better watch out. US premiere; Loretta Greco directs. Visit magictheatre.org.
Corridos! Tales of Passion and Revolution
Western Stage, Salinas
Before it was hip to “bring theatre to the people” (much less focus on “audience engagement”), Luis Valdez and his company El Teatro Campesino staged plays on picket lines, on flatbed trucks and in union halls to unite farm workers against exploitative and dangerous working conditions—and made history. In this musical play, steered by an MC-like “El Maestro,” Valdez uses vividly staged corridos (Mexican songs with both comic and dramatic narrative elements) to tell stories of courage and heartbreak: of women who die unjustly at the hands of powerful men, of heroic female soldiers of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, and of the Mexican people who fled their country in the wake of the revolution. Directed by Lorenzo Aragon and César Flores. Visit What's Playing or westernstage.com.
FaultLine Theater at PianoFight, SF
Clocking in at a crisp 60 minutes or so, BedPlay introduces us to a pair of lovers and the dreams, memories and fantasies that haunt their relationship. As produced in 2014 at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre Festival, the script calls for two characters: Girl and Boy. In FaultLine’s West Coast premiere, the roles will be played by two women, Paige Mayes and Lauren Giebitz. FaultLine was founded by Cal alums in 2012, and since then, its theatrical forays have shown interesting range: from “original song cycle” Girlhood to an apparently monthly “theatrical podcast” titled Case of the Mondays to TBA Awards Recommended grunge rock musical Shiner. Visit What's Playing or faultlinetheater.com.
|Jahi Kearse (background) and Darian Dauchan in B Street Theatre's world premiere of Bars and Measures by Idris Goodwin. Photo: Courtesy of B Street Theatre
Editors’ Picks: Kim Cohan, TBA listings editor
Bars and Measures
B Street Theatre, Sacramento
Aug. 22-Sep. 27
With one of my favorite names of all of the plays coming up within the next couple of months, B Street Theatre’s new work about family, reconciliation and the undercurrent of rhythm and melody in life was a clear pick for the month of September. Bars and Measures tells the story of two brothers: a Christian classical pianist and a Muslim jazz musician, currently in jail—and their journey toward understanding each other through music. Produced through the National New Play Network, director Buck Busfield reached out to playwright Idris Goodwin about a commission after reading Corey Kilgannon’s 2007 New York Times article about brothers Antoine Dowdell and Tarik Shah; Goodwin was immediately interested in both the brothers’ relationship and the idea of a play centered around music and sound. After B Street Theatre, the play will move to Prop Thtr in Chicago, then Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, followed by Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena. Visit What's Playing or bstreettheatre.org.
Amélie, A New Musical
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Aug. 28-Oct. 4
The five-time Academy Award-nominated Amélie is finally becoming a musical! The enchanting, magical story of Amélie, the shy French girl who devotes her time to helping bring joy to others, is an ideal story to bring to the stage. The beautiful film score by Yann Tiersen conveys the storyline almost as much as the script does. However, Dan Messe of the band Hem is composing the music for the musical. As he will not be drawing on Tiersen’s iconic score, it will be exciting to see Messe’s version (with Craig Lucas’ book and Nathan Tysen’s lyrics) of this whimsical tale. Visit What's Playing or berkeleyrep.org.
Homeward Bound: An Orphan Train Journey
The Tabard Theatre Company at Theatre on San Pedro Square, San Jose
Sep. 18-Oct. 11
Growing up, I was fascinated by the stories of brave orphans traveling across the country, away from everything they knew and thrown into the unfamiliar. “Orphan Trains”—a factual part of one of the most interesting programs in US history, and one of the least known—transported orphans from East Coast cities for adoption by families in the west. Homeward Bound tells the stories of six girls as they travel across the country to new homes in San Jose, California. In conjunction with the opening of Homeward Bound, Tabard has partnered with the National Orphan Train Complex to host the very first Western States Orphan Train Conference. Visit What's Playing or tabardtheatre.org.
|Monica Ho as Sadako in JC Lee's Crane. Photo: Adam Tolbert
Editors’ Picks: guest editor Evren Odcikin, freelance director and director of marketing and new plays for TBA member company Golden Thread Productions.
Ferocious Lotus at NohSpace, SF
Sep. 17-Oct. 11
Lee is slowly becoming an “A-list” Hollywood writer (How to Get Away With Murder, Girls, Looking), but I fell in love with his writing from his early plays filled with too-smart-for-their-own-good teenagers and bold, theatrical flights of fancy. Like most of Lee’s plays, Crane seems to be full of fun juxtapositions—beautiful poetry with crass contemporary language; a magical, heightened world with a cutthroat, materialistic contemporary story. The world premiere of a new play by Lee digging into Japanese mythology, with the always-on-point Mina Morita at the helm, gets me very excited. Crane also marks the first standalone production for Ferocious Lotus, a new company in the Bay Area “giving voice to artists with diverse and international perspectives.” That’s a mission I can get behind! Visit ferociouslotus.org.
The Oldest Boy
Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley
Sep. 10-Oct. 4
It’s a new Sarah Ruhl play. Do I really need to say more? Go see it! Seriously, though, I love Sarah Ruhl’s imagination. Whether she is blowing up classics like she did in Eurydice, or imagining historical lives like she did in In the Other Room: The Vibrator Play, there is always something playful, dangerous and beautifully human about her writing. In The Oldest Boy, Ruhl tells the story of a mother whose son (played by a gorgeous wooden puppet) is identified as a reincarnated lama. Visit What's Playing or marintheatre.org.
Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SF
Jun. 13-Oct. 6
I thank the theatre gods for YBCA. I am a performance-history nerd and I can always count on YBCA’s exhibitions to inspire me—and teach me a thing or two. I know few of the artists featured in Radical Presence, a month-long exhibition of performance by black artists from the US and the Caribbean, and that’s why I am so excited to attend. Live performance events in September include internationally renowned installation artist Theaster Gates’ See, Sit, Sup, Sing: Holding Court, an immersive experience that will feature (on different dates) Marc Bamuthi Joseph presenting A Seeker's Guide to Black Joy, Brooklyn-based artist Chitra Ganesh discussing visual intersections between performance and protest, and Radical Presence artists exploring issues around documenting and presenting “performance/live/time-based art.” Visit ybca.org/radical-presence.