Editors' Picks: July 2016
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Happy July! The weather outside can’t seem to make up its mind, but inside theatres this month, things are hot, hot, hot! Theatre Bay Area’s editors are excited about the glorious offerings this month, from script-in-hand readings of up-and-coming playwrights at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival to Hearts of Palm, a sociopolitical “dramedy” confronting palm oil production going up at Central Works. Also hot tickets: The Awakening (The Breadbox), Campo Maldito (People of Interest Theatre), the West Coast Musical Improv Fest (Un-Scripted Theater Company) and Wild Boy (Dragon Productions).
Rotimi Agbabiaka*, Elizabeth Carter*, Akilah Walker, Thom Green, Michael Wayne Turner and Ryan Vincent Anderson* in Kara Lee Corthron’s Welcome to Fear City at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, 2015. *Member, AEA.
Photo: Jim Norrena
Bay Area Playwrights Festival
Playwrights Foundation at Custom Made Theatre, SF
If the Bay Area is a major center for powerful new work (and it is), Playwrights Foundation is one of the reasons. Founded in 1976 by Robert Woodruff to produce the festival, PF now hosts playwright residencies, master classes and readings year-round, plus coproductions with local companies. The festival—two weekends of music-stand readings with professional actors, directors and dramaturgs at bargain ticket prices, plus special panels with the artists—also hosts an industry professionals’ weekend for theatre reps shopping for their seasons, like auditions for playwrights. This year’s festival features Bay Area talents Andrew Saito and Jonathon Spector, as well as Hansol Jung, Walt McGough, Philana Omorotionmwan and Sarah Sander. Considering that BAPF writers frequently go on to wider success, Broadway and/or Pulitzer Prizes—including Sam Shepard, David Henry Hwang, Anna Deavere Smith, Mac Wellman, Nilo Cruz, Marcus Gardley, Annie Baker and Katori Hall—you won’t want to miss any of this year’s rising stars. Visit playwrightsfoundation.org.
The Breadbox at Exit Stage Left, SF
Jul. 29-Aug. 20
Kate Chopin’s pioneering 1899 novel The Awakening is the source for this world-premiere stage adaptation by Oren Stevens at Breadbox. Stevens, also the company’s associate artistic director and production manager, is experienced in adapting landmark works of literature; he’s previously adapted ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore for Breadbox (2013), as well as bringing T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land to the stage and directing a devised adaptation of Madame Bovary—but I’m chiefly interested in how this telling will update the source’s turn-of-the-century social pressures for modern audiences. Breadbox artistic director Ariel Craft directs a team that includes 2015 TBA Award recipients Justin Gillman (acting) and Liz Ryder (sound design). Visit What’s Playing or breadboxtheatre.org.
People of Interest Theatre at Exit Theatre, SF
Jul. 28-Aug. 13
Bennett Fisher was a Bay Arean before succumbing to the siren song of UC San Diego’s MFA playwriting program. He hasn’t left the Bay behind, however; Campo Maldito (Spanish for “cursed ground”) is a comic cautionary tale of gentrification set in SF’s Tenderloin, where a young CEO discovers that his tech startup’s building is haunted. The obvious solution: call in a Santeria priest for an exorcism...right? Directed by Jesca Prudencio at the NY International Fringe Fest, Wagner Theatre Festival and SF Fringe fest (2014 SF Fringe Best of Fringe Award), this production has been thoroughly road-tested by audiences—great for sharpening comedy. Visit peopleofinterest.org.
|Rinabeth Apostol* in Central Works’ world-premiere production of Hearts of Palm by Patricia Milton. *Member, AEA.
Photo: Jim Norrena
Hearts of Palm
Central Works at the Berkeley City Club
Jul. 16-Aug. 14
From playwright Patricia Milton (2015 TBA Award Recipient, Outstanding World Premiere) comes Central Works’ 52nd world premiere: a political dramedy focusing on environmentally devastating palm oil production, its contribution to our current climate crisis and the human and land rights abuses that are prevalent in its production. Omnipresent in the western world, palm oil is found in more than half of all processed goods worldwide. Hearts of Palm, developed at the Central Works Writers Workshop, is set on a small Southeast Asian island, and follows the interplay between a corporate team planning to turn the island into a palm oil plantation and the local rebel resistance. As seen in her previous award-winning play and other works, Milton is a pro at blending painfully direct and on-point social and/or political commentary with comedy and relatable characters—making for a must-see show! Visit What’s Playing or centralworks.org.
West Coast Musical Improv Fest
Un-Scripted Theater Company, SF
Un-Scripted Theater Company, one of San Francisco’s local producing companies specializing in a conglomeration of genres from staged plays to long-form improv and more, decided to launch this super-cool new festival to celebrate and increase the recognition of musical improv in the Bay Area, while also gathering amazing troupes from all over the country to join in and play! For this first annual West Coast Musical Improv Festival, Un-Scripted is bringing together 17 musical improv troupes for a four-day extravaganza. Along with the sure-to-be-exciting shows, there are also going to be workshops on musical improvisation for participants of all skill levels. Visit What’s Playing or wcmusicalimprov.com.
Dragon Productions Theatre Company, Redwood City
Jul. 29-Aug. 21
When I first read the script for Wild Boy, I found myself both intrigued and touched. And that is what a play that delves into such important, meaningful subjects in such an interesting way should do: make you think about the choices and life consequences that we don’t often deal with or talk about. Based upon Paul Collins’ memoir, Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism, Oliver Goldstick’s play splits between Collins’ modern-day story of his son’s autism diagnosis and the story of Peter, “the Wild Boy,” a feral youngster found by King George I in 18th-century Germany. Directed by Ken Sonkin. Visit What’s Playing or dragonproductions.net.