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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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Apply for an NEA Grant: Arts and the National Parks

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Updated: Monday, January 5, 2015


NEA ALERT: Upcoming grant funding to celebrate the arts and National Parks
"Imagine Your Parks" is a new grant initiative created in partnership by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service to celebrate the intersections between the two agencies in honor of the NEA's 50th anniversary in 2015 and the National Park Service's centennial in 2016. "Imagine Your Parks" will provide an anticipated $1 million in funding through the NEA Art Works grant category to projects that use the arts to connect people with memorable places and landscapes of the National Park System.
"Imagine Your Parks" will support art projects that encourage the creation of and greater public engagement with art around the National Park System. The National Park System includes not only National Parks, but also national historic sites, trails, rivers, seashores, landmarks and national monuments, heritage areas, preserves, battlefields, recreation areas, and more.
Funding will encourage partnerships with park areas or programs and will also support projects that promote public engagement in urban environments, or that engage younger generations with the National Park System. Projects may take place at and around the National Park System, or may take place elsewhere in the United States with a focus on the work and mission of the National Park Service.
"Imagine Your Parks" is funded through the NEA Art Works grant category. Art Works grant guidelines are available at Projects in all art disciplines are eligible for consideration for the "Imagine Your Parks" funding. Prospective grantees can join a webinar on January 21 to learn about Art Works applications and guidelines, including the "Imagine Your Parks" opportunity. 

Tags:  advocacy  Grants  site-specific 

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2015 Annual Conference - Save the Date!

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Updated: Thursday, December 18, 2014




It's official! The 2015 TBA Annual Conference will land on April 13, taking over downtown Berkeley for yet another exciting day of networking, socializing, sharing ideas, information, and best practices.


Save the date, and we'll see you there!

Tags:  #tbacon15  Annual Conference  Membership 

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Great Ho-ho-holiday party!

Posted By TBA Staff, Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Theatre Bay Area extends hearty thanks to everyone who brought good tidings to our annual Holiday Open House last night. It's always so wonderful to get some face time with our members, both long-time and brand new—particularly over wine and chocolate-drizzled popcorn!



Arts administration intern LeeAnn Dowd, field services associate James Nelson and office diva extraordinaire

Michelle Navarrete display their holiday cheer. Photo: Alan Kline


The TBA offices were a source of nondenominational, merry naches, with our famous local-production-themed tree ornaments—and so many actors stopping by to drop off General Auditions and ATLAS applications!


TBA family mix and mingle under our nondenominational

theatre shrub. Photo: Alan Kline


Field services associate James Nelson bartended like a pro, and arts administration intern LeeAnn Dowd knocked it out of the park with the decorations.

No less impressively, communications department resident slobs Sam Hurwitt and Lily Janiak were finally forced to clean their desks—for the first time since this same event last year.


Development manager Brandi Brandes, right, with husband Kevin Carnes

and their adorable baby Marley. Photo: Alan Kline


We already can't wait to see you again at our coming events in 2015: General Auditions on Feb. 21-23 and our Annual Conference on Apr. 13. 

Happy holidays to everyone who makes the local theatre scene so joyful!

Theatre Bay Area



Tags:  Community Events 

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Featured Member: Leontyne Mbele-Mbong

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's easy to be excited about Leontyne Mbele-Mbong, our latest featured member. She's rounding out a pretty spectacular year of work by sharing the stage with her mentor L. Peter Callender in the TBA Award-recommended Breakfast with Mugabe at Aurora Theatre Company. Just last month, Leontyne received the TBA Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Principal Role in a Play for playing the title role in Medea with African-American Shakespeare Company. The title of the award is a little long, but with Leontyne's adeptness with text, she'll have no problem saying it!

TBA Featured Member Leontyne Mbele-Mbong.


Tell us a little about your theatre work.

I've been performing in the Bay Area for sixteen years. I moved here after graduating from Macalester College with a BA in Dramatic Arts. I started off singing with Lamplighters Music Theatre, but I realized that I missed doing legit theatre. My first play in the Bay Area was Map of the World with TheatreFirst—they paid me to act! I have since performed with Woman's Will, Central Works, Solano College, ACT's First Look, Impact Theater, SF Playwrights Center, Altarena Playhouse, African-American Shakespeare Company, Aluminous Collective, and most recently Aurora Theatre Company where I am currently doing Breakfast with Mugabe.


I seem to have done a lot of Shakespeare and classics—not by any particular design but I guess we are drawn to each other. I love figuring out the poetry of Shakespeare, rolling the vocabulary and sentence structure of classic theatre on my tongue. I don't know if Lorraine Hansberry and August Wilson count as classics yet, but, lord, to speak their words—what a treat!


I think that is what I love most about theatre: to speak the speech. To discover how each character speaks, why, and what that says about them. It's an adventure every time.


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

Am I allowed two? A Raisin in the Sun: I love that play, for starters, and Ruth is such a wonderful character: she's so fully realized, though not a woman of many words. She watches a lot, absorbs and reflects back. It was a fun challenge to make sure she didn't just become part of the furniture. She is a study in active listening.


The title role of Medea was a journey I had never taken. I had never worked so hard on a role, developing her language and movement, fine-tuning every moment. When I first looked at that script I was terrified. There were no stage directions, no easing into things—just raw emotion from the start. And I thought, what on earth do I with this? There is nothing to hold on to. I just have to jump and free fall. That was an exhilarating rush!


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

I admire the collaboration, the variety, the multitude of cultures telling their unique stories. What boggles my mind is how in spite of financial difficulties, all of the theatres are devoted to serving the community. Such hard work, countless hours, creativity, resourcefulness. It's amazing!


Do you have a resource or piece of advice you'd like to share?

Hard work and preparation are what allow me to step on stage with confidence. To help me in that process, I have found that having a coach who knows me and how to make me express myself to the best of my ability, and can help me focus on the specifics on my performance, can be a tremendous boon. For me that coach is L. Peter Callender—that's my resource. My advice: find the coach that works for you, who challenges you and helps bring out your best work.

Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community.



Tags:  Featured Member  Leontyne Mbele-Mbong  TBA Awards 

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TBA Holiday Open House Dec. 8!

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Happy New Year! Colorful Bubbly for you!" by Evan Leeson on Flickr. Used under creative Commons license.



Feeling the holiday spirit? We sure are! In fact, the holidays start early at TBA this year – December 8, to be precise – and we'd like to invite all of our beloved members to come on down to 1119 Market and celebrate with us! 

Come see where the magic is made, chat up your TBA friends, and nosh and sip your way to a holiday glow.  

Special for actors: To spread the holiday cheer, we'd like to invite you to drop off your General Auditions/ATLAS applications in person! Mailed applications have a cutoff time of 5 p.m. for acceptance, but if you walk your application in you've got till 7 p.m.! And then relax and enjoy some wine and good company.

What: TBA Holiday Open House

Where: TBA Headquarters, 1119 Market Street, 2nd Floor

When: Monday, Dec. 8, from 5-7 p.m.

Who: TBA staff & amazing TBA members like you!


Tags:  Community Events  Membership  Winter Holidays 

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Featured Member: George Maguire

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bay Area veteran George Maguire is our latest featured member. George has enjoyed an illustrious career across the country, having first joined Actor's Equity fifty years ago. He has been lighting up stages and screens since then, and has also spent many years training future generations of artists. Recently, George has been among the most active adjudicators in the TBA Awards. Needless to say, we're fans.


 TBA Featured Member George Maguire.

Tell us a little about your theatre work.
I have been a proud member of AEA for 50 years. I got my card in 1964 at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera working with Phil Silvers, Ginger Rogers, Vivian Blaine, Georgio Tozzi and others in musicals such as Tovarich, Top Banana, Mr. President and South Pacific. I was there for the next five seasons and returned in 1979 as assistant director. I began an MFA at both the University of Denver and subsequently NYU, and as always happens, I got a job and never quite finished the degree. In 1975, I started to explore the non-musical theatre world and opened up to Shakespeare festivals and numerous regional theatres like Actors Theater of Louisville. I made my Broadway debut in an ill-fated revival of Canterbury Tales. I moved to California to be a faculty member, actor, and director at PCPA Theaterfest and moved to San Francisco in 1986. In 1988, I got a part-time job at Solano Community College, cofounded the Actor Training Program and became full-time for 18 subsequent years (leaving two years ago). I've had the joy of appearing in leading and supporting roles in over 35 films and TV pilots including Fight Club, Pursuit of Happiness, James Franco's Yosemite, and most recently The Right Side of Wrong with James Remar and Lea Thompson. 

What do you like about the theatre scene here in the Bay?
The Bay Area scene is like an extended family of artists: loving, creative, supportive and positive. We thoroughly enjoy going to one another's productions and really give one another a huge and encouraging sense of "Go there!" when we see expansion in work and character-creativity. 

Do you have a resource or piece of advice you'd like to share?
Always live in the positive! Be ready and open to change in both yourself and the world around you. I tell my students that the two most important things an actor owns are your reputation and a box of thank-you cards!

You've also been active adjudicator in the TBA Awards. How has that experience been for you?
Being an adjudicator has opened up a wide range of new experiences, especially with theatres I had not previously visited. The vast panoply of artists and visions in the Bay Area is never to be underestimated. 

Anything coming up soon that you're excited about?
I'm off to live in Europe for three months starting in mid-December!


Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community.


Tags:  Acting  Featured Member  Membership 

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Know Your Audience! Grow Your Audience!

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Updated: Monday, November 3, 2014



Theatre Bay Area is proud to host visionary audience development thinker Matt Lehrman for another Audiences Everywhere™ workshop on Nov. 21! 

He's bringing back his foundational, foundation-shaking workshop for theatre leaders who missed him the last time he came through town.

Here are just some of the tweets from that session:

• From The Marsh ("Thank you @theatrebayarea for bringing @MattLehrman to host his fabulous #AudEv workshop. It's great to learn meta-level ideas for the arts!”) 
• From ODC ("Thanks to @theatrebayarea & @MattLehrman for a great workshop full of new ideas to explore! #audev”)


Highlights from a recent Audiences Everywhere™ presentation for CultureSource in Detroit, Michigan.:


Event information

What: Audiences Everywhere™ workshop on November 21 

Where: Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission Street, San Francisco

When: From 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Who: You! Theatre leaders who are hungry to take their companies to the next level. 


Are you ready to get excited about making a full-company commitment to expanding your audiences? Get your seat today!

Tags:  audience development  marketing  workshop 

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Stuff We Love: Theatre Blogs

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Image: Courtesy of amazing teacher resource Examtime




For such a busy pursuit, theatre-making can also involve lots of waiting. But waiting + WiFi = time to binge on theatre news! (We call it, ahem, "staying abreast on key issues affecting the field.")

So, what blogs do TBA staffers love? Check these out the next time you're waiting for your scene to come up/waiting in line/waiting for that YouTube video of funny cats to cache:


Published by Americans for the Arts, this is really a home for a few different blogs. Especially cool ones are the Arts Education, Emerging Leaders, Arts Marketing, and Public Art blogs.

Barry's Blog
Barry Hessenius writes cleverly about serious issues in arts administration. He also publishes an annual list of the "Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential People in the Nonprofit Arts (USA)," in case you were curious.

Bitter Gertrude
Impact Theatre artistic director Melissa Hillman's blog pulls no punches. Especially if someone out there is being a jerkhole.

Howard Sherman
Arts consultant Sherman (also former executive director of the American Theatre Wing
you know, the Tony Awards people) has an opinion or two. Especially nice is his Oct 14 critique of two very different "Top 10" lists and what they say about theatre in America today.

A blog by theatre-makers for theatre-makers; also, an experiment in sharing knowledge that makes all content free for sharing under a Creative Commons 4.0 license. All you smartypants theatre utopians out there
you're not alone.

More an omnivorous arts blog than one strictly about theatre, this is consistently irreverent, smart, and surprising.

The Idiolect 
TBA Editor-in-chief Sam Hurwitt (also a theatre critic for KQEDArts, The Marin Independent Journal, and the Contra Costa Times
seriously, world domination time) also somehow maintains this blog. Come for the show reviews, stay for posts about Wonder Woman.

Diane Ragsdale's smart, relevant blog on arts leadership and cultural economics contains lots of food for thought. We wish we could clone her so she could post even more often.

SF Theater Pub Blog
The fun, irreverent, far-ranging blog of SF Theater Pub; multiple contributing authors.

Theater Dogs
Chad Jones churns out theatre reviews
ones well worth readingat a pace most other bloggers can only envy.

You've Cott Mail
Totally not a blog, we're sneaking this in anyway because it's so damned useful. YCM is an arts news digest sent directly to your inbox. It puts you in touch, totally effortlessly, with the big news of the day.


Which arts blogs do you dig? Tell us in the comments below!

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Featured Member: Patricia Milton

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Updated: Monday, October 13, 2014

For our latest featured member, we're excited to announce Patricia Milton, a prolific and talented Bay Area playwright. We're continuously impressed by her active involvement in the community as well as her talent for stirring up the conversation on social media (seriously, you have to follow @PatriciaMilton on Twitter). Hats off to Patricia!


 TBA Featured Member Patricia Milton.

Tell us a little about your theatre work.
I'm a playwright, librettist, and lyricist. I specialize in comedy, as that's my orientation to life and the world. Locally, I've worked with Central Works, New Conservatory Theatre Center and Wily West Productions, and my short plays have been seen at places like PianoFight, Woman's Will, and the Exploratorium. I've also had works produced around the country, including several I co-wrote with Indianapolis-based playwright Andrew Black. As a resident playwright with Three Girls Theatre—a company that puts women's work onstage, where it belongs—I've been developing Moments of Truth, a new musical, with music and lyrics by Caroline Altman. I'm also active with Playwrights Center of San Francisco, including teaching workshops for them. 

Do you have a favorite play, or a favorite production you've seen? 
I was hooked on the theatre after my parents took me to see King Lear. I was 13. To me, it remains "the play about the wronged daughter." I love all things Caryl Churchill and Tom Stoppard. Some memorable local favorites include: Fräulein Else, adapted and performed by Francesca Faridany at Berkeley Rep, Aurora Theatre Company's production of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance, and the original production of Angels in America, by Tony Kushner, at the Eureka Theater.

What do you like about the theatre scene here in the Bay? 
As a San Francisco native, I'm very proud of our theatre scene: the number of companies and the variety are enormous. The indie theatre scene is flourishing. And we are blessed with so many talented actors, writers, directors, and tech folks! I feel very fortunate to be working—and attending theatre—in the Bay Area. 

Not to be a suck-up, but Theatre Bay Area is a valuable local resource. I've reaped wonderful benefits as a Titan finalist in the 2013 ATLAS program for playwrights, particularly from the mentorship of Michael Butler. I'm grateful to be a part of two women-specific groups: "Yeah, I Said Feminist" and "Works by Women." They offer support for Bay Area women in theatre and advocate to further gender parity onstage and backstage. 

Do you have a resource or piece of advice you'd like to share? 
Work hard and show up with a generous spirit. That, and—Rewrite

Anything coming up soon that you're excited about?
My new play, Enemies: Foreign and Domestic, opens in February 2015 at Central Works. It's a darkly comic play in which a reunion between a prodigal daughter and her mother goes terribly awry. It has been a challenge and a joy to see that play come to life in the intimate Central Works space at Berkeley City Club. Big shout-outs to a fantastic cast of four: Maura Halloran, Desiree Rogers, Danielle Thys and Jan Zvaifler, as well as our director, Gary Graves. 



Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community.

Tags:  Featured Member  playwright 

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Grill Your Future Mayor about the Arts in Oakland!

Posted By TBA Staff, Saturday, September 27, 2014
Updated: Friday, September 26, 2014

Photo: "Audience at Humanities Theatre" by Mohammad Jangda on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license. 



What, if anything, do the various candidates for mayor of Oakland intend to do for the arts? Ask them!


Several mayoral candidates will be put in the hot seat at the Oakland Mayoral Candidate Forum on Community & Cultural Development on October 9, answering questions put to them by you - the voters. Come out and grill your candidates on the issues of public funding for the arts, arts education, and arts as a major component for economic growth in Oakland. Make your voice heard!

Confirmed participants include Jean Quan, Jason Anderson, Rebecca Kaplan, Courtney Ruby, Saied Karamooz, Libby Schaaf, Patrick McCullough, Dan Siegel, Bryan Parker and Charles Williams.

When: Thursday, October 9, 6-8 p.m. 
Where: Pro Arts, 150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland

Please RSVP to attend. We'd love to see you there!
See the Facebook event for more information


Organizing Partners: Pro Arts, East Bay Housing Organizations, League of Women's Voters and Youth Uprising. 

Community Partners: Oakland Art Murmur, Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Oakland East Bay Symphony and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates.

There will be an open community planning meeting on the arts in preparation for the forum: Thursday, October 2, 6 p.m. at Pro Arts.


The world belongs to those who show up. Show up for art. 


Tags:  advocacy  arts education  Community Events  elected officials  Oakland 

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