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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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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 


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. 

Emma Nicholls (Mentor: Evren Odcikin)

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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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: Jon Wai-keung Lowe

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Updated: Monday, August 24, 2015

For our next featured member, we’re shining the spotlight backstage for some behind-the-scenes insight. Meet Jon Wai-keung LoweWhether he’s herding kids into a production of Cats or introducing audiences to the world of Chinese theatre, Lowe keeps himself one of the busiest people in the Bay Area. A director, designer, filmmaker and theatre founder, he most recently worked on TBA Editors’ Pick Breaking the Code at Theatre Rhinoceros, and will helm Tanya Barfield's The Call for Theatre Rhino in the spring.  

 Jon Lowe.
Tell us a little about your background in theatre and film.

I did a lot of different things in theatre before I became a director. I entered college as a writing major, but quickly realized that an uneventful, middle-class childhood wasn’t rife with source material. After school, I did rotations through props, scenic construction and painting, and design. (I did just enough stage management to respect and run away from it.) Directing came late, but it’s where I feel most stimulated and comfortable at the same time: coordinating different facets of production to embody a unified vision. As a director, I’m a nightmare for some designers because I’m very specific about what I want. The plus side is that I generally know if I’m asking for something insane.

I’m proud to have contributed to projects with big local companies; long-running groups like the Mime Troupe and New Pickle Circus; newer companies like Open Tab and Brickabrack, and design for twenty shows at Theatre Rhino, not including the remount of Breaking the Code, which plays through August at the Eureka. And thanks to Shotz and PlayGround, I’ve started writing again.

The Visible Theater has done three Fringe shows, a Bay One Acts show, and produced several short films. What about your other project, the Kunqu Initiative?

I’ve spent most of my life banging my head against traditional Chinese drama, trying to find a way in. In 2006, I saw Kenneth Pai’s production of Peony Pavilion, the jewel of Kun-style drama. Watching that show, my rudimentary Mandarin, my growing familiarity with Chinese instruments and the preshow seminars all came together for me. I finally got it. The Kunqu Initiative is an effort to consolidate the decades of research I’ve been doing so that other people can access the wealth of Chinese stories that are almost never performed in English. The Initiative is currently stymied by lack of a content management system, so if anyone wants to build my website, lemme know. Stipend: hugs and sammiches.

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

The walk-in exchange tradition. I’ve never heard of this happening in any other city, but it makes absolute sense that if there are unsold seats, other theatre practitioners should get in free. Theatres shouldn’t charge the people they’re underpaying. We should share our resources and learn from each other.

What advice would you have for artists looking to explore the behind the scenes side of theatre? And as a director/designer what might you say to those in front of the scenes?

Some of the absolute worst advice I was ever given was, “Don’t work for free” and “Don’t do community theatre.” Do work for friends. Do work at different levels, especially when you don’t have to. Experimenting and lending a hand will give you a richer spiritual life, despite the financials.

As a director/designer/producer, I ask actors to remember that tech week is when everyone else is trying to get up to the same speed that it took the actors three-plus weeks to achieve. Be a considerate collaborator. Bring treats.

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

I once agreed to light a high school production of Cats just so I could watch people’s faces when I said, “I’m doing a high school production of Cats!” It turned out to be revelatory. I mean, the scenery looked like a cake left out in the rain, but the actors were all so happy to be there. No one worried about their legwarmers making their ass look big. This was around the time Matthew Bourne’s all-male Swan Lake came through town, and the critics were gaga over the soloist who turned 18 fouttés. In Cats, we had a kid who turned 25 fouttés on a point smaller than a salad plate. On the other end of the spectrum, our Bustopher Jones, in two dress runs and two performances, never quite found his key. Or any key. After opening, though, his little brother ran up and gave him the biggest, proudest hug in the history of ever. Priceless. I think that’s all any of us really want.

No rules. No restrictions. The ultimate Jon Wai-keung Lowe production: tell us about it.

I’m researching for my first full-length [play], Under Heaven. It uses a two-thousand-year-old Chinese legend about a treaty bride to examine issues surrounding international adoption and the repatriation of looted artwork. It’s going to make me the next Lauren Yee.

Anything else you want to share with the TBA readers?

My middle name is silent. It started as a way to make my name distinctive and memorable, but I can’t bear to hear any more non-Cantonese speakers butcher the pronunciation. It’s just embarrassing for all of us. Thank you.


Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community. 

Tags:  design  Director  Featured Member  Jon Lowe  Jon Wai-keung Lowe 

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Program Director's Note: South Bay Regional Auditions Recap

Posted By TBA Staff, Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Photo: "Speakers Auditions for TEDx Beirut 2012" by TEDx Beirut/Nada Zanhour on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.


By Dale Albright

At the end of June, Theatre Bay Area held the latest South Bay Regional Auditions at City Lights Theater Company in San Jose. Much like the TBA General Auditions held in San Francisco, this was an opportunity for a large number of actors to do a short audition for a variety of theatre companies in one fell swoop. (If this sort of audition is interesting to you, please keep an eye on for announcements of similar opportunities.)

Following these auditions, TBA surveyed audition participants, both actors and auditors. A few comments were repeated often enough that it seemed appropriate to share some thoughts on them with the greater community.


TBA program director Dale Albright.

Audition time limit. A few actors mentioned that they wished they could have had more time. This is one of the most common comments in all of our group auditions. Equity actors who get three minutes at the General Auditions wish it was four (I have even heard five). Speaking as an actor, I completely understand the desire to have more time for your audition for a variety of reasons. However, more time will not help answer the needs of the casting directors for the purposes of this kind of audition.

The purpose of a general audition is a virtual handshake: to introduce yourself to the auditors in such a way that intrigues them to call you back for a more in-depth audition, should they have a role for which you are a potential match. A large portion of the information that they need to determine whether/when to call you back is provided simply by you showing up (as in, whether or not you fit a “type” that they are looking for, based on what they see in you and/or your resume). The rest of what they need to know (Do you sing? If they are casting for a large, outdoor venue, for example, can your voice fill the space? Did you have a polished and prepared introduction that shows that you are someone with whom they’d be willing to work?) is generally supplied to them in the first 30 seconds of your audition.

Knowing in advance which auditors will attend. Another common question was “Why can’t we know which casting directors or companies are there in advance?” Companies often don’t know if they will be able to attend the general or regional auditions (let alone who their reps will be and at what time they will be there) until the relatively last minute. Since sharing advance information that is inaccurate or incomplete doesn’t help anyone, we don’t do it. We do publish a list of who specifically was at the previous year's year’s general and regional auditions to give auditioners a sense of who may be there this year. This is not the kind of audition to select a monologue for any particular company or show. This is intended to help you cast your acting net widely. Do the pieces that showcase you the best and let the specific monologue tailoring happen in that company’s own general auditions, if they hold them.

Knowing immediately after the audition which auditors attended. We’re also asked, “Why can’t we know who was there and what times they were there immediately after the event?” We always make this list available as soon as possible after any regional or general audition. A few days after this year’s audition, we emailed all participants that the auditor list for the 2015 South Bay Regionals was available online, at Check it out!

Side note: Even if you didn’t attend the auditions, we think this list would be of use to anyone interested in working in the South Bay and Peninsula. Which companies are looking for people? Which directors are working with the companies that were in attendance? This is all helpful information.

Not in response to any particular question or comment, but I would like to say that the South Bay Regional Auditions serve a range of purposes for a lot of different companies. Some are hiring now. Some will be hiring in the future. Some are just looking to expand their talent pool in general. Not being able to attend this year’s auditions shouldn’t preclude you from taking advantage of other opportunities throughout the year. Not all of our South Bay or Peninsula companies are able to attend this one-day event, and those that do often will have other auditions. Certainly no one should put all of the casting eggs in this (or any) general or regional audition. Stay informed of and rigorously pursue current auditions throughout the year—one great place for audition listings is TBA’s Job & Talent Bank (

Notes for actors from the auditors. We also asked the auditors in attendance: “If you could give just one piece of feedback to all of the actors who participated, what would it be?” The most popular replies were:

Enter confidently and with purpose
Take a moment between pieces
Time your material so you don’t go over your allotted time
Make clear distinctions between the characters you play if doing two monologues

We’d love to hear your additional comments about this or other regional auditions. Feel free to comment below, or email us at or

Dale Albright is program director for Theatre Bay Area, and a Bay Area actor and director.

Tags:  Acting  Actor  Auditions  auditor  casting  casting director  Director  South Bay Regional Auditions  TBA general auditions 

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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 and read my blog at

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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