By Pat Launer
The Archangels are all Wet ; the Dutchman is on fire
There’s a whole lotta lust in The Labyrinth of Desire.
THE SHOW: Wet , Or Isabella the Pirate Queen Enters the Horse Latitudes , a world premiere by Liz Duffy Adams, who wrote the magnificent and much-lauded Dog Act, also a Moxie Theatre production
THE STORY: Isabella is a legendary pirate, the bastard child of Neptune, god of the sea. After a terrible storm, she’s ship-less and she’s lost most of her followers. Her few faithful in tow — an electrified girl, a tough-talking woman and a prissy cross-dresser – she boards a drifting, tempest-tossed ship, with its three bedraggled survivors: the war-obsessed captain, his fiercely devoted ship’s boy and a loner/philosopher. The men become the women’s captives, and then their captors, even in some cases, their lovers. When the ship enters the horse latitudes, the windless area surrounding the Equator, there’s plenty of time to talk; each character tells a story of intense personal pain that explains who they are and how they’ve come to be where they are. These revelations (though admittedly exaggerated for dramatic effect) spark love, lust and understanding. There is much sexual innuendo, several same-sex attractions and satisfying coupling at the end, as the group goes off to find the mythical island of El Mirago , to establish a brave new world.
The setting is some time in the past, in the time of large sailing ships. But other than that, it could be any time, even a post-apocalyptic future. Men are still slavishly devoted to war; women can be brutal and murderous, too. Strangers can come together. Love will find a way. At the end, as in Dog Act, we’re left with the possibility of hope, healing and renewal.
Written in the aftermath of 9/11, the play deals with war, domination, freedom, love and the potential for making a fresh start in a brave new world. Adams has a lot on her mind, and while frequently referencing Shakespeare (the play begins with a Tempest; the philosopher’s name is Horatio, and he often speaks in verse, etc.), she makes definitive points about conquest, domination and American war-mongering. But the result isn’t as wholly satisfying as her heart-stopping Dog Act. She plays quite a bit with language, she creates intriguing characters, but the narrative arc needs fleshing out, as does the resolution. Adams will undoubtedly do more fine-tuning of the text, and she should emerge with a more powerful piece. That will complete her ‘transport trilogy,’ as she calls it, which includes unusual characters meeting in unusual circumstances while in transit (by land or sea). Wet, The Reckless Brutal Charge of it, or The Train Play and Dog Act , also represent, respectively, the past, present and future.
THE PLAYERS/THE PRODUCTION: Once again, the women of Moxie overflow with moxie… and an enormous wellspring of talent. Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg continues to bring her prodigious energy and creativity to any piece of drama, all the while encouraging depth of character from her cohorts – and a little humor, too. This works far better with her female than male performers. The men — Tom Deák as the upright, uptight captain; Chris Walsh as his devoted naïf; and Laurence Brown as the articulate, blank-verse-spouting poet/philosopher — are all solid but less varied, deep and colorful than the women, who are uniformly outstanding. Straddling the sex-line is Don Loper, who does an excellent job as the ambisextrous Marlene, an enigmatic character who uses all his/her wiles to mediate the genders and conflicts. Jo Anne Glover is a marvel as Isabella – tough but tender, brutal but thoughtful, a charismatic leader and a true visionary. Liv Kellgren is splendid as the tough-as-nails Jenny, Isabella’s fierce defender and foul-mouthed warrior (“Yo fargin ho!”), who’s aggressive toward men but sweet on Sally. Jennifer Eve Thorn plays that electric, electrified siren who, having been struck by lightning, can spark or burn anyone who touches her (hence, the heavy gloves). Her frequent orgasmic/electric jolts (not to mention her costume) are unequivocally erotic.
Scenic designer Jerry Sonnenberg has created a marvelous ship, with a minimalist suggestion of ropes, tattered sails and sloped decks, stretched across the expanse of the Lyceum Space. Eric Lotze’s skies are usually more bright and blue than the stormy gray descriptions, and the dandelion sun that arcs across the firmament is more fanciful than anything else in the otherwise realistic, attractive lighting design. The lights, coupled with Rachel Le Vine’s excellent sound, make for a harrowing opening storm sequence. Fred Kinney’s costumes are undistinguished for the men, provocative for the women.
Although the piece needs tweaking, there are so many wonderful elements already in place. It’s definitely worth a look-see – and a contemplation of how we make our own place in the world.
THE PLACE: Moxie Theatre at the Lyceum, through December 10
THE BOTTOM LINE: BEST BET
EVERYTHING SEEN IN BLACK AND WHITE
THE SHOW: Dutchman , Amiri Baraka’s incendiary 1964 contemplation of white-black relations in America . Winner of an Off Broadway Obie Award for Best American play of 1963-64, it was made into a film in 1966, directed by Anthony Harvey, starring Shirley Knight and Al Freeman, Jr.
THE BACKSTORY: First, a bit about Baraka. Born LeRoi Jones in 1934, the dramatist, poet and novelist is arguably the leading American creator of militant black theater. He established black theaters and headed Black Nationalist organizations. In 1965, he divorced Hettie Cohen, the Jewish woman he’d wed in a Buddhist temple seven years earlier. Then he married a black woman, Sylvia Robinson, who became known as Amina Baraka; they had five children. In 1967, Jones left behind his “slave name” and morphed into Imamu (Swahili for ‘spiritual leader’) Amiri Baraka. Later, when he became a Marxist, he dropped Imamu as having “bourgeois nationalist implications.” His work in the 1960s became increasingly radical; during the Civil Rights movement, he strongly advocated black power rather than integration (“We must eliminate the white man before we can draw a free breath on this planet”). In the 1970s, he abandoned Black Nationalism and embraced Marxist Lenninism, supporting the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system, black or white. In 2002, the state of New Jersey named him poet laureate. But a year later, amid controversy over his 9/11 poem, “Somebody Blew Up America,” which was considered to be frankly anti-Semitic, he was asked to resign. When he refused, the Governor abolished the poet laureate position altogether.
Dutchman , one of Baraka’s most popular plays, uses the technique of Antonin Artaud’s “Theater of Cruelty,” forcing audience members to face and examine their prejudices through the violence of the dramatic action.
THE STORY: Set in a steamy New York subway car, the play depicts a combative confrontation between Lula, a seductive and sadistic white woman, and Clay, a clean-cut, middle-class black man. Menacing and unpredictable, Lula emerges as the face of a manipulative, destructive white power. Clay grapples with his own identity – racial and sexual — and the power struggle between him and Lula. There’s a strong Adam-Eve strand: Lula offers Clay an apple – and herself (forbidden fruit) — and she ultimately destroys him. The underground location can be viewed as symbolic, mythical, or subconscious, and the title may refer to the fate of the Flying Dutchman, the spellbound phantom ship, a portent of disaster, that’s doomed to sail the seas forever. At the end of the play, there is a clear implication of a cyclical pattern, with the suggestion that this scene will recur, and similar scenes have been enacted throughout history. It’s an unsettling, emotionally violent drama, an intense 50 minutes with a growing sense of danger that builds suspensefully to a shocking conclusion.
THE PLAYERS/THE PRODUCTION: This is the kind of dark, disturbing piece that’s become the calling card of Lynx Performance Theatre and its artistic director Al Germani. Germani’s signature style is very much in evidence: the dim room-lighting and glaring spotlights; actor tableaux framed by blackouts; precisely choreographed, stylized movements; long, silent moments; characters who face the audience, not each other; voiceover poetry; a slow build to an alarming climax.
The posed freeze/snapshot setups make for a sluggish beginning, and the voiceover poem is not clearly articulated. The scratchy-record, breakneck run through a century of African American music isn’t quite effective, and the transitions are unnervingly jerky. But once the action begins, it catapults at fearsome speed to its deadly dénouement. The use of masks (stylized white and step-n-fetchit blackface) is provocative, as is the only prop/set-piece: a bright red, dangling subway strap, that could double as a noose. Germani has added some characters and subtracted others. His Ghost (David B. Phillips, who also does the voiceover) serves as the intermediary between the two characters; they never touch or look at each other, and this serves as a distancing factor, an unfortunate choice in such an intimate theater space. Bill Kehayias is the Saxman, punctuating the action with his horn, but he overpowers Clay’s climactic black-manifesto monologue. He also provides the repeated train sound effects (though no subway ever goes ‘woo woo’).To underscore the violent ending, there should be onlookers, who become complicit in the murder, blandly, blindly turning away and exiting the train as directed. This is as strong a statement as any in the piece, and it goes unmarked in this production.
But at heart, this is a two-hander. Patrick Kelly does a fine job as Clay, gradually revealing the potency and rage beneath his passive, credulous veneer. Michelle Procopio, with her remarkable cascade of red hair (the play is written for a redhead), her pale face, virginal white dress and shameless red lipstick, is deliciously demented as the temptress Lula – volatile, capricious, sensuous, vicious. It’s a striking performance.
THE PLACE: Lynx Performance Theatre space in Rose Canyon , through Dec. 10
THE BOTTOM LINE: GOOD BET , for those who like provocative, inflammatory theater
LOVE IS A MANY GENDERED THING
THE SHOW: The Labyrinth of Desire , a new adaptation of a Lope de Vega play by noted Hispanic playwright/translator Caridad Svich, a UCSD alumna. The piece was commissioned by the UCSD Dept of Theatre and Dance at the request of graduating MFA student director Gerardo Jose Ruiz, for whom this is a thesis production.
THE BACKSTORY: This play, too, is best appreciated in the context of its creator. Lope de Vega (1562-1635), a contemporary of Shakespeare, is considered to be Spain ’s greatest playwright. He penned some 2000 plays, of which fewer than 500 survive. His love life was as prolific as his professional life. He had multiple marriages, and numerous assignations and offspring. And many scandals, including lawsuits, prison terms and exile. Shockingly, in 1614, he became a priest, but he continued writing secular plays and carrying on his romantic dalliances, even with married women. But reportedly, he also regularly scourged himself; the walls of his room were frequently flecked with blood from his purifying self-flagellation. He created his prodigious output with alacrity; he once admitted that more than 100 of his comedies took no more than 24 hours from the Muses to the boards of the theater.
His plays primarily concern the petty nobility of Spain , ensnared in romantic intrigue and conflicts of love and honor. The Labyrinth of Desire had lain dormant since the 17th century, until it was translated into English for the first time (by Michael Jacobs) in 2002. Now another translation can be added to the canon. It is rife with modern language that presses up against the feudal ideas and ideals of honor and a courtly class system. It has been said that this play is a witty comment on the emotional labyrinth that was Lope de Vega’s own life.
THE STORY: This erotic tale of scandal and intrigue is an exploration of the ambivalence and mutability of love. It’s a study in contrasts, a comedy with tragic undertones that pokes fun at conventions and crosses the lines of class and gender. A jilted Italian woman, Florela, trails after her beloved Alejandro, who has left Mantua to join the parade of money-grubbing suitors vying for the hand of Laura, the wealthy daughter of the Duke. Florela goes directly to Laura, pretending to be a lady-in-waiting and then a man in disguise. She and Laura are physically and emotionally attracted, though both are also interested in Alejandro. Some of the other suitors and their servants seem to have same-sex attractions. Everyone ends up with a mate, but nearly no one gets what s/he wants.
THE PLAYERS/THE PRODUCTION: Director Ruiz has created an exaggerated, over-the-top romp. Men prance, women swagger, and everyone swoons . It’s great fun, though it ends on a somber note of deepest desires unfulfilled. The ensemble of MFA acting students is outstanding. Michelle Diaz is irresistible as the mixed-identity Florela, who pairs up equally well with the dazzling blonde, Amy Ellenberger, as Laura, and handsome Peter Wylie as the arrogant, self-aggrandizing Alejandro. Larry Herron is a hoot as Alejandro’s man, Camacho. But his sudden eruptions of swearing are jarring to the rest of the courtly text. Also from the lower echelon, Eduardo Placer is very funny as the blatant admirer of the men he serves. Brandon Taylor makes an amusing transition from the nerdy friend of Florela to the ultra-macho suitor of Laura. Brian Hostenske is comical as the fey paramour Paris. Molly Fite is lusty as the maid Finea, and Craig Huisenga makes for a benevolent dying Duke. Nikki Black’s set is an evocative suggestion of exposed, half-crumbling columns, and together with lighting designer Christian DeAngelis, creates a labyrinth (one of the several tests for the greedy suitors) formed by a sequentially lighted pathways. The costumes (Emily DeAngelis) are odd, the classes distinguished by the fabric of their thick cummerbunds; not a very attractive style for anyone. But the overall production is a delight, and it clearly shows, yet again, “what fools these mortals be,” especially in the labyrinth of love.
THE PLACE: UCSD in the Potiker Theatre, through November 25
THE BOTTOM LINE: BEST BET
IT’S A DOG’S LIFE
THE SHOW: Archangels Don’t Play Pinball , an early satire by Dario Fo , the Italian playwright, director, actor, composer and Nobel Prize-winner (1987). This SDSU production does not indicate which of the various translations is being used
THE BACKSTORY: In persistently encouraging audiences to question authority, Fo’s comic philosophy has always been: “If you can make people laugh, you can open up their minds. You remember things much better through laughter than through tears.”
His own life has been no joke. During WWII, he helped his father, a member of the Italian Resistance, to smuggle stranded Allied soldiers across the border into neutral Switzerland . For his controversial acts, writings and political stances, he’s been jailed, beaten, threatened with assassination. His homes and theaters have been bombed and burned. In the face of all this, humor has been his weapon of choice.
He said he was “flabbergasted” when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature; he was not alone, since Salman Rushdie and Arthur Miller had been the presumed front-runners. In 2006, the 80 year-old Fo unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Milan ; he was supported by the Communist Refoundation Party. (He’s been referred to as “the Red mime of Milan ”). Last spring, Fo’s long-time personal/professional partner, Franca Rame, won her bid for the Italian Senate.
THE STORY: When it was performed in Zagreb in 1959, Archangels Don’t Play Pinball was the play that catapulted Fo to international fame. Renowned as a master clown, his comedy is typically a blend of low physical humor, high intelligence, wild theatrical imagination, absurdist sensibility and biting political and social satire. But there’s a lot less of the latter here than in other plays (e.g., We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay !; Accidental Death of an Anarchist.).
The central character is Tiny, a likable, well-meaning sap used by his fellow crooks to amuse themselves and to bilk the unsuspecting. The hoods set up a phony wedding to a supposed Albanian beauty, really a browbeaten prostitute named Angela, who so charms Tiny that he vows to become a better person and live up to his birth moniker, Sunny Weather. Deliverance means outsmarting a variety of meanies, including his no-good buddies and a veterans’ registration office that has mistakenly classified him as a Labrador retriever. Along the way, he is caged in a dog-pound, switches roles (and pants) with a Senator, is arrested, interrogated, adopted by an illusionist and generally buffeted about in a soulless, bureaucratic world where normality is regulated and nothing makes sense. Tiny repeatedly finds himself a helpless pinball bounced back and forth among the various do-badders he encounters ( pinball may have been a symbol of American cultural imperialism in 1950s Italy ). And at the end, he calls upon the archangels, in an oblique titular reference to the famous Einstein line: “God does not play dice with the universe.” Neither do His henchmen, apparently.
This is the world of silent-film comedy, where the hero is an innocent victim imperiled by authoritarian and industrial forces. The comedic influences are Chaplin and Keaton, but the moral outrage harks back to Aristophanes. Alas, this play is definitely early and undeveloped Fo ; the shaggy-dog story is more silly than satirical, despite the updates and American references inserted into the current production. The dream sequence feels contrived, and the unifying metaphor about the pinball game of life falls flat. There are disappointingly few socio-political jabs: broad parody of government red tape, corrupt politicians and thick-brained thieves (Mafiosi?) who don’t realize that their in-house fool is fooling them; and chastising “anyone who allows himself to be muzzled without a whimper of protest.” But there’s little of the sharp, biting edge of Fo’s best work. This is obviously a freshman effort, and an odd choice for the SDSU program.
THE PLAYERS/THE PRODUCTION: Director/faculty member Peter Larlham tries every trick/shtick in the book to make the play funny and relevant. Though there are some inspired comic bits, most of them are recycled and overused throughout the production. The play needs a baffled, Chaplin-esque clown at the center of its noisy comic storm. Gavin Bowen is pleasant, physically agile and amiable, but this isn’t a show-stopping, life-defining performance, and it should be (I still remember Nick Spear in Accidental Death of an Anarchist at SDSU– the first time I ever saw him perform – ten years ago) . As the good-hearted but downtrodden Angela, Theresa Lenz is a sheer delight: she’s beautiful, comical and the only real singer on the stage. The romantic pair have credible compatibility and connection. The ensemble is variable in their multiple roles. They sport a most inventive, alluring array of outfits, wild and wildly imaginative. Costume designer Shirley Pierson has leaned heavily toward the clownish (the bureaucrats are, in fact, red-nosed, bald-pated and orange-tufted). Love those flashing-light bustiers for the whores! The makeup (uncredited) is intriguing, too, with oversized noses as a running joke. The physical comedy (all those slaps and pratfalls!) is very well executed, but it grows tiresome without much to hang its hat on. A great deal of time and energy obviously went into this production, but the play itself doesn’t warrant it.
THE PLACE: In the Experimental Theatre on the campus of SDSU; production resumes November 30-December 2
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES OF THE WEEK:
…Vox Nova Theatre Company presented a staged reading of El Jardin Secreto, a new, bilingual adaptation of The Secret Garden written by founder/artistic director Ruff Yeager, directed by Playwrights Project founder/exec director Deborah Salzer. It’s another creative venture for the multi-talented Yeager, an actor, director and composer as well as a playwright. This work is clearly geared to young people, and it hews close to the Frances Hodgson Burnett original. Large chunks of narrative were lifted directly and split among a Greek Chorus of three (Sandra Ruiz, Wendy Waddell, Kalif Price). Spanish words and phrases are interspersed throughout and repeated, less as a nod to Spanish speakers than a lesson for the monolingual. Many of those asked to speak the Spanish words were less than facile with the language. Michelle Cabinian was forceful as the willful young Mary Lennox, an American from Mexico forced to go live with her sour, widowed uncle in Julian. The household help includes a supposedly heavily accented Margarita (Diana Rendon) whose brother is the animal-whisperer Ricardo (a lot less magical than the original Dickon, but affably played by Bernie Toledo). Laura Bozanich was aptly stern and dour as Mrs. Medlock, the housekeeper ; Morgan Hollingsworth was charming as the sickly Colin; Steve Taft was especially genial as the gentle gardener, Ben Weatherstaff; and Jeannine Marquie was luscious as El Pettirojo, the robin redbreast who guides Mary to her late aunt’s beloved garden. The ever-adorable Marquie really seemed to fly through the theater (she choreographed her own moves) and she’s an impressive whistler. A lot of the action is told rather than shown (particularly in the letter from Mrs. Medlock to Uncle Frank Craven), which is less than dramatic. But with some punching up, this might make for an excellent touring production to schools, an intriguing way to introduce a classic and engage students from both sides of the border.
Now Vox Nova is inviting union and non-union actors to audition for its three upcoming readings: Seneca’s Thyestes, in a new translation by Marianne McDonald, directed by Ashley Adams, executive director of the Theatre Conservatory at Canyon Crest Academy (Jan. 15 performance); Foreign Bodies, by acclaimed New York playwright Susan Yankowitz, directed by Kirsten Brandt (March 26); and UCSD professor Allan Havis’ latest creation, The Tutor, directed by Ruff Yeager. Auditions are Dec. 3 & 4; firstname.lastname@example.org
…If you missed Brian Stokes Mitchell in his one-night-only benefit appearance on behalf of his alma mater, San Diego Junior Theatre, you missed one of the best, most touching and thrilling performances of the year. He was, of course, in excellent voice (that deep, rich baritone sends shivers down the spine). But he also showed what a giving, caring, gracious and grateful man he is. He seemed positively gleeful to be here, to acknowledge the teachers who so positively influenced him and launched his career, including Don and Bonnie Ward (whom he called “my theater parents”) and DJ Sullivan, and even his junior high school drama teacher, who was also present. There were nearly 600 adoring fans in the audience and he clearly appreciated and returned their affection. He talked a lot, telling stories from his past in San Diego , introducing his father, recalling how his mother had been the President of the Board of JT. He brought down the house with numbers from the shows he’d done and the roles he’d played at Junior Theatre: Bye Bye Birdie (Conrad Birdie’s “A Lot of Living”), Oklahoma (Curley’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’”) and Peter Pan (“Captain Hook”). He remembered his first dance, transforming himself brilliantly into the gawky, overweight kid he was, in a poignant medley (“It’s Not Easy Being Green,” juxtaposed with Bruce Hornsby’s sadsack loser-song, “Hooray for Tom”). Of course, Stokes sang songs from his best Broadway performances: Ragtime’s anthemic “Wheels of a Dream”; “So In Love” from his Tony-winner, Kiss Me Kate; a luscious rendition of “This Nearly Was Mine” from South Pacific; and the inevitable encore, La Mancha ’s “Impossible Dream.” And a few selections from his romantic new album, most of the arrangements created by Stokes himself: “The Best is Yet to Come,” “How Long Has This Been Goin’ On.” I’d heard him sing some of these songs when he teamed up with Barbara Cook for a concert at the Orange County Performing Arts Centre. But his being back ‘home’ brought such a depth of emotion to everything, it was exhilarating. He seemed genuinely surprised and touched to hear the City Council proclamation of Brian Stokes Mitchell Day. What a tribute and triumph for all!
…BRAVISSIMO TO BRAVO – The mega-event is ‘on hiatus,’ but the folks at BRAVO San Diego hosted an invitation-only thank-you party to take a breath and remember the seven successful years of the enormous arts-and-business gathering that spotlighted scores of performing arts companies county-wide. Still situated in the elegant Westgate Hotel, the evening was a streamlined affair, but the booze was flowing and the food was fine. The group made surprisingly short shrift of the awardees, and failed to introduce Jacqueline Siegel, the new executive director of the Performing Arts League, the arts organization that was instrumental in creating BRAVO from the get-go. The entertainment featured the impressive San Diego Chamber Orchestra, under the assured baton of Jung-Ho Pak, charming as ever. In this 250th birthday year, he presented two Mozart pieces, the Piano Concerto #4, 3rd movement impressively performed by the very poised young Rossina Grieco. Then Jung-Ho introduced a classical riff on “Happy Birthday,” played in the style of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss. That brought the house down. The L.A.-based local favorite, jazz/blues singer Sweet Baby Jai, was gracefully accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra. I had to split early to catch the opening of Wet, so I missed the San Diego Master Chorale, and Rita McKenzie doing her Ethel Merman thang. A generous but surprisingly low-key evening.
NEWS AND VIEWS
…The Chronos Theatre Group had to postpone its Nov. 20 staged reading of two comic Chinese plays from the 13th century, due to a cast member’s family illness. A new schedule for these plays will be announced. Meanwhile, Doug Hoehn is directing Aristophanes’ Peace on December 18, “giant dung-eating beetle” and all.
…Last weekend’s hot memorabilia sale to benefit the MFA Musical Theatre program at SDSU featured more than 600 books on theater, film and TV, and more than 1000 LPs. With no item costing more than $5, and many selling for just 50¢, they pulled in more than $500. There’s still a good deal of stuff left, so the program plans to have another sale in April or May, and then donate the rest to charity. If you missed it this time, look for future announcements and dates here. There’s definitely something for every theater, TV and/or film lover. And doesn’t that include just about everybody? While I was at State, Rick Simas gave me the grand tour of the brand, spanking-new musical theater archive. Beautiful equipment, organization and layout. Scores and scripts available from scads of musicals – the known and the lesser-known. A great resource for the students and the community.
And speaking of those MFA students in musical theater, they’re part of one of only four such graduate programs nationwide. And they’ll be having their first Portfolio presentation on December 4, 7:30pm at Cygnet Theatre. Check out the new class of 2008 and their musical talent as they sing standards by some of Broadway’s greatest songwriters: Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter and more. For reservations: 619-594-8262; MTArch@mail.sdsu.edu
…New additions to the theater community: Actor/directors D. Candis Paule and Robert May have just added to their brood: Welcome to Ian’s younger brother, Lucas! And The Old Globe’s Public Relations Director, Becky Biegelsen and husband Mark Ander have announced the birth of Eli Samuel. Now, let’s get those boys on the boards!
Speaking of kids, Delicia Turner Sonnenberg’s were delightful audience members during the opening of Wet; in fact, her son August, named for the playwright August Wilson, fired the opening salvo in the post-performance Q&A, asking the playwright what had inspired her. Then, at the El Jardin Secreto reading, Cassie, the young daughter of a Playwrights Project employee, made some very pointed observations and asked a few probing questions. The next generation of theatermakers/theatergoers is up and running!
… Message from Malashock: John is very excited about moving into the new Dance Place San Diego on the NTC Promenade. That’s where the Actors Alliance is relocating, too. Malashock Dance will move December 1; the additional space will allow them to implement a prodigious schedule of dance classes. John sees this as “a major shift for dance in San Diego .” Various companies under one roof, sharing resources and creativity: sounds like a tasty recipe for new work and new collaborations.
… More on the Theatre in Old Town … I got a look at some of the requirements in the State’s RFP (Request for Proposal) and it was frankly shocking and appalling, not to mention extremely theater un-friendly. Some of the non-negotiable demands: 1) $400,000 in improvements; 2) a new lighting and sound system that would become the property of the State after the 10-year lease expired; 3) a period-specific (1850-1880) stage presentation that would run at least three times a week, between the hours of 12 and 2pm; 4) ALL employees, including box office personnel and ushers, must be attired in period-specific costumes; 5) the lobby, signage and landscaping must be appropriate to the historical period. And the most heinous requirements of all: 7) Prior State approval is needed for all programming, and 8) anything created onsite becomes the property of the State. It’s amazing that anyone would agree to these outrageous demands, which shut down the possibility of virtually any theatrical endeavor. Several local theaters had expressed interest, until they saw these requirements. Shame on the State.
… Bravo 6th @ Penn: The James Irvine Foundation has awarded a $15,000 grant for continued performances of the Sonja Linden one-act, I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to me by a Young Lady from Rwanda. Over the next two years, the gut-wrenching play will tour schools, community centers, religious organizations and other venues. Hopefully, the marvelous, Patté Award-winning performance of Monique Gaffney will remain attached to the piece. In other good financial news, for the first time, 6th @ Penn will begin receiving TOT (transient occupancy tax or ‘hotel tax’) money from the City. In the first year, beginning July, 2007, they’ll get $12,000.
… A Face to Watch, A Voice to Hear: Jeremiah Lorenz, designated in 2004 one of San Diego Magazine’s “50 People to Watch,” will return to Schroeder’s Cabaret in his own show, Somebo(d)y to Love, an eclectic mix of rock, pop and contemporary music, presented in an ‘unplugged’ style. Jeremiah, who wowed audiences in local productions of Cabaret and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, will be joined by Amy Dalton, Jim Mooney and Joy Hricko. Stellar cast of characters; should be a fun night. December 4 at 7pm. Tix at www.eventbrite.com/event/38450005
… New intellectual property concern: Five members of the creative team behind the 2002 Broadway hit, Urinetown, are charging that productions of the show in Chicago and Akron , Ohio copied their work without permission. The claimants include the director John Rando, the choreographer John Carrafa, and the set, lighting and costume designers of the Broadway production. The accusation is that the regional theaters’ direction and design were exact replications of the original production; additional licensing fees and damages are being sought. The group is also demanding that the Chicago director, who won an award for his work, formally return the prize. This is a controversial area of intellectual property: creative input into a production beyond the script and music. It’s a whole new world.
‘NOT TO BE MISSED!’ (Critic’s Picks)
(For full text of all past reviews, use the Search engine at www.patteproductions.com)
Wet – swordplay, sexy female pirates – who could ask for anything more? New play, excellent production
MOXIE at the Lyceum, through December 10
Dutchman – provocative, disturbing piece of racist theater, by the incendiary Amiri Baraka
At the Lynx Performance space in Rose Canyon , through December 10
Labyrinth of Desire – a crazy, comic romp; new adaptation of Lope de Vega, on the vagaries of love
UCSD in the Potiker Theatre, through November 25 only
Okay, you’re stuffed. So walk off the Big Meal… head to a theater near you.
© 2006 PATTÉ PRODUCTIONS, INC.