Wednesday, November 22, 2006

San Jose Metro Review for "The Baltimore Waltz"

We received a very thoughtful review from Marianne Messina today in The Metro. You can read it hear.


Foreign Hop

A brother and sister seek a European cure in the Pear's 'Baltimore Waltz'

By Marianne Messina

SIT FRONT and center at Pear Avenue Theater's production of The Baltimore Waltz, and you'll find, at very close proximity, two toilet commodes staring you down. No need to get up and move; it's just a glimpse of the play's potty humor and part of Ron Gasparinetti's clever set for episodic scenes that follow Anna (Alexandra Matthew) and her brother, Carl (John Romano), on their trip through Europe. Equipped with wheels, the toilet seats quickly become seats on a German train or at a Paris cafe, with only a little help from the actors in the dark-of-scene changes.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Nice review for "The Baltimore Waltz"

Here is the link from the San Mateo County Times.



Pear Avenue Theatre's unusual 'Baltimore Waltz' eases grief with laughs
By Keith Kreitman, CONTRIBUTOR
Article Last Updated:11/21/2006 02:40:10 AM PST

SOME plays, on first viewing, are bewildering but so entertaining that only after they are completed, do you reflect upon them and get the point.

The point in "The Baltimore Waltz," now at the Pear Avenue Theatre in Mountain View, is that there are multiple ways of dealing with the loss of loved ones.

Why Baltimore and why waltz, you ask? Well, Baltimore is playwright Vogel's hometown, where the action takes place, and the waltz represents the "dance of death," she, an elementary school teacher, and her beloved, AIDS-stricken librarian brother, Carl, dance it to the very end.

But this isn't a sad memorial to Vogel's lost brother. It is as quirky as you can get, very funny, erotic and upbeat.

read more.....

Talk Back for "The Baltimore Waltz"

We had a talk-back after the show on Sunday. This is when some of the audience stays after the performance for a discussion of the play. The actors and director answer questions and talk about the rehearsal process. I found myself talking a lot more than usual. I am usually very quiet during these things. One of the questions that really struck me was from an audience member that felt we embellished the play to the point that we perhaps should have asked for special permission from the author. For some reason that question really stuck with me for a couple of days. I know for sure that we didn't do what he suggested but, nonetheless, I kept wondering what would have motivated a person to ask such a question. Maybe he was a playwright himself and is very sensitive about his own work being corrupted. Who knows?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Rehearsal Moment

Rehearsal   This was just a very nice moment I caught on my Treo phone one night. 

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Waltzing Mathilda

The show has opened and I am thrilled. We had two reviewers come for preview. That was somewhat unfortunate because we had a couple of technical glitches to work out. But at least they came. Opening was just about sold out and the whole production from the acting to the lights to the sound and even a few changes on the set, came together and were nearly flawless. It's a little sad. I have been traveling this journey with Alex and John and Jeff and Leslie for weeks now and for me it's pretty much finished. I poured my heart into this show. I will be there for every performance that my schedule allows. No matter how many times I see this show, I am always awed by the work that the actors are doing. They are the best.


The Baltimore Waltz

Pear Avenue Theatre
November 17-December 3, 2006

This funny/rueful exploration of brotherly (and sisterly) love fancifully re-imagines the real-life story of Paula Vogel and her late brother. This wonderfully inventive play shows how love triumphs over such foes as Acquired Toilet Syndrome, bigotry, mortality and other things that go bump in the night.

Monday, November 13, 2006

My Director's Notes

When Paula Vogel wrote “The Baltimore Waltz,” A.I.D.S. was an enormous social crisis and George Bush was President. Now, sixteen years later, A.I.D.S. is still damaging lives, and another George Bush is President. Only the middle initial has changed. And although this might be a sad commentary on social progress, it has kept the play fresh and relevant. Nothing in it feels dated and none of the words had to be changed. But this play is not really about any specific disease or political situation. This play is about love and lust and laughter. It’s how one woman chose to remember her brother who meant so much to her.

Paula Vogel encourages theatres that bring The Baltimore Waltz to life, to publish her brother Carl’s letter to her. He wrote the letter after his first bout with pneumonia in 1987. By this time she knew he was H.I.V. positive, and she also knew that they would probably never get visit Europe together. It was something they had talked about, but that Paula had turned down because of time and money. She had no idea, at the time, that Carl’s life was coming to an end.

Usually we only talk about the sad part of grieving - the sense of loss, the feeling of despair and the emptiness. But there is often another side of grief. It’s the remembrance of our most precious moments, the times we laughed and cried together and how, if we are lucky, those memories can make us smile and give us comfort for the rest of our lives.


The Letter


March 1987

Dear Paula:

I thought I would jot down some of my thoughts about the (shall we say) production values of my ceremony. Oh God . - I can hear you groaning - everybody wants to direct. Well, I want a good show, even though my role has been re­duced involuntarily from player to prop.

First, concerning the choice between a religious ceremony and a memorial service. I know the family considers my An­glican observances as irrelevant as Shinto. However, I wish prayers in some recognizably traditional form to be said, prayers that give thanks to the Creator for the gift of life and the hope of reunion. For reasons which you appreciate, I pre­fer a woman cleric, if possible, to lead the prayers. Here are two names: Phebe Coe, Epiphany Church; the Rev. Doris Mote, Holy Evangelists. Be sure to make a generous contribu­tion from the estate for the cleric.

As for the piece of me I leave behind, here are your op­tions:

1) Open casket, full drag.

2) Open casket, bum up (you’ll know where to place the

calla lillies, won’t you?).

3) Closed casket, interment with the grandparents.

4) Cremation and burial of my ashes.

5) Cremation and dispersion of my ashes in some sylvan


I would really like good music. My tastes in these matters run to the highbrow: Faure’s “Pie Jesu” from his Requiem, Gluck’s “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” from Orfeo, “La Vergine degli Angeli” from Verdi’s Forza. But my favorite song is “I Dream of Jeannie,” and 1 wouldn’t mind a spiritual like “Steal Away.” Also perhaps “Nearer My God to Thee.” Didn’t Jeannette MacDonald sing that di-vinely in San Francisco?

Finally, would you read or have read A.E. Housman’s

“Loveliest of Trees”?

Well, my dear, that’s that. Should I be lain with Grandma and Papa Ben, do stop by for a visit from year to year. And feel free to chat. You’ll find me a good listener.



Sunday, November 12, 2006


Take a look at this moving video that some talented person put together. It really makes you see what we've been through as a country over the last couple of years.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cherry Jones in DOUBT

Two days ago I sat in the eighth row of the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco and watched Cherry Jones in John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize winning play - Doubt.  Her portrayal of Sister Aloysius is stunning. Images of my years of Catholic training came flooding back to me.

What a wonderful play Doubt is. The ambiguity of the characters is very thought provoking. It humanizes everyone, even those that we tend to dehumanize lately, namely priests who for some strange reason are attracted to children.

Like in Albee's The Goat, the play leaves you feeling a little disoriented because it challenges your feelings about those we like to demonize in order to assuage our own fears.

If you get a chance, go see this play.


The upshot: A taut 90-minute thriller on the shadowy nature of truth.

Where: Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St. at Market Street, San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays; through Dec. 3

Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission

Tickets: $40-$80: (415) 551-2000 or

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Directing Journal Vol. 7

Our production of The Baltimore Waltz heads into tech week on Friday. The show is in great shape at this point. Last night we did a run through and I timed it. We were thinking of splitting what is normally a one act play into two acts. But now that we are up to speed on the lines, and have the actual set, the show is only running 80 minutes. I think this is too short to do in two acts. The first act would last 45 minute and the second would only last 35 minutes. So, we'll probably do it in one act as Paula Vogel has written it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Set - Directing Journal Vol. 6

To my utter amazement our incredible set designer built the whole set today. I can't imagine how he did it, but he did. It was so fantastic to have the actual set pieces to work with rather than the makeshift one's we've been using for the last few weeks.

We made huge strides tonight in really nailing down some nuances that will really make the show special. We also had the lighting and sound designer present and we tried some music out. I have built in some dancing between a few of the scenes and I wanted the actors to have a chance to actually move to real sounds, not just the sounds we inanely tried to hum for them during rehearsal.

We open in ten days and we're in great shape.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"The Baltimore Waltz" at The Pear

Rehearsals are going extremely well. Tickets will sell fast, so get them while you can! Posted by Picasa



I took this picture at rehearsal the other night with my cell phone. I thought the angles were interesting.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

BusFest - Annual Bus Barn Independent Film Festival

BusFest - Annual Bus Barn Independent Film Festival

Are you a film maker in the San Francisco Bay Area? Enter your work in this brand new local film festival.

Welcome To BusFest


BusFest! is a film festival for independent filmmakers who are residents of the 9 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Cruz County, designed to support the local film community and to join hands to participate with and support the local live theatre community.


In its first year of inception (2007) BusFest! is aimed towards two goals -- to provide a venue and give more exposure to independent filmmakers in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as to create a shared audience of live theatre goers and independent film attendees.

Bus Barn Theater in Los Altos, CA, is an old school bus building that has been used for live theatre since 1977 and is the home of Bus Barn Stage Company, a not-for-profit theatre company. The theater holds 100 seats, a perfect venue for an intimate film experience.

  • Submissions are being accepted for consideration now through December 15, 2006
  • Format is DVD only
  • BusFest! is open to film makers in the 9 Bay Area counties and Santa Cruz County
  • BusFest! will be an adjudicated event with prizes awarded in each category and a BEST OF FEST prize of $1000.
  • Submission fee is $25.

For more information, call 650-941-5070 or go to


Barbara Cannon (Director)


BusFest! is an independent film festival designed for San Francisco Bay Area film makers. Only films from the 9 Bay Area counties and Santa Cruz County are accepted.

Learning the Part - Directing Journal Vol. 5

I have always been intrigued by the different ways that actors learn their parts. Some just seem to set their script down one day and know everything perfectly. Others paraphrase up until tech week, and others seem to just effortlessly absorb them. Right now we are at the point in rehearsal where the actors are struggling to run through the show and also to remember lines, blocking and scene changes. It's an interesting process to observe as a director. It has informed my own understanding of the process as an actor.

Our set has changed somewhat in order to create more playing space. This I am very happy about because we had a couple of things that looked good on paper, but were just getting in the way during rehearsal.