Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Dissecting Mamet

Directing "Speed-the Plow" has been a challenging and engaging experience. The dialog is difficult for the actors, and even though it seems on first reading to be somewhat broad and disjointed, the writing actually requires a high degree of specificity from a directorial standpoint as well as from an acting standpoint. For instance there are moments when a one of the characters is angry about something. As I work the scene with the actor it becomes obvious that the anger needs to display a certain type of anger. It has to be seen as more of a frustrated sort of anger than a vengeful type of anger. The lines after the outburst simply don't make sense if the appropriate type of anger isn't displayed.

After discovering this, another problem surfaces. You want the actor to respond in a realistic meaningful way that doesn't involve the "forcing" of any particular emotion. So, how do you get the actor to display a particular shade of anger without it becoming forced or fake? It requires a conversation with the actor about the situation and why a more frustrated anger is supported by the given circumstances of the play. Hopefully, you have cast actors that are versatile enough to understand shades of gray and to translate them into grounded and poignant moments on stage. I am happy to say that our cast is exquisite in this respect.

We have a month before the show opens and we are in great shape. One advantage of not having to hire Equity actors is that you can afford to spend more time than normal on a difficult script. This has certainly been the case with this particular play.

More to come soon......

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Great Deal on NOVEMBER at A.C.T.

I saw November on Sunday. It's Mamet at his best. Andrew Polk as President Charles Smith is a craftsman at Mamet-speak. He's cynical, hillarious and outrageous. His straight man, Anthony Fusco as his aid Archer Brown plays off of Polk with precision and displays a dry sense of humor that will leave you in side splitting pain. The good kind.

Take of advantage of this offer ......................

's President Charles P. Smith has a deal for you!

Never one to pass up a deal, President Smith is offering $20 off a pair of Orchestra or Dress Circle seats for select performances of November before it must close November 22. Great seats are available! To save, use promo code MAMET online or call us at 415.749.2228.*

Forward this offer to a friend, or treat yourself to a repeat performance. Don't get stuck on the "piggy plane," catch November before it closes!
Have something to say? Tell us on our Facebook page or on Yelp. Become a fan of A.C.T. and share news about upcoming events, check out our video trailers, and much more.
*All tickets subject to availability. Not valid for previously purchased tickets or exchanges.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

American Idiot in Berkeley

Berkeley Rep did it again with American Idiot. The set is amazing, the cast puts out more energy than seems humanly possible, the music hard and loud and wild. This is a great show. With a few tweaks in the dialogue, I could see this being a big hit on Broadway.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

“Spring Awakening” – The Broadway Smash Hit in San Jose

sa Not since Hair shocked Broadway audiences in 1968, has their been a musical that has so enlivened the genre. Spring Awakening, currently showing right now with the new company - Broadway San Jose - through Sunday, busts down the doors of propriety and jolts us into a teenage reality. Never has there been a musical that so honestly depicts the travails of growing up. Nothing is left out. Heterosexuality, homosexuality,  rape, teen pregnancy, abortion, and child abuse, are all handled with utter frankness. These young actors wear their hearts on their sleeves and hold nothing back. The music is inspiring and heartfelt, and the chorography utterly unique and emotional.

Remarkably, Spring Awakening is an adaptation of an 1891 play of the same name, written by Frank Wedekind. Needless to say the play was banned in Germany at the time because of the subject matter. The play wasn’t even staged in English until 1917 in New York when only one performance was allowed with a limited audience. There were a couple of other staging in the 60’s and 70’s, but it has been mostly untouched by major American theatres.

Thankfully Duncan Sheik (book) and Steven Sater (lyrics) had the guts to create this work of genius. This show absolutely deserves the 8 Tony Awards it won 2007. Everything about this show either moves you, makes you squirm, or brings you to your feet. The two leads of this touring production ChristyHSChristy Altomare (Wendla) and Jake Epstein (Melchoir) are outstanding. In fact, the entire cast is just stellar. 

Altomare is not only a superb musical actress but she has produced a number of CDs of her own. Her voice is sweet, soft and melancholic. Check out her latest album “After You – LA Sessions”.  It’s a real treat.

Deserving of a  special mention is Taylor Trensch playing the role of Moritz. His tragic, angry, and touching portrayal of the abused and troubled youth was key in creating the emotional arch of the show.

With the departure of our beloved American Musical Theatre of San Jose, the Nederlander Corporation is doing a wonderful job of bringing Broadway to the South Bay. I miss AMTSJ very much for a myriad of reasons, but I am glad that Nederlander seems to be making a valiant effort to keep us in the Broadway loop so to speak.

You only have a couple of days left to see this wonderful show. If you have teenagers, bring them. Don’t let the naysayers make you believe that this will corrupt your little darlings. Believe me, they talk about this stuff anyway. The show has a wonderful message, and may help you open up a  dialogue with your son or daughter about life and all it’s messiness, happiness, tragedy, and hope.


Tickets: $20-$75

Info Phone: 866-395-2929

Buy tickets at the Broadway San Jose Web Site

October 28-November 1, 2009

Wed: 7:30pm
Thurs: 2pm & 7:30pm
Fri: 8pm
Sat: 2pm & 8pm
Sun: 1pm & 6pm

San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
255 Almaden Boulevard San Jose, CA 95113

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Frankenstein is in the House

Trevor Allen's - THE CREATURE Looking for something to do this Halloween weekend? Go see Trevor Allen's latest production, The Creature, playing through November 7th at The Thick House in the Potrero Hill District of San Francisco. I had the chance to attend a preview last weekend and ended up sitting right behind the author. He seemed very calm, as he should have. The director Rob Melrose assembled an excellent cast of three. The Creature is a stage adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Allen originally wrote the play as a radio play and recently made the changes necessary to bring it to the live stage. His is a Frankenstein story designed not only to scare you a little, but moreover, to make you feel something for this poor misunderstood creature.

Captain Walton is played by Garth Petal who I saw earlier this year in Mud at The Cutting Ball Theatre. What was neat about his performance in The Creature, was that he was so different in this role, that I didn't realize it was the same person, until after I read the program. I love it when that happens. Victor Frankenstein is played by Gabriel Marin who brings a moving passion and boyish idealism to a very dense and difficult role. The Creature (the Frankenstein monster) is played by the hugely talented James Carpenter. With an Ian McKellen-esque face and a command of body and voice that I have rarely seen, Carpenter creates a monster that will thrill you, terrify you, and move your soul. The voice Carpenter has created for this performance is sort of a mixture of Yoda, Gollum and Darth Vader. It's far from comical, though. The voice resonates with humanity and suffering. You will be thinking of it, and hearing it in your imagination for days.

The play indeed has the feel of a radio play. Most of it is in narrative form, although it funnels into real time dialogue at key moments. Throughout most of the show you could close your eyes and pretend you were listening to a radio play, but don't, you will miss the subtle and sublime physicality that all the actors deliver. The set designed by Michael Locher is spooky and sparse. Some very nice effects are created with reverb in the sound system. It’s a excellent night of theatre.


October 23-November 7, 2009
Thurs-Sat 8PM; Sun 7PM
$30-20 sliding scale
Call (415) 401-8081
or buy online

Thick House, 1695 18th St.
San Francisco
Starring James Carpenter*, Gabriel Marin* and Garth Petal
Directed by Rob Melrose

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How not to Drive to Acting Class

Monday night a friend of mine and I were driving to our acting class in San Francisco. I was behind the wheel of my Subaru Outback wagon. We had decided earlier to take Highway 280 instead of Highway 101. I guess because it' just a nicer drive and we had the time. Besides, it was Columbus Day and the traffic would surely be light. We turned left from El Camino on to Page Mill Road. Suddenly I heard tires screeching in the distance, ahead of us. Like a nightmare unfolding, about three hundred yards directly ahead, I saw a car accelerating toward us at high speed. It had jumped the barrier separating the west and east bound traffic. There were no other cars between ours. Suddenly, my mind became a calculator. Everything slowed down to slow motion speed. I saw the car coming head on directly toward mine. As I moved to the right, it tracked me as if the front end of my car was pulling it toward itself like a magnet. I felt no terror. However, I was keenly aware that both of our lives may soon end if I didn't make precisely the correct decisions. My brain began to estimate the speed of the oncoming vehicle. I estimated the speed needed to miss it while also not jumping the curb to our right, and flipping my vehicle, or causing it to smash side long into the runaway car.

As he was nearly upon us, I was riding the curb to the right, driving in the emergency lane. I had no where else to go. I accelerated slightly, because I could see that if I maintained our current speed he would plow into us head-on. I would say he was traveling at about 70 miles per hour. Just as I accelerated, the car passed us, side swiping my side mirror.

I can still see the whole scene in my minds eye. It couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds but it seemed like much longer. I looked in my rear view mirror and saw the car quickly swerve to the left and smash into a cyclone fence at full speed. The front end of the car literally disintegrated. My friend and I were in shock . I stopped the car. Quickly I realized that the person behind us was either dead or severely injured. I put my car in reverse and backed down the road in the emergency lane. I was too upset to drive straight at this point and started scraping against the curb. So, I stopped, got out of the car and ran toward the heap of metal in front of me. As I arrived, two women who were driving behind us and witnessed the whole thing were already with the driver. I thought he had to be dead. But they told me he had spoken and seemed fine. Within a few moments he quickly recovered, got out of the car and tried to escape the scene. I stopped him physically, which was probably a stupid thing to do. He threw something over the fence that he had in his sweat suit pocket. The man was on some very potent drugs and obviously had some on him as well. The police and fire people showed up, arrested the man and the rest is history. He was driving a Volvo. They say that Volvo's are the safest cars on the road. It's true. I don't think this man would have come out unscathed in most other cars.

What I learned from this in a visceral way is that life can end instantly without warning. If anything had been different, if I had swerved, if I had miscalculated in the slightest, I probably would not be writing this now and if you know me, you might be attending my funeral right now and the funeral of my friend.

Live for today. Love as much as you can. Be kind. Hug your children. Tell everyone you love, that you love them. Listen to people. Give yourself fully to every moment of every day. It will end one day. It will.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Carly Ozard in "Bewitched, Bothered and Bipolar!"

Carly is a fantastic singer and performer. Her comic timing and powerful voice will leave you thoroughly entertained.

I saw Bitter and Be Gay (see below). It was the best Cabaret show I have ever seen, bar none.

Here' the bio from her web site:

Carly Ozard, a classically-trained mezzo-soprano, and no stranger to Bay Area musical theatre, recently celebrated her one-woman cabaret debut with Bitter and Be Gay! Dubbed "The Kathy Griffin of Cabaret" by Chad Jones, Ozard's comic cabaret tells her story about being the biggest "Fag Hag" in San Francisco. Bitter and be Gay was co-created with Barry Lloyd and Shawn Ryan.

Ozard has played leads in The Golden Apple (42nd St. Moon),Carousel (Lamplighters), and was featured as Sally in Follies, opposite San Francisco Cabaret regulars Barry Lloyd, Lua Hadar, Russ Lorenson and Linda Kosut. Ozard has performed with Foothill Music Theatre, Broadway by the Bay, Altarena Playhouse, Notre Dame de Namur and as a cantor at the Castro’s Most Holy Redeemer Church.

Carly Ozard was a frequent co-host of Open Mic at Octavia Lounge on Fridays, and regularly performs at Martuni’s as a featured guest at Katya Presents! and in Trauma Flintstone'sBijou Nights. Ozard made her Plush Room debut in November 2007, and was a member of The Bracebridge Dinner in Yosemite in 2007.

Carly was honored to share the stage with Charles Strouse, Andrea McArdle, and Klea Blackhurst in You've Got Possibilities, the annual 42nd St. Moon Gala of 2008. Carly Ozard coaches with her music director Barry Lloyd, Michael Lavine (NYC Coach) and studies voice with Baker Peeples.

SHOW: Bewitched, Bothered and Bipolar! starring Carly Ozard
DATE: Sunday Nov. 1st at 7 PM
WHERE: Martuni's - 4 Valencia Street, San Francisco
INFO: 415-241-0205

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Missing London

I really miss living in London. In many ways I felt more at home there than I do here in California. London is a wonderful city for artitsts. You feel completely accepted and supported there. The entire city embraces the arts and recognizes its importance and effect on society. There is a confidence that the theatre community seems to have that I don't experience in the Bay Area. Theatres seem more willing to take risks and seem to just believe in themselves more. This positive attitude trickles down to everyone involved, and it's dynamic and it feels good. Here in the Bay Area, there is no support for theatre in mainstream culture. The theatres themselves end up with a sort of apologetic self-image. They end up somewhat stifled, afraid to take risks, and get stuck in patterns of behavior that don't further the art. For instance, the trend seems to be to only cast actors that the theatre has hired in the past. This is a direct result of fear that if something goes wrong, the already tenuous attendance numbers will fall even further. Creativity, change, newness is sacrificed because the public at large puts very little if any significant value in the arts and theatre in general.

In London, this just isn't the case. There are hundreds and hundreds of theatres of all sizes. A hit play in some obscure fringe theatre can end up in a major house on the West End within weeks. I saw it happen. A play called "The Mountaintop", was playing at a small fringe theatre in South London. I went and saw it . It was fantastic. A month later it was playing at a major house on the West End. I went and saw it there as well. They simply moved the sparse set and remounted. It was wonderful. Could you imagine that ever happening at one of our major houses here in the Bay Area?

This country needs to get its values straight. The arts are essential. When will we embrace them and affirm them? In my opinion we must or continue to face the greed based decline that we seem to be hell bent to fulfill.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

R.A.D.A., London, and London Theatre - "The Merchant of Venice"

We are moving into the final two weeks of our program here at RADA and my group will be performing an adapted version of "The Merchant of Venice". Our director and program leader, Nona Shepphard, adapted the script down to about ninety minutes. I am playing the role of Antonio who is the "merchant" spoken of in the title. Many of the other roles are being doubled and tripled up. It should be very interesting, because these actors will often be on stage at the same time. For instance, there are two actors playing Shylock, and often they will be on stage simultaneously. Often they will be saying lies in unison and other times not. I think it can create a very powerful experience. We only have ten days to get this thing up and running. Thankfully that's all we have to do now. The other group is performing an adaptation of "Julius Caeser" and "Anthony and Cleopatra". We will each be doing three performances.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

R.A.D.A., London, and London Theatre - Week 4 - The Mountaintop

Independence Day, the 4th of July, in London. "What should I do?" I asked myself yesterday morning. Fireworks are out. BBQ is out. England, the defeated motherland, would not be celebrating the revolt of those rascals across the pond. Canada Day, last week, they celebrated with gusto. Canada broke up with mommy in a very civilized way.

So, looking through Time Out London, I found the perfect occupation on my day of celebration, I would attend a play about Martin Luther King, called "The Mountain Top" showing at Theatre503. It was the last day of the run, and the Theatre503 is part of the "fringe" here in London. That means it's not on the touristy West End, but somewhere in the middle of London, in an area I had not yet explored. So I bought my ticket to the show, got out my various tube and bus maps and planned my route. I left an hour early to make room for the inevitable getting lost factor. It turned out that my vigorous advanced route planning paid off. I got there with forty five minutes to blow.

Theatre503, is located above the Latchmere Pub near Battersea Park. On this day there were a few dozen rabid rugby fans, tilting back pints and yelling; the television sets placed in all corners of the place. I ascended the stairs in the back of the pub which led up to the theatre. Suddenly the atmosphere changed and I was struck by the difference. Below me in the pub, there were Londoners drinking and yelling, and now I was in a sort of holy place of art. It was quiet, patrons sat around drinking soft drinks, waiting for the show to begin.

"The Mountaintop", by Katori Hall, a young female African-American playwright, graduated with MFAs from both Julliard and Harvord! She's already written numerous plays and acted in numerous plays all around the world, and guest starred in good number of movies and television shows. Whenever I read about people who accomplish this much, the first thing I wonder is, "do they ever sleep?"

The Play starred two vastly talented actors: David Harewood ( a RADA graduate) and Lorraine Burroughs (also a RADA graduate), and was directed by James Dacre. Here's a quick synopsis of the play as taken from Theatre503's web site:

The night before his assassination Martin Luther King retires to room 306 in the now famous Lorraine Motel in Memphis after giving an acclaimed speech to a massive church congregation. When a mysterious young maid visits him, King is forced to confront his past and the future of his people.

The reason the maid is mysterious is because she is actually an angel from heaven come to take King back to God (who we learn is actually a black woman who uses a cell phone to communicate with her angels and saints). The script was funny and moving, light and heavy, ridiculous and poignant. I found myself getting annoyed, when in the middle of the very realistic play, we were suddenly expected to believe that she is a messenger of God. It reminded me of the play "Prelude to a Kiss" in which we are asked to believe something ridiculous after having been led down the path of realism. However, the actors' commitment to the moment and the story, soon wooed me back to the play, and by the end I found myself once again enthralled. I was impressed by the way the British actors in this play took on perfect southern U.S. black accents of the 1960s. The only thing that I found sort of bothersome at the beginning is that Harewood spoke, throughout the entire show, in that famous vibrato baritone that King used in his speeches. It was spot on in it's sound, but I can't imagine that King sounded like that when he was in a casual setting. This distraction soon was gone from my awareness as Harewood's commitment to the situation and embodiment of King was extraordinary.

Well, that's it for now. I have to get to work on my scene from Julius Caeser!


Monday, June 29, 2009

R.A.D.A., London, and London Theatre

I've been through a few weeks of school here at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and I'm just now getting the chance to write. They keep us extremely busy and by the time my day is over, I am usually too tired to sit down and write anything. But I'm doing it now, so lets get on with it!

R.A.D.A - The School

The first thing that you quickly realize in attending R.A.D.A is that the faculty are all top notch actors, directors and teachers. All have worked in professional theatre in London and around the world. All have done quite a bit of television and film. Many are writers and poets. All of them are absolute experts on Shakespeare. It's mind boggling to watch a student forget a line during an exercise and then see the movement teacher prompt the student with the next word or phrase. One wonders if they all haven't memorized all the the plays!

We start at 9 A.M. most mornings and go until 6 or 6:30 in the evening. Of course it doesn't end there. By the time the 8 weeks have passed we will each have learned and performed one of Shakespeare's sonnets (which we performed today, I did Sonnet 109), a two person scene (I am playing Brutus in a Cassius and Brutus scene from "Julius Caesar"), a crowd scene from Coriolanus, a song from music of the Elizabethan period, a dance from the Elizabethan period, a fight scene based on a Shakespeare play (my group is doing Romeo and Juliet), and in the last two weeks we will rehearse and perform, an abridged production of one of Shakespeare's plays. My group is tackling "The Merchant of Venice" and the second group is doing "Julius Caesar".

Our classes consist of basic acting, diction, instruction on iambic pentameter, voice, movement, stage combat, music, text analysis, sonnets, breath control and dance. I am probably missing something but you get the idea.

Fun Stuff

I ran into Alan Rickman twice at the school. I am not really a star struck sort of person, but it was a lot of fun to watch my classmates swoon. He actually is in charge of something at R.A.D.A. so he is there quite often.

I saw all the productions put on by the third year graduating students. They were "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean", "Motortown" and "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot". Of the three I enjoyed Iscariot the most. It was marvelously directed and acted. It was quite a moving production. In fact I saw it twice.

I saw Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman in "Duet for One". I loved the performances although some of my classmates who saw it found the play to be somewhat dull. I, however think it's a wonderful play.

I saw two productions at Shakespeare's Globe: "Rome and Juliet" and "As You Like It". In both instances I bought a groundling ticket for next to nothing, and stood for the three hours on the ground in front of the stage. Both plays were excellent, but "As You Like It" was simply remarkable.

On Saturday a few of us got up at 6 AM to head over the the Haymarket Theatre in the West End to get in line for tickets to "Waiting for Godot" staring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. I sat in the center seat, front row. It was painful on the neck and the ticket was cheap, but I got to see the masters at work. Afterward, I saw Patrick Stewart, outside and asked to sign the program. He was very friendly and down to earth.

That's it for now. I will be writing much more often in the weeks to come.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

London is Now

I'm in London now and wondering how I haven't yet been run over by a taxi driving the wrong way. Step off the curb at home and you always look to your left first. Do that in London and you will be squashed like a meat pie on the subway tracks.

Actually people just sort of ignore the cross walk signs and play chicken with the taxi cabs and double decker busses. Sometimes they even use their baby carriages as improvised human shields. If they see a taxi coming and the crosswalk is red, but they think they might make it accross without being squashed, I have seen them lead with the baby carriage and use it as a method of forcing the taxi cab driver to slow down just enough. After all, running over a full grown Brit is one thing, but squashing a little baby Brit in a carriage is quite another matter.

The other day I went for a walk in the City district of London. It's the original London from Shakespeare's day when there were only 200,000 people living here. All the important buildings are there. The stock market is there. The strangest thing happened at about 6 PM. Suddenly there were hundreds of men swarming the streets, no actually, thousands of men swarming the streets and they were all wearing the same damn suit! I swear to God. I assume they were stock brokers because they all had the same sort of stressed out stern expression. All the suits, and I mean all, were either dark gray or dark blue - no exceptions. And all the shirts were white - no exceptions. Some shirts had stripes, but they were always white. Many of the men stopped for a pint at one of the hundreds of pubs in the area. It was as if I was in the middle of a stock broker zombi movie.

The last time I was here, about 10 years ago, there seemed to be a McDonalds on every street corner. Now, there are still plenty of McDonalds, but now Starbucks is king. Walk down any major street in London and you cannot walk for five minutes without seeing at least two Starbucks. It's absolutely amazing.

I went to the doctor today for a sinus infection. It was absolutely free. I didn't have to pay a penny. I walked out of the hospital feeling like I just got away with shoplifting or something.

Blood Bath in Berkeley

Get over to Berkeley by Sunday to see The Lieutenant of Inishmore. It's the most disgusting, bloody and hilarious two hours you will ever have. The acting is top notch, the humor out of this world and the gore is beyond belief. It's really not to be missed. GO TO THIS SHOW! If you're a cat lover, be warned, you may be irreparably damaged.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The King is in Palo Alto

Yul Brynner with his shiny bald head and colorful outfits hopped across my TV screen with much regularity in the '70s and '80s . The voice over for the commercial would declare with some urgency, "only 2 weeks left to see The King and I at the Orpheum Theatre, starring the legendary Yul Brynner! Get your tickets today!" I never saw the show, but I was convinced that it must have been out of this world incredible. Yul looked so wild and sexually manic, and he was surrounded by leagues of gorgeous young Asian women. Lucky Yul, I used to think.

Originally conceived by Gertrude Lawrence as a vehicle for her return to the musical stage, The King and I was based on Margaret Landon's novel, Anna and the King of Siam. After Cole Porter declined the project, Miss Lawrence turned to Rodgers and Hammerstein who quickly agreed to write and produce it.

The story is set in Bangkok in the early 1860s and tells the story of Anna, an adventurous Englishwoman hired to serve as governess and tutor to King Mongkut's many children. Although Anna has many quarrels with the dictator, the two eventually fall in love, and her influence on the king helps to democratize the country. The role of the king was turned down by the likes of Rex Harrison, Noël Coward and Alfred Drake. Finally, a virtually unknown actor named Yul Brynner was given the part and through the sheer force of his personality, without any change in the script, managed to switch the dramatic focus of the play from Anna to the King. Brynner's name has since become virtually synonymous with the role of King Mongkut.

Palo Alto Players is currently showing their version of this infamous Rodgers and Hammerstein musical through May 10th at the Lucie Stern Theater. The show features, Kerie Darner as Ana, and Don Masuda as The King. Director Bill Olson, presents a very tame, funny, and family friendly King and I. Lots of nice music, a beautiful set, and fun performances make this a pleasant theater experience. Personally, I would have really been excited if Players had taken a risk and made the King darker and more menacing, and if they had created some real chemistry between the King and Ana. It was all just too Disneyesque for my taste. There was a moment of raw emotion near the end of Act II when the King nearly pummeled a young concubine with a bull whip, but it all ended pretty suddenly.

If you're looking for something fun to do that will leave you feeling cheery during these difficult times, go see this show. There are a dozen or so of local children who ham it up and provide numerous cute and hilarious moments. Bring the kids and grandma. They will love it!

Now through May 10th.

For tickets call (650)329-0891.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Perils of Judgment

I love this clip from Britain's Got Talent, because it points out something that we are falling victim to with the advent of reality television. Everyone assumes that just because this woman named Susan Boyle is a villager with no makeup that she can't sing. Think again. She has a beautiful voice.

The thing that really bothers me about American Idol and the other shows of their ilk is that they pit the auditors against the talent. When a performer goes to an audition, usually, the auditors are hoping the person shines. However, with these shows, an atmosphere of judgment and even cruelty dominates.

That's why I just love this clip, it just lays bare the charade that these shows have become.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Grease is Again the Word

My favorite thing about going to a show at The Golden Gate Theatre is in getting there. In the distance, I could see the corner of Market and 6th Street. Having had this view many times over the years, I know that safety awaited me at that corner. The wide doors of the ancient and palatial theatre will be open, giving me safe haven as I fling myself through, shielded by the rent-a-guards that buffer the building from the rabble on the street.

I take a deep breath, try to look sort of crazy and pissed off, and begin my four block trek from Taylor and Geary. Wading through the human excrement and puddles of urine, I encounter beggars, pimps, she-males on parade, meth addicts, runaway teens, and a myriad of the rest of the hoi polloi that inhabit San Francisco's Tenderloin District. Finally I reach my destination. I know I'm there because I see the smiling face of Taylor Hicks, the newly anointed Teen Angel, looking down on me. It gives me a sense of peace and otherworldly comfort. Enough of this, lets talk about the show.

Actually I couldn't believe I went to see Grease. A show with no depth, a moral which basically says, "If you want the boy bad enough, act like a slut and make him think he's going to get some and he'll be yours, ... the end." But attend, I did. And what a seat I had! As you can see in the photo my free tickets assigned me to row trillion, seat XX. My head literally rested against the back wall of the building. The place was sold out. Throngs of screaming fans of all ages, girls dressed in costume, boys dressed in costume, middle aged men dressed like the Fonz filled the cavernous theatre. Excitment was in the air. This goofy show actually has a cult following. I was flabbergasted. As for the show, the actors were directed to play to the back of the house, which I appreciated greatly. The choreography was superb, and the director was able to find many comic moments in the show that weren't necessarily built into the book. Beyond this, there really is nothing special about Grease.

What I can't figure out is why I enjoyed myself so much. Was it my memory of Olivia Newton- John playing Sandy on the big screen. I was sixteen and vacationing in Tahoe with my family when the movie was released. I have the distinct memory of seeing Olivia on the big screen in her tight leather pants and doing that thing she did with her eyes. I believe I saw the movie three times in six days.

Now lets talk about Taylor Hicks. The prematurely gray Teen Angel of American Idol fame, uses this production as a platform to launch his new album. Things got strange when during his "Beauty School Dropout" duet with Frenchy the actress blurted out, "I voted for you!" They got stranger when Hicks took out his harmonica and began playing a blues riff, off key, at the end of "Beauty School Dropout" as he ascended into heaven in a giant plastic Ice Cream Cone. At the curtain call, Hicks ran off stage in the middle of it the encore. After the longest curtain call in the history of curtain calls, he reappeared in his characteristic jeans and muted top, microphone in hand and began to sing the single from his new album. You could feel the disdain from the crowd wafting up toward the rafters. I almost choked on it. People in the balcony began to get up from their seats to leave. And in a move of utter brilliance, the lighting guys turned on a half dozen follow spots and shined them directly up into the balcony. Everyone sat down like scolded school children and politely waited for Mr. Hicks to finish selling his album. What made it even stranger was that after the show there were two announcements. One was to throw a dollar in the pot on your way out to benefit Actors' Equity for A.I.D.S., and the second announcement wast to get Taylor's' album, and look for him in the lobby so that he could sign it for you: only in America.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Florence Foster Jenkins - and "Souvenir" at A.C.T.

I went to A.C. T. today to see Souvenir, A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins starring the marvelous Judy Kaye and the multi-talented Donald Corren as they relived the life of Florence Foster Jenkins. Florence was a society woman in New York in the 20's, 30's and 40's who believed herself to be a great opera singer. In actuality she was completely tone deaf. Basically, it's the twentieth century equivalent of The Emperor's New Clothes. Florence was so bad, that her concerts sold out due to their unintended hilarity. All the while she believed herself to be a gifted, exceptional singer. If you are familiar William Hung from American Idol, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

A.C.T.'s show is spectacular. It's both hysterical and touching. A big hit on Broadway in 2005, we are fortunate to have it playing here in San Francisco for a short time. It closes on Sunday, so you best get your tickets now if you can. Today's matinee appeared to be sold out. If you'd like to hear an actual recording of Florence, go here.

Click here for the A.C.T. Performance Calendar

Below is a clip I found of a modern day Florence. I think the lady is serious.
Watch her body language and her constant bra adjustments.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pick Up Ax: Performance | KQED Public Media for Northern CA

Oh no! Not more self promotion! Yes it is. My show, "Pick Up Ax", is loved by the critics and audiences alike. We had our "talk back" after the performance on Sunday and all but about two people stayed. I've never seen that happen before. I am so proud of the actors and the production gang. Here are a couple of reviews.

If you want to go tickets are available. Just go to

Pick Up Ax: Performance | KQED Public Media for Northern CA

San Mateo Daily Journal

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, February 23, 2009

Come See the play - Pick Up Ax - At The Pear Avenue Theatre, Down the Road From Google

Nothing like a little harmless self-promotion! I'm directing this play by Anthony Clarvoe. It's about a couple of computer nerds in the image of Jobs and Wozniak back around 1980. Their company is going downhill (Apple maybe?) and an outsider (John Sculley maybe?) from "heavy industry" comes in to save the day. From there the tension mounts and the antics ensue.

Lots of fun, lots of AC-DC. Lots of Stones. Lots of Hendrix. Stop by but please leave your stash in the car.

Pick Up Ax
by Anthony Clarvoe
Feb. 27 through March 15, 2009
Thursdays - Sundays

Pear Avenue Theatre

1220 Pear Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Amazing Comeback - Micky Rourke in "The Wrestler"

Once every ten years or so a movie comes along that seems to transcend the art form. From the first moments we realize that we are not just watching a film but that we have been given the rare gift of peering into a person's soul. In "The Wrestler" you quickly realize that for the next two hours you're going to be given a raw, unprotected, and brutally honest performance from a man who has suffered and has chosen, as a true artist, to reveal that suffering to the world. I can think of few other examples of this in film. Al Pacino in the first two "Godfather" movies comes to mind. Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz" perhaps is another example, all be it a strange and surprising one.

When the Oscars roll around this Sunday, Rourke should win best actor. There is no question. This was perhaps, for me, one of the top performances in cinematic history.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Rich and Famous at A.C.T.

The 1970s sense of humor seemed so cool at the time. Shows like Laugh-In were so hip and cool. Their over the top silliness full of innuendo and a kind of wacky pessimistic existentialism had viewers tuning in by the millions. Playwrights like Christopher Durang and John Guare wrote plays that reflected this trend in humor. Perhaps born out of the fatigue and meaninglessness of the Viet Nam war, this type of campy humor was a subtle way giving the finger to society.

Unfortunately, now in 2009, it proves exhausting and repetitive. It just doesn't work anymore, and unfortunately, A.C.T.'s latest production by John Guare, "Rich and Famous" proves this. Guare wrote this play in the mid-70s. He updated it slightly for his production but not enough. I found myself mentally fatigued and exhausted by the repetitive "wackiness" that seemed to never let up. I wanted to love the play. There were quite a few very funny moments. But I left the theatre feeling cheated. In the end the play has no message. It demands razor sharp concentration from the audience but it gives nothing other than the message, "material success is meaningless". Been there, done that. It's just old news.


Playwright Bing Ringling yearns to savor the sweet taste of celebrity, and he's hoping play number 844 will be his lucky break. But on opening night, Bing slips into a nightmarish phantasmagoria that shows him just how wrong things can go. From the ingenious mind of John Guare, who brought Six Degrees of Separation and The House of Blue Leaves to the American stage, Rich and Famous springs to life with twisted humor, rapid-fire dialogue, and outrageous songs scribed by Guare himself.

John Rando (A.C.T.'s Urinetown, The Musical and Broadway's The Wedding Singer) directs this newly revised, delicious dark comedy in its first major revival since its 1976 New York debut. Brooks Ashmanskas, who was nominated for a 2007 Tony Award for Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and has appeared in The Producers and Gypsy, takes on the role of Bing, starring alongside Mary Birdsong (Reno 911! on Comedy Central, Hairspray on Broadway), Stephen DeRosaHairspray and Into the Woods on Broadway), and A.C.T. core acting company member Gregory Wallace ('Tis Pity She's a Whore and The Government Inspector). (

“Rich and Famous” plays Jan. 8 through Feb. 8 at 415 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $14-$82. Call 415-749-228 or visit

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cutting Ball Gets Downd and Dirty

Mud: Drama. By Maria Irene Fornes. Directed by Paige Rogers. With Alan Kaiser, Marilet Martinez, Garth Petal. (Through Feb. 8. The Cutting Ball Theater at Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor St., San Francisco. 70 minutes. Tickets: $25-$30. Call (415) 419-3584 or go to

Plays like Mud exemplify what I love about San Francisco. You can go see big, expensive productions like Wicked and have wonderful time, or you can go down the street to the heart of the Tenderloin to places like tiny The Cutting Ball and see, in your face, down and dirty,wonderfully conceived plays like Mud and be just as captivated, just as enthralled.

Mud is a vulgar, exhilarating, nightmarish and hypnotizing play. Its three characters reside in a rural, dirt poor apartment somewhere in the South. Mud explores the way in which those at the bottom of the food chain, strive for meaning in their lives. It's a sad and somewhat cynical commentary on poverty, and it's effect will sit with you for days. Wonderfully acted by Alan Kaiser, Marilet Martinez, and Garth Petal this is a show not for the faint of heart but for those looking for risky theatre, the kind of theatre that leads your heart and mind into new territories of consciousness.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Magic to Remain Open

The Magic Theatre, a national theatre treasure having debuted works by Sam Shepard, David Mamet, and Paula Vogel, to name just a few has raised the $450,000 they need to remain in business.

This is the second theatre that has been saved by the public in recent weeks. It's a shame the same wasn't done for American Musical Theatre of San Jose. But, I am thrilled about The Magic.

The Circle by Somerset Maugham

The Pear Avenue Theatre is currently running Somerset Maugham's greatest work, "The Circle", running through February 1st. The writing is just fabulous. I had know familiarity with Maugham other than for his novels. The play is full of biting humor and wit. I found it thoroughly entertaining. The director, Bill Kenney, and his actors do an excellent job of bringing this rarely done play to life.

Where: The Pear Avenue Theatre
1220 Pear Avenue, Mtn. View, CA
Runs through February 1st.

P.S. - It seems as though The Magic is out of the woods for now, having raised barely enough to keep their doors open for a while longer. This is very good news.