28 Jul Newsletter — July 2015

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Artistic Director’s Corner

Storm HS 1510 smallThe regular followers of TheatreFIRST and readers of this newsletter know that every once in a while I take a moment to get real about some of the behind the scenes issues with producing theatre. This month I will give an example of why you should not allow the press to determine or influence your decision making process when it comes to what shows you are going to see. We only had one major reviewer come to see the Pulitzer-Prize Winning Glengarry Glen Ross, by David Mamet. Now, this was a play with an all-star Bay Area cast by one of the best playwrights in this country, and because I happened to be in it I had some of my hard hitting director friends attend some dress rehearsals, the preview and three of them came opening night. The same night the reviewer was here. The idea was for them to give me notes on what they saw to help me make the show as good as it can be. I received no notes from any of them. None. Not one. That’s a good show no matter how you slice it because my Director friends LOVE to give notes.

After the show closed, I sat down to read the review (I don’t read them when I’m acting) and I literally couldn’t believe what I was reading. I won’t get into how off base this review was and how it seemed like a personal attack on me, which happens (although I have been fortunate enough to avoid that experience for all of my twenty five years in theatre), but the main point to be made was toward the end of the review he wrote, “One key bit of dialogue was bafflingly left out at the end of the opening night performance, a part that’s important to understanding both Ricky Roma’s character and the whole point of the play. Here’s hoping that was a one-time glitch rather than an intentional cut.” So, this to me was obviously one of the main, if not the main, reason this reviewer had a difficult time with our production, but here is the kicker; nothing was left out. I emailed the reviewer and asked him what he thought was missing (a board member had contacted me and asked me what we had left out, which tipped me off to the error). When he told me, I informed him that the piece of text he is referring to is not in the Samuel French, Inc. version of the script, which we are required to perform “word for word” and “as written” according to our royalty agreement.

So, the point here is not to cast aspersions on a reviewer. That is a difficult job and no theatre operator is going to do that. The point is if you can’t even trust a reviewer for a major newspaper group to be familiar with one of the most basic and widely known principles of theatre production, how can you let them influence what shows you are going to see? Don’t do it. My advice, come to every show we produce and if you don’t like it I will refund your money. And yes, I am aware that I can’t get back that two hours of your life for you, but because we, as a company, understand and respect that very concept, and the fact that we work so damn hard to ensure that your entertainment/art dollars are not wasted, it’s a pretty safe bet that you will see a great show.

And our next show is free and in a beautiful park, so come on out.

Michael


Much Ado About Nothing

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TheatreFIRST picks up the mantle of producing Shakespeare in John Hinkel Park this summer with its production of Much Ado About Nothing opening September 12. The Bard has made a few appearances in the Park since Berkeley Shakespeare Festival, now California Shakespeare Theatre, moved out in 1991 after a twenty year run. No stranger to the nomadic theatrical life, TheatreFIRST’s production will move in with another intimately intense experience thanks to the signature vision of one of the Bay Area’s most original directors, Jon Tracy.

Mr. Tracy’s take on Much Ado About Nothing sets this beloved play in a place and time where some of the most vivid characters in Shakespeare’s canon are forced to seize the moment to secure the strength for whatever the future holds. They are primarily soldiers intent on getting some rest between battles but time is short in this haven away from the fighting. “This nurturing oasis of love and healing is a window into which the characters look with the intention of finding something of meaning and beauty among the chaos in which they are living,” says Jon Tracy. This is sure to be one of the most original theatrical experiences of the summer. And of course, it is free.


Up Next at The Live Oak Theatre

Bare Flag’s production of Demetrius Unbound (or the Homeric Midlife Crisis) is a farcical sequel to Shakespeare’s comedy about Puck, two pairs of blindingly silly lovers, and the guy who is magically transformed into an ass. It is set twenty years after Shakespeare’s summer of love, and as the characters battle all the maladies of middle age they ask the question, “was it all worth it?” Writer Soren Oliver, who appeared with TheatreFIRST as Reuben Soady in last year’s smash hit Escanaba in da Moonlight, describes the play this way, “Demetrius Unbound is funny without requiring you to be an expert on Shakespeare’s plays or Ancient Greece. You don’t need to, as the song goes, ‘Brush up your Shakespeare,’ but if you do, it’s just a little extra icing on the cake.”

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(Stacy Ross as Helena and Dodds Delzell as Snug in Soren Oliver’s Demetrius Unbound (or the Homeric Midlife Crisis), photo by mellopix.com.)

CAST
Molly Benson – Naxos
Dodds Delzell* – Snug
Gendell Hernandez* – Puck/Theseus
Soren Oliver* – Demetrius
Delia MacDougall* – Hermia
Stacy Ross* – Helena
Robert Sicular* – Head Priest/Philostrate
Jordan Winer – Augur/Oikonomia
(*AEA Members)

Demetrius Unbound is directed by Cliff Mayotte and plays July 30-August 22, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 5pm.

Click here with a credit card, or call 510-236-1978 to make a reservation and pay at the door (cash or check only).


Prorated Subscriptions Available On Line Now

We have made the necessary adjustments to our online season subscription packages. You can now go on line for your prorated subscription to the remaining three shows. Don’t forget to pick your seats for The Seafarer, which is the bonus show being produced by our sister company Hawkmoon Theatre Company. Subscribers get reserved seating at all events including the Free Shakespeare in the Park show. If you need further assistance or you would like to pick up a hard copy of the season mailer at the theatre, please call us at 510-981-8150.


An Interview With New Company Member, Soren Santos

How did you get started in acting?

I started off in a production of A Christmas Carol at the Mt. Diablo Horsemen’s Association, and then a middle school production of Hamlet. I played Hamlet! We didn’t have a drama program at my middle school, but when I got to high school I signed up for drama then QUIT right away. Wasn’t my deal. After trying out literally every other performing art at my school, I came back around to acting, and I’ve stuck with it since then.

What are some of the things you like most about being an actor?

Stepping into someone else’s skin and somehow getting closer to my own. A chance to play and to offer that play to a group of my peers.

What’s one of the strangest things about being an actor?

Constantly having to prove that you can do it — auditions are weird.

What is your most memorable moment on stage?

I got to play John Merrick in The Elephant Man while I was at school, and in the first scene that I was in I had to transform my physicality along with the doctor character’s monologue description of it. So I went from me, the actor standing on a stage, to John, the Elephant Man standing in an examination room, live in front of the audience every night. I twisted my limbs and bent my body into a shape that I would hold throughout the rest of the show. It felt a bit like stepping onstage, getting naked, and then putting on another skin in front of a room full of strangers, but it was an amazing experience.

Who are some of the people that have inspired you to become an actor?

My grandfather, Howard. He was an actor in Hayward for a long time and I always love hearing his theatre stories, no matter how many times I’ve heard them before. All of my teachers throughout my life. My mom, Tina. My fellow actors.

Who are some of your favorite actors and why?

There are a lot, but I’ll try to keep it short. Ethan Hawke has been a favorite of mine since forever. I just love everything that he does. Mark Rylance — I got to see Mark Rylance in Jerusalem on Broadway, and I still think it’s the best single performance I’ve ever seen. And of course there are a bunch of local actors whose work I love, but I can tell them that in person.

What are you looking forward to most with this summer’s production in the park?

Reuniting with my fellow TheatreFIRST alums Marlene and Stephanie, who I performed with in Orlando and getting to perform at John Hinkel Park! It’s a long story, but I had to drop out of a show at John Hinkel in 2008, so it’s been a long time coming.

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