18 Aug Newsletter – August 2012


Artistic Director’s Corner

Michael StormWhat a terrific season we have lined up! Our first project was brought to my attention by a couple of our newly appointed Artistic Associates: I Am My Own Wife, is the incredible tale of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transvestite who lived through the East German and Nazi regimes in a dress. It is a wonderful night of theatre as we join this antiques dealer on her incredible journey. Every review I have read has remarked on the amazing story telling which, of course, is a big part of why we at TheatreFIRST would get fired up about it. Directed by MaryBeth Cavanaugh (Director, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead) and starring Kalli Jonsson (Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead), they are fired up also and have already begun work. Kalli even took a trip to Germany and visited the museum; Hopefully you have read that section of the newsletter already.

And about three or four months ago I stood in a parking lot at a bank in Irvine, California and finally struck a deal on Orlando with Bret Adams Ltd., which I had been asking about since becoming an Artistic Director. Persistence pays off, I guess, and we have the professional Bay Area Premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s, Orlando, based on the Virginia Woolf novel. Orlando also marks our return to bigger budget theatre along the lines of R&G and Grapes of Wrath. This is a risky proposition, but one was cannot pass up on. We have to do Orlando right. This production will include both a union Director and Choreographer, two Equity contracts and extra money for set and costumes. Our designers and non-union actors are also receiving increases in their stipends. What does this mean? Exactly… we need to raise funds.

Both of our primary sponsors have announced that their contributions will be down from last year, which is unfortunate, but purely economics. We have to make up approximately $20K in lost donations this year. Even if you can only see your way to subscribing and making a $10 donation on top of that subscription that will be huge for us. And, of course, we absolutely MUST get the word out about the show. Please do whatever you can to spread the word about TheatreFIRST to friends, family and co-workers. We will need their support as well.

Subscriptions will be available soon, so keep an eye out on the website.

Announcing our 20th Anniversary Season

We have a terrific gender-bending season in the works for our twentieth anniversary coming up in 2013. Our first offering is opening in January, starring Artistic Associate Kalli Jonsson and directed by Artistic Associate MaryBeth Cavanaugh. I am My Own Wife is the amazing story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transvestite who survived the East German and nazi regimes in a dress. And then opening in July is the professional Bay Area Premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s Orlando, adapted from the Virginia Woolf novel, which will be directed by T1 Artistic Associate Domenique Lozano.

Our season brochure and subscriber package will be available online very soon!

This is an ambitious season and we will need help from everyone to actualize it. We hope you will consider becoming a subscriber/donor. They are the backbone of our company.

Leo P. Ruth Tribute

A major supporter and close friend to all of us here at TheatreFIRST passed away on June 3rd. Leo P. Ruth was a terrific human being and beloved patron of the arts. Along with his wife Deborah, they have provided generous support to east bay theatres for years, including Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Aurora Theatre, Virago Theatre Company and of course TheatreFIRST. Those of us at TheatreFIRST will forever be in debt to Leo, and we will miss his wry smile, intuitive insight and his wonderful spirit.

Artistic Associate Kalli Jonsson Returns From Germany

Artistic Associates MaryBeth Cavanaugh and Kalli Jonsson have proposed a production for our 2013 Twentieth Anniversary Season. I Am My Own Wife is the amazing story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, born Lothar Berfelde, who killed her father when she was a young boy and survived the Nazi and Communist regimes in East Berlin as a transvestite.

Kalli Jonsson, who will be starring in I Am My Own Wife, has just arrived back from a research trip for the show and has provided the following report on what he did this summer…

“Just back from Germany, where I had the great opportunity to travel to the quaint area of Mahlsdorf, a short train ride outside of Berlin. Fearful that the museum might be something insubstantial in the middle of nowhere, I was delighted to see that there was actually a sign that directs you toward the Grunderzeit Museum, a mansion that Charlotte von Mahlsdorf built and lived in amongst her collection of end-of-the-19th century artifacts. The setting was very peaceful and park-like (they perform weddings there). Upon entering you see a hallway lined with framed posters of productions of the play performed worldwide. Our wonderful host (who spoke only German), armed with a massive key-ring crowded with antique keys, led us through room after room, set up as if they were still lived in. For me the most affecting room was Charlotte’s bedroom with her dressing table still adorned with her pearl necklaces and brushes, and dresses and coats hung on their racks. I look forward to making come alive all that I have seen and experienced at Grunderzeit Museum in the winter production of I Am My Own Wife.”

Debra Blondheim is TheatreFIRST’s New Company Manager

For the past year now, Debra Blondheim has been the Assistant to the Artistic Director, and she has been an extremely important member of the T1 team. We are very pleased to announce that she has taken on added responsibilities with her new position as Company Manager. She is an integral part of our company, and we hope that when you see her at the shows you will take a moment to thank her for all of her hard work. We are EXTREMELY fortunate to have her on board for another year.

Donations Now Being Accepted for Our 20th Anniversary Season

We are hoping, as our company grows in 2013, to be able to increase the stipends to our designers, and we are also planning on increasing the stipend to our non-union actors. In addition, we are adding some positions to our production team. All of these adjustments represent a steep increase in production costs.

We currently need to raise $60,000.00 for our upcoming 20th Anniversary Season. Very soon on the website you will be able to access our TheatreFIRST Donor Kit, which has lists of all of the wonderful perks available with Show Sponsorship and Producer donations.

As always any assistance you can lend is much appreciated and tax deductible! DONATE TODAY!

Where are they now?

Aleph Ayin (Rosencrantz…) will be playing Guiseppe Zangara in Assassins with the Shotgun players. Assassins previews September 26 – October 4 and opens October 5, running through November 11.

Michael Barrett Austin (Grapes of Wrath) will be appearing in SF Playhouse’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, directed by Jon Tracy (Grapes). This will be the first show at SF Playhouse’s new larger home: 450 Post Street, the former Lorraine Hansberry Theatre.

Roy Landaverde (Grapes and Hanging Georgia) is working on Impact Theatre’s The Fisherman’s Wife by Steven Yockey, previewing August 23 and 24 at 8pm, opening August 25 and continuing Thursday through Saturday nights at 8 pm through September 29.

Lisa Anne Porter (Asst. Director Rosencrantz…) is understudying The Normal Heart at American Conservatory Theatre in September, and she is directing It’s Wonderful Life at Town Hall Theatre in October.

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