Newsletter – July – August 2014


Artistic Director’s Corner

Storm HS 1510 smallThe past six months have been rather interesting. Live Oak Theatre is becoming less viable as a rental option I think primarily because rental companies have realized that the community does not know there is a theatre here. So the attendance, although increasing at a fairly constant rate because of the quality work being produced, is not what we all expected from an established Berkeley theatre venue. We are hard at work getting signs up so that the neighborhood awareness continues to grow. Board Member Bonnie Stiles also regularly distributes 200 postcards on foot to the surrounding homes. We are doing all that a small theatre company can do with limited resources and we know that with continued outstanding programming it is only a matter of time. Probably about 2 years while we inform the Berkeley theatre going community about the Live Oak Theatre. We were planning on producing free theatre in the park in the summer of 2015, which would have been the best way to educate the public about TheatreFIRST and the Live Oak Theatre, but it now looks like we will not have the funds for that type of endeavor.

So for now, as many of you already know, we have adjusted our programming model. We now produce on a show by show basis and we are attempting to raise at least 75% of our production budget before we go into production, ticket sales accounting for the remaining 25%. This is not an easy thing to do and there may be a postponement occasionally along the way, but given the costs of renting the venue from the City of Berkeley and the expenditures associated with renovating the property, we feel that this is the best plan for right now. But something very interesting has come to light during Fire Work.

There is grant money available for new works. Yes, we knew this, but I didn’t know there would be such a profound difference. The most we have ever received is $5,000.00 from the East Bay Community Foundation for general operations, but on Fire Work we have been awarded three grants totaling over three times that amount. Yes, much of it has to do with Lauren Gunderson and much of it has to do with being one of the few companies regularly hiring minority female directors (or minority female lead actresses for that matter), but a lot of it has to do with the fact that there is a greater number of funders interested in funding new work. What it means ultimately is that with a little elbow grease, a well thought out Kickstarter campaign (currently in the works for Fire Work) and your assistance distributing the link for that Kickstarter video, we will raise the majority of production funds needed for this wonderful world premiere before we even open the show.

Should be fun.


This is Your July & August Newsletter

Due to the illustrious Janne Barklis being out of town for July, August and September, we are combining July & August Newsletters into one fabulous issue.

Fire Work is here. It’s official.


As many of you know—and many of us are excited to announce again—TheatreFIRST’s 20th anniversary season will conclude with Fire Work by internationally known playwright Lauren Gunderson. With excitement growing, we are focusing all our energy on bringing you this delicious treat. Here’s some background and reasons to start salivating.

Fire Work was first developed at The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference in 2009 and is a 2011 finalist of Aurora Theatre’s Global Age Project. From the mouth of Mr. Storm himself, “Long before the Gunderson craze took off, we were talking to Mina Morita about producing this amazing play. Schedules have not allowed us to tackle it until now. But we are very proud to be doing so.”

Director Mina Morita, Associate Artist at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, has been working with the playwright and actors in several workshops to fine tune the script. She says the play asks “What are you willing to sacrifice to overcome the obstacles of love?”

Special Note: Opening night is filling up with some familiar faces from past TheatreFIRST shows. Come join the fun! Runs Friday, Sept. 26 to Sunday, Oct. 19. Fri-Sat, 8pm & Sun, 5pm (No Sun show Sept. 28) Pay-what-you-can preview dates are Sept. 18, 19, 20 & 25, all at 8pm.

Tickets for Fire Work

What’s Up Next at the Live Oak Theatre?!

After Fire Work will be the next installment from Just Theater. In From The Cold, written by Jonathan Spector and directed by Christine Young, opens the 30th of October at the Live Oak Theatre. In From The Cold gives life to the actions of a former spy, playing out when a prodigal son returns home to take up residence in the basement with both funny and tragic results.

Writer and Co-Artistic Director of Just Theater, Jonathan Spector says, “A few years ago I discovered that one of the biggest spies from the Cold War had lived in hiding across the street from my suburban high school, and that I’d actually met him a few times. I’m always interested in people who are caught up in moments of great historical change, and in the incongruity of the larger social forces and mundane everyday life – like the fact that this guy who may have prevented WWIII still had to worry about moving his car on Tuesdays for street sweeping.” In From The Cold features a stellar cast including some T1 alum: Seton Brown*, Julian Lopez-Morillas* (Escanaba…), Harold Pierce (Rosencrantz…), Sarah Moser*, David Sinaiko. More info here.

In from the Cold

*Appears courtesy of Actors Equity Association

An Interview with Mina Morita, director of Fire Work

Q. What drew you to Lauren Gunderson’s work?

A. Lauren’s impulse is an epic one, and I love that. She grabs onto these massive questions that delve into our humanity and then is able to harness them into these intimate relationships between a few characters. We so often see stories that are epic and cold or unwieldy, or that are practical family dramas void of larger questions that affect the world we live in.

Q. How long have you two been working together?

A. Lauren and I met a year or so after she moved to the Bay Area. Come to think of it, it was Marissa Wolf (Crowded Fire, Artistic Director) who brought us together, and it was clear from our first dinner together (with wine, of course) that we would be working together. Since then we have worked on By And By, as part of Shotgun Players’ last season, and The Wayfare World, which was work-shopped at American Conservatory Theatre and Z Space. Now we are working on Fire Work here at TheatreFIRST. A few years back when I was working with Aurora Theatre Company’s Global Age Project, Fire Work was a finalist. That’s when I fell in love with the play and sought a home for it. I am so thrilled that TheatreFIRST felt the same way and is bringing this story to the Live Oak Theatre.

Q. What do you like most about directing?

A. To me, it is the act of bringing my whole imaginative self to a story and then meeting other imaginative pilgrims along the way who build upon that act. In a world where we are so often isolated from each other, it is a critical moment of coming together with others including the playwright, the designers, the actors, the production team, and the audience. Directing a play is an evolving conversation between the play and the people involved, and our goal is to build a vivid and continuous dream for the audience.

Q. What is the greatest challenge of directing this type of play?

A. This play lives in a real and abstract world, and takes a hard turn from the comedic to the dramatic. We will be creating a context that allows all of these elements to live together believably. It is also a new play, and new plays require a different set of muscles from our team. There will be changes in the text, the staging, and the design up through previews as we bring the final element to the table, which is the audience. This means we will be agile, patient, flexible, and loving as we give birth to this new world.

Where Are They Now?

Andy Alabran (Escanaba…) is appearing in Sex and the City Live!, which parodies HBO’s famous program and is featuring San Francisco’s most fabulous drag queens, playing a handful of their boyfriends and other supporting roles. Tickets here  He is also teaching this fall at the American Conservatory Theatre’s Studio Program. His two courses include The Artist’s Way based on Julia Cameron’s best-selling creative recovery book, and a Contemporary American Comedy course which will culminate in a performance showcase.

Michael Barrett Austin (The Grapes of Wrath) will be playing Lt. Wolfe in the noir mystery musical Nick and Nora at 42nd Street Moon April 1-19, 2015.

Soren Santos (Orlando) will be playing the title role at Mojo Theatre in Rapid Descent’s fall production of Chamber Macbeth.

Rebecca Pingree (The Grapes of Wrath) is currently playing Viola in Shotgun Players’ production of Twelfth Night, now extended through August 24th.

Marlene Yarosh (Orlando) is about to embark on a summer tour of O Best Beloved with Idiot String, created by Rebecca Longworth and Joan Howard. O Best Beloved is based on the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, and includes such stories as The Story of the Armadillos and How the Elephant Got Her Trunk.

Michael Barr (Orlando) is off to graduate school at the Academy of Classical Art and their one year MFA program through George Washington University and the Shakespeare Theatre.

Harold Pierce (Rosencrantz…) as mentioned above will be appearing with Just Theatre in In From The Cold opening in November.