Grandfather’s Journey at Stagebridge, Oakland, CA
I finally made my way to Stagebridge in Oakland for show #13, GRANDFATHER’S JOURNEY, a poignant and sentimental tale of immigration and multigenerational lives in Japan and the USA. Stagebridge is an unusual company that specializes in opportunities for elder (60+) individuals to participate in theatre. I first heard about their work and opportunities shortly after arriving in the Bay Area in the fall of 2008. I didn’t realize until this performance that they are actually inclusive of ALL ages, but place particular emphasis on working with older folks. I have a few connections to the company, where my current roommate was the composer and music director of this production, and Stagebridge itself offers yearly internship opportunities to students enrolled in my graduate school department. I could have worked there last year, but chose to do Shakespeare at San Quentin instead.
I wrote in my personal journal that I did not want to be overly critical of a piece that has such clearly positive intentions. I still feel that way, but did wonder about the choice to have a major character portrayed as a life size puppet, with another actor operating it for some, but not all, of the scenes. The same actor than portrayed a different character in other scenes. There seemed to be some modest technical challenges with the performance venue. Actors were miked, but the high ceilings of the space (a church) made it sometimes challenging to decipher their dialogue.
The production was clearly a labor of care for all the actors, with the lead grandfather role portrayed by an expressive film actor. The show was not very long, maybe 50 minutes, but clearly enjoyed by the audience members. Interestingly (to me), there were many members of the Bay Area Japanese community in attendance, drawn in by the multigenerational story line. I am sure that the leaders of Stagebridge appreciate their clear impact on their audiences and ability to draw across age ranges. Now that I’ve finally seen what they are about, I look forward to checking out another production or performance event they will offer.