Category Archives: Blog Challenge

2010 blog challenge questions and answers reflected on in a series of posts.

The Other Side of Your Scene

We all must wonder what happens when we (you, I, me, us) leave a scene. Life goes on in all ways but we don’t see it. Or we hear about it later but don’t witness the actual action.Β 

I have been thinking about the other side of my/our actions recently. It started with an awkward moment while visiting Mississippi last week. A friend and I were getting take-out at a local restaurant that she and her family occasionally visit. I was obviously new to the restaurant so I didn’t know how things worked and what the specifics of their menu and operation were. I decided to order a lemonade as part of my meal, which I sipped on while we waited for the rest of her order. While I enjoyed the drink, I was also irritated that it came with a nearly complete cupful of ice, which, of course, also decreased the total amount of liquid in the cup.

So, this overabundance of ice meant that I finished the drink by the time my friend’s order was complete. The restaurant offered free refills, so I thought I was helping them by pouring my ice out into the dispensary below the soda fountain.

Except it wasn’t a dispenser, it was where they scoop out new ice for each customer.

When the clerk responded in a very slo-mo “I can’t believe that just happened” kind of way, I realized my mistake. However, as the customer, all I could do was say “sorry” with some sheepishness and leave the restaurant.

But what happened at the restaurant after we left?

11 Plays I’ll Remember from 2011

I’m closing out 2011 having seen 55 theatrical productions, traveled at least 7,000 miles, completed a masters degree, moved back to the East Coast, and with a multitude of additional memories to associate with the year. For this entry I’ll focus on those theatrical memories.

I made a top 10 list for the year several weeks ago, expecting that it might be modified before December 31 arrived. As it turned out, that list has remained mostly the same. I also compiled an accompanying Bottom 5 list, but decided not to share that publicly. However, making a list like that reminds me of one of my most interesting theatrical discussions of the year – whether someone receives feedback or not on a performance, and how that process is approached. Perhaps that’s a topic for a future entry.

Ultimately I decided that this would be a “top 11” list, in chronological order, highlighting the standout productions I saw in 2011 across the country. Without further ado…

Sonia Flew at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre in Bloomfield, Michigan – January
While this show actually opened and ran in 2010, I didn’t see it until its final performance on January 2, 2011, and thus will count it in the tally for this year. A powerful story about cross-generational family ties lingers in my mind alongside a historical issue I’d not been familiar with. I felt that the culmination energy of the closing performance added to the intensity and meaning of my seeing the show, alongside the pleasure of cheering on a friend featured in the cast and meeting the other cast members through him.

Clybourne Park at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, California – January
A breath of fresh air for the normally quite static ACT, this show burst out of left field to become a New Year’s hit. I was captivated by the topicality and breexiness of the script, which knowingly looked at hot-button racial issues without taking itself too seriously. On a related level, the actors and director all worked in a seemingly relaxed manner, letting down some of the artifice or distance between them and the audience to create a lasting theatrical impression.

Cyrano at the Sonoma County Repertory Theater in Sebastopol, California – February
The final production at “The Rep”, which closed its doors immediately following this show’s run, was elegiac with integrity. I’m sure that my knowledge of the theatre’s real life situation added to my impressions of the drama. At the same time, I recall a certain timeless quality to the production, as if the characters were stepping out of time to give us a moment of their time, and then proceeding to move on to another world, dimension or era.

Born and Raised at the Berkeley Playhouse in Berkeley, California – May
This new work took a look at another hot-button issue (gay marriage) and humanized the experience. Prolific Bay Area director Jon Tracy helmed a locally rooted story about marriage equality, and added creative touches in musical numbers and a balanced, large cast to make the narrative involving and emotionally satisfying. The spirit of new plays, where anything can happen and story elements are in flux, was visible in the creative process and risk taking demonstrated by the cast.

Tiny Alice at Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, California – June
In writing up this show, I referred to it as an “elaborate jigsaw puzzle” and while that impression still stands, six months later (now) I recall the heightened artistry of this production: the best use of MTC’s stage that I had ever seen, with the set opening on itself twice, the exaggerated yet sharp characterizations – especially Mark Anderson Phillips as the Butler, and the utter dedication of the five person cast. Director Jasson Minnidakis had clearly wanted to work on this play for a long while, and I hope he looks back on it with a sense of fulfillment.

Let Me Down Easy at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, California – June
Renowned actress and storyteller Anna Deavere Smith returned to the Bay Area to tell this story as part of a national tour. Despite (or no matter of) these wide ranging roots, the show had an urgency and topicality that would put it at the top of my top 10 list – if I chose to organize this list that way. Smith made me forget all about her as she embodied a series of subjects/interviewees and recounted their experiences with health care. A show like this ought to have been mandatory viewing when the universal health care question engulfed the USA.

Care of Trees at the Shotgun Players in Berkeley, California – June
A striking, haunting story was given additional depth by director Susannah Martin and the talented two-hander team of Patrick Russell and Liz Sklar. Themes of supernaturalism and unpredictability ran through the piece, but (more strikingly) ran right alongside emotional realism, seen in Russell’s increasingly urgent, vibrant portrayal of the male lead and a series of videos and audio clips that furthered the character’s relationships – and audience understanding.

The Verona Project at the California Shakespeare Theatre in Orinda, California – July
Another breath of fresh air in the height of the summer, mixed now (in hindsight) with the Culmination/Crescendo of my Bay Area life that came to a close 10 days after seeing this show. The creators took a novel concept – turning the words of the Bard into a rock musical – and added unexpected humanity and honesty to the tale. An equal accomplishment was creating several tuneful, memorable songs that I wish were available on a soundtrack album!

Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning, Juliet at The Penny Seats in Ann Arbor, Michigan – August
Buoyant creativity and gleeful mirth sailed through this premiere production from The Penny Seats. This was another example of outside knowledge (being in attendance on Opening Night of the troupe’s Premiere Production) played in to my audience experience. That awareness was matched by a crackerjack acting and production team game for anything – even a rainstorm on the second night that did NOT deter the performance – and a tongue in cheek script mixing notable drama and cheerful irreverence in such a way that allowed The Penny Seats to make a memorable debut.

Little Foxes at the University of Delaware Resident Ensemble Players in Newark, Delaware – October
I’ll dare to say this show was a Revelatory debut experience for the UD/PTTP troupe. I went in expecting to be like “wow” at the end of the show, and I left feeling like “WOAH.” This production was the most skillfully dramatic of the year, as I recall feeling a mix of intensity and gleefulness from getting so involved in the dramatic storyline. The production team also pulled off the coup of making an older storyline seem fresh, which is not always successful. The production notes seemed to imply that the title had been a last-minute choice for production, but the professionalism and integrity of the product belied no evidence of any backstage debates.

A Little Night Music at the City Theater Company in Wilmington, Delaware – December
In a similar manner to the PTTP debut, this production was impressive and deceptively simple. I recall my mom’s comment following the show: “I would have easily driven to Philadelphia for a show like that” and know that I agree with her, where the skillful cast approached Sondheim’s story and score with focus and determination. Several performances from younger professionals showed much promise for future roles, while the veteran performers took a nuanced approach to their work and seemed to intuitively know why they were there and how they’d best fit into the tapestry of the story.

———————–

On a slightly melancholic note, I could not have anticipated how departing the Bay Area would result in such a steep drop in my theatregoing: 45 shows up until the end of July (leaving the Bay Area), and only 10 shows during the rest of the year. I sincerely hope that the new year will bring the return of more consistency to my theatre-going, now based in the Mid Atlantic Region… and an accompanying production gig would be the icing on the cake.

A note of accomplishment: I’m very grateful to have maintained this blog as a theatrical chronicle for this year, and know that I want to continue, and possibly enhance, this process in the future. It’s clear to me that keeping a record of all the shows has helped solidify and enhance my theatre studies and pursuits, changing the memory from “oh, what was that show?” to “YES, THAT WAS A MEMORABLE SHOW IN A MEMORABLE YEAR!

Alphabet Soup, revisited

Okay, I said I would do this, and I want to do it, so I will indeed do it. Belatedly.

Will this all be a SUMMARY, SYNOPSIS or actual RUMINATION? Let’s find out.

Let’s recap:
ALMOST, MAINE
BY THE BOG OF CATS
CABARET

DEAR LIAR

ALMOST, MAINE – seen at the College of Marin just over a year ago, December 4, 2010. My good friend Molly Noble guided 19 (mostly) student actors to an impressively rounded ensemble. A Pacific Sun review glowed with praise. For me, this show was an interesting example of personal and professional lives coming together in the theatre, where I knew the director and several cast members, but tried to remain objective in my opinion of the show.

So what was that list, again? I’m not sure if I truly want to write comments about 26 shows in the past, but I do want to make a note of when I saw them and where.

Almost, Maine
College of Marin, Kentfield, CA, December 4, 2010
By the Bog of Cats
Wyndham’s Theatre, London, England, November 27, 2004
Cabaret
1) Hampshire College Tavern, Amherst, MA, March 6, 2004
2) Lyric Theatre, London, England, April 19 (?), 2007
3) PCPA Theaterfest, Santa Maria, CA, May 15, 2008

Dear Liar
Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA, October, 2007 – I served as an ASM
Equivocation
1) Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR, August 11, 2009
2) Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley, CA, April 20, 2010

False Servant
Cottesloe, National Theatre, London, England, September 13, 2004
Grand Hotel
Donmar Warehouse, London, England, November 19, 2004
Horses
AlterTheater, San Rafael, CA, October 22, 2009
Is He Dead?
Cinnabar Theater, Petaluma, CA, April, 2010
John Gabriel Borkman
Donmar Warehouse, London, England, April, 2007
King Lear
The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, England, March 29. 2007
Leading Ladies
6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa, CA, July 6, 2008
Murderous Instincts
Savoy Theatre, London, England, September 29, 2004
Night of the Iguana
Lyric Theatre, London, England, December, 2005
Of The Earth (The Salt Plays: Part 1)
John Hinckel Park, Berkeley, CA, September 26, 2010
P
(Fat Pig?)
Aurora Theatre, Berkeley, CA, December, 2009
Q
(Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party?)
San Francisco Playhouse, San Francisco, CA, January, 2009
Ragtime
PCPA Theaterfest, Santa Maria, CA, July 10, 2008
Speaking in Tongues
Theatre 503, London, England, March, 2007
Tintin
Barbican Theatre, London, England, December, 2005
Under Milk Wood
Porchlight Theatre, Ross, CA, July 7, 2008
Verona Project
California Shakespeare Theatre, Orinda, CA, July 14, 2011
War Horse
Oliver, National Theatre, London, England, December, 2005
X
?????
You Never Can Tell
Garrick Theatre, London, England, December, 2005
Z
???????

That’s more of what I wanted to do, pulling those titles out of the memory banks. Time will tell if it leads to further commentary. Well, there are a few I would like to write in more detail about:

By the Bog of Cats
Equivocation
False Servant
Grand Hotel
King Lear
Murderous Instincts
(Fat Pig?)
(Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party?)
Tintin
Under Milk Wood
Verona Project
War Horse

… so it will be a challenge to do just that.

ALPHABETICAL THEATRICAL MEMORIES!

I created this blog with an intention of solidifying my theatrical experiences and making them more distinct in my life. I would say it has been successful, especially for shows I have seen this year. However, I can’t say the same thing for shows in the past – and have decided to deliberately examine some of those memories, while having fun with the process. Hence, I introduce a new challenge of …

ALPHABETICAL THEATRICAL MEMORIES!

By December 31, I will have gone through the entire English alphabet to pull out a play I saw (not in 2011) that had a title beginning with the corresponding letter. Those shows, subject to change, will be:

Almost, Maine
By the Bog of Cats
Cabaret
Dear Liar
Equivocation
False Servant
Grand Hotel
Horses
Is He Dead?
John Gabriel Borkman
King Lear
Leading Ladies
Murderous Instincts
Night of the Iguana
Of The Earth (The Salt Plays: Part 1)
P
Q
Ragtime
Speaking in Tongues
Tintin
Under Milk Wood
Verona Project
War Horse
X
You Never Can Tell
Z

Let’s get started!

What’s the best change you made to the place you live?

I moved out in August, embraced nomadism for that month, moved into a new place in September, moved out of that place (due to circumstances beyond my control) at the start of this month, and am now embracing nomadism again! The search for a new place to start in January has been slower than I would like, but I’m remaining optimistic that something will work out.

To sum up: remaining open to changes, nomadism, and flexibility has been the best things this year for places to live and where I am.

A Memorable Night Out … February 18 and April 3

Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

There were two San Francisco and classmate centered nights this year that stand out strongly in my reflections. February 18 had a spontaneous flair of excitement and the feel of a never ending day. Perhaps I will go into public detail about that… or not. But April 3rd had even more excitement, group spirit, sense of fun, and for me at least, a feeling that we’d put aside our academic concerns that night and could (and did) focus on enjoying each others company.

10 out of 15 of us assembled in the Mission District to celebrate our classmate’s wedding. She had given us specific instructions to attend in our best Steampunked outfits and “crash” the reception, due to be held in a nearby function hall. One classmate and I were the first people to arrive at the restaurant. For a little while, it seemed like our friends had forgotten about the dinner prelude, but it became clear that they were actually just fashionably late. We took pride in our outlandish costumes and drew stares of questions from passerby on Valencia Street. I think some people’s meals got mixed up while we ordered dinner. Clearly the focus was not entirely just on our meal!

We migrated over to the reception hall – I was one of the two designated drivers – and reassembled as a whole group. The other classmate designated driver decided to park her car in a narrow parallel spot, but then realized she couldn’t navigate the tight space, so another classmate stepped in to park it instead. I remember the whole process took about double the length of time it should have. We noticed that the reception was in full swing and briefly debated how we would enter, as we were a noticeably large group coming into a room that had already settled for a meal into small table groups of no more than 10 people.

Ultimately we decided to make a full scene and enter in a choreographed line. We strode across the floor in single file, causing many heads to turn (again) at our outlandish costumes. Our classmate was at the other end of the room, and genuinely surprised and thrilled to see us. She later shared that it was one of the highlights of the evening. Other adventures followed through the reception, as we joined in on various dance routines (including a version of Blondie’s Call Me that I particularly remember) and two classmates performed a climactic and provocative dance.

The evening didn’t end there, but I don’t have to spell it all out here. Ultimately I returned home over the Golden Gate Bridge at around 3am with a sense of satisfaction and exhilaration over having done something different and still humane with my school friends.

The BEST Steam Punked Wedding Costumes

A Favorite or Memorable Book

The December 4 Challenge Prompt asks What book – fiction or non – touched you? Where were you when you read it? Have you bought and given away multiple copies?

In this case, Joanna Macy’s World As Lover, World as Self stands out. This was a book assigned for a short summer class I took with Mrs. Macy herself, so one might think that it would be academic oriented or not engaging. That was not the case at all. In this new edition to the book (I think the original was published sometime in the 1980’s), Macy writes with compelling urgency and warm directness about her Great Turning philosophy, which she then covered in person during the two day seminar. The book blended optimism with real world issues in a way that did not seem condescending or desperate. If anything, I felt even more inspired to take part in ecopsychology and world issues after reading her book. I considered it a true page turner, and I don’t often feel that way about non fiction books.

It’s interesting to remember the circumstances of how I acquired the book. I reviewed the syllabus for the then-upcoming class just a few days before it was scheduled to take place. I was surprised to discover that we were required to read a segment of World as Lover… and one of her other books before coming together as a group. I checked to see if the books were available in the Marin County library system, and they were only available out at Stinson Beach. I called that library from Berkeley and arranged to pick up the books on the next day they were open, which was not until Friday – and the class was on Saturday and Sunday of that same week. I was prepared to travel to Stinson to pick them up… until going to CIIS the next day and seeing that both books were available in the school bookstore. Although it was obviously more expensive to buy them first hand rather than second hand or the library, I chose to do so anyway, and am grateful to have her books on hand for the future. It is likely that both volumes will come in handy as I phase in more ecopsychology studies to my work.

I have not bought multiple copies of the book, but I certainly have referenced it as an inspiring, useful book, and hope that others have absorbed my recommendation with interest.

Joanna Macy

December 3 Reverb 10 ~ A Moment

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

(I’m choosing this over the third Blog Challenge question, which was What’s an article that you read that blew you away? That you shared with all your friends. That you Delicious’d and reference throughout the year. as I have read far too many articles for grad school this year.)

I’m going to have to go with the first time I walked across the full length of the Golden Gate Bridge, on around February 4/sometime in early February. This later became a semi-routine for me over the summer, and concluded (for now) with a sunset walk from SF to Marin in mid September. Unfortunately, the bridge will be undergoing structural renovations next spring, meaning that it will not be possible to walk the full length of the pedestrian sidewalk from March until possibly midsummer.

Nonetheless, that first trek across was spontaneous and stupendous. I had walked 3/4 of the bridge once before, when my mom was visiting soon after I moved to the Bay Area. However, we had turned around at the Marin County line and did not go all the way to the Vista Point in Sausalito. This time, I had recently discovered a working bus stop for Golden Gate Transit existed on the other side of the bridge, and I carefully coordinated my walk to match the bus schedule and then board it for the ride back to my apartment. There was an element of jubilation in my walking across the bridge – I was finally doing something I had wanted to do for a while, and often felt like I ignored the sidewalk and stayed in the car.

The brisk breeze coming in from the Pacific was extremely appealing, sailing across into San Francisco Bay. I noticed a lot of noise coming from the six lanes of cars crossing the bridge, with their loud engines maintaining an average 50 MPH speed. There were snippets of tourist conversations as I pressed on northward towards the Marin line. The sky was bright blue in that appealing Bay Area style, which complemented the bridge’s distinct International Orange tones of paint.

The experience of walking the bridge, that first time, was an initiation into a period of zestful physical activity for me that continued throughout the summer months. I didn’t go on any elaborate hikes or hardcore backpacking trips, but I did take pleasure in the things I did, physically, whether it was working with a Rolfer for physical wellbeing, walking extensively around Marin and choosing to participate in a non car centric lifestyle, and even swimming in the Pacific, briefly, as it’s a cold ocean, twice over the summer.

Possible Redirection and Catching Up

I became aware of an new “end of year” blogging challenge entitled Reverb10 today. Not sure if I’ll switch over to their prompts, which seem to be more based around questions than memories. However, I will probably continue to monitor their site to see if the questions interest me and thus pick and choose between prompts.

I’ve also shifted gears today to a new temporary home base in San Francisco, enabling me to CATCH UP on the prompts pr entries due from the last few days. I’ll be very interested to see how this stint of City Living goes, and how it feels to me, as I’ve spent 2.25 years living in the Bay Area, but this will be my first extended stint of living in SF proper. I call it “dancing around San Francisco” – and wonder how much I will miss my Marin routine during this week. I’m sure time will tell, and I’m glad to have this sampler to give a feel for the City and me.

Best Restaurant Experience of 2010

Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

This post is slightly time delayed and meant to be Day 2. I woulda/coulda/shoulda written it yesterday on 12/2, but did not. So, instead, I will write Day 2 and 3 back to back.

I didn’t do very much dining out in 2010. Actually, I did, as in not making a meal at home… But I didn’t do much dining out as in actually going out to a pricey restaurant and making an event of it.

Of those times I did embark on a restaurant rendezvous, I’m going to go with another family experience. In early April, my mom came to visit the Bay Area. On the first night of the visit, we decided to travel to the Cliff House in San Francisco, a great place to stop on the way home to Marin AND a place I had never been before. The restaurant was very busy, for a Friday night, and nearby Ocean Beach was in prime mystique form, with the waves slowly tapping at the sand far below us. I don’t remember exactly what I had – I think it was some combination of fish. The atmosphere and occasion stand out much more in my mind. It had the air of possibility and potential that comes at the start of a trip or adventure, whether with family or friends. It was also a comfortable blend of the ease of family with the excitement of something new in an area I now know very well.