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2014 March 9

Three Days of Rain

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We just saw a very good production of Three Days of Rain, by the Jewel Theatre in Santa Cruz. It runs for another week (Wed through Sun), and I don’t think that all the performances are sold out, so tickets may be available (though probably not for all performances).

We’ve also purchased our tickets for Jewel Theatre’s production of What the Butler Saw in May—for once we ordered the tickets early enough to get our choice of seats.  We picked a day that has apparently just been added to the run, since we were the first to buy tickets for it—the first day we looked at would have required us to sit in the back row, where we usually end up. Those are not bad seats in a tiny theater like Center Stage, but it’ll be a nice change to sit in the third row, in what are arguably the best seats in the house.  (The second row is clearly the worst, since it is on the same level as the first row, so sight lines are somewhat blocked.)

Next year, my wife and I will probably get season tickets for Jewel Theater, as long as most of the plays look like ones we want to see. My son will be away at college (I hope—we haven’t heard back yet from any of the colleges he applied to), so it will just be the two of us. That means we’ll stop skewing the age distribution so much—we’re guessing that my son was the youngest person in the audience by a factor of 2, and my wife and I were probably still below median age and will probably continue to be until we retire.

I think it is a shame that Jewel Theatre is not attracting a younger audience—the ticket prices are fairly affordable ($31 for adults, $26 for students) and the quality is high. Maybe Friday nights get a younger crowd than Sunday nights, and we’re getting a distorted view of the audience age distribution. There is certainly plenty of youth interest in live theater, but maybe it is being met by all the children’s and teen theater that is available in Santa Cruz (schools, West Performing Arts, and the musical companies: All About Theater, Kids on Broadway, Hooked on Theater, Little People’s Repertory Theatre, Christian Youth Theater, …). Perhaps Jewel Theatre needs to team up with West Performing Arts to have a special teen day or family day with discount group tickets.

2014 March 4

Summer theater: Santa Cruz Shakespeare and WEST

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Santa Cruz Shakespeare has announced their summer season on their new website http://santacruzshakespeare.org/ They will have the Festival Glen at UCSC, and they’ll be doing two comedies: Merry Wives of Windsor and As You Like It.  My family had predicted Merry Wives of Windsor and Hamlet, but I guess the artistic director or the board decided that comedies sold better than tragedies, and they need to make enough money to do another season next year.

We’ll be getting season tickets as soon as we figure out our summer schedule.  The main constraint on our summers has traditionally been WEST summer theater programs, and WEST has recently released their summer schedule. My son is aging out of most of their offerings—he’ll probably want to do the teen conservatory, which is July 28–Aug 16, and he might want to do the teen production of Beetlejuice, June 23–July 11, if he is still eligible after his senior year of high school. I think that this is the first year that they’re doing 3-week, instead of 2-week, productions. The Beetlejuice ones are just half days, 5 days a week, but the teen conservatory is 10 a.m.–5 p.m. 6 days a week. The one thing that might interfere with my son’s summer theater plans is college orientation—we have no idea when that will be, because he has not yet gotten any admissions offers. (Despite T.S. Eliot, for high-school students March is the cruellest month, not April, as admissions offers trickle out during March.)

I suspect that the last week of the WEST teen conservatory will include instructors from Santa Cruz Shakespeare, as their season ends August 10.

2014 February 3

Still more theater

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:35
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My son is doing more theater this week than I thought.  In addition to the WEST audition workshop that starts tomorrow (Tues 2014 Feb 4) that I mentioned in More theater, Much Ado About Nothing rehearsal, and Dinosaur Prom rehearsal, my son will be appearing on stage again this weekend (the fourth weekend in a row).  This time he’ll be part of a special fund-raiser for WEST’s scholarship fund.  Six of the actors are members of Dinosaur Prom Improv, so even if this is a bit of a last-minute fund-raiser, it it likely to be a reasonably good show. Here is the info from the WEST web page:

Special Event: WEST Variety Show

Sunday, February 9th marks the first WEST VARIETY NIGHT at the Broadway Playhouse. Hosted by Wyatt Bernard

What you may not know…

Every year since 2007 WEST has offered over $15,000 in partial scholarships to support the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of arts education for our students.  Our ticket sales fund about half of the scholarships we allocate.  We are searching for new ways to create income to keep the scholarship funds flowing that will also allow us to spend more quality time PLAYING together.

What you definitely know …

The WEST students are without a doubt intelligent, articulate, and extremely talented.  They are the next generation of artist to take the world by storm!  And we never get tired of watching their stage successes, antics, and shenanigins. So join us for another evening of quality entertainment for a good cause!

WEST VARIETY NIGHT

  • 7pm at the Broadway Playhouse
  • Sunday, February 9th
  • Tickets $10 Students; $12 Adults
  • Reservations Strongly Recommended
  • By Email: tickets@WESTperformingArts.com

Who’s Performing What?

The variety show is a mix of Improv, Sketch, Stand-Up, Music, Rap, and Acting featuring the delightful talents of …

  • Sam Sterbenz
  • Wyatt Bernard—The evening’s EMCEE
  • Zephyra Paxton
  • Zach Kumaishi
  • Everett Glynn
  • Delilah Steinmann
  • Riley Nelson
  • Timmy Glancy
  • Abe Karplus
  • Hunter Wallraff & Jamal Hunt (Triceratops)
  • Sammi DeHart
  • Gabriel Adams-Sherrod
  • Otto Shwarm

 

More theater

Saturday night, my son and I went to see “the Best of the Rest”, which was a staged reading of the 8 runner-up one-act plays for “8 tens at 8″ done earlier in the month by Actors Theatre.  We thought that there was one awful play (bad script, bad directing, bad costumes, bad voice work), and one so-so play, but that the other 6 were better than four of the eight chosen for the main performance. It must be very difficult to select new plays based just on reading the scripts, trying to guess what will work on stage and what will fall flat when the parts haven’t been cast—I’m surprised that they do as well as they do at selecting them.

Last night wrapped up the end of my son’s performances that I listed in Theater month, with a Dinosaur Prom Improv performance.  The troupe was not at full strength with only 6 of the 10 troupe members performing—two were away for JSA (Junior State of America, which I keep wanting to call by its old name, Junior Statesmen of America), one had a broken ankle, and one had not been able to rehearse for several weeks, so just worked tech.  The smaller troupe resulted in a somewhat shorter and less varied show than usual, though my perceptions of the show may have been colored by the bad cold I’ve picked up this weekend.

I must be getting old—I think was close to the median age of the audience at the Best of the Rest performance, and I may have been the oldest at the Dinosaur Prom performance. My wife and I had gotten used to being among the youngest audience members at most theater performances (other than Shakespeare Santa Cruz and shows by kids), looking out over a sea of white hair. So it was a bit strange seeing so many people at the Best of the Rest who were younger than me.

Dinosaur Prom has a loyal following of teens (mostly ones involved in acting themselves), and the audience was almost sorted by age from front to back.  Well over half the audience was under 20. It is good to see youngsters enthusiastic about live theater—it makes me feel that the cultural tradition will not die out.

I spoke too soon in Theater month, though, when I said

Things should quiet down after next week, with just “Much Ado” rehearsals (3 hours a week) and Dinosaur Prom (1.5 hours a week), though there will be a workshop on doing auditions sometime this spring.

All the theater things I listed in the post did happen, but it turns out that WEST is having teen auditioning workshops twice a week for the next three weeks (not later in the Spring), so my son will mostly likely be doing four theater things a week, not just two. I’m one of the parents who has been advocating for an auditioning workshop (WEST doesn’t do traditional auditions for their classes, so the kids don’t have much experience with it), so I’m certainly supportive of my son taking the workshops. WEST has gotten John Pasha to teach the workshops, and he’s done a fantastic job with the summer teen conservatory that WEST and Shakespeare Santa Cruz have co-operated on for the past few years.

There are actually two separate workshop series that John Pasha will be teaching: one for traditional theater auditions, the other for commercial and video auditions, which are done differently.  I think my son should probably do both, but if he’s feeling overwhelmed with theater after his whirlwind month of performances, I could see him opting to do only the traditional audition workshop.

Community-wide the big theater news is that Shakespeare Play On has raised enough money to have a summer season in Santa Cruz.  They’ve not announced the plays yet, but my wife is betting on Hamlet and Merry Wives of Windsor, because Cabrillo College Extension is having a course on understanding those two plays, and the teacher is on the board of Shakespeare Play On.  One further clue: Shakespeare To Go, which usually tours a condensed version of one of the summer plays to local schools, is doing Hamlet this year.

2014 January 26

Mostly in the Timing

Last night, I watched my son perform in the high-school play for his home-school umbrella school (Alternative Family Education).  The parents’ club hires West Performing Arts to organize the school plays (they had three—elementary, middle, and high school) and provide the performance space (West End Studio Theatre).

The high school production this year consisted of 8 one-act plays, seven of which were from David Ives’ collection All in the Timing,hence the name “Mostly in the Timing”. The one exception was a sketch from the Carol Burnett Show (episode 10.6 in 1976, of two people in an elevator with one-word lines).

I had not seen any of the plays before—I’d not even run lines with my son for this production, so it was all new to me. I enjoyed all the plays, though “Degas, C’est Moi” needed some more rehearsal, particularly for the stage crew. I can see why these pieces by Ives are so popular for high schools and colleges—they are funny, well-written, and fairly easy to stage, relying on the lines and the acting, rather than on sets, costumes, or props for the entertainment.

"Variations on the Death of Trotsky"  Leon Trotsky with axe smashed into his skull.

“Variations on the Death of Trotsky” Leon Trotsky with axe smashed into his skull.

My son was in five of the eight one-acts, with one of them being a last-minute casting after another student dropped out of the production.  He had the role of Frank Mikula, a construction worker in “Mere Mortals”; Horace, the male mayfly in “Time Flies”; Leon Trotsky in “Variations on the Death of Trotsky”; Collin in “Elevator”, and Pedestrian and Unemployment Worker in “Degas, C’est Moi”.  This required some quick changes of costumes and some radically different body language for the different parts.

They had 11 actors and 3 directors (for a total of 13 students, as one director also acted) for a total of 38 roles. My son ended up with the most roles and the most lines, probably as a result of stepping in at the last minute for the role of Frank Mikula.

My wife made the ax-in-the-head costume piece for Leon Trotsky.  They debated for a while whether to shape it like the mountain-climbers’ ice axe that the script calls for, or a more iconic wood-chopping hatchet (which seems to be the more popular choice for staging the play, based on Google image searches).  They went with the hatchet.  It was constructed out of old padded envelopes, cardboard, and duct tape, sewn to a wig.  It ended up looking pretty good, and it did not flop over (which is what my wife was most concerned about).

Victoria and Collin in the elevator

Victoria and Collin in the elevator

Frank Mikula (left) and Charlie Petrossian (right) eating lunch 50 stories up.

Frank Mikula (left) and Charlie Petrossian (right) eating lunch 50 stories up.

Mayflies Horace and May, discovering that they're on television.

Mayflies Horace and May, discovering that they’re on television.

They have another run this afternoon, and I look forward to seeing it again.

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