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2020 August 26

Zoom performance of Imaginary Invalid

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My son is performing in a Zoom theater performance of Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid with Actors Ensemble of Berkeley on Sunday 13 September 2020.  I encourage everyone to watch.

[Click for full-size image]
Poster for Actors Ensemble of Berkeley’s performance of The Imaginary Invalid

Free tickets can be obtained at Brown Paper Tickets, more info at aeofberkeley’s site.


2020 May 4

May the 4th be with you

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WEST Performing Arts is having a one-night-only Star Wars trivia event tonight:

They are doing family trivia (all ages) from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Pacific time) and adult trivia (14 and up) from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

From a WEST Star Wars production (copied from their e-mail announcement)

2020 April 7

WEST performing arts going online

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The group that my son  learned acting with for 12 years, now called West Performing Arts, has taken a pretty hard hit from the shelter-in-place rules, having to first suspend their spring courses on March 11, then cancel them all.

Update 2020 May 4: Their online offerings are at

But, being the resilient and creative bunch that they are, they have come back!  They are now offering online theater classes (copied from their email newsletter):

This Week at WEST

What We’re Doing!

make a donation

What We’re Watching!

Peter and the Wolf
by The Royal Ballet
Ages: 5+
This is a Family Show
by Billy Kelly
Stand Up Comedy
for Kids!
Ages: Elementary

Given that parents with kids stuck at home are desperate for ways to entertain and educate their kids, I think that these online classes will sell out quickly.

They are hoping that the shelter-in-place rules will have relaxed by the summer, so that they can have summer classes more or less as usual (perhaps with smaller audiences, social distancing of the actors, and outdoor performances).

I recognize some of the names of their instructors as actors that my son trained with—now having finished (or almost finished) college and temporarily unable to find employment as theaters around the world have shut down.

2019 December 13

Santa Cruz Shakespeare 2020 season

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Santa Cruz Shakespeare announced their 2020 season to the “Producer’s Circle”—people who donate $1000 or more—last night. They have chosen the 3 main plays and their directors, but have not yet chosen the Fringe play for the interns, nor the staged readings.

Their non-Shakespeare play will be “A Flea in Her Ear” by  Georges Feydeau adapted by David Ives.  SCS has had good success with David Ives’s plays lately including “The Liar” and “Venus in Fur”.  Having a sex farce as the main non-Shakespeare play should be a box-office success.  I don’t remember who will be director for this play—someone who will be new to SCS, if I remember correctly.

The Shakespeare plays have a shipwreck theme: “Twelfth Night” and “The Tempest”.

“Twelfth Night” will be directed by Paul Mullins, who has directed for SCS several times before.  The instances that stand out for me were “Hamlet” in 2016 (the best production of “Hamlet” that I’ve seen), “The 39 Steps” in 2017, and “Pride and Prejudice” 2019.  I look forward to his interpretation of “Twelfth Night” and I hope he includes a lot of the music that is referred to in the text.  (One of the best performances I’ve seen of “Twelfth Night” was by Berkeley Rep about 40 years ago, with Oak, Ash, and Thorn singing all the songs.)

“The Tempest” will be directed by Mike Ryan, who will be directing for the first time.  I hope he does a good job—I’m always a little nervous when an Artistic Director assigns himself a major task (a plum role, selecting his own play, or selecting himself as director).  I have a lot of respect for Mike and I think that it is likely he’ll do a good job, but I worry a little about the wisdom of choosing himself as director.

The event last night shared some information about the successful 2019 season (record attendance, very successful matinee program for students in the county, lots of first-time attendees—particularly at the pay-what-you-want previews) and kicked off a new capital campaign to raise money for a multi-purpose building at the theater (offices, stage shop, and dressing rooms) and for permanent restrooms to replace the rented trailers.

There should be a more public announcement of the 2020 season and the new capital campaign sometime in January.

2019 January 9

8 tens @ 8, 2019

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Last weekend, my wife, my son, and I went to the opening nights for the Actors’ Theatre one-act production 8 Tens @ 8, which runs through February 3.

This year (2019) is their 24th season for this festival, which has grown to 16 one-act plays (8 on A nights, 8 on B nights).  The one-act plays are submitted by playwrights, and a committee of five judges select plays from the submissions for production. This year each of the 16 plays had its own director, and there were 26 cast members each of whom played in one or two plays.  Three of the directors (Helene Simkin Jara, Marcus Cato, and Nat Robinson) were also serving as actors (though not in the plays they were directing).

The plays are performed at Center Stage, a small theater that seats 89 people (including the one wheelchair spot).  Both opening nights were sold out, but we counted 5 empty seats on Saturday night, so some people must have been no-shows.

I won’t provide any spoilers in this post, but I will say that both the A and B nights were equally good (sometimes they pack the best plays into the A night, but this year they seem to have distributed them more evenly).  The writing, acting, and directing were a bit uneven, as you would expect with 16 different playwrights, sixteen different directors, and sixteen different casts.  One of the good things about one-act plays is that if you don’t like one, it will be over soon and replaced by a different one. Overall, I think that the quality was pretty high this year, with at least half the plays being well worth seeing.

The plays are performed as two groups of 4 each night, with an intermission between the groups. In the past, we’ve noticed a tendency to put the best plays at the end of each group, but they don’t seem to have done that this year. Somewhat unusually, the three of us agreed on which one we liked best each night. We liked best Tempus Fugit by Greg Atkins (the first play on Night A) and The Rug by Brian Spencer (the 7th play on Night B).

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