Category Archives: Theatre

Some ideas about “The Last Five Years”

Drew and I went to see The Last Five Years at ACT in San Francisco. They did it as a concert, which I am now convinced is the way this show should always be done. I’ve seen I think 6 productions of The Last Five Years, and with the exception of this most recent one, they’ve all tried to stage every scene. And (I know I may be biased but) Drew’s version from college is the only one that accomplished staging it with any sort of panache.

If you don’t know the show, it’s almost entirely music. It’s the story of a five-year relationship between a man and a woman, only she tells her story going from the end of the relationship backwards, and he starts at the beginning and moves forward. The music is incredible, and even though the concept (love gained and lost) is simple, it’s well done.

Since they are almost never in each other’s stories, they are technically always in different spaces, even when sharing the stage. And it just makes the physicality difficult, especially later in the play. I think it is actually a lot cleaner to just put the actors onstage and let them sing in front of microphones, rather than worry about creating the visual world for the audience. We’ll get there on our own with just the actors and the music, I promise. We certainly did with just the talented actors and musicians at ACT.

But! I had two thoughts during this production that I found really interesting.

*Spoilers follow*

The first is that, from the beginning of the evening, I decided I was going to go through the play as Team Jamie. I am always on Cathy’s side, I always find her more sympathetic. So I wanted to really commit to going on his journey. And I did. I was right there with him until he cheats on her. And then all my sympathy goes out the window. So maybe there is a legit reason I’ve been Team Cathy all these years, and it’s not just because I like her songs better.

The second thing is just a conceptual idea. While watching this time, it occurred to me that they very specifically give you Jamie’s age at the beginning and end of the play: this five years spans his life from age 23 to 28. But Cathy’s age is never mentioned. I’ve always assumed she was the same age, but…what if she starts the play at age 30? So then: that’s why his mom doesn’t like her (it’s not just the fact that she’s not Jewish). It’s also why she feels so much pressure to succeed, and so much resentment when her 23-year-old boyfriend is succeeding and she’s not. She also mentions having kids a couple times, and I know that people can think about that at any age, but it becomes more poignant to me if she’s, you know, 33 and feeling pressure about it, while he’s 26 and it’s not on his mind. I’m not saying this is necessarily the way it’s written, but I think it would be a really interesting choice to make in a specific production of the show. It would add an interesting dimension.

All that aside, I still love this show as much as I did in college. And I’m so glad we went and saw it last weekend. I would tell you to go, but it was just a three-nights-only event, and it’s taken me too long to get around to saying, “Go see it.” My bad! I will burn you a copy of the original off-Bway cast recording to make up for it.

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Filed under Drew, Love, Music, Sentiment, Theatre

Previously on: This Week

So for two weekends now, Drew has been taking this class for work. Simultaneously, one of his clients came down with strep, then an allergic reaction from the antibiotic, and finally pneumonia. So for two weekends in a row, Drew’s weekends have been completely filled with work, while I tried to keep B’s and my weekends filled with educational and engaging activities.

On Monday morning at 4am, I woke up feeling nauseated. I spent the rest of Monday at home, lying down with my eyes closed as much as possible, while dealing with a raging case of food poisoning. On Monday evening, right as I was starting to come out of it, Drew held up B’s hand and said, “What are these spots?” and so (luckily) we called the doctor and (luckily) it was one of their late nights and (even more luckily) they were able to get us in that night. Turns out B had a mild ear infection as well as a mild case of HFM, which thankfully hasn’t seemed to spread anywhere else besides his hand, and doesn’t seem to bother him too much. But I kept him home on Tuesday.

Since then, he’s been acting mostly just fine, but occasionally just…under the weather. Like, he doesn’t really fight naps or bedtime right now. Which is nice. Sometimes he just wants to cuddle. In the mornings, rather than eating, he just wants to be held. All nice things. And I think all just fall under the category of “I’m not feeling great. Please rub my back while we watch Curious George.”

But now Drew and I have sore throats and stuffy noses, which I think (optimistically) is just the beginnings of a cold, and nothing more. My parents are here now and I wish I hadn’t had to lure them into this den of sickness. It would be nice to hang out when we’re all feeling top-notch. But it’s also really nice to have the support right now. (I guess they’ve seen me sicker than this.)

Last night, Drew and I went to see a short play of mine performed in a college theatre festival. It was a lot of fun, even if we were out late (and far from home!). College theatre is so fun, and silly, and supported. It was cool to remember what it was like when it didn’t matter if you were good, because the house would be full of everyone’s friends, and you’d have lots of cheers at curtain call no matter what.

And that’s what you missed last week on: Me!

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Filed under Drew, Family, Theatre, Writing

Into the Woods: So Happy

We went and saw an early screening of Into the Woods the other day. When did we start hearing about this movie being made? A couple years ago? The first whisperings. Then you start hearing casting and concepts. What songs will they cut? What plot lines will they change? I remember there was rumor of one big change – which then apparently “fell through” because of “public outrage.” (I still think it was a publicity stunt.)

This show is so personal, to both Drew and me. Here’s the background: back in college, my two best friends and I decided we wanted to produce the show. We were young and reckless, and there was this student “production” group on campus, Studio 301, that at the time, was basically a campus organization that anyone could just jump on and do whatever show they wanted. (I actually think it was through Studio 301 that had presented Ivan on Ivan: In Reverb!)

So to make a long story short, we got together, got some early funding, got the royalties, got a production team, got a faculty advisor, got a space, got a cast, got some business cards to pass out to promote the show…and put on Into the Woods in the spring of 2005. I directed, and my friends played Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.

Here’s the set – this is Wyatt Pavilion, the cattle show ring turned thrust stage.

woods set

 

I literally still have a piece of the story book writing from the wall.

When we were doing auditions in the fall of 2004, Drew (then just a friend of mine) came in to audition for the part of Milky White, the cow. We hadn’t planned on casting a person – it just hadn’t occurred to any of us – and I think we were just going to use a plaster cow that we were pretty sure was in prop storage underneath the theatre department. But he’s a genius and so the musical director and I went with it. He played Milky White, and also Little Red’s Granny, which I actually still think was hilarious, because the costume designer really made no attempt to make him look old, or like a woman.

Drew is very creative, and he makes a lot of choices. I think having the cow be more a character and less of a prop actually adds a lot to the show. In our case, the cow did things like eat flowers, eat Cinderella’s hair at one point, and offer to play Clue with his bff, Jack.

milky white

(On a completely unrelated note, here’s a tumblr of Low Budget Milky Whites. Completely unrelated.)

(Also – I so wish that cameras were better quality back then, that long long nine years ago. I took all these pictures with my digital camera, but it just didn’t capture movement well without the flash, and so most of the pictures are super blurry, and also far away, since I was running around in the house while taking these. I treasure them anyway.)

Anyway, by the time we started rehearsals, Drew and I were dating, which I think is partly why I thought all his choices were hilarious. So yeah, this show has a lot of emotion and memory attached to it for both of us.

Which is why we were both excited and scared to go see the screening. I mean, this movie could have gone really wrong.

But it didn’t! I am happy to say that we both liked it and I think that Rob Marshall and Disney did a good job of adapting it. I miss some of the songs they cut out – but I get why they did. I think the edits are good, and the Baker’s story is fleshed out in an interesting way you don’t really get onstage. It’s funny, poignant, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. The parenting themes hit me harder than they have in the past, maybe because I haven’t seen a production in awhile, just listened to it, and it’s not the same. At any rate, I’m a big fan, and can’t wait to watch it again.

Happy now, happy hence, happy ever after!

(Oh, and yes, Tug was a decent Milky White, but I mean, she was no Drew…)

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Filed under Drew, Memoir, Sentiment, Theatre

The First Meeting of JASP

This is a shout out to one of my besties. We’ve worked together for the last few years, and we’ve been through the ringer together. We even have a celebrity couple name: JASP. (It’s just our initials. No big deal.) We’ve technically only known each other for about 4 years, but here’s a fun fact about us.

Back when we were both still in college, 6 years before we officially met and became coworkers and cohorts, we attended the same production of Into the Woods at the theatre company we would eventually work for. November 30, 2005: we both sat in the Lucie Stern Theatre and watched it snow onstage after intermission. (As our Artistic Director says, “It all makes perfect sense when you realize it’s snowing in the second half.”)

Much has changed since 2005 – much has even changed since our official meeting in 2011. But I just wanted to say that I’m so happy I know you, Jonathan! #tbt to that time we both saw Into the Woods on the same date without knowing it!

(But we are way cooler now than we were back then.)

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(To be clear, these are both pictures from the cooler “now.”)

 

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Filed under Awesome, Friends, Love, Memoir, Theatre, Work

La Cenerentola at the SF Opera

Last night I did something really cool – I went up to the SF Opera for a dress rehearsal of Cinderella (or, La Cenerentola) as one of their live tweeters. There were eight of us in one box (and at least one more box full of people somewhere else), tweeting our thoughts throughout the 3-hour performance. SO FUN! I would definitely do this again.

Below is a selection of my tweets from last night. (If you like this, check out twitter for the full account…)

My biggest takeaway from this experience was that I had a hard time keeping up with what was going on, while also looking down at my phone. During the first Cinderella/Prince scene, I noticed someone else had tweeted something about “one song together and they’ve already kissed? scandalous!” I was like, “They kissed?!?” I completely missed it while I was commenting on something else.

It’s a grand life lesson – you miss a lot when you’re staring at your phone! Live tweeting is a double-edged sword! (?)

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Filed under Awesome, Music, Technology, Theatre

tbt: Theatre Obsessions

I remember this one time, in my sophomore year of college, there was this production of Falsettos. I wasn’t working on the show but I had seen it a couple times – I don’t think we ever ran a show longer than two weekends, but I had to go to a tech rehearsal for a class. I had become obsessed with the show…an obsession that’s lasted for the next decade.

It was a Sunday night, closing night of Falsettos. I wanted to go see it one more time. But there was another show closing that weekend – a one-man show by another student. I’ll call him Ivan. The show was called Ivan on Ivan: In Reverb! Good gravy.

I had promised the stage manager of the show, a friend of mine and someone I looked up to, that I would come see his show that night. But by late afternoon I was just lying on the floor of our apartment, tormented because I wanted to take my very last opportunity to see Falsettos. I was completely torn. I was a little over-dramatic.

The moral twin of my Gemini sensibility must have been on duty that night, because I went to Ivan on Ivan: In Reverb! But I regretted it almost immediately. I mean, it was just ridiculous. At intermission, I left and went down the street to Falsettos, where I snuck into the back. Man, that’s a good show.

The thing about theatre is that if you love something, there really isn’t a way to just save it and rewatch it. Even a bootleg version of something isn’t the same as being there. And I know there’s bad theatre. I have seen bad theatre. I have peeked at my phone to see how much longer this act could possibly be. I have left things at intermission (not often, but I’ve done it). I’ve seen things out of an obligation and not necessarily out of joy.

But then there are the things that you can’t get enough of. When I saw Wicked for the first time (cheesy example, I know), it was the first time in years and years of shows that the curtain call ended, the lights came up, and I was like, “Okay, reset everything, I will watch this all again from the beginning RIGHT NOW.”

I went years without having that feeling about a show. But I am having it again. Right now. (This is not a marketing ploy.)

My work is currently presenting Sweeney Todd. I love Sweeney Todd. It’s one of my favorite musicals. This particular production has something extra. It’s addictive. I can’t stop watching it. It has been running for the last three weeks, and closes this Sunday. I have seen it five times so far, which is already two times more than I have seen any other work show. I saw it yesterday and again today. I am sitting here debating whether I should go back for the closing performance on Sunday night. The only reason I’m not sprawled out on the carpet, conflicted over my decision, is that I have a couple days to work it out. If I don’t go, I will never see this particular production, with this particular cast and set and direction again. But maybe the five times I’ve gone should be enough.

This time, instead of missing out on a student-written one-man show, I would be missing out on precious weekend time with my family. I would be driving all the way down the peninsula a whole extra time. But I would be helping out by filling a seat, and I would be getting one more chance to bask in the pure joy that I experience while watching a show about an insane guy who kills people, and his girlfriend who bakes them into pies. “God That’s Good.”

I think I might have my answer.

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Filed under Awesome, Humor, Memoir, Nonfiction, Theatre, Work

New Works Festival 2014

I spent Friday and Saturday of this weekend at the New Works Festival. On Friday night I saw an 8pm show and then an extra special 10:30pm cabaret-style show. I got home around 1am. Yesterday I saw three shows: one at 12pm, one at 4pm, and one at 8pm. The 8pm one was over 3 hours long. I got home around midnight.

While I’m definitely feeling the effects of the long weekend, and I’m grateful I had the foresight to not plan to be there all today as well, it was such a cool experience. This is one of my favorite things about theatre – brand new plays, trying new things, up-and-coming writers taking chances. And Festival Weekend is especially awesome: between all these new plays, you’re mingling with other audience members and supporters, trying out the food truck, stealing M&Ms from the donor lounge. I love this time of year. Other theatre companies are dark in the summers, but I’m so glad we’re crazy enough to cram a bunch of stuff into July and August. =)

The very special show on Friday night was called One Woman Show, by Shakina Nayfack. It’s an autobiographical piece about her gender transition, and most of the story takes place in the 1990s. It’s a combination of storytelling, and songs written by great contemporary NYC songwriters for Shakina’s show. I don’t want to sell it short by trying to explain the story in detail. But it was inspirational and at times heart-breaking but ultimately totally uplifting.

It also made me think about what I would possibly talk about if I had to write a 90-minute autobiographical show. I think I could fill 15 minutes, but 90? I haven’t done anything crazy or scandalous or perhaps even that interesting in my lifetime. Which I suppose I should be happy about. Because that also means that nothing traumatizing or shocking has happened to me. Which is good.

The New Works Festival is an inspiration to get writing. If I can’t write a cabaret-style show, maybe I can work on something less autobiographical. That might be more appealing to the masses.

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Filed under Memoir, Nonfiction, Theatre, Writing