Thursday, April 29, 2010

This North Coast Weekend

12th Annual 10 Minute Play Festival at HSU, always a popular show, begins its two weekend run tonight (Thursday, April 29). Just six plays this time, but it's a veteran group of student playwrights, directors and actors--graduate student and producer Alex Gradine has been part of five annual Festivals. Photo above is Omari Howard (his third Festival), Everado Cuevas and Sarah Dwyer in A Life at the End of the Tunnel by Mackenzie Cox (her fourth), directed by Steven Robert King (at least his third.) The Festival runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 in Gist Hall Theatre this weekend and next, with a matinee this Sunday, May 2, at 2 pm.

When I stopped by Redwood Curtain’s new theatrical home at 220 First Street (between C and D) in Old Town, Eureka a couple of weeks ago, Clint Rebik and crew were busily applying paint and otherwise preparing for the opening show, and now it's here. It's the comedy Glorious! starring Lynne Wells as Florence Foster Jenkins, a singer so bad she was great. Co-directed by RC founders Rebik and Peggy Metzger, it features Bob Wells, Bonnie Halverson, Larry Pitts, Elisa Abelleira and Pamela Lyall. It opens with a preview tonight, no performance Friday but the gala opening is Saturday. Shows begin at 8. Next weekend it continues Thursdays through Saturdays until May 15. The theatre has fewer than 100 seats, so advance tickets are recommended. 443-7688,

The Dell'Arte School's first years perform their clown show, Boffo this weekend, Thursday through Saturday (April 29-May 1) at 8pm in the Carlo. Tickets are all Pay What You Can.

Mark Twain: Traveling, a one person play created and performed by Cal Pritner, comes to the Arcata Playhouse for one night only: Saturday (May 1) at 8.

Humboldt Light Opera presents the musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the CR Forum Theatre Friday at 7:30, continuing Fridays and Saturdays through May 15, with Sunday matinees at 2 on May 9 and 16. I received no advance information on this show as NC Journal theatre columnist either from HLO or the Journal. Apparently (from what I read in the paper) the show includes some celebrity ringers as spelling bee contestants. I wasn't asked for that either. I pretty much knew where I stood in North Coast celebrity terms--apart from how funny I find that idea to begin with--but when I don't get information, let alone an invitation to review, repeatedly, it kind of discourages the attempt. It certainly has discouraged this one.

This North Coast Weekend (Part 2)

At Ferndale Rep, the annual Teen Show this year is Beyond the Fringe, April 30 and May 1 at 8, and May 2 at 2pm. I am impressed by the boldness and taste of this choice—it is such sophisticated humor, and so British. A Broadway hit in the early 60s, it starred a young foursome who individually became icons: Jonathan Miller (far left in photo) became an author and TV, stage and opera director; Alan Bennett has become a major playwright; Dudley Moore (foreground) became a movie star (Arthur, etc.) after teaming with Peter Cook (far right) for a couple of films (the original Bedazzled) and Brit TV series--the excerpts I've seen are some of the funniest bits ever.

But when they did this show, they had simply been four of the funniest student performers at Oxford and Cambridge. Peter Cook, the least "successful" of the group later, wrote most of the sketches, and was regarded by the others as the funniest. Together with David Frost's Brit TV series That Was the Week That Was, and Richard Lester's early movies (including the two Beatles films), this show not only launched a new style of British satirical humor in the UK and internationally, but sparked a taste for a U.S. approach. Still, with one or two exceptions, this style remained decidedly British.

The Beyond the Fringe performers were heroes to members of Monty Python, and gods to Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Doctor Who) and his generation. The Oxbridge connection is clearly in the humor, especially in the absurdities of language. Both Oxford and Cambridge were 20th century centers of language philosophies--Beyond the Fringe even has a satire on philosophers starring Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore.

Again, I congratulate these students for engaging this material. It's great to know the work of these comic greats--so different from the sad run of comedy today--still lives on.

Update: Well, I stand corrected. It turns out this show is a combination of Monty Python and Beyond the Fringe sketches, with the numerical emphasis on the Monties.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Books: Theatre Craft

Theatre Craft: A Director's Companion from A to Z
by John Caird
Faber & Faber paperback, 797 pages

Born in Canada and with his first theatrical experience there, John Caird has directed extensively in the UK as well as in Japan and Sweden: classics with the Royal Shakespeare Company, musicals, television, pretty much the gamut. He's done adaptations, fringe theatre, opera, World Wildlife Fund fundraisers. So he knows the territory.

And indeed, this book is organized as an A to Z guide (though it gives out at W; "there must be dozens of really good Zoroastrian theatre companies but I've never seen their work.") Caird is witty and he may be wise, but I'm not sure how useful this book really can be, organized in this way. I can see a young director looking up "Design and Designers," but when stumped, who is likely to look up the six pages on "Denouement?"

Even the "Design and Designers" pages may have limited value, in that they seem to describe a particular kind of theatrical organization, probably not applicable to every kind everywhere. I suspect a lot of this will be lost on American directors, and certainly on theatres that don't count the proper use of animals on stage as one of their typical problems.

But there are categories of more universal usefulness, from "Rehearsing a Play " and "scrims" to "Verse and Verse Speaking." The usefulness of these depend on what you already know, and what his writing suggests to you. They are in no way definitive. Some entries, like "Pace and Rhythm," are pathetically short and not necessarily to the point. Were I directing, I would not depend on this book, though I might consult it.

The cover begins with a blurb by the great Judi Dench: "This book is written with such humour and common sense that I may have to carry it around with me all the time." Well, Dame Judi may be bossing James Bond around these days, but she probably still would require an assistant to carry this huge volume, even in paperback. It's a badly made book to boot--hard to hold, hard to keep open, but it feels flimsy enough that to really crack it open might break the binding. That makes it physically difficult to simply read this book, for pleasure as well as practical advice. Of course, there is the humour.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This North Coast Weekend

Motion Collage, the annual dance concert from HSU Theatre, Film & Dance is performed for one weekend only, Thursday (April 15) through Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2 in the Van Duzer. Dances range from social commentary to comedy (a water ballet on dry land) and traditional dances from the Yucatan. Though the local press (except for the Arcata Eye) apparently doesn't care, this is the only dance event of its kind in Humboldt County for the entire year. It's really too bad the Eureka papers didn't bother to note it, since these authentic dances from the Yucatan might appeal to some of the growing Mexican American population. More information and photos at HSU Stage.

Iphigenia Must Die, based on a play by Euripides, is the Dell’Arte School annual presentation on tragedy by second year students. “Tragedy was born in a time when the gods were believed to have some control over our destinies," said director Joan Schirle. “What the students are hoping to do is create a tragic vision that works for today-- that admits a inextricable link between free will, Fate, and human choice.” Performances are Thursday through Sunday at 8 pm in the Carlo, on the now standard pay-what-you-will basis. 668-5663.

Jeff DeMark performs his Writing My Way Out of Adolescence, the show that started it all, at 7:30 pm on Saturday (April 17) at Redwood Yogurt in Arcata. He’s joined by singer songwriter Josephine Johnson and guitarist Andrew Goff, playing before the show and in it as well.

Ferndale Rep continues Man of La Mancha, which I reviewed in this week's NC Journal, and Beti Trauth reviews in Tri-City. This is North Coast Rep's final weekend for its production of Doubt: A Parable.


Ferndale Rep is bringing in guest artist, Director/Choreographer, Millicent Johnnie, to direct its production of Rent. Preliminary auditions will be held on Saturday April 17th and Saturday April 24th at the St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 1675 Chester Avenue Arcata, CA 95521-6827. From 11am – 3pm. By Appointment Only. To make an appointment email FRT Executive Director Ginger Gene at or call 707.786.5483.There are both male and female singing lead parts, in addition to many chorus roles for men and women. A cast of fifteen, between the ages of 18 and 30is required for the play. Audition Requirements: The first round of auditions will be video taped and consist of singing only. We are asking each auditioner to prepare one of four available selections from the show.Sheet music is available in Ferndale at FRT, 447 Main St. Ferndale CA 95536.Sheet music is available in Eureka from Musical Director Nan Voss,

North Coast Repertory Theatre announces open auditions for Over The River And Through The Woods, a comedy by Joe DiPietro, directed by Rae Robison. There are roles for two men and two women aged 55 or older; one man aged 20’s to 30’s; and one woman aged 20’s to 30’s. Please be prepared to do cold readings from the script. Prepared monologues are optional but always appreciated. Auditions will take place Saturday, May 1 at 4pm and Sunday, May 2 at 6pm at NCRT, 300 Fifth Street in Eureka. Production dates are July 22 through August 14, 2010. Please call 268-0175 if you have any questions.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

This North Coast Weekend

Continuing This Week: NCRT's production of Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley plays this weekend and next, reviewed below and in this week's North Coast Journal as well as by Beti Trauth in Tri-City etc. It closes April 17.
HSU presents the final weekend of Stefanie Hero by Mark Medoff: Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 in the Gist Hall Theatre, with a 2 pm matinee on Sunday. Meanwhile, the fate of HSU theatre is being decided this spring, with likely consequences for all of North Coast theatre. (See several less than diplomatic posts at This North Coast Place.)

Also on stage now is the Ferndale Rep production of the musical Man of La Mancha starring Brad Curtis (photo above.) In my Journal column I misunderestimated the time left for this show (and Doubt), which my editor caught before publication, and thanks for that. However some other lines were cut, that for better or worse I will restore here, now (with the corrected calendar):

So here’s the deal: this NCRT review was delayed by the editors a week, which means any review of this Ferndale Rep show won’t appear until it also has but two more weekends to run. So why not go to the show and make up your own mind? That way you can read my review afterwards (if one appears) and see how wrong I am. Man of La Mancha plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 until April 25.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stage Matters Special: Humboldt Staged Marathon

The Humboldt Tourism Bureau hosts a 24-hour marathon of theatre in its first annual Staged Humboldt extravaganza, beginning at midnight (right now!)Thursday at the Arcata Theatre.

Expanding the concept of David Ferney’s solo show, The Misunderstood Badger, Arcata Playhouse presents Roob, a new Ferney work about a hick professor in the Australian outback obsessed with kangaroos, performed entirely on a trampoline. Jackie Dandeneau adds an a cappella rendition of the Van Halen classic, “Jump.”

Dell’Arte contributes California Faust, a commedia version of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, starring Joan Schirle as Ahnold the Magician and Michael Fields as his tempter, Robus Arklius. The Tyler Olson-penned tunes include “If I Only Had a Soul.”

Former members of Shake the Bard and Shakespeare in the Park combine for two shows: a new version of Othello set in the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers locker room, called Shaqthello, and a time travel mash-up of authors too dead to sue in Antony and Cleopatra and Jane Austen, and Vampires, Dude.

The Bard is also represented in NCRT’s Macbeth, set among burl sculptors in Orick in the 1980s, with music by Devo, Cyndi Lauper and the Cars.

Dan Stone combines elements of plays by Beckett and Eugene O’Neill with Neil Simon and the Firesign Theatre in the Santuary Stage production of Waiting for the Iceman or Someone Like Him, starring Tinamarie Ivey as Tina Fey playing the Virgin Mary, and Bob Wells as Father Time. “It’s even more obscure than usual,” Stone promises.

Redwood Curtain presents the postmodern Small Cast Sex Melodrama by contemporary playwright Tabitha Overly-Werkshopt. Graduates of HSU’s dramatic writing program return to perform Sixteen Playwrights in Search of a Production.

The Very Precious Players of Northcoast Prep combine music from Threepenny Opera and Oklahoma in a socially conscious dinner theatre presentation, Oklahoodie. Director Jean Bazemore warns sensitive Arcatans not to be alarmed if they see Klingons in the parking lot—it’s all part of the show.

Ferndale Rep presents a stage version of Hitchcock’s Psycho. Director Jasper Anderton confirms that Kimberly Haile’s shower scene will be “realistic, taking place offstage in a real motel room shower, probably in Garberville.”

Humboldt Light Opera continues its tradition of adaptations from classic novels with lots of parts for women with the operatic version of The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, with Brad Curtis in the role of Troy Aiken. However, the College of the Redwoods rendition of Richard III, set on a contemporary community college campus in northern Ca---no, that's southern Oregon--has been suddenly cancelled.

And what would a Humboldt theatre marathon be without live radio drama? KHSU brings back its all-star cast in the first of a series of underwriter-specific radio dramas, The Wildberries Mysteries: The Case of the Mislabeled Organic Banana. One innovative feature announced by co-organizer Jeff DeMark: “Special glasses will be available for those in the audience who want to watch this radio show in 3-D.”

This column--minus a few web-only additions--appears in the current Arcata Eye.