A Kitchen Onstage

Thank you to our Properties Master, Christopher Fitzer, for this guest blog post about the challenges of creating a working kitchen onstage!


Many plays are set in or require a kitchen onstage, and in other plays “off-stage” kitchens provide real and prop dining and eating experiences onstage. And in each one of these plays, how we achieve the kitchen, and all that it requires, is different each and every time. From artificial and theatrical to fully functional and practical, TheatreWorks has presented a multitude of variations of kitchens over the past many seasons. Here are the processes we go about to create the kitchens onstage:


Prop – The simplest sinks onstage do not actually produce water. In those cases the sinks are put into the cabinetry, not attached to any water source, and act purely as an aesthetic reference, necessary to dictate that we are in a kitchen. This included the sink in the Muldoon kitchen in 2016’s Outside Mullingar.


Tank – The most common way we utilize sinks onstage at TheatreWorks is with sinks attached to a small tank hidden on or behind the stage. Sometimes they are pressurized tanks to ensure water comes from the faucet, and other times we have tanks elevated that use gravity to bring the water to the faucet. Both of these ways are much simpler than plumbing the sink, but have a limited water amount, and therefore are used in shows where the sink is only used a couple of times. This included the sink in the Reilly kitchen in 2016’s Outside Mullingar and in 2014’s Marry Me A Little.

Plumbed – The most difficult to achieve onstage, but the most realistic, is to plumb a sink onstage into the existing plumbing of the building. This way is only used when a copious and consistent amount of water is needed during the performance (and typically more likely in industrial or commercial kitchen sets). For instance, 2016’s tokyo fish story required an industrial sink to wash rice multiple times throughout the production.



Prop – A majority of the times, appliances onstage are real period-appropriate appliances that are not connected to a power source. Refrigerators are used to hold prop foods, but do not actually “refrigerate,” and stoves and ovens hold pots and pans, but never cook anything onstage. The vintage 1930s refrigerator in 2016’s Outside Mullingar and the contemporary stainless steel fridge in 2012’s Time Stands Still were just props.


Working Prop – In some shows, appliances are required to perform certain functions, but they do not need to be fully practical. Perhaps a kettle needs to boil on a stovetop. In that case, we might achieve that the needed outcome through different methods. If we do not need the kettle to actually be hot, we may add a speaker inside of the stove to create the whistling sound and add a flicker tip light to create the flame effect. But if we need the water to actually boil and a fully functional stove is not needed, we may replace one of the burners inside the stove with a simple hot plate, making that burner functional and leaving the rest of the stovetop as a prop. In 2016’s tokyo fish story the burners were prop and connected to fake gas lines, but the pot we put on top of them had a practical smoke effect inside of it, so that at the proper time the actor could “smoke” his fish.

Real – Every once in a while, a play requires an appliance to completely perform its intended function. This typically happens with smaller countertop appliances, like toasters, mixers, blenders, etc. These items can simply be plugged in, and either work as intended or work with slight alterations. In 2013’s Warrior Class, a popcorn maker with a practical fan inside created popcorn onstage.



Real – The easiest answer for food (but not the most cost-effective) is to provide the real thing when it must be eaten onstage. Real coffee was drunk in 2015’s Country House, real oatmeal is eaten in 2017’s Crimes of the Heart, and real sausages were had in 2015’s Fallen Angels.


Prop – In instances where food in shown onstage but never eaten, we almost always create or provide an artificial version of the food, so that it can last the run of the performances without having to be replaced. This included the shellac-coated bagels in 2015’s Proof, the plastisol-created raw fish in 2016’s tokyo fish story, the multiple cases of silicone donuts in 2010’s Superior Donuts, the molded foam meat pies in 2014’s Sweeney Todd, the carved foam steak tornadoes in 2015’s Fallen Angels, and the foam-and-acrylic birthday cake in 2017’s Crimes of the Heart.


Edible Facsimiles – In certain instances like cost or cast member food allergies, the props department may need to create edible alternatives for the food needed onstage. In 2015’s Fallen Angels, cloudy gelatin was carved into amorphous blobs to act as a cost-effective and food safe alternative to real oysters. Anytime there is liquor onstage, especially brown alcohol, colored water or decaffeinated iced tea is used. In 2013’s Somewhere, pork chops were too expensive and difficult to cook at the theatre, so peanut butter cookies were baked ahead of time in the shape of pork chops and used onstage. To prevent the melting mess of ice cream onstage, 2012’s Time Stands Still used mashed potatoes scooped like ice cream.

The scenic and props departments use a lot of tricks to make kitchens look complete and food look realistic onstage. Hopefully as the audience you never suspect…but now you’ll know how some of that theatre magic is made!

“Daddy Long Legs” and the Mannequin Challenge

Riddle: What do a dozen TW staff members, the cast and crew of Daddy Long Legs, and 200 students have in common?

Answer: They all participated in TW’s mannequin challenge last Thursday!

When we asked Deirdre Holland, the Daddy Long Legs Stage Manager, whether the cast and crew would be willing to be a part of this craze which has been sweeping the nation, she said yes. We threw out a few dates, and she suggested that we do it after the first student matinee, when we could have a house full of willing and enthusiastic audience members.

Katie Bartholomew, Associate Director of Education, checked with the schools who were coming, and confirmed with three of them that they would stay. That meant a total of 200 kids would be a part of our mannequin challenge!

The cast and crew for Daddy Long Legs is smaller than our typical December musical: just two actors, three musicians, and six crew members. But Marketing & Communications Manager (and genius) Heather Orth came up with a storyboard that would allow us to make the most of every single body we had – some of them twice! – in the single-shot video.

So last Thursday, staff members traveled from the office to the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, and took their places around the green room. Heather ran through the entire storyboard one time, while on the stage the actors held their post-show talkback with the students. Once the talkback ended, the actors and crew quickly got into their places. Heather filmed the entire thing in under two minutes…and the rest is history!

If you’re intrigued, you can find out more about Daddy Long Legs here.

If you’re interested, you can find out more about student matinees here.

If you’re inspired, please consider donating. It just takes $10 to sponsor one student matinee ticket, which could be a student’s very first time seeing a live performance.

The long road home for DADDY LONG LEGS

Since its world premiere in 2009, Paul Gordon’s Daddy Long Legs has reached audiences around the world. After charming theatregoers on three continents, the musical is returning home to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, just in time for the holidays! Let’s take a look back at the many faces of Jerusha and Jervis from around the world:

In October of 2009, Daddy Long Legs premiered at the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, CA, for the first stage of its three city rolling world premiere with Megan McGinnis as Jerusha Abbott and Robert Adelman Hancock as Jervis Pendleton. The musical then opened in Mountain View, CA (TheatreWorks Silicon Valley) in January of 2010 and March of 2010 in Cincinnati, OH (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park). From September 2010 to March 2012, McGinnis and Hancock would play the lead roles in Chicago (Northlight Theatre), La Mirada, CA (La Mirada Theatre), Cleveland (Cleveland Playhouse), Phoenix (Arizona Theatre Company), Lowell, MA (Merrimack Repertory Theatre), and Milwaukee (Skylight Music Theatre).

In October of 2011, Daddy Long Legs premiered at the Gem Theatre in Detroit, starring Christy Altomare as Jerusha and Kevin Earley as Jervis.

The first international production of the musical premiered in Tokyo at Theatre Creation in September of 2012, with Sakamoto Maaya and Inoue Yoshio in the lead roles, and would go on to tour Japan, reaching audiences in Niigata, Oita, Osaka, and Fukuoka.

McGinnis and Hancock returned to their roles for the West End premiere of Daddy Long Legs at the St James Theatre in London during October of 2012.

2012 also saw actors Ephie Aardema and Kevin Earley teaming up twice as Jerusha and Jervis, for productions in Santa Maria, CA (PCPA TheatreFest) and St Louis (Repertory Theatre of St Louis).

The following year saw the Canadian premiere of Daddy Long Legs opening in Winnipeg at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, again starring McGinnis and Hancock.

The Florida Studio Theatre production in Sarasota in 2014 saw a new Jerusha (actress Penny McNamee) opposite Kevin Earley, marking his third turn as Jervis.

Daddy Long Legs opened off-Broadway in September of 2015 at the Davenport Theatre in New York City. Initially scheduled for a limited run, the musical went on to play 309 performances, closing in June of 2016. On December 10, 2015, the musical made history by becoming the first Broadway or off-Broadway show to be broadcast live online. The livestream was seen by over 150,000 viewers in 135 countries, reaching audiences as far as away as Tanzania, Jordan, and Fiji. Megan McGinnis returned to the role of Jerusha for the Davenport production, opposite Paul Alexander Nolan, Will Reynolds, and finally, her real-life husband Adam Halpin as Jervis.

In July of 2016, the musical opened in Seoul, South Korea at the Daemyung Culture Factory with a rotating cast. Check out the footage from the Seoul production, featuring “The Secret of Happiness” sung in Korean!

Upcoming productions include New Brunswick, New Jersey (George Street Playhouse) and Pittsburgh ( Pittsburgh Public Theatre).

Finally, after visiting three continents and over 20 cities, Daddy Long Legs returns home to TheatreWorks for the holidays with a brand new Jerusha and Jervis: Hilary Maiberger and Derek Carley.


Reserve your seats today!

Akemi Okamura on the 2016 CAATA Conference at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival


Jeffrey Lo & Akemi Okamura

FutureWorks Fellow Akemi Okamura and Company Manager Jeffrey Lo recently represented TheatreWorks Silicon Valley at the Consortium of Asian American Theaters & Artists’ (or CAATA) 5th National Asian American Conference and Festival, hosted by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Here are a few of Akemi’s takeways from the week in Ashland:

In my year and a half as FutureWorks Fellow at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, I’ve been able to see and do a lot of interesting and cool things. From sitting in on rehearsals and being the reader at auditions, to assisting with housing prep for out of town actors and logging new scripts, I have learned a lot. So when the opportunity to attend the CAATA conference presented itself, I naturally said yes. After all, what could be a better learning opportunity than getting to meet with and learn from Asian American theatre makers from across the country and the world? Looking back, it seems somehow super human how CAATA was able to fit so many things into just one week’s worth of conference, and yet they did. To break up the jam packed conference into smaller chunks, I have decided to share with you the top five things that I loved most about this year’s conference. Think of this as your conference highlight reel!cubsrhxueaaxtdy

1) Panels and Breakout Sessions
What conference would be complete without its panels and breakout sessions? For me, there were so many great options to choose from that I had difficulty narrowing it down to attending just one per session. Topics ranged from Asian American Directors, to a moving session called “Producing Theatre in a Mixed World” (which was particularly close to my heart as a multiracial theatre artist), along with various discussions on yellowface, and building the next Asian American leaders. There were so many more panels that were available, and if you’re interested in checking them out, visit the CAATA website here: http://caata.net/schedule/ Continue reading

Meet the cast of DADDY LONG LEGS

Two fresh faces will be bringing Jerusha and Jervis to life this winter:

carley-derekDEREK CARLEY (Jervis Pendleton) is thrilled to be making his TheatreWorks debut. He has appeared in the First National Tour of Flashdance the Musical. Regional credits include Miss Saigon and Titanic at the St. Louis Muny, Big the Musical and Grease at Wagon Wheel Theatre in Indiana, The Dodgers at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre in Los Angeles, and Gay Bride of Frankenstein at Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. TV/Film credits include Notorious on ABC and the feature film The Billionaire. Mr. Carley is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan where he earned his BFA in Musical Theatre.

HILARY MAIBERGER (Jerusha Abbott) is thrilled to making her TheatreWorks debut. National and international tours include NetWorks Productions’ Beauty and the Beast (Belle). Regional credits include The Light in the Piazza (Clara Johnson) at Theatre Raleigh and two seasons at Moonlight Amphitheatre where she starred in My Fair Lady (Eliza Doolittle) and South Pacific (Nellie Forbush). Other theatre credits include Aladdin: The Musical Spectacular (Jasmine), Cinderella (Cinderella), Little Women (Jo March), and The Marvelous Wonderettes (Cindy Lou). Ms. Maiberger earned her MM in Vocal Performance from Bowling Green State University and currently teaches private voice in New York City.

Reserve your seats for Daddy Long Legs today!


40 years of Irish culture at TWSV

We’ve seen the work of many Irish and Irish-American playwrights on our mainstage over the past 40 years. Let’s take a look back at the influence of Irish culture at TheatreWorks, which continues with this season’s Outside Mullingar.


Above, 1977’s She Stoops to Conquer by Anglo-Irish playwright Oliver Goldsmith, who was born in County Westmeath, Ireland (the same county as Mullingar). Continue reading

OSKAR returns in Spring of 2017

OSKAR returns in 2017 with two fun shows!

Ideal for grades K – 5, OSKAR AND THE COUNTLESS COSTUME CHANGES and OSKAR AND THE BIG BULLY BATTLE! will tour from February 20 – March 31, 2017.

The ongoing series of OSKAR plays for young audiences has been touring schools throughout the Bay Area since 2006 and has reached more than 100,000 students. The plays—which tackle bullying, resiliency, and empathy—have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from students, teachers, administrators, and parents. While all the OSKAR plays deal with their subject matter in a humorous fashion, they have made a serious impact on student behavior.

Book your school’s performance today!

Mullingar: The place behind the play

John Patrick Shanley’s romantic comedy Outside Mullingar derives its setting in the county of Westmeath, Ireland and the real town of Mullingar. The administrative, business, and cultural center of the county, the town was visited by Shanley as he was writing the play. Here are a few quick facts about the history of Mullingar:


Photo by Finn Mac Ginty

• With a current population of 20,000 inhabitants, Mullingar is roughly equal in size to South Lake Tahoe, CA. Continue reading