Announcing our first sensory-sensitive performance

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TheatreWorks is committed to making theatre accessible to all, including our community’s children and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other sensory and social sensitivities, and we are delighted to be offering our first sensory-sensitive performance.

Around the World in 80 Days
Wednesday, Dec 27 at 7:30pm
Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto

Join fearless adventurer Phileas Fogg and his faithful valet in the original “Great Race,” circling the globe in an 1870s alive with danger, romance, and comic surprises at every turn. In the hilariously theatrical style of The 39 Steps, five actors portray dozens of characters in a thrilling race against time and treachery. Grab your family, and your passport, for an ingenious, imaginative expedition around the world!
(This show is best enjoyed by children ages 6 and up.)

Sensory-sensitive performances are designed to create an experience that can be shared and enjoyed by all. Accommodations for these performances include:

  • A reduction in lighting and sound effects that may be considered jarring or startling
  • Modification of the house lights during the performance
  • Patrons are free to talk or leave your seats during the performance
  • Access to resource materials to prepare for your visit
  • Extra staff on hand at the theatre
  • A judgment-free, no-shush zone

Seating at this performance will be general admission and discounted off the regular full price.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Box Office at 650.463.1960 or boxoffice@theatreworks.org.

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What’s With the Game Board?

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Scenic Design by Joe Ragey / Photo by Kevin Berne

When you come to see Around the World in 80 Days, it may not look like what you were expecting. You’ll be greeted with a show curtain that reads “Le Tour du Monde en 80 Jours,” surrounded with sweeping railroad tracks that seemingly encircle the set.

But there’s a method to the madness. Joe Ragey’s set design is inspired by a chromolithograph game board of Around the World in 80 Days, c. 1904-1915, by Roche Frères Printing, Paris. The board itself is used as a backdrop and on the side walls of the set, while the cover of the box, with the title in the original French, serves as a front curtain for the show.

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The game board represents scenes from Jules Verne’s 1872 novel, with thumbnail illustrations numbered from 1 to 80 arranged counterclockwise and encircling a map of the world (which also appears on the floor of our set). The game board includes some anachronisms such as an illustration of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor (dedicated in 1886) and cable cars in San Francisco (which first debuted a year after Verne’s novel). The great popularity of Verne’s book, and of a theatrical adaptation that he co-authored around 1880, inspired the production of an unusually large number of spin-off products in France, including several games.

Jules Verne, 'Around the World in 80 days', 'Jeu de l'oie' (Snakes and ladder games)

Join us at the Lucie Stern Theatre this holiday season to see this fantastical set – and all the secrets that will come when we take the lid off of the box. Performances begin tonight!

For more information, visit theatreworks.org.

Week of Gratitude: Everyone

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During our Week of Gratitude we celebrate the generosity of TheatreWorks’ community members, including you!

We’re grateful for each person who plays their part here at TheatreWorks. Please enjoy a few stories from your fellow community members who, like you, make a difference at TheatreWorks, as well as in our greater Silicon Valley community.

So give yourself a round of applause! TheatreWorks staff might put on the show, but you’re the inspiration.

Thursday, November 23: EVERYONE

TheatreWorks reaches over 100,000 audience members each year. That’s bigger than the city of Palo Alto! Without you, our audience, to whom will our actors perform? Our artists spend weeks rehearsing the material, but you help finish the equation by attending and applauding.

We are grateful for your enthusiasm and partnership in the art of TheatreWorks. You inspire us to keep finding incredible stories for the stage.

Thank you for joining in on the Week of Gratitude celebration. Share what you’re grateful for via email.

Week of Gratitude: FutureWorks

WOGratitudeWebHero

During our Week of Gratitude we celebrate the generosity of TheatreWorks’ community members, including you!

We’re grateful for each person who plays their part here at TheatreWorks. Please enjoy a few stories from your fellow community members who, like you, make a difference at TheatreWorks, as well as in our greater Silicon Valley community.

So give yourself a round of applause! TheatreWorks staff might put on the show, but you’re the inspiration.

Wednesday, November 22: FUTUREWORKS

Can you imagine TheatreWorks 50 years from now? Maybe it’s impossible to know, but we all share a vision of a strong, united, and thriving TheatreWorks right here in the Bay. FutureWorks members designate TheatreWorks as a beneficiary in their planned giving, ensuring that we will serve our shared community for generations to come. By celebrating their legacy in this way, they play their part in securing a vibrant and thriving future—even for another 50 years to come!

We are grateful for their vision and passion. Take some time to meet a few of your fellow FutureWorks members, and feel free to send us your answers to the questions as well!

gannonsCAROLYN & TERRY GANNON

How many years have you been involved at TheatreWorks?
Since 1985, when we moved to the Bay Area from Santa Barbara. First we were individual ticket buyers, followed quickly by being season subscribers and donors.

Why did you choose to join FutureWorks?
Kelley, his staff, and the board of directors have built something magical and enduring.  We feel confident that supporting TheatreWorks through a legacy gift is a solid investment in the performing arts in Silicon Valley. The youth programs, New Works Initiative, and regular season performances are all worthy of support.

Share your own personal vision of TheatreWorks 50 years from now.
In its own state-of-the-art building, TheatreWorks will have major works produced on its main stage, and smaller stages for (a) youth performances and theatre classes and (b) a cabaret setting for live performances of music, comedy, or other performing art forms as a source of space rental revenue to help sustain TheatreWorks. Lots of underground parking and close to public transportation. TheatreWorks will also have founded a school of theatre performance, playwriting, staging/lighting/etc. which could be co-located with the TheatreWorks stages.

Laurie WaldmanLAURIE WALDMAN

How many years have you been involved at TheatreWorks?
My cousin was a subscriber for many years before I even knew about TheatreWorks. Occasionally I got to go when his theatre partner couldn’t at the last minute and I was greatly impressed by the quality of the productions. I became a subscriber 10 years ago, first with my cousin, then with my own membership.

Why did you choose to join FutureWorks?
My mother took me to plays from the time I could walk, about age three, and I have loved theatre ever since. I live in Santa Cruz but I have had subscriptions to the Broadway series in San Francisco for more than 30 years, and I had subscriptions to San Jose American Musical Theatre and San Jose Rep for many years. TheatreWorks has always stunned me by the quality of the productions—every detail is considered. The casting, the acting, the sets, the costumes, the music when there is music, all the parts of theatre are done with such excellence, I am awed by every performance I am privileged to see. A few years ago when I was updating my estate plan, I decided that I wanted to support that which has given me the most joy in my life, and that is theatre. And the most joy in theatre in my life comes from TheatreWorks. I am thrilled to know that after I’m gone I will be able to support this amazing organization through a donation of a percentage of my estate.

Who is your favorite character in any past TW production?
Jerusha Abbott in Daddy Long Legs. She is bright and feisty, eager to learn, hardworking, and instinctively knows that women are equals to men and should be treated as equals. She recognizes authenticity compared to phoniness in people she meets. Also, I love her character, because she experiences such growth during the four years covered in the play. And she still retains her loving heart and strong values.

Share your own personal vision of TheatreWorks 50 years from now.
My vision for TheatreWorks in 50 years: I imagine a TheatreWorks Village, open daily, where people of all ages can learn about all aspects of the theatre—writing, production, acting, etc., and it is set up to especially attract kids and teenagers so that people can be exposed early like I was, to the thrill and joy of live theatre. TheatreWorks Village would include at least one state-of-the-art theatre for performances, and lots of rehearsal areas, dressing rooms, prop building areas, lighting construction, living space for out-of-town performers, office space for all the administration people involved in creating and maintaining the productions and the Village. And restaurants with healthy food that feed staff and visitors while they are in the Village. If the Village covers acres of space, there can be an electric van that shuttles people around, like a golf cart for 10 people at once. I haven’t worked out all the details—it’s just a fantasy. You fill in the rest from your own imagination.

Learn more about Legacy Giving and FutureWorks at TheatreWorks.

Week of Gratitude: Donors and Funders

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During our Week of Gratitude we celebrate the generosity of TheatreWorks’ community members, including you!

We’re grateful for each person who plays their part here at TheatreWorks. Please enjoy a few stories from your fellow community members who, like you, make a difference at TheatreWorks, as well as in our greater Silicon Valley community.

So give yourself a round of applause! TheatreWorks staff might put on the show, but you’re the inspiration.

Tuesday, November 21: DONORS AND FUNDERS

Over half of TheatreWorks’ budget supports our mainstage program, and we are so grateful for the subscribers and ticket purchasers who help us fund the creation of incredible art. However, to support our education programs, the New Works Initiative, and the events surrounding the mainstage productions, we rely almost entirely on you—our TheatreWorks investors! Your generosity allows us to produce your next favorite show while empowering Silicon Valley students through arts integration programs and celebrating new and diverse art for the stage.

We are grateful to you for playing your part in making Silicon Valley a better community to call home. Take some time to meet a few of your fellow donors, and feel free to send us your answers to the questions as well!

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IRIS AND HAL KOROL

How many years have you been enjoying shows at TheatreWorks?
We have probably subscribed and been involved for the last 25 years.

Which productions have been your favorite?
Iris’s favorite show is Emma. Hal really liked Being Earnest.

Why do you choose to support the company as donors?
We feel lucky to have TW in our lives! TW affords us the opportunity to see world-class productions and to see them right here in our backyard. We walk out of shows amazed at what we have just seen. We are grateful for the immense amount of talent and innovation that TW finds, and also to the management of the organization who make this possible. TW additionally does a superb job in community outreach, particularly in bringing theatre to kids who might not have this resource available to them normally. These are just a few of the reasons why we’re involved.

What is your own personal vision of TheatreWorks 50 years from now?
Our vision for the future would be for TW to have a permanent home of its own.

Lynda Fox PhotoLYNDA FOX

How many years have you been enjoying shows at TheatreWorks?
My husband and I have been seeing TheatreWorks shows since 1992.

Which productions have been your favorite?
Daddy Long Legs, Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin, and 2 Pianos 4 Hands.

Why do you choose to support the company as donors?
My husband and I enjoy the shows and appreciate having such a wonderful company in our midst. We want to be sure that TheatreWorks continues to be successful. We’ve watched other companies fold, and don’t want this to happen to TheatreWorks. It is important for the community to support the arts, especially one as well-managed and financially sound as TheatreWorks. The sets are always very creatively designed, and the talent is of high quality. We’re proud to be supporters and attendees of TheatreWorks.

If you could star in any past TW production, which character would you play?
I’d like to play the witch in Into The Woods. And if you ever decide to do Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, I’d like to be the narrator.

What is your own personal vision of TheatreWorks 50 years from now?
Fifty years from now I hope TheatreWorks is as relevant as it is today, showing important plays and musicals. It would be wonderful to have a theatre of its own with the most modern equipment available. I would like TheatreWorks to be considered one of the finest theatre companies in the country and have many more of its shows go on to national and international venues.

CiroHeadshotLoResCIRO GIAMMONA
CEO of Harrell Remodeling, Inc., a corporate sponsor

How many years have you been enjoying shows at TheatreWorks?
Five years.

Which productions have been your favorite?
Wow, that is tough to answer. I guess I would have to say Emma, but then again, the recent production of The Prince of Egypt was absolutely amazing!

Why does Harrell Remodeling choose to support the company as a corporate sponsor?
Harrell Remodeling believes in giving back to the community in which we work. We think the arts, education, and children in particular need more support, and TheatreWorks provides all three. Personally, I support TheatreWorks for the same reasons, but also because I want to continue to enjoy world-class theatre performances with an easy 15-minute drive!

If you could star in any past TW production, which character would you play?
I played the part of Algernon Moncrieff in The Importance of Being Earnest while in high school. I would want to reprise that role (in Being Earnest) because it was really fun, and I wouldn’t have to relearn any lines!

What is your own personal vision of TheatreWorks 50 years from now?
I envision TheatreWorks providing a destination theatre experience for visitors from all over the world. It already offers the quality of shows, talent, and production values that should make this happen, but people need to know they can experience all of that right here in Silicon Valley. I also envision the children currently involved in TheatreWorks’ myriad educational opportunities becoming lifelong supporters and subscribers and still enjoying outstanding shows with their grandchildren in 2067!

Learn more about development programs at TheatreWorks

Our Week of Gratitude: Volunteers

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During our Week of Gratitude we celebrate the generosity of TheatreWorks’ community members, including you!

We’re grateful for each person who plays their part here at TheatreWorks. Please enjoy a few stories from your fellow community members who, like you, make a difference at TheatreWorks, as well as in our greater Silicon Valley community.

So give yourself a round of applause! TheatreWorks staff might put on the show, but you’re the inspiration.

Monday, November 20: VOLUNTEERS

Around 500 volunteers contribute 6,000 hours each season. They’re the friendly faces who greet you at the theatre; they provide expert support in the headquarter offices; and they even partner with our artistic staff to organize auditions and rehearsals.

We are grateful for their time, energy, and talents. Take some time to meet a few of your volunteers, and feel free to send us your answers to the questions as well!

 

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Bob Jackson

BOB JACKSON

How many years have you been a part of TheatreWorks?
Five years as a Properties Assistant, and then four years as an usher.

Why do you volunteer at TheatreWorks?
I think TheatreWorks is a good organization and I enjoy my association with the people.

What is your favorite part of volunteering?
I get to see high quality theatre productions.

Which production is your favorite?
Proof
and The Chosen.

If you could star in any past TW production, which character would you play?
Mr Weston in Emma.

 

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Mabel Lee

MABEL LEE

How many years have you been a part of TheatreWorks?
I’ve been volunteering at TheatreWorks for three years, and over ten years volunteering at various other organizations and venues.

Why do you volunteer at TheatreWorks?
I volunteer to provide a valuable resource to the organization and community, and at the same time, I get to see and enjoy the play or reading.

What is your favorite part of volunteering?
I enjoy giving my time to the organization and providing patrons with a positive experience.

Which production is your favorite?
Daddy Long Legs 
and Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin.

If you could star in any past TW production, which character would you play?
I would play Jerusha Abbott in Daddy Long Legs.

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Barbara Maher

BARBARA MAHER

How many years have you been a part of TheatreWorks?
I joined the TheatreWorks family as a volunteer in 2014.

Why do you volunteer at TheatreWorks?
I have been a season subscriber for over twenty years. When I retired from teaching, I decided volunteering with TheatreWorks was a good way to pay back for all the amazing and wonderful evenings of entertainment.

What is your favorite part of volunteering?
Volunteering with TheatreWorks has given me the opportunity to become part of a very special group of people who are dedicated to making professional theatre happen.  I love being a part of the behind-the-scenes workings of a great regional theatre.

Which production is your favorite?
I loved Crowns. The deep friendships of the women and the incredible hats made me happy. Memphis made me want to get up to sing and dance.

If you could star in any past TW production, which character would you play?
As a young person I would want to play Jerusha in Daddy Long Legs. As a senior, I would like to be Mrs. Clackett in Noises Off.

Do you have a special or memorable moment volunteering at TheatreWorks?
A most special moment for me was when my four-layer chocolate salted caramel cake went for $1,700 at the Dessert Dash for the gala three years ago. Made me proud to have brought such a hefty price for a cake!

 

 

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Terry Maher

TERRY MAHER

How many years have you been a part of TheatreWorks?
A little more than three years (Barbara and I started in 2014).

Why do you volunteer at TheatreWorks?
I love the theatre. I have a great appreciation for the stories, actors, music, and costumes.  I have always had a fantasy of being on stage, though my imagination far exceeds my actual talent. Volunteering for TW gives me the thrill of experiencing the inner works of the show and then I get to sit back, relax, and be transported to another place when I see the show.

What is your favorite part of volunteering?
I really enjoy the process from behind the scenes. I love supporting the whole team—so many people give their heart, soul, and talent to make a production happen. It is so exciting to see the show when I’ve met the people that make it happen. Food is a way to bring people together and create community. I believe that food nourishes the body and soul. I cook with love and imagine people feel it in the food they eat.

Which production is your favorite?
I loved Crimes of the Heart. I laughed and cried and laughed while I was crying. It was a wonderful story that showed the strength of the sister bond and love. The dancing in The Prince of Egypt was absolutely breath-taking. I was in awe of the collaboration of body movement to create such vivid scenes.

If you could star in any past TW production, which character would you play?
I would be Babe from Crimes of the Heart. I can relate to being the youngest sister (I am the youngest of seven: five girls, two boys) and how crazy dynamics can be in a family. I love how sassy she is: “I didn’t like his looks! I just didn’t like his stinking looks!” Babe has a big heart and tries to protect the people she loves.

Do you have a special or memorable moment volunteering at TheatreWorks?
I have many fond memories, but I think that the first gala I helped with was really special. It was the 2015 gala Tonight Tonight and I helped set up, decorate, serve food, and was part of the cleanup team. I was so excited to help in so many ways. I worked with Managing Director Phil Santora to transform the TW warehouse space into a magical wonderland. I felt like I was on the stage crew for a major production—I busied myself with the staple gun, spray glue, paint, x-acto knife and lots of things that glittered. It was tedious work at times—dear Phil is a perfectionist after my own heart; but so rewarding. I was thrilled to see so many happy guests the night of the event. I was serving food and enjoyed meeting so many attendees. It was a wonderful experience start to finish. I was hooked!

Learn more about volunteering at TheatreWorks.

Meet Diluckshan Jeyaratnam

Our Moses, Diluckshan Jeyaratnam, comes to us all the way from Denmark, and will travel back to Denmark with The Prince of Egypt when it is remounted at Fredericia Teater in April of 2018. We grabbed a few minutes with him during rehearsals to ask some questions so you can get to know Diluckshan before you see the show.

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What is the theatre scene like in Denmark, compared to what you’ve seen in the United States?

Denmark has had a rich theatre scene for several years. Compared to the United States, musical theatre does not have a long history in Denmark. It is however a rapidly growing part of the Danish theatre scene, even becoming one of the bestselling art forms in recent times. Now, more than ever, it’s an exciting time to be a musical theatre actor in Denmark, because our theatres produce several original works and explore the art form and its potential, and we get to be part of it.

Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?

Not at all. I have always loved being a musician and a singer, and using these abilities to tell stories. However, I considered it a hobby. I never imagined it as a viable professional career path, so I went to university and took a degree in international communication and multimedia. I tried to apply for jobs without any luck, and I realized that a career in multimedia wouldn’t make me happy anyway, because my passion was elsewhere: the arts, more specifically, musical theatre.

During this time, I was fortunate enough to have been part of a few productions at our local theatre, including Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats. I even saw my very first musical at this theatre when they did their production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I was totally blown away by what I saw. After the show, I was lucky enough to get a backstage tour and witness the beautiful collaboration that was happening to create such an amazing production. At that moment, I realized that I wanted to be part of that community, even if it was only as a hobby. As it turns out, it has become much more than that, and I’m so grateful for it.

What was your family’s response when you told them you wanted to pursue a career in theatre?

This was the part I was most nervous about. My family’s support and blessing meant the world to me. I imagined all kinds of responses from them and I feared the worst when I went to them to share my thoughts, but they managed to surprise me. Their response was, “We always knew that this was the right path for you. We just wanted you to realize it for yourself, so you would be ready to take the leap.” After that beautiful blessing from my family, every little bit of doubt and fear totally disappeared, and I just went for it.

What is it like working in cast with so many people of color? Is that a new experience for you? What was the first day of rehearsal like, when the cast comes together for the first time?

This is a completely new experience for me. Most of the time, I’m the only person of color in the shows that I have done in Denmark, with a few exceptions where there have been one or two others. On the first day of rehearsal of The Prince of Egypt, I was surprised and so thrilled to see a cast with so many people of color and different ethnicities. We all come from different parts of the world and have different cultural and religious backgrounds, but we share the same core values needed to tell such an amazing story as The Prince of Egypt. I am truly humbled and grateful to be part of this cast.

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The cast of The Prince of Egypt on the first day of rehearsal / Photo Heather Orth

Besides Moses, what is your dream role? 

I have always had a hard time answering this question…I was fortunate enough to see Hamilton on Broadway with the original cast, and it was one of the most memorable theatre experiences I have ever had. Ever since I heard the music and saw the show, I have wanted to play Aaron Burr. I love the complexity of the character and the journey he goes through.

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Diluckshan as Moses / Photo Kevin Berne

Diluckshan gave us a preview of the “Let my people go” scene, and it’s beautiful. Tickets for this show are selling quickly – visit theatreworks.org to secure your seats today.

Kelley’s Recommended Reading on CONSTELLATIONS

Although you certainly don’t need a background in astrophysics to enjoy Nick Payne’s Constellations, we asked Director Robert Kelley for a list of further reading for anyone interested in learning more about the subjects of string theory, the multiverse, or the genesis of this brilliant play. Here’s a short list of Kelley’s recs:

Books:

  • String Theory for Dummies by Andrew Zimmerman Jones with Daniel Robbins, PhD
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Videos:

Article:

And if you’re still eager for more, you can always hire a tutor! As Kelley says, “I also had a two hour individual session to review the play and its contents, including string theory, with physicist Dr. Richard Partridge, Senior Staff Scientist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford.”

For more information on our production of Constellations, running through September 17 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, visit theatreworks.org.

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Kaede describes the New Works Festival!

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Kaede / Photo by Kevin Berne

Hi, my name is Kaede and I am the Marketing Intern at TheatreWorks. I would like to announce that TheatreWorks’ 16th Annual New Works Festival is onstage now at the Lucie Stern Theatre!

What is the New Works Festival?

The New Works Festival is an annual theatre festival presented by TheatreWorks. This year, it’s made up of two musicals and three plays, plus some special events. In the festival, each show is seen in the early stages of development: more than a reading but not fully-directed. Therefore, TheatreWorks is able to introduce several newest shows to the community in the short period of the time.

I personally haven’t had a chance to join the Festival in past years. Producing three plays and two musicals at the same time sounds kind of insane to me. I know how much time and effort go into just one great show, from my experience working backstage at Foothill College. However, I have one strong piece of evidence that the Festival provides amazing benefits to both audience and artists: The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga.

The Four Immigrants: An American Music Manga just had a very successful world premiere at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, after being a part of the 2016 New Works Festival. The tremendous success of The Four Immigrants is in part from appearing in last’s years New Works Festival.

The New Works Festival helps playwrights and directors to create the ideal show. Throughout the festival, they can see how the show would look like on the stage and how the audience would react to their work. They can change or add details and make the show better, based on the audience reaction.

The New Works Festival also benefits to the audience. The Festival is a great opportunity for the audience to explore new trends in American theatre. It is a chance to get familiar with the latest acclaimed shows and find the next level of their favorite shows, playwrights, directors, and actors.

I have read the scripts of the shows which are going to appear in the New Works Festival this year, and I will share a little bit about them.

What musicals will TheatreWorks present in the Festival?

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE: The Shangri-Las is a musical about the Shangri-Las, an American pop girl group on the 1960s. Their hit songs included “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” and “Leader of the Pack.” The playwright, David Stenn, has written for television from Hill Street Blues to Boardwalk Empire, and has authored two biographies. His documentary, Girl 27, exposed one of Hollywood’s best-suppressed scandals. This musical reveals the Shangri-Las’ mysterious career and end with their timeless music. The musical will be directed by Lisa Peterson.

I had not known about the Shangri-Las, so I used YouTube to listen to their music. It’s sad and dramatic, and is not like any other hit pop song. People say they got popular as a bad girls band from teenagers back in 60s. I can easily imagine how teenagers got into them. I love the musicals based on hit songs such as ABBA’s Mamma Mia, and I am pretty sure this Shangri-Las musical is going to be another successful hit in musical history.

MY MOTHER’S LESBIAN JEWISH WICCAN WEDDING is a comic and touching love story based on David’s mother’s true story. It is a musical valentine to a woman who changed everything in her life, including her family. Irene Sankoff and David Hein are a Canadian married writing team, and their show Come From Away was nominated for seven Tony Awards this year, including Best Musical. The musical will be directed by David Leon Lowenstein.

I loved this musical immediately when I was reading the script. At the same time, I still can’t believe this is based on a real story! The wedding is lesbian, Jewish, and Wiccan, and I have never heard of a wedding like that. Despite the fact that the wedding does not sound like it is going to happen easily, the story is full of fun details. The musical is never dark or sad, but touching and heartwarming. And the music is wonderful, too! No theatre fan should miss this musical.

What plays will TheatreWorks present in the festival?

3 FARIDS is a comic play performed by three Arab American actors. Ramiz Monsef is co-author of the musical The Unfortunates, which was produced at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and ACT in San Francisco. Ramiz himself is an actor as well, and will appear in this show, and he has appeared on TV and in theatres across the country. The show will be directed by Pirronne Yousefzadeh.

Reading the script of 3 Farids was an interesting experience. It was clearly carrying a strong message of people who has suffered from being stereotyped. I had a chance to see Ramiz Monsef’s The Unfortunates, and it was very abstract and attractive. I loved the music, dance, set design, and everything—it was more spectacle than storytelling. I was surprised how the message was portrayed without traditional storytelling. I expect 3 Farids to be like The Unfortunates. I am just so excited to see this on stage.

DEAL WITH THE DRAGON is a one man play written and performed by Kevin Rolston, who has appeared onstage at TheatreWorks several times. The show is about a man who has a roommate who says he is a dragon. It is a dark comedy for mature audience. Deal with the Dragon is developed with and directed by M. Graham Smith.

Recently, the number of the actors on stage is generally getting smaller than ever, which means new plays often have fewer than four actors, who all play several roles in the same show. However, a one man show still sounds like a challenge for me. Although the characters are very charming on the page, I wonder how Kevin Rolston will perform two or three of them at the same time. I am ready to be surprised by Kevin Rolston’s Deal with the Dragon.

TINY HOUSES is a play about Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17which was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014. The play will show the human drama of people who are in the tiny houses around the glove. Stefanie Zadravec’s work has been produced/developed at several theatres across the country. She is a New Dramatists Resident and recipient of a Helen Merrill Emerging Writer Award, the Francesca Primus prize, and a Helen Hayes Award. Tiny Houses will be directed by Giovanna Sardelli.

The story is based on the true and tragic event of 2014. Although Stefanie Zadravec made it clear that the characters and story of the play is fiction, it is still shocking. The show is focused on normal people in tiny houses and their drama. This play is going to send the audience home with many questions—a great example of how live theatre, even in early stages of development, can impact the audience.

For more information on TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 16th Annual New Works Festival, visit theatreworks.org.

7 Shows, 36 Actors, 10 Days: The 2017 New Works Festival

A conversation between Acting Marketing Director Syche Phillips, Associate Artistic Director Leslie Martinson, and NWF Casting Director Jeffrey Lo, in early June 2017:

Syche: The 2017 New Works Festival is nigh! So tell me, how is casting the New Works Festival different from casting anything else in the season?

Leslie: Casting for the Festival is completely different than casting for the mainstage because we don’t audition.

Syche: So you’re drawing from just a pool of people you already know?

Leslie: Not entirely. We have what we call the “shopping list conversation” with the director and the authors to find out what they’re looking for. We ask them a lot of questions about tone and style, because unlike with a published, established play, what’s on the page isn’t complete. You can’t draw the casting information we need from the page.

Jeffrey: Often we’ll ask them, If the piece has had other readings or workshops, what was something useful from the casting in those? What are useful traits other actors have brought in?

Syche: So like, “She has a sense of innocence?”

Leslie: Yes, or they’ll say, “Last time we had so-and-so play this role, and he was really tough and scary. So we’re interested in having someone less scary play this role.” Or someone scarier. It gives us character attributes and actor energy to work for.

Jeffrey: Sometimes it’s not who’s best for the part. It’s about what the playwright is interested in exploring. So they might say, “I wonder if this play works with an actor who is not sexy. Does it still work? Let’s try that.” By nature, the Festival is workshopping for the playwright, and we’re not trying to lock in a version.

Leslie: So we can ask a lot of “what if” questions.

Syche: So the casting provides another level of development to the trial and error process.

Leslie: Yes. Then we look at the pool of people we know, as you said, or, if there’s something specific they’re looking for, we’ll reach out to new people based on recommendations. And then we do what we call “pitches” back to the creatives. These are documents that include the headshot and resumes of our proposed actors, but also show shots, casual shots, any video we can find of people…it gives the creatives a sense of their personal energy.

Syche: What do you do when you’re casting a NWF reading, but you don’t yet have a director locked down? Is it just a conversation with the creatives?

Leslie: Yes. And then we hope the director is happy! The other thing that’s different about the Festival than a mainstage show is that you need actors who are super quick. All actors are smart; you can’t be a professional actor without being smart. But some actors have a longer process, where they go away and stew on it, or do their own research.

Syche: And there’s not really time for that here.

Leslie: Nope. We need smart people who will make bold choices right out of the gate, and who are willing to abandon those choices when the play takes a 180-degree turn from there, or if their character completely changes. We also do try to make sure the creatives have someone here that they know. It’s hard to come out here to a theatre company you may not already know, and show your vulnerable, in-process work to strangers. So if the creatives have an actor or two who has already been involved, or who they at least know, we do try to make that happen. We love it when that person is someone we also know, because then we can also say, “Oh well, if he’s playing the husband, you’re going to love her as the wife.”

Jeffrey: We’ve had plays in the past that were written for specific actors, and we’ve been able to bring in those actors, which is cool. We also had a play a couple years ago, featuring two couples, and the director and the playwright were looking specifically for local actors who knew each other and already had chemistry, but did not know the director and playwright.

Leslie: There’s some translation between playwright and director and casting, to figure out what the actors need to bring to the table.

Jeffrey: But the important thing is, it’s not about featuring the actors. It’s all in service of the play.

Leslie: There’s something fun in the Festival, in that some of the special skills you may need in an actor onstage can be accomplished through stage directions in a reading. You can state, “He dances an amazing hip hop solo,” and that’s how we’ll do it in the reading. Or in Man and Beast (TW NWF 2015), one of the characters frequently speaks Greek.

Syche: That’s just what came into my mind, was that exact example. Did the actor actually speak Greek?

Leslie: She learned how to pronounce it for the reading.

Syche: But it wasn’t a special skill on her resume.

Leslie: No, no. And it wasn’t necessary for casting.

Syche: Well, it sounded great.

Leslie: See? Super smart, super game actors. They’ll often go and learn the things even if you say, Oh, don’t worry about that.

Jeffrey: Another example of that “magic” of staged readings is my play Waiting for Next. We’re doing an open rehearsal for it during the Festival, with a small audience. I’ve had multiple readings of it, and it’s so easy for me to say “And now there’s a transition, and it’s six years later, and they’re wearing tuxedos.” But now Leslie, as the director, will say, “Hold up, how does the director solve that?” And we have to figure out what we’re looking at.

Syche: What’s the normal amount of rehearsal before the first performance of a Festival reading?

Leslie: The straight plays sometimes perform on Day 2, usually Day 3. The musicals usually perform on Day 4 or 5.

The first day of rehearsal is always interesting, especially for directors who are used to doing their own casting. It’s the first day everyone’s all together, and I usually check in at the end of the day, just to make sure everybody fell in love with each other. Occasionally we’ll have the cast all together, but the specific roles played by each person haven’t quite been nailed down. In Something Wicked This Way Comes (TW NWF 2016), there were two actors cast as the two character men, and until the first day of rehearsal there was a question of which actor would be which character.

Syche: For a lot of theatre companies, summer is their downtime. But for us, summer is the opposite of downtime. But it’s my favorite time of year—it’s the only time you see all the departments in the same meetings having conversations working toward the same thing. The rest of the year, the admin team meets, and the production team meets, and the departments meet individually…but during the summer we have full staff NWF meetings. It’s like a smaller scale version of the mainstage year, but it happens much faster. It feels very fulfilling in a creative way. Do you guys feel the same way?

Leslie: Yes, casting the Festival is fun in a different way from the mainstage season, because it’s so direct. The creatives say, “We need a person to do XYZ,” and then we say, “Here is that person.” And then the show happens. It feels direct and streamlined.

Syche: It condenses everything into a few months.

Leslie: Well, it condenses the timeframe, but not the scale of the whole thing. You still have to choose a season, contact the creatives, get the bios, get the headshots, get the Equity contracts—

Jeffrey: Same number of flights to pick up, same amount of own-of-town housing to figure out—

Leslie: It’s not a miniature season…it’s just a much faster season.

Jeffrey: What I enjoy about casting the Festival, the vibe of getting all these actors in here, is that it feels the way many of us started in theatre. Once you get to a professional level of theatre, you learn how far in advance you have to plan, how much money is involved, how many rules there are. And there are still rules and money, but with the Festival the vibe is, “These people wrote a play, it’s not done yet, but let’s get some actors and an audience and see what happens.” It’s like how Kelley describes Popcorn [TW’s very first play, a world premiere in 1970]. It’s creative and passionate and there’s talent and excitement and you just put everyone into a room and…see what comes of it all.

Syche: If you guys are good, I think that’s a perfect place to end.

Leslie: Sounds good. Okay Jeffrey, let’s go cast the Festival.

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Learn more about—or buy tickets to!—the 2017 New Works Festival.