Currently digging this song by Groove Armada called ‘At The River’. Thanks Pandora.
I’ve had it in my head that I haven’t been up to too much lately because I don’t have a full production I’m directing at the moment. But in trying to come up with a title for this update, I realize that’s pretty far from the truth–the truth is that I’ve actually been up to a whole heck of a lot lately, and juggling all these projects is just as all-consuming, if not more so, as directing a full production. Here’s what’s been happening lately:
Cast & crew of The Poet and The Frog along with the Fresh Produce’d LA team
Back in September I directed a workshop of a short, 10-minute play called The Poet and The Frog by Gene Griffith. It was a part of Fresh Produced‘s monthly workshops where they provide 3 chosen playwrights (for a nominal fee) each month a team of actors and a director to workshop up to a 20-page chunk of text of a new play and put it up at The Actors Company in West Hollywood. Gene wrote a whimsical story about a poet who sought a way to distribute his poetry so people would read and appreciate it. This was my first time being involved with the Fresh Produce’d team, and I found them to be a great group of hard-working professionals who offer a unique service to playwrights. Cool beans.
Doug Oliphant and Kathleen Holland in Mary Steelsmith’s 5:15am Ocean Avenue
Back in early October, I performed in a 10-minute play called 5:15am Ocean Avenue by Mary Steelsmith. The play was performed along with four other 10-minute plays that evening, and was the third ‘wave’ in Santa Monica Rep‘s ‘Wave Fest’, where they mounted a total of 15 new 10-minute plays written about or around the theme of Santa Monica, California. Like with Fresh Produce’d, this was another great, unique offering, where audiences got to learn more about the city they live in and 15 local playwrights got their work produced. The play explored a fictional situation between two people who dislike each other but set their differences aside just minutes after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I played David, a gay man with a worsening case of Kaposi’s Sarcoma, whose partner is hospitalized and also dying of AIDs. Quite a different role than I’ve ever played in the past, but I was excited for the challenge. Mary wrote a touching play that accomplished a full journey in just 10 minutes–no easy task. It was a lovely experience and I’m excited to see how Santa Monica Rep continues to engage in unique ways with Santa Monican audiences.
Whitney Rodriguez, Jennice Butler and Zach Schwartz in rehearsal for Zagazoo. Puppets by Park Cofield
Nine days ago, I began rehearsals for the US premiere of Zagazoo by Quentin Blake, adapted by Mike Kenny. Like I did last year around this same time, I’m traveling with the rest of the cast & crew up to Mammoth Lakes, California to perform at Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre for a week. Kids from local schools will be bused in for performances during the week, and we’ll have one public performance for the Mammoth Lakes community on the weekend. This year I’m just acting in the show, but Park Cofield, our director and puppet designer will lead the kids in post-show puppetry workshops that I and the other actors will also help to lead. The puppets Park has created are terrific, and I’ve been learning all about puppetry over these last nine days. The show is shaping up nicely, the puppets are beginning to really come to life, and I think we’re going to have a really great show to present next week. Plus of course, a week-long vacation in snow-covered Mammoth with a day of snowboarding planned in the trip doesn’t hurt!
Drive Theatre folks gathered for a peer-pitch/reading of Doug Oliphant’s Navy SEAL adaptation of Macbeth
Last Monday I organized through Drive Theatre Company a peer-pitch and reading of my adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I’ve been kicking this idea around for quite some time now, and in short, Macbeth is the man who shot and killed Osama Bin Laden and the Witches are news reporters. The story focuses on the PTSD effects that a veteran has to live with after war, and when coupled with media pressure and American sensationalism, what it could potentially drive someone to do. I had the second draft of my script ready for the reading, pitched using images and videos displayed on a TV monitor from a Pinterest Board I made, and then got feedback. The idea seemed to be generally appealing to the group of 15 I had gathered, though the Shakespeare purists had the harshest criticism. One note in particular I found especially useful: Remove the story from 100% reality and you save yourself the never-ending struggle of matching up Shakespearean events to real-world events. So true. In future drafts, I plan to use the events of the US Navy SEAL Team 6 raid on the Bin Laden compound as inspiration, rather than a literal event in the play–which was how I had things currently. That leaves room for audiences to draw their own parallels if they see them and relieves them from saying, “Wait, that could never happen”. I’d never done a peer-pitch before, but the idea seemed right to me, rather than rushing into a production or a pitch at a professional theatre. It’s a great way to work out the issues in your current vision and gain support from your peers–highly recommend it to any directors with a vision.
Crystal Clark, Keri Safran, Andrew Crabtree and Adam Jefferis in a reading of Larry Pontius’ Quitter
This past Saturday, we had the first of two readings of Quitter, a new play by Larry Pontius, directed by me. It was produced in The Skylight Theatre‘s Lab Works New Play Festival, where they provide performance and rehearsal space for playwrights to develop their plays, either in readings like this, or in staged workshop productions. Quitter is about a guy named Doug who claims to be ‘The Guy Who Throws The Parties’. He throws Neil Patrick Harris-worthy legen–wait for it–dary parties, except the last few he’s thrown he’s been a little off his game. The play begins on the scene of his most epic party yet–a Hawaiian luau complete with full pig on a spit over an open fire in the street. Eric, the self-proclaimed ‘Life Of The Party’ arrives, but immediately learns he’s the only guest there and tries to leave, but Alice, Doug’s wife spots him and forces him to stay. She’s desperately trying to keep Doug unaware that everyone RSVP’d ‘Maybe’ but Eric spills the beans eventually and Doug deems himself a failure. Hilarity, humanity, farce and revelation ensue. Rewrites will continue to happen and the play will evolve over the next three weeks, gearing up for a second performance and talkback on November 16th.
Skylight Theatre’s Lab Works New Play Festival
Also a part of Skylight Theatre’s Lab Works Fest, I’ll be doing movement direction on the workshop production of Boni Alvarez’ new play Bloodletting. Bloodletting is a story about a Filipino-American brother and sister who have traveled to the Philippines to spread the ashes of their father. They find themselves seeking shelter in a small cafe, when they’re confronted by a living, breathing aswang–aka a witch. Leelee, the aswang (an 18-year-old girl), tells the sister, Farrah, that she too is an aswang, and the play culminates in an accidental-use-of-power by Farrah in a fight with Leelee. It’ll be my job to define how a Filipino aswang moves, what their powers look like, and how two people can fight with them. That opens on Saturday, December 7th and plays just that weekend and next–catch it if you can!