Posts Tagged ‘Move-About Theatre’

2011: eleven plays

January 8, 2012

These plays are eleven of my favorites from 2011, in chronological order:


MEASURE FOR MEASURE: This was a staged reading by Subterranean Shakespeare in some kind of meeting room in a Unitarian Church in Berkeley. They did a whole series of these on consecutive Monday nights, putting a lot of work into plays that were only seen one time each.  Of the ones I went to see Measure for Measure comes to mind right now because it’s one of my favorites and doesn’t get produced very often. SubShakes proved that Measure for Measure is not a “problem play.”

April 2011:

SPEED-THE-PLAY: Move About Theatre simultaneously did four short plays outdoors on the four sides of Union Square in downtown SF. I was really impressed with the one called Speed-the-Play, which had  everything David Mamet ever wrote squeezed into seven minutes. There were tourists walking by who were probably wondering why these people were talking so fast and yelling and swearing at each other so much.

May 2011:


“VERSHININ. I have come to say good-bye. . . .

[OLGA moves a little away to leave them free to say good-bye.]

MASHA [looking into his face]. Good-bye . . . [a prolonged kiss].

OLGA. Don’t, don’t. . . .

[MASHA sobs violently.]”

Berkeley Rep’s production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, directed by Les Waters, had everything it needed: an awesome cast, beautiful period costumes and sets, and Russian vodka served in the lobby during intermission.

July 2011:

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: I took a theatre trip to New York City and saw five plays in three days. I planned the weekend vacation around seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company, who were visiting from the UK. But the plays that made it to this list aren’t the RSC productions that I had bought tickets for months in advance. They’re two local shows I didn’t know I was going to see till I got there:

The first was A Midsummer Night’s Dream,  in a storefront theatre on 23rd Street that, I’m guessing, might have originally been someone’s townhouse. The opening scene was staged as a cocktail party, not unlike festivities that might have actually taken place in the same room once upon a time, with an open bar and guests toasting from a loft balcony. And then, we all went off into the forest…

Afterwards, at the end of a day that had started in San Francisco, I wasn’t even sure where I was. But I was glad to be there.

July 2011:

On the asphalt at Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

HAMLET : My second night in NYC I saw Hamlet performed in a parking lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome. I have a tendency to romanticize experiences like this. I’ve been trying to write about it for six months, using a lot of my favorite words – urban, cool, visceral, modern, primal, downtown, lucid, punk, Ophelia, etc. – all of which would have been appropriate. But there was much than that going on. This was a really fantastic Hamlet, and it would have been just as fantastic anywhere else The Drilling Company might have set up shop. The Bard was right: all the world is a stage.

Gertrude and Hamlet. (With the corpse of Pollonius leaning against the street light. )

September 2011:

CYMBELINE : Life in San Francisco wasn’t the same after I got back from New York, and I was grateful when the SF Shakespeare Festival began their annual residency in the Presidio. I’ve written about them before – seeing them on a cold, foggy Saturday night (or a hot sunny Sunday afternoon) is always a pleasure, and I still don’t understand why more people don’t check them out. Hey, it’s free! The SF Chronicle didn’t even review this year’s show, Cymbeline, and it was one of the best things they’ve ever done. It’s not one of the classics, but in their capable hands it was not only entertaining but moving.

October 2011:

INANNA’S DESCENT : Last year Ragged Wing took over a trippy neighborhood park in Berkeley and turned it into a mythic, interactive underworld for Persephone’s Roots. This year they were back with a different Goddess, but with the common theme of death and rebirth. It was that time of year – the final performance was on Halloween. Heavy stuff,  but with a sense of humor and original music. This was something that could be experienced over and over and be different every time.

Here’s an interview I did with the director, Anna Shneiderman, in 2010:

October 2011: DESDEMONA & GOOD NIGHT DESDEMONA (GOOD MORNING, JULIET): I wrote a previous blog post about these two plays, both done at the Boxcar Theatre. I’m looking forward to returning to the Boxcar this year, when they’ll be doing four Sam Shepard plays in repertory.

November 2011:

HAIR: I really loved Hair, The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, which was in town for four weeks at the Golden Gate Theater. I’m still in a blissful state, and not yet ready to analyze what happened. Check back with me later for more details.

December 2011:

BAD HAMLET – The Bootleg Quarto of 1603: I found this one by pure serendipity. I was walking home from the library and saw a poster for it in a window. At first I thought it was some kind of prank, but I went back in the evening to check it out and it was, indeed, real. Was it “bad?” No, actually, it was great. In closing I’d like to thank Do It Live! Productions: having a chance to see Hamlet again this year was, for me, a happy ending to 2011.



(Asphalt photo by Andrea Beeman/Bioluminosity B&B. Gertrude and Hamlet photo by Lee Wexler/Images for Innovation.)

24 hours in the heart of the Theatre District

July 28, 2010

I haven’t been going to the theatre this summer as much I usually do. A couple of Saturday nights ago I was even wondering when I would be next going to see another play. I was heading back to my apartment after a late yoga class and walking past Union Square, heading west on Geary, and I heard music. It was about 10 PM. I was curious, and  walked up the stairs into the Square itself to see what was going on.

I discovered a large crowd of people watching an outdoor movie. I was surprised and delighted! The movie was “Dirty Dancing,” and it was being shown on a big screen like the ones they used to have at drive-in movies. But instead of cars lined up in rows there were people all over the Square sitting on blankets and folding chairs and digging the show. I walked around the edges of the audience and found a place to join them. 

I’d never seen “Dirty Dancing” before but I quickly figured out what was going on. I cheered and applauded along with everyone else as the story neared it’s conclusion. The music had stopped and there was a lot of drama and talking, and then what was clearly the big moment arrived: Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey began dancing together to the hit song “The Time of My Life.” It was awesome, but I was not prepared for what happened next. People in the audience started standing up and dancing too! There was a big empty space on the ground in front of the movie screen, and suddenly it was filled up with dancers. And I mean lots of dancers. There I was, in the heart of the Theatre District on a Saturday night, and it was alive with music and dance. It was so cool that even now, two weeks later, I find it hard to believe it actually happened. 

The dancing continued all the way through the last credits. When it ended I wandered through the crowd, enjoying the glow of so many smiling faces. Eventually I made it to my apartment, which is two blocks from there, and checked my email. There was something from The Move-About Theatre Company informing me that they had just started a 24-hour project: they would create three short plays from scratch and have them ready to perform the next evening – in Union Square!

So I went to see them, and they did what they said they were going to do. The plays were all funny and mysterious genre pieces. Considering the self imposed time (and other) limitations I thought they were quite good – cleverly scripted, directed and costumed. My favorite was the second one, which reminded me of some the more existential “Twilight Zone” episodes. I don’t know who wrote what, but they all did a great job of putting on a show.

After seeing two wonderful events in 24 hours in the heart of the Theatre District I felt like Ronald Coleman in “Lost Horizon;”  I had once again been reminded that there are always amazing, and often unexpected, experiences out there waiting to be discovered.



Relevant links:

Here is a video that someone posted of the Saturday night movie screening. The camera is facing west – that’s the St. Francis Hotel behind the movie screen. When the camera pans to the right it catches a bit of my dangling backpack strap at 1:38 (I was standing to the right of the empty chair.) You can’t see anyone dancing, but you can hear the crowd cheering:

I’d also like to mention that the late, great actor Jerry Orbach is in this video, too (in “Dirty Dancing” of course.) He was one of the stars of the first New York production of “The Fantasticks-” that’s him singing “Try to Remember” on the original cast album, a recording I’ve been listening to and loving since I was around ten years old. And just a block away from Union Square, at the SF Playhouse, is a production of  “The Fantasticks” that is being staged in honor of it’s 50th anniversary!

The film screening was co-presented by the The Jewish Film Festival and Film Night in the Park: