Monday, November 29, 2010

PF LA Sponsors Original New Comedy: Happy Holidays

The LA chapter of ShortLived 3.0 featured two very different, but equally funny and witty writers James C. Ferguson and Thomas J. Misuraca.  We chose a piece from each writer, having no idea that they were friends and writing partners who often collaborated on other theater pieces and even film.

Misuraca's piece, "Communication", about two friends who randomly run into each other, is just as much about their friendship as it is about the writing itself. It's one of those plays, with it's rapid-fire witty banter, that is chock full of hidden jokes, bits and clues into their questionable relationship (are they friends? lovers? ex-lovers?) that it is equally fun the first time you watch it as it is the second and third because you take away something new each time. 

Ferguson's short, "Jingle Ball Rock", which also won the first round of ShortLived, isn't about people at all but, rather, Christmas ornaments. A red, blue, gold, white and hand-made popsicle stick ornament discuss, rather humorously, what Christmas means to them as they are hung, one by one, on a little boy's Christmas tree. Despite that performances would be in middle of spring, we couldn't help but include this piece that was so amazingly absurd.

As it turns out, these two writers wrote a film together, Happy Holidays, which will have its LA debut in the same building that housed PianoFight's ShortLived. I would imagine that their distinct brands of humor blend for some really fantastic story telling.

If you're in LA, go check it out. This Thursday, 8PM, at Theater Asylum.

Written by James C. Ferguson and Thomas J. Misuraca
Starring Paul Hungerford, John B. Crye and Tommy Rhoads
Directed by James C. Ferguson
Screening in LOS ANGELES on Thursday, December 2nd

Theatre Asylum
6320 Santa Monica Blvd. 
Hollywood, CA 90038
$ 10.00

(Become a fan of the movie for addl. info. at the HAPPY HOLIDAYS Facebook page here -!/HappyHolidays)

Friday, October 22, 2010

American Theatre Magazine / Readership HATES Technology and Youth

The following is a post which makes the case that American Theatre Magazine, and a good chunk of its readership, hates technology and youth.

Exhibit A - AMT recently posted this status update on their Facebook page:

"Has theatregoing etiquette seriously declined in recent years? And if so, what's the cause, and what might be a good solution?"

Objection Your Honor, leading. Seriously this is the baseball equivalent of a full-count hanging curve lumbering towards a 280 pound steroid chomping salivating monster. Think I'm exaggerating? Here are some of the responses (WARNING: Lots of typos and vitriolic-ALL-CAPS-language directed at technology to follow):

"I'm gonna blame technology, stupidity, and the arrogance that the world revolves around you in such a way that you must constantly keep your cell phone on - since I opened a show last night and the HM told the audience TWICE to shut off their cell phones and not one, but TWO, decided a good time to shut off theirs would be after we had started the show. So a few lines, LOUD AS HELL SHUT OFF MEDLEY!"

"Etiquette in general has declined in recent years. Everyone is too busy texting or has a cell phone glued to their ear. You will find this annoying behaviour not only in theatres, but churches, doctor's offices, courts, restaurants...Ban cell phones. And start the shows on time with late - comers locked out! RESPECT."

"Yes there has been..cellphone use being the biggest well as my own pet peeve..people not being able to go 50 min's w/out a sip of water, so right at some pivotal poignant moment in a play, you hear the chug-a-lug glurp glurp of someone w/a 32oz Poland Spring being brought up to their lips."

Oh yeah, and don't forget this guy ...

"There is absolutely a decline in theatre etiquette. Reasons: partly our narcissitic, entitled society utterly oblivious to those around them; partly our inability to disconnect from our technology for a couple of hours (why this compulsion... to respond to any phone, text,or email immediately? There are times I don't want to be found, the theatre being one of them); partly the inability to dsitinguish between manners appropriate in public and one's living-room TV manners (this ain't a DVD; if I miss something because you're jabbering, I can't go back. And it isn't American Idol; we don't need the excessive, overwrought "applause sign" behaviour of whooping and cheering nor meaningless standing ovations). I'm in favour of aggressively chucking out crass yobs and using the technology that is already there to block cell phone signals in theatres, restaurants, churches, and cars (make it legal in these cases). It should be like smoking...if your priority is to yak on the phone, go outside and don't inflict your bloody boring life and rude behaviour on the rest of us. I've already been chased out of the movie houses by boorish behaviour; I don't want it happening in the live theatre."

And you thought I was exaggerating. But if you still don't believe my thesis, that American Theatre Magazine and a large portion of their readership hates technology and youth, here is Exhibit B: They Don't Have an Online Version of the Magazine

If AMT wants anyone under thirty-years-old to peruse their pages, those 20-somethings need to be able to download that shit on the iPhone.

But that'll NEVER happen because apparently their readership is actively engaged in coming with newfangled plans to disable and destroy cell phones:

"Cell phone scramblers in public performance venues!"

"Ban cell phones."

"I recommend lead-lined theaters."

"All theaters should have Cell Phone Blockers on their rooftops so no phones work in the theater."

More Evidence:

Just from earlier today, a status update from AMT reads: "What (theatrical) topic would you like to discuss on Facebook today?"

Cue the chorus of bitching and misspellings ...

"The annoying prevalence of microphones snaking down the sides of actors' faces and millimeters from their mouths, often obscuring their expressions. Why does every show end up looking like something out of a Madonna concert? It's especially anachronistic with costume dramas. Whatever happened to the time-honored tradition of teaching DICTION and PROJECTION? Really? In this day and age of technical theatrical marvels, how have we become so sloppy?"

"The downward spiral of theatre photography, brought about by every Tom, Dick and Harriet owning a digicam, making them erroneously assume they are now able to produce stellar publicity images, even though they barely know how to press the shutter button, let alone know how to make a representative image that will fill the theatre's seats."

"The death of interpersonal communication from the use of social media sites."

And of course, this guy again ...

"you have hit on one of my great laments of today's theatre. Miked actors. Are we just not teaching diction and projection anymore in theatre schools? I've ranted about this at length on my blog: , under "Where did you get your training?" And while we're looking for topics, how about: Why can't actors write a proper professional programme bio anymore? They all sound like acceptance speeches for those Tonys they've yet to win."

What I think these folks are failing to realize, is that they sound eerily similar to the stodgy old curmudgeons who railed against new media and furiously claimed it would never replace print ... right. The world has changed, and it's on us to keep up. Till AMT realizes its need to catch up, I recommend reading - from what I can tell, this guy is a real hoot.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cool Ass Shit To Do This Weekend

Thursday, August 12:

Opening Night of the San Francisco Improv Festival
- 7:30pm at The Eureka Theater - TICKETS

Featuring Big City Improv, Awkward Face and the SF Comedy College All Stars

hosts a kick-ass local line-up of improv comedy groups with German minimalist surf rock house band Das Haus Band holdin' down the beats and leading Das Sockenhopfen after the show.

Friday, August 13:

Dead Certain by Marcus Lloyd - 8:00pm at The Royce Gallery - TICKETS

Featuring Diana Brown and Andrey Esterlis

"A standing ovation for this deadly jewel of a play." - SF Station

Saturday, August 14:

This World is Good
by JC Lee - Sleepwalkers Theater - 8:00pm at The Phoenix Theater - TICKETS

Saturday Night Special - JC + Shots: Post show talk back with playwright JC Lee - Before he heads off to Julliard for Grad School, do some shots and get silly with this awesome new voice in American Theater.


Bohemian Carnival by The Vau de Vire Society - 10:00pm at CELL Space - TICKETS

Fucking Awesome.


Also, I hear there's some big concert going on this weekend ...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Low Shoulders film - discussions of Sex n' Violence

We've updated the Low Shoulders blog, which chronicles the creation of PianoFight's first short film project. Check out the new post on sex and violence as it relates to our film, Low Shoulders, and others here.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Low Shoulders film - movie night fundraiser, the Toxic Avenger!

We're having a fundraiser movie night to raise money for Low Shoulders, PianoFight's first short film project! Date is Saturday, August 7th, doors at 7pm.

Check out more info about it, see the flier, scope some raffle prize potentials, at our blog,


If you wanna check out the post on the Toxic Avenger event specifically, this is the place to click.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Devil Driver's 25 Part Behind the Scenes DVD Series

PianoFight homie and occasional collaborator Dan Burke is putting together a 25 part behind the scenes video series on kick-ass metal gurus Devil Driver. Dan has been shooting video for Devil Driver since they got together in 2003 (his brother, Dave, has also been galavanting around the world with the band on tour as a guitar tech for a number of years now), so I've had the opportunity to see these guys play live a few times and they are friggin unreal (also had the opportunity on more than one occasion to get tanked with the band which I am positive I enjoyed much more than they did).

What's incredibly cool with the first two chapters of this series are that much of the footage is from seven years ago when the band first formed as Death Ride. Burke then splices that footage with recent interviews to create both an oral and visual history of the band that's artistically insightful, funny, endearing and TOTALLY METAL!!

The next chapters of the series are focused on each member of the band with candid clips and interviews where other band mates rag on the video's star. It's all great, and the first two chapters on how the band formed are embedded below. Enjoy!

DevilDriver "You May Know Us From The Stage" Chapter 2 - The Beginning Pt. 1 from Daniel J. Burke - MBARRIER Prod. on Vimeo.

DevilDriver "You May Know Us From the Stage" Chapter 2 - Pt. 2 from Daniel J. Burke - MBARRIER Prod. on Vimeo.

Check it:

Those Crazy Ancient Greeks Alive and Well in SF

The last paper I was tasked with writing in college was supposed to be on Ancient Greek Theatre, the topic of the class I had been loathing all semester long. Having dragged my feet for a month it came down to 24 hours before it was due, and I hadn't started. After thinking about the paper for, really, the first time, I quickly decided that instead of an essay I'd write a one act play, and that play would be a sophist debate on the relevancy of Ancient Greek Theater today. I drank tons of coffee, spiked that coffee, smoked a ton of cigarettes, got kicked out of the library but finally turned it in on time ... I got a C ... and I totz passed college homies!! Now I could straight party ALL THE TIME!!

OK, back to the crazy Greeks. I mention the story above to give a context from where I have viewed Greek plays, namely, "Yeah yeah, they're great, very smart and necessary and blah blah blah, but do they really mean anything to people today?" I'd say most of that hang up was due to the language - even well translated versions of those ancient plays read like they were translated about 2,000 years ago. I have the same problem with Shakespeare or Chekhov - the language is so out of common use, that it is simply difficult to understand and follow. Not saying it's impossible, it's just tough, and a lot of audiences, including myself at most times, don't have the patience to focus so intently for three and a half hours to make sense of The Oresteia.

Enter No Nude Men's SF Olympian Festival and Atmos Theatre's SF Theater Pub.

No Nude Men describes The Olympians Festival thusly,"Twelve new full-length plays written by fourteen local writers, each one focusing on one of the twelve Olympian gods of Ancient Greece." Essentially, they put out a call for scripts explaining the concept behind the festival, then picked 14 writers to create brand new plays about each of these totally awesome Greek gods. Remember in elementary school when you read all about Zeus and Poseidon and Hera and that rascal Hermes? Remember all their shenanigans and crazy adventures and fighting monsters and falling in love and generally being larger than life, vaguely incompetent and thunderingly mighty? The Olympians Fest has hired local playwrights to re-imagine those tales in a way that audiences young and old can very easily relate to. I was lucky enough to catch Artemis by M. R. Fall (the festival has been almost entirely sold out) with a rowdy and engaged crowd intent on every word and move of these characters who, in all likelihood, that audience hadn't really thought of since third grade.

Theater Pub has managed to do something very similar. With programming which encompasses both re-imagined classics and new plays, mixed with well selected musical guests, and a price point and location which are alluring to everyone (free and at a bar, specifically Cafe Royal on the Tendernob), Theater Pub has packed 'em in for each show with great success. Ben Fisher, a local playwright/actor/director/producer and co-founder of Theater Pub, recently said this about the company:
"In our brief tenure, we have produced a number of totally obscure plays with great popular success. Our first event was a reading of Euripides’ Cyclops, a play that is almost never performed by established theater companies and relegated to the sort of academic curiosity file of the Greek canon. Our reading drew a crowd of well over 100 people and everything that might have made that play so unsavory to a theater – its short length, the extreme darkness of the comedy, its crassness, and the fact that it is all but unknown outside of scholarly circles – made it such a success in the bar. Moving forward, we have performed other off-the-beaten path classics like Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes or Havel’s Audience, with a similarly enthusiastic response. The draw of free theater in a bar is certainly a key factor, but really what these elements do is remove the level of pretention or self-importance that is often attached to the classics. The audience is drawn to them not because it is “good theater” but simply because it is fun. It becomes responsive to the community because it is about the communal experience of going to see something with other people, hanging out afterwards, and supporting what is generated locally."
That last sentence above from Fisher (who also wrote and directed "Hermes" for the Olympians Fest), also I think, applies to the Olympians Fest. Both Theatre Pub and the Olympians Fest have managed to dust off texts and stories that are today most commonly reserved for an academic setting, and made those stories wholly accessible to an audience that may not have a degree in theater studies, ancient religion or philosophy. In an incredibly smart, successful and fun way, they've lowered the access point to creating, watching and participating in the Classics.

One of the coolest aspects of life is the ability to change your mind or change another person's attitude towards something. At PianoFight, one of the most common responses we get to our shows is something like this, "Gosh, I haven't been to a play since high school and I didn't know theater could be like this, you know, fun!" We've flipped more than a few non-believers into solid theater-goers. And for me, personally, Theater Pub and the Olympians Festival have done the same to me in regards to the Classics. It was incredibly difficult for me to imagine how Aeschylus and Alfred Jarry could be fun and engaging. By lowering the access point, removing the often pretentious nature surrounding such work, and engaging the local community of artists, audiences, and businesses on meaningful levels, SF Olympians and Theatre Pub have, for me anyway, made those Classics relevant to my everyday life. Had I been exposed to this style of work a bit earlier in life, I might have just gotten a B on that last college paper.

The Olympians Festival continues through July 31 at The Exit Theater and Theatre Pub takes over Cafe Royal in August with "Pint Sized Plays" (full disclosure: I play Queen Mab in drag and a drunk llama in that show).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

ShortLived Short Going to Film

A piece called "Witness to a Murder," written by Evan Winchester, which competed in ShortLived 3.0, has now been renamed to "Low Shoulder" and is in pre-production for a short film. Elijah Wolfson (who has shot numerous excellent things for PianoFight) has signed on to direct and Gabrielle Patacsil (starred and produced many PF shows) is handling production.

The whole process has been pretty interesting. After seeing the Threshold show "Terroristka" in Berkeley, I grabbed a drink with Threshold members (read: theater power couple) Jessica Holt and Alex Curtis at some burger place whose name I can't remember. As we were leaving, I saw Evan and Elijah walking in so I joined 'em for beers while they kicked around ideas of how to rework "Witness to a Murder" into a film. The script has undergone major changes since and from that point on the project has taken on a life of its own spawning a blog which produces original content while documenting the process of turning the piece into a short film.

You can check out the blog here and while you're there also have the option to donate to the project via PayPal (something PianoFight has yet to figure out).

We'll be posting more on this process and cross posting to the "Low Shoulders" blog as often as possible. Enjoy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

"It's the community, stupid."

(NOTE: This is in response to a post on the Theatre Bay Area Facebook page titled "Theatre, Community and Mission." Also, very glad TBA posted this and is actively working to engage its members on this subject.)

Ever hear that phrase, "It's about the work"? I certainly have. In classes mostly but also frequently in a professional context. "It's about the work." It bugs me just to type it. Because it's wrong. Theater is not about the work, inherently. It's about the community.

In fact, creating community is the number one function a theater should fulfill. That's how it started after all, right? All those crazy Greeks getting together for a festival of wine and fake weiners and plays and parties and it was all to foster community, more or less. Audiences got to blow off steam, artists got to perform their work and local businesses benefited from a high volume of drunks making impulse buys trafficking by their merchant stands.

Really, it hasn't changed much at all. I'll use PianoFight and the theater we manage with Combined Artform, Off-Market, as an example. We've engaged audiences with innovative and relatively unique show formats like ShortLived (an audience-judged playwriting competition), the FORKING! series by Daniel Heath (fully scripted plays in which the audience votes on how the plot will proceed) and Throw Rotten Veggies at the Actors Nights (pretty self explanatory). By handing over a certain level of control of the content we produce, audiences unwittingly invest in work to come - everyone who voted for the winning play in ShortLived won't come to see the full-length by that writer, but everyone who voted for that piece is definitely more likely to see it than if it were a random full-length by someone they'd never heard of. We also told everyone it was fine to bring their own beer into a show and people generally like that casualness, and of course, the beer.

PianoFight and Off-Market have managed to engage artists by keeping a low access point to having work produced. For example, renting out Studio 250 at Off-Market is only $250 for a Friday or Saturday night (contact Dan Williams, our Executive Director, at for rental inquires), and Off-Market frequently runs co-productions with artists or companies to lower the cost on their end ("Eat, Pray, Laugh!" - "I Heart Hamas" - "City Solo"). With shows like ShortLived, PianoFight has allowed anyone and everyone to submit scripts which are all read by a 6 person directing team. We've focused entirely on new work by locals and by the good fortune of managing a venue, have had the opportunity to produce TONS of those local artists: all the ShortLived playwrights (112 and counting just for that show); the rotating City Solo performers; comics and musicians in Monday Night ForePlays; groups in from LA and New York and Ireland and Denver; bands from late night rock shows etc. By providing local artists an accessible platform on which they can display their work, they also unwittingly invest in the company/space because if the company disappears, so does that opportunity to perform. Also, we put a few cases of Bud in the backstage fridge which we think actors enjoy.

And that last segment of the community, the physical neighborhood, which i really didn't understand until operating a venue. When you've got a large group of young artists who all spend an inordinate amount of time in a given location for rehearsals and performances etc, they tend to need to do things like eat burritos, drink coffee and blow off steam. What this leads to are things like helping turn a local and, as of three years ago a relatively sleepy dive bar, the Tempest, into a little hot spot; getting "fiscally sponsored" by Sonoma Liquors on 6th street (they cut us a deal on beer cause we buy so much and occasionally give us fitted Giants caps for no apparent reason); buying sodas and waters from Boing's market down the street and getting change for our concessions till from him even when we don't actually buy anything; eating Chicos/Tulan/Cancun/Miss Saigon/Mo's/Latte-Express-7-Flavors-Coffee-Vietnamese-Sandwiches all the freaking time; masturbating at that adult video store - ... er, NOT masturbating at that adult video store ... But also recommending all those businesses to the audience we have built over the years and seeing that audience take us up on our recommendation.

What I've learned is that the trick in all of it is engaging each segment of the community on a meaningful level. That's why the phrase, "It's about the work," is misguided. You can't just develop the art in a vacuum. It must relate to the audience who will see it and the neighborhood from which it comes. Those crazy Greeks weren't writing about the heroic stands of the Persian army under Darius because it would never fly. They wrote plays which mattered to Greeks, with Greek heroes, in a Greek context. So regarding the question, "What is theater's role in community?" The answer is simple. Theater's role in the community is to help create it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

FoolProof Four @ Cafe du Nord this Friday

Friend of PianoFight, Noah Grant, just so happens to be in one hell of a soulful trio called FoolProof Four and they're playing Friday, July 16th at Cafe du Nord at 8:30pm with Maria Taylor and Andy LeMaster and Morgan Nagler of The Whispertown 2000. Show should be domb diggidy!

FoolProof Four has got a full length album in the works and will release their first single, "We're All For Sale," in the coming weeks which we'll link to once it's up.

Tickets to the Friday show are $10 and to wet your appetite, their Facebook page has some killer tracks streaming for your enjoyment (I recommend "Ladia Valia").

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Inbox

With so few ways to really measure your successes and progress in this business, it’s important to celebrate all of the moments, big or small, which do in fact indicate that you are on your way… that you’re in the game… that you have a career.

I realized one of these moments today when I noticed that I had three emails in a row in my inbox that were from directors of different projects I am working on or was recently cast in (an indie low-budg feature, a short, and a webseries). It felt really good to see those three emails all together, this little screenshot of my progress. I gave myself a moment to take it in. To celebrate it. Yes, I am working on my career. Yes, I am castable. Yes, I am actually an actor!

It’s so important to pat yourself on the back every step of the way (because if you don’t, no one else will… people outside of this career path just ask “So what have you been in? Anything I’ve seen?” and everyone in it knows it doesn’t necessarily work that way). We don’t have a simple corporate ladder to climb, steady salary increases or fancy new job titles every few years. For us, it’s kind of all over the place so progress is hard to measure. We got to dig a little deeper. Today, it came in the form of my inbox.

(Cross-posted at

Monday Night ForePlays - Video Sheez

The June show of PianoFight's Monday Night ForePlays, "SummHER Lovin'," has been racking up the love left and right. Last week, came by to get the lowdown on Monday nights at PianoFight:

Then, on Wednesday of last week, PianoFight's female fueled "SHEketch" comedy took the stage at The Independent as part of WomenROCK. Special thanks to Bernadette and Ziva for putting together one hell of a show. Below is video of "Clitoris: The Musical," by MNF's Nicole Hammersla, as performed at The Independent:

You can see "Clitoris: The Musical" live on stage as part of "SummHER Lovin'" tonight and Next Monday at PianoFight, and watch out for the all new July show of Monday Night ForePlays, "HottHER Than July" running every Monday of next month.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Even When You Make It, You Don't Make It

We all know this business is tough. Yeah, and the sky is blue. Not asking for sympathy, just sayin’…

It’s hard enough to get an audition.

Then to give a GOOD audition.

Then to get a callback.

Then to give a GOOD audition, again.

Then to get the call that you got the part! (wahoo! but don’t get excited just yet…)

Then to hold on to that part. (They went a different direction, the funding fell through, no more movie.. etc)

Then to get to the actual filming of it. (but, hold on, we’re not there yet…)

And then, to get your scene, your part to be a part of the final product. (how often do scenes get left on the cutting room floor)?

And then, if you get all of that… but then for the film to actually get completed and for you to see the result of allll your heard work in getting there!......
(for full post go to

Thursday, May 27, 2010

PianoFight Invades SF Fine Arts Fair

Through an odd set of circumstances, PianoFight managed to obtain all access passes to the recent SF Fine Arts Fair - a pretty massive event the likes of which haven't been seen in the Bay Area for seven years. On hand at the Fort Mason Center was about $300 million in art, by over 500 artists and about 80 internationally renowned galleries. There were also free sandwiches.

Point is, it was a totz BFD and PianoFight was there to make the most of it. The following is a short video directed by Rand Courtney and featuring PianoFight's AD Rob Ready in which they get right to the heart of the matter and answer the age old question, "What is art?"

Special thanks to Frances Mill of the Hackett Mill Gallery and to Griff Williams of Gallery 16 - these guys were super gracious in playing along with us and if you have some time, we highly recommend checking out the galleries - there is some banging art hanging on their walls.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Couldn't Happen To a More Professional Journalist

If you're relatively new to this blog, you may not know that I can't fucking stand ABC's Jake Tapper.

And this past Sunday, his hosting stint on ABC's "This Week" garnered the show's lowest ratings since 2006.

Good. This guy needs a swift kick in the ass. He is a TERRIBLE journalist. Examples:

In this May 13th column, he actually pilfers a headline straight from the May 11th episode of The Daily Show:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Release the Kagan
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Later in the week he penned this steaming pile of journalistic excrement in which he sidesteps the actual question on the media's shared brain, "Is Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan gay?" and instead queries, "Did the White House ask Elena Kagan if she was gay?" The simple answer to that last question being "Of fucking course they did you ass hole."

And you know how I know the White House asked Ms. Kagan if she was gay? Jake Tapper told me, at the end of the article:
It’s highly likely that the vetting process would result in plenty of information about any nominee’s personal life – including whether someone is heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, adulterous, or with a child out of wedlock.

God I hate that douche bag.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

OMG! Kristin on The Hills Last Night!!!!!

OMG guys! Did you peep Kristin Cavallari on the May 4th episode of The Hills?!?! It was TOTZ ridic and craze!! She wore fab new earrings from Emma Rose Designs which are for sures the fresh new pick of the season (aka, seas). Check it:

Also, Kristin might be a drug addict.

Back to the important part of the episode, the earrings, aren't they great? They were designed by Emma Rose Shelton, who is a producer/writer/director/actor in PianoFight's Monday Night ForePlays.

You can get more super fab Emma Rose Designs totz awesome jewelry at

And you can see Emma and her jewels every Monday night at PianoFight in June and July.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hostelling International

PF homies Stuart Bousel, Rana Weber and Julia Heitner were involved in this short for Hostelling International (funny! watch now!):

Stuart, who wrote the script for the above short, and Julia, who plays the woman from the exotic land of Los Angeles, are both involved with the theater company No Nude Men, and you can catch those cats competing in Round 3 of ShortLived 3.0 in SF, April 30, May 1, 7 &8. Rana will likely be back this summer as a musical guest on ForePlays if her schedule allows it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Glickman Awards

This past Sunday, I attended the ceremony for the Glickman Award, decided by five local critics and given to the best new play from the previous year.

Armed with a small flask of Jameson, I met Jessica Holt (Threshold/Three Wise Monkeys) and Bennett Fisher (Theatre Pub) at Starbucks, spiked our respective caffeinated beverages (Jessica abstained from spiking), and moseyed over to the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center where we were greeted warmly by croissants and free mimosas. The whole brunch was great and TBA did a hell of a job - many thanks to the TBA staff who organized and worked the event and specifically Gina Baleria who invited the three of us to be guests at her table.

We schmoozed like crazy, spilled drinks, they gave me left over food to take back to PianoFight's starving actors, and I'm relatively certain I made an ass of myself in front of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. So all in all, shit was awesome.

Later that day I posted a thought I'd had about the Award on Facebook: "Carl Benson wonders if a new play which premiered at The Phoenix, Climate, Exit, or any other relatively small venue could ever win the Glickman Award ...

For what I believed to be a pretty innocuous comment, the response was amazing: 17 comments over 24 hours on topics from past winners to house size to the merits of bigger companies winning to a new kind of Bay Area theater award.

I even got a few personal messages about it, specifically one from Glickman Award critic Sam Hurwitt, who informed me:
"Hunter Gatherers premiered at the 85-seat Thick House, which seems to be the venue that's produced more Glickman winners than any other space, produced by a variety of companies. I don't think there's a list online of past winners, but I believe this is all of 'em. As it turns out, 5 of the last 10 winners (and 6 of the last 11) opened in theaters of fewer than 99 seats.

2010 In the Next Room, Sarah Ruhl (Berkeley Rep)
2009 Beowulf, Jason Craig (Shotgun Players)
2008 Tings Dey Happen, Dan Hoyle (Marsh)
2007 Hunter Gatherers, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb (Killing My Lobster)
2006 The People’s Temple, Leigh Fondakowski (Berkeley Rep)
2005 Dog Act, Liz Duffy Adams (Shotgun)
2004 Soul of a Whore, Denis Johnson (Campo Santo)
2003 Five Flights, Adam Bock (Encore)
2002 Dominant Looking Males, Brighde Mullins (Thick Description)
2001 Everything’s Ducky, Bill Russell & Jeffrey Hatcher (TheatreWorks)
2000 The Trail of Her Inner Thigh, Erin Cressida Wilson (Campo Santo)
1999 Combat!, John Fisher (Rhino)
1998 Civil Sex, Brian Freeman (Marsh)
1997 Hurricane/Mauvais Temps, Anne Galjour (Berkeley Rep)
1996 Medea, the Musical, John Fisher (Sassy Mouth)
1995 Rush Limbaugh in Night School, Charlie Varon (Marsh)
1994 Santos & Santos, Octavio Solis (Thick Description)
1993 Heroes and Saints, Cherrie Moraga (Brava)
1992 Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, Tony Kushner (Eureka)
1991 Political Wife, Bill Talen (Life on the Water)
1990 Pick Up Ax, Anthony Clarvoe (Eureka)
1989 Yankee Dawg You Die, Philip Kan Gotanda (Berkeley Rep)
1988 Webster Street Blues, Warren Kubota (Asian American)
1987 Life of the Party, Doug Holsclaw (Rhino)
1986 Deer Rose, Tony Pelligrino (Theatre on the Square)
1985 The Couch, Lynne Kaufman (Magic)
1984 Private Scenes, Joel Homer (Magic)
(thanks to Claire Rice who also forwarded me this list)

So, I was wrong about the small house thing yes - plays in smaller houses can win this award. However, take a look at that list and tell me if any patterns pop out.

Do you see it?

Berkeley Rep - 4 wins
The Marsh - 3 wins
Thick House - 2 wins
Magic - 2 wins
Shotgun - 2 wins
Rhino - 2 wins
Eureka - 2 wins
Campo Santo - 2 wins

Of the 27 total awards given since 1984, 19 were awarded to the same 8 companies. Put another way, in almost three decades of the Glickman, eight Bay Area theater companies have won %70 of the time.

According to TBA's own statistics, there are over 400 local companies in the Bay Area. The Bay Area is also supposedly the third largest theater market in the country (this is calculated per-capita as opposed to sheer volume of theater). Over the last few years there have been somewhere between 100-400 new plays produced each year. And in this massive theater mecca which churns out obscene amounts of new content, the same eight companies have won the Best New Play award more than two thirds of the times it has been given.

I want to be crystal clear on this point: I am not passing judgment on past winners - plays or companies. A big part of the reason these companies continue to win is that they are awesome.

But, looking at those numbers above, I think it's pretty clear that a show with a substantial budget has a far better shot at winning than a show with a budget typical to small, nomadic theater. Just look at the theaters absent from this list: Boxcar, Climate, Phoenix, Dark Room, Garage, CounterPULSE, The Exit, Off-Market and that's just the ones I could think of off the top of my head which reside within the San Francisco city limits.

Part of the goal behind The Glickman Award, is to raise the profile of the new work scene in the Bay Area. It's a noble goal, and one that I respect. And I get that to raise that profile, you've got to pick plays that are flat out amazing and have an iron clad shot at going on tour or moving to Broadway or winning other awards.

However I do wonder if critics/patrons/the community itself is overlooking a huge part of that new work scene - small theater.

Thanks for Reading,


CORRECTION: I had initially written that Intersection had never won a Glickman - Sam Hurwitt caught this error and I revised it (Campo Santo is the resident company at Intersection).

Sam also mentioned that he thinks "Political Wife" might have premiered at Climate. Does anyone know for certain? I'll email Jessica Heidt about it and post my findings.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Big Ass Music Post

As you may know, most PianoFight shows tend to include some type of musical act. They've ranged from folk-rock duo The 45 to the aptly named and relatively self explanatory Oakland Soft Rock Chior. And over the past few months, the bands coming on and off the stage of Studio 250 at Off-Market have been, to say the least, impressive.

Here's some info on some of the most recent killer musical guests at PianoFight:

All Ages (House Band, ShortLived 3.0): Night in and night out at ShortLived, these guys have earned more write-in comments on Voting Cards than any piece in the show because, simply put, they're awesome. In fact, Derek, Josh and Tom are so awesome that they get away with shit like: one night in ShortLived last year, Tom decided to close the show by stripping but-ass-naked and playing the curtain call in nothing but his guitar and socks. Here they are at Red Devil Lounge in April (don't worry, Tom keeps his pants on in this video):

They also do shit like this. You can catch All Ages in San Francisco playing every Fri and Sat night of ShortLived 3.0 through May 1st. And for those of you not in SF, All Ages is going on a fatty North American tour, playing 220 odd shows in about 130 cities (yeah, I know, that shit's bananas).

Laura Weinbach (Musical Guest, Monday Night ForePlays): With a deceptively diminutive first impression, Laura proceeds to walk on stage with charm and quirkiness and floor audiences with her ability. She and Sivan Sadeh make up the duo Foxtails Brigade, who recently released this video (Laura's the one with the guitar):

Foxtails Brigade @ Chasing The Moon 8.06.09 from Scott McDowell on Vimeo.

You can catch Foxtails Brigade April 30th in SF at A.T.A. at a film screening being hosted by another Off-Market vet, comedian Mary Van Note.

Arlen Hart (PianoFight's Music Director): If you've seen a PF show, you know Arlen Hart. He's the guy sitting behind the piano rocking your face off (listen to he and Bochan's cover "Stand By Me"). Arlen has played The S.H.I.T. Show, Monday Night ForePlays, The SoCha Project, ShortLived 1, 2 and 3 he is also responsible for writing and performing the original scores for FORKING and FORKING! Christmas and recording PianoFight's full length album, A FORKING! Album. He's also half of Toby Dick:

Toby D's (Arlen and Lee West) will be moving to NYC sometime this summer and will begin playing gigs along the treacherous East Coast in the fall. Also, pretty dank new label to watch in NY is Soundvise - Arlen's on it, so it's gotta be good.

Zoe Boekbinder (Musical Guest, Monday Night ForePlays): Played PianoFight for the first time as part of ForePlays and rolled out some funky funny stuff. You can see Zeo alongside Shenandoah Davis and Kaylee Cole April 25th at Mama Buzz Cafe in Oakland. Here's the animated video for "The Adventures of Turtle and Seahorse":

ZIVA (Musical Guest, Monday Night ForePlays) I caught ZIVA's first performance at Off-Market as part of a Hyper Raje Records show and, well, wow. She'll be playing ForePlays on April 26th and I am seriously looking forward to it. Here's the band at the First Annual Scorpious last year:

Tempo No Tempo (PF Homies): We go to their shows and they come to ours though I don't think they've ever actually played PianoFight as Tempo No Tempo - one night after SHIT Show, Tyler McCauley played with Chris Cadena as "Our Kelly" - yes, you guessed correctly, an R Kelly Cover band). So they haven't technically played PianoFight but whatever, you definitely need to know about 'em before they explode into stardom:

Tempo No Tempo - "Pole Position" from French Press Films on Vimeo.

Tempo No Tempo is playing Hemlock Tavern in SF on April 27th at 9:00pm.

Spawn Atomic (Hyper Raje Show, March 2010): Off-Market's tech director Clint Winder is the guitarist for this horror-punk band who are heading to Phoenix ComiCon on May 26th. Frequent PF film collaborator Rand Courtney directed the video below:

Spawn Atomic - Hollywood Hijinx from rand courtney on Vimeo.

Plus, there's a shit ton more more bomb acts coming through Off-Market every week. Thanks to the musicians listed above and all the artists who play at OM - do yourself a favor, Dear Reader, and see these performers. They're frickin amazing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Arlen Hart's "New Peace" Drops Today!

PF Music Director Arlen Hart, who is cold-heartedly moving to that awful place New York City in the coming months, drops his bad ass new album "New Peace" today on the iTunes.

Arlen is one of the finest musicians I have ever come across - he wrote and performed original scores to FORKING! and A Merry FORKING! Christmas (which ultimately turned into A FORKING! Album, on sale at all PianoFight shows) - and he just so happens to be one cool motha trucka.

So even though he's being a dingleberry and moving to NY - where no good things happen ever, except when the local paper covers PianoFight - we wanted to say congrats to Arlen on his danktown new album and wish him luck on his totally ill-considered move East.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Playwright's Career Takes Off After ShortLived

The other day I sent a note to Allison Davis, a playwright whose piece "The Boyfriend Store," made it all the way to the finals in last year's ShortLived. She impressed the hell out of us, both with her writing and with her awesome human-ness, so we produced another one of her pieces in the world premiere of Monday Night ForePlays.

Anyway, I sent her a note to see if she'd submit again to ShortLived, and this was her response:
I have to tell you-ShortLived kicked off so many things for me. The Boyfriend Store going as far as it did gave me the confidence to keep writing...and I wrote a pilot that got me representation in LA...and a producer attached to the pilot...and now I'm writing a feature...and i swear to God it was all becuase of you guys, and the inspiration! I don't think I ever told you that. So thank you :-)
Outside of finding out she's so busy with all these new projects she doesn't have time to write a new piece for ShortLived 3.0, this was so cool to hear, and for me, really gets at the heart of PianoFight.

We may not pay much (or, well, anything in some cases), but we do provide access - you got a play? Submit it. Who knows, it might just kick serious ass and lead to hella awesome sheez down the line.

So congrats to Allison, couldn't happen to a nicer, more talented lady.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

DevilDriver - "Fate Stepped In"

UPDATE OF AWESOME: Here is video of the actual event I attended with S.H.I.T. Show crew ... you're welcome.

WTF pro-wrestling w/Einstye concert, guts, sheep?

roseman (kevin) | MySpace Video

So I got invited to this event on Sunday which features semi-pro wrestlers, metal, and all the beer you can consume while rocking out and rooting for more steel chairs!! (I would give details but the email I got had this line in it: "Tap the bottle, twist the cap, and prepare your blunts as some of the most highflying and exciting professional wrestlers from around the state will compete in front of a rowdy audience." - so I don't think this event is exactly on the radar, or, ya know, legal)

Anyway, in honor of the event, here's the DevilDriver vid "Fate Stepped In," directed by PF homie Dan Burke.

And here's some hella dank wrestling footage from back in the day:

Monday, April 5, 2010

NY Times on PianoFight: "Good for Theater"

The New York Times' theater/culture/arts reporter in SF, Chloe Veltman, took the time to call up PianoFight the other day and get some info on ShortLived 3.0, the largest audience-judged playwriting competition in the country. Chloe's been keeping an eye on PianoFight ever since we ran Throw Rotten Veggies at the Actors Night last year, so after I sent her an obscenely long email pitching the virtues of writing about ShortLived, she called, had some questions, played Devil's advocate and ended up writing a pretty killer piece in the Times about creative ways to involve the audience being employed by arts organizations in general, and about how PianoFight has come up with some outside the box ways to engage the community in particular (Rotten Veggies and ShortLived).

The last few grafs read as follows:
Conversely, PianoFight’s all-out approach, though fun, threatens to sacrifice quality at the expense of interactivity. And the barriers to entry for “ShortLived” are exceedingly low: Anyone can submit a play. Because the audience is responsible for judging, authors frequently bring their fans. The winning play may therefore be as much the result of a popularity contest as it is a reflection of artistic merit.

Arts organizations should be careful not to let these interactive elements debase the quality of their work. Or it won’t be long before audiences start hurling rotten veggies on a regular basis.
And it's a fair warning indeed - be wary of engaging the audience just for the sake of interactivity as it could lead to a dip in quality. It should also be noted that Chloe, who has not seen a performance of ShortLived, is not saying that this is how the competition plays out - she's merely posing a hypothetical which could happen. That said, there are quality controls we've set in to the format and rules of the competition to prevent these things from happening, and which get a bit glossed over in those last two paragraphs.

1) While anyone can submit a play, and there are absolutely no registration fees or submission costs to writers (I'll be posting a note on the generally terrible access points in theater later this week), there is one huge barrier between submitting and actually getting in to the competition - the script has to be picked by the six experienced directors who make up the ShortLived Directing Team. It is only once a script has been vetted by that directing team (and two producers), that it is entered into the competition, produced and subsequently left to the audience to decide if it's any good.

2) Yes, a playwrights' fans, friends and family can influence the outcome to a degree, however, the format and rules of the competition are such that you've got to be pretty freakin popular to really sway voting. The 13-week competition is broken into six, two-week long rounds with a final Championship Weekend at the end. The only way to win the whole competition is to win that Championship Weekend, and the only way to get into that Championship Weekend is to win one of the rounds. Each round consist of four performances, which, if sold out as they usually are, is about 60 people per show and a total of 240 people scoring for one round. So even if a playwright cajoled 25 friends into seeing ShortLived over that two-week period (a pretty massive count as anyone who frequently invites friends to see their work well knows), that's still only one-tenth of the people who will ultimately be scoring pieces in that round. Furthermore, if that playwright happens to make it on to the next round, the scores reset, so she would have to continue pulling in more and more friends to keep stacking the odds in her favor.

In any case, just look at history as an indicator: audiences last year picked William Bivins as the winner. Bivins then went on to become the most produced local playwright of the 2009-10 Bay Area season with five world premieres; the writer/producer of the show at the 2009 SF Fringe which won more awards than any other; and the recipient of a 2009 Critics Circle nomination for Best Original Script.

Audiences at the first ShortLived picked Daniel Heath as the best playwright. Heath's play FORKING!, a fully-scripted, choose-your-own-adventure play in which audiences voted on how the plot would proceed, was so successful in SF it moved to Los Angeles for a month AND spawned a holiday spin-off titled A Merry FORKING! Christmas, which the Bay Guardian called "A runaway Christmas classic."

The writers of PianoFight's S.H.I.T. Show had top three finishes in both previous ShortLived competitions, and have gone on to play the LA Comedy Fest and headline at the SF SketchFest, while picking up critical nods like this one from LAist who called the S.H.I.T. Show, "San Francisco sketch legends."

Essentially, audiences said they wanted to see more of these writers, and local theater critics and producers agreed.

As I said above, Chloe's warning is a fair one. Any companies taking the risk of inventing new ways to engage audiences need to keep a fundamental focus on quality, otherwise that audience engagement is ultimately pointless.

But I'll also submit another fair warning to those involved in the larger theater industry: do not underestimate your audience. Theater makers need to have a fundamental respect for A) what their audiences want to see, and B) what their audiences can and will accept, understand, be moved by and throughly enjoy. As ShortLived has proven in the past, audiences know just as well as producers what makes good theater.

Thanks for Reading,


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Info on SF Critics Circle + Thoughts on Awards

The San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle posted nominations for their annual awards a few weeks back which sparked some questions from local theater makers on the SFBATCC in particular and debate about awards/press coverage in general. This post is an attempt to shine some light on the working of the SFBATCC and kick around some thoughts on awards. (Full Disclosure: PianoFight and Original Sin's co-pro of "Pulp Scripture" was nominated for two SFBATCC awards).

The whole concept of awards can be seen as a bit idiotic - a bunch of people patting each other on the back for essentially doing their job. However, don't most businesses do this in some form or another? (think Employee of the Month)

There is general debate about whether awards are necessary, and the simple answer is no, they're not. But that doesn't mean the SF Theater Scene should just forget about them. Awards are used to highlight excellence and I'd argue more importantly, to market the industry. The Oscars bumped up their Best Film nominees to ten this year in large part due to the ticket sales and awareness that result from a Best Film nomination. Locally, I'm sure the reason the SF Fringe gives Sold Out awards to every sold out performance at the festival is in part to encourage performers to heavily promote their shows. (For a great post on why awards are great tools and how they could run more effectively, and to see just how behind SF is on the awards front, check out LA producer Rick Culbertson's blog)

So assuming that awards are inherently good for awareness, ticket sales, and generally speaking, the bottom line, I emailed Critics Circle member (and all around awesome dude) Tom Kelly to get some more info on the SFBATCC, and here's the synopsis:

CB: How do journalists get on the Critics Circle?
TK: In the past, membership in the Critics Circle has been by invitation. Circle members (via the Membership Chairman) invited members of the print media press to join us. Nowadays, with blogging and online reviews, the world of theatre reviewing has opened tremendously. And the Circle is still trying to figure out how to pick through the multitude of online reviewers to invite the best (and most dedicated to theatre coverage) to join us.
CB: Is the Critics Circle funded by any person, group of people, or organization?
TK: No. All of the Circle does their nominating, voting, event-night-work for FREE ... The only function of the Circle, the way I see it, is to see theatre (as much as our lives permit) through the year, to nominate and vote for what we think is the very best, and then to announce and applaud that excellence.
The SFBATCC is essentially a bunch of theater critics who love theater so much, they give up their time and energy to see tons of it, organize themselves enough to get a consensus on what was the best, then throw a party for Scene to honor that excellence. Pretty awesome.

But as with anything, there are definitely areas which could be improved upon. As I see it, there are two main problems with how the Critics Circle is set up right now:

A) They have no website
B) There is no organization, producing entity or fiscal sponsor behind the Circle (NOTE: Actors' Equity is sponsoring the awards ceremony though it's not clear exactly how involved they are with that event or with the SFBATCC in general)

Having no website means that there is really no effective way to communicate with the community. TBA tries to help by posting up the nominees and winners on its website, but even that's not enough. There is no place people can go to see who is on the Critics Circle, why the Critics Circle exists, how the Critics Circle operates or how to get involved and support. Failing to provide basic information to the public can appear like secrecy and raise suspicions, and the inability to calm these suspicions and answer basic questions leads to frustration which the Critics Circle can never really respond to because it doesn't have a website.

And I'll bet the simple reason the SFBATCC has no website is because there is nobody to pay for it, create it or update it, because there is no private or public entity backing the Circle.

So the question becomes, how do we solve this problem? How do we embrace the basic concept of honoring outstanding work for the purposes of awareness and marketing, and move the only big theater awards in SF from the questionable fringes into the thriving center of the scene?

Theater Bay Area could probably help organize awards, and to their credit, I think the organization has tried to in the past (going to forward this post to TBA's marketing director Clay Lord and see what he thinks). Some of the larger theater companies (ACT, Berkeley Rep, The Magic etc) could also get involved and provide some interns to help organize/email or provide a venue etc.

But until we have a big enough entity willing to put their time, energy and cred on the line for the community, we're going to run with those bunch of theater crazy critics at the SFBATCC.

CB: So what's up with the big hoopla Awards party?
TK: Before the dot-com bust, we celebrated every year with large parties of 400+ theatre-folk coming together as a community to honor our best achievements. For the last eight years, due to no money, we cut back to a small winners-only event which precluded the community celebration. This is our first attempt at returning to the large-scale "let's party" event (and this year, we're on a shoestring budget). Help spread the word cause it's going to be a grrrreat party!
The San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Awards Ceremony will be held at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, Monday, May 3, 2010 at 6:00pm. Tickets are $20.

The following is a list of Critics Circle members in 2009, as put together by Theatre Bay Area in its "Sources of Publicity" book:

Jerry Friednman (President)
KGO Radio

Joe Marchi (VP, Newsletter Editor)
Pacifica Community TV

Jeff Smith (Treasurer)
The Carrier

Richard Connema (Awards Co-Chair)

Tom Kelly (Awards Co-Chair)
SF Bay Times

Kedar K. Adour MD
Theatre World Internet Magazine

Linda Ayres-Frederick
SF Bay Times

Carol Benet
The Ark,

Charles Brousse
Marin Independent Journal

Ken Bullock
The Commuter Times

Mario Echevarria
SF Tribune

Albert Goodwyn
SF Bay Times

John Angell Grant
Burlingame Daily News, Palo Alto Daily News
Redwood City Daily News, San Mateo Daily News

Robert Lee Hall
Piedmont Post

Sally Hogarty
Contra Costa Times

Charles Jarrett
Rossmoor News

David Kashimba
Joint Forces Journal Web Site

Mark Langton
Marin Independent Journal

Dr. Annette Lust
West of Twin Peaks Observer

Georgia Rowe
SF Examiner,

Judy Richter

David Templeton
North Bay Bohemian

Barry Willis
Marin Independent Journal, Pacific Sun

Friday, March 26, 2010

Theater Needs Better Rivalries

The aspect I most love about sports, be they professional or college or Olympic, is the ever present element of good old fashioned competition between rivals. A hotly contested rivalry gives each camp something to shoot for, a bar to meet and surpass, and pushes both sides to compete harder, better and smarter against all other competitors, not just the hated rival.

And for the most part, the competitive spirit between teams is usually pretty good natured as it's in the interest of both parties to keep the rivalry going. For example, the 49ers don't spend hours working diligently into the evening on the total destruction of the Cowboys organization (at least not publicly), because SF knows that when arch rival Dallas comes to town, tickets will move and beers will be sold at a quicker pace than when the Seahawks come visit.

Yes, of course, there are downsides whenever you're dealing with competition. Chloe Veltman has some thoughts on the alternative papers of the Bay Area, the Weekly and Bay Guardian, who apparently do work late into the evening desperately trying to destroy each other. Veltman argues that it's all a bit silly, considering they're both pretty excellent papers, but that the behavior is especially egregious given the gloomy economic prospects of newspapers these days. "If this continues," Veltman writes, "It won't be long before The Bay Area has no alternative papers at all."

And if you think that sounds a bit hyperbolic, just think about some of those crazy gnarly rivalries in politics, hip-hop or international soccer. Shit can get outta hand, for sure.

However, generally speaking, I think a little competition is a good thing. It's the basis for capitalism right? (Note: capitalism may or may not be a good thing, but for now it seems pretty well accepted around the world, so let's call it a solid.)

Look at the 2007 show down between Kanye West and 50 Cent - both agreed to release their latest albums at the same time and subsequently retire from hip-hop if the other sold more copies in the first week. Though generally regarded as a marketing ploy to boost sales, the face off was hyped as some super personal rivalry between two mega-star rappers. According to Forbes, it worked, "Rivalries sell records."

What's ingenious about sports rivalries, is that a) there is theoretically no end to the rivalry, and b) the start of each new season essentially wipes the slate clean as both sides retool, change line-ups, hire some heavy hitters etc, and the rivalry resets itself. Example: every year every Cal Bears fan says the following about their football team, and it basically never comes true: "This year, we're totally going to beat USC and go to the Rose Bowl."

Theater could use some this competition, or any competition for that matter. Throw down challenges, level ultimatums, ratchet up the rhetoric and have some fun while you're doing it. Developing a marketing plan around competition energizes sales in other industries, so why not theater?

So how could good ole fashioned friendly competition play out in the theater community? Well, I can think of one example off the top of my head, but here's a few more:

1) Two theaters should agree to premiere the same play at the same time. They'd each do their own, individual, and unique as a snowflake productions of the show, but they'd build an entire marketing strategy around competing to sell more tickets. The theater that sells more tickets to its version of the show wins, and the competing artistic director has to shave his beard, or the other company has to agree to be pelted with rotten veggies.

2) Impact ran this pretty dope event called Beer Theater, an experiment which asked the very scientific question, "Could medieval actors hold their liquor better than Impact actors?" Great question, and one that desperately needs to be answered right away and frequently. Now toss a little competition into the mix and you've got some uber dank entertainment. Pit two companies against each other who both perform the same scene and decree that whichever group manages to polish off more pitchers of beer over the course of their scene wins. The loser has to immediately sing a drunken karaoke version of Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn".

3) Build a social networking marketing campaign around winning Best Theater Co. in all these Best of the Bay lists that the Chronicle, Weekly and Bay Guardian put out in the Spring. Fans would get more active on Facebook pages or comments sections and eventually start doing their own marketing for their chosen company. The losing company has to put out a YouTube video acknowledging the winner as the Best in the Bay ... or agree to get pelted with rotten veggies.

Point is, all of these strategies would energize fan bases, increase sales, and be generally fun for participants and audience alike. If rivalries can sell records, they should also be able to put butts in seats.

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Happy Birthday To Me"

A short film made by PF homie Mauriccio Baiocchi and starring PF artistic director (read: d-bag in residence) Rob Ready.

Happy Birthday to Me from Mauricio Baiocchi on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Off-Market Gets Nods from Critics Circle and ... Dave Chappelle?

As you well know, Off-Market's a pretty small venue in the grand scheme of things. But we pride ourselves on providing intimate, provocative and fun entertainment at a relatively low cost. So when we suddenly get a bunch of compliments from creative and critical contemporaries alike, we're compelled to brag like idiots about the kudos.

For example, did you know that:

5 plays which ran at Off-Market in 2009 recently received 9 Critics Circle nominations? Plays that ran at Off-Market in '09 were "A Delicate Balance," "Putting it Together," "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," "Pulp Scripture" and "The Santaland Diaries." Shows were nominated in categories ranging from Best Entire Production, Best Male Performance, Best Original Script, Best Solo Performance, Best Ensemble, Best Female Performance in a Musical, Best Musical Director to Best Ensemble in a Musical. Congrats to Off-Market alum Custom Made and current Off-Market groups Ray of Light, Combined Artform and PianoFight for making live theatre thrive in 2009.

World class kick ass comic Dave Chappelle stopped by Off-Market last weekend to catch City Solo? Here's what he thought of the show: "City Solo at Off Market is like an adventure, it's funny then heartfelt then funny again. I've never seen solo shows done like that before." And if you think we're BS-ing, check out a photo of Dave hanging with buddy and City Solo producer Nicole Maxali in the lobby of 965 Mission below. City Solo runs Sundays at 7:00pm, Ticket/Info:

The only improv show in the country which hooks up two casts in two cities using live, streaming video over the Internet, Tilted Frame Network, returns to Theatre Asylum in Los Angeles and Off-Market in San Francisco? Once again, two casts separated by nearly 350 miles will use audience suggestions and in some cases the audiences themselves to create Tilted Frame Network's new "season" through short-form improv games based on TV, Film and the Internet. Tickets/Info:

Eat, Pray, Laugh! - Alicia Dattner's comic solo show, has been extended for a second time at Off-Market? Dattner's show, the tagline to which is "Jewish princess seeks Indian guru for one life stand," will continue through April on Wednesday nights at 8:00pm for a 15 week run at Off-Market. Tickets/Info:

The last time Ray of Light Theatre performed at Off-Market, the show was nominated for a Critics Circle Award? ROLT is back at OM, this time with the musical "Baby." If history is any indication, it's going to be a great show. Tickets/Info:

ForePlays is on its third all new show in 4 months? Monday Night ForePlays continues to draw killer crowds to its female-driven variety show with award winning comics, jaw dropping musical guests, crazy awesome dance numbers and damn funny sketch comedy. Plus, there'll be an ALL NEW show in April! Tickets/Info:

Spontaneous Combustion is exploding comedy on March 27th? Back for its eleventh show at Off-Market, short and long-form improv comedy troupe Spontaneous Combustion is lighting up audiences with laughs and features musical guest Yael Schy. Tickets/Info:

ShortLived is rumbling into town with Sleepwalkers, Threshold, Crisis Hopkins, Bill Bivins, Daniel Heath and tons more playwrights and theater companies all competing against each other - and you decide the winner? Oh yeah, the largest audience judged playwriting competition in the nation returns to SF with some of the finest talent in the Bay - not to mention, ShortLived is running in LA this year also. Tickets/Info:

Hyper Raje Records is throwing another rock show March 27? Hyper Raje, which bands in and out of their recording studio in the basement of 965 Mission St typically puts together one or two straight-up rocking shows every month. Hi Like 5 plus two more bands - Tickets/Info:

And, as always, you can get more info about everything going on at Off-Market at our bitchin new website and more on resident company PianoFight at

Thanks for reading, and see you at the show!