• MAGIC 2015-16 VIRGIN PLAY FESTIVAL Begins December 6th!

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  • Plays for Days: An Introduction to Magic’s Literary Committee by Leigh Rondon-Davis

    Leigh Rondon-Davis, Literary Apprentice, reading Magic play submissions.

    Leigh Rondon-Davis, Literary Apprentice, reading Magic play submissions.

    Have you ever wondered how Magic finds the new plays we produce? 

    Magic receives several hundred play submissions each season. Local playwrights can submit their work directly; others can send their work through an agent. Our esteemed Literary Committee (affectionately called LitCom) is crucial in helping us read and evaluate these plays. LitCom meets every two weeks to discuss a rotating selection of plays. Every play is read at least twice by LitCom members and/or Magic staff. We give each play careful consideration because we know how much care and hard work goes into creating each piece. While we can’t produce every play that we read, we appreciate every submission we receive.

    Ingredients for a successful Literary Committee Meeting:

    • Coffee. Lots of it.
    • An exciting assortment of bagels from Noah’s.
    • A solid shmear or two. (Onion & Chive is a no-go. The jury’s still out on blueberry.)
    • More coffee.
    • Wonderful and dedicated members (whom I fondly refer to as ‘LitCommies’).
    • Spirited discussion
    • Somewhere between 10 and 20 plays by playwrights from all over the world.

    We, at LitCom, are recent grads, students, writers, professors, artists, parents, and actors. Some members are brand new this season (welcome Wanda McCaddon, MJ Roberts and Patricia Reynoso!) and some are decades-long veterans of LitCom (shout out to Arthur Roth!). We often disagree, but we also come together over our favorite plays of the week, and then we do it all over again two weeks later. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with my fellow LitCommies, and I deeply appreciate all of their hard work.

    Let’s read more plays!

    Leigh Rondon-Davis started working for Magic last season as the Special Events and Development Intern and is so excited to be back as the Literary Apprentice.  She attended Wellesley and Laney College and was a member of the Fusion Theatre Project.

    Coming Home by Gillian Confair (Stage Manager Extraordinaire)

    Gillian Confair, Stage Manager, at table on first day of rehearsal

    Gillian Confair, Stage Manager extraordinaire!

    I’ve worked in Bay Area theater for almost 9 years now. There have been lots of highs and low and crazy crazy productions. Professional theater is a roller coaster – every 2 months the slate is wiped clean. Then the next 8 weeks are a blur of first rehearsal, blocking, lights, sound, AUDIENCE, then BAM! reset again. There are not a lot of constants in this world, except for the sense of impermanence. But every fall is different. For the last 7 years, almost every fall I have hopped on the bus to Fort Mason to start rehearsals for a show at Magic Theatre.

    Even though things around here change, there’s a comforting sense of familiarity. It’s not just the fact that I have a favorite seat in the theater, or that I know the trick to making the heater work. There’s an attitude to the people here. When I show up on the first day, I know there will be someone I can talk about Star Trek with. I know I can make an inappropriate, over-sharing joke and someone will laugh. I can relax into the communal language of Magic Theatre.

    I suppose that’s why I’m not nervous about our production being at The Strand. My experience of Magic Theatre isn’t just about the concrete and the duvetyne of the space. It’s about the feeling. There’s such a crazy complicated stew of things that every person at Magic Theatre possesses, but if I could boil it down to its simplest ingredients, it would be:

    • A heavy dose of MacGuyver-like ingenuity.
    • A pinch of sleep deprivation, due to dedication and the aforementioned MacGuyvering.
    • A sense of humor. Often aimed at the crazy flurry of activity happening for the sake of the play at hand.
    • Love. So much love for theatre, art, and the written word.
    • A whole shit ton of dreamy optimism that this, here, is the birth of magical new work that can influence a whole generation of theatergoers.
    Bright Half Life Rehearsal

    Bright Half Life Rehearsal

    Our show gets the best of Magic: We’re rehearsing in the Magic Theatre (gorgeously lit and decorated for rehearsal by Christina Larson), and when we pack up and move the show downtown on November 12th, we will take the spirit of Magic with us. We’ll fill the Rueff with twinkle lights and dirty jokes and, at least for a little while this fall, I’ll take the train to 7th and Market and start performances at Magic Theatre.

    Gillian Confair is a Bay Area stage manager. Her favorite Magic Theatre memories include bottle breaking, over-full bathtubs, 3am Opening Night celebrations and, most recently, flying a kite (for dramaturgical purposes).

    Bright Half Life Science Real-Talk

    This edition of Science Real-Talk is inspired by Bright Half Life’s  director Jessica Holt, who threw down some science at first rehearsal. Knowing a little about half-lives and supernovae will help you understand the central metaphor of the play.

    The idea of a half life in Bright Half Life is linked to the idea of a supernova. Erica describes it this way:

     “It’s as super nova…

    It’s better than a star…

    exploding through space,

    super far away

    light years…

    This [what we see] is its half-life.”

    The story of the play is the story of Vicky and Erica’s half-life. Their love generates supernova-like energy and luminosity that could light a galaxy.

    So first, a definition of half life:

    Half Life, n. (1907)

    1. the time required for half of something to undergo a process: as

      a: the time required for half of the atoms of a radioactive substance to become disintegrated

      b: the time required for half the amount of a substance (as a drug, radioactive tracer, or pesticide) in or introduced into a living system or ecosystem to be eliminated or disintegrated (into half its effectiveness) by natural processes

    2. a: period of usefulness or popularity preceding decline or obsolescence

    Informal. a brief period during which something flourishes before dying out.

    Adapted from Merriam Webster 11th edition, p 562 (Yes, a REAL, PRINT DICTIONARY)

    Now that half life is clear, what is a supernova?

    SNR E0519-69.0 - When a massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, it left behind an expanding shell of debris named SNR 0519-69.0 (Super Nova Remnant). Here, multimillion degree gas is seen in X-rays from Chandra (blue). The outer edge of the explosion (red) and stars in the field of view are seen in visible light from Hubble.

    A massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, leaving behind an expanding shell of debris named SNR 0519-69.0 (Super Nova Remnant). Here, multimillion degree gas is seen in X-rays (blue). The outer edge of the explosion (red) and stars are seen in visible light from Hubble.

    Image Source: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2015/iyl/

    A supernova is the explosion of a star that unleashes a massive burst of light through the cosmos. It is the largest explosion that takes place in space.

    Supernovas blaze so brightly that they can be seen at distances of up to 10 billion light years away. Light from these distant supernovas can tell us how the behavior of the universe has changed during the several billion years of the light’s journey to Earth.

    A supernova happens where there is a change in the core, or center, of a star. A change can occur in two different ways, with both resulting in a supernova.

    1. One type of supernova occurs at the end of a single star’s lifetime. As the star runs out of nuclear fuel, some of its mass flows into its core. Eventually, the core is so heavy that it cannot withstand its own gravitational force. The core collapses, which results in the giant explosion of a supernova. The sun is a single star, but it does not have enough mass to become a supernova.
    2. The second type of supernova happens in binary star systems. Binary stars are two stars that orbit the same point. One of the stars, a carbon-oxygen white dwarf, steals matter from its companion star. Eventually, the white dwarf accumulates too much matter. Having too much matter causes the star to explode, resulting in a supernova.

    Adapted from the Nasa Knows series, for middle schoolers. Yes, middle school science is the BEST!


    First Day of Bright Half Life

    Yesterday we began rehearsal for the second show of Magic Theatre’s season, Bright Half Life.  Magic staff, Board members, Literary committee, and Laney College theatre students all gathered in our lounge to listen to our intrepid actors Lisa Anne Porter and Sarah Nina Hayon read the play together for the first time. With Director Jessica Holt at the helm, it was a rousing and deeply moving first read of Tanya Barfield’s inspired play.

    First Day of Rehearsal for Bright Half Life

    First Day of Rehearsal for Bright Half Life

    Laney College students listen to design presentations

    Laney College students listen to design presentations

    General Manager Mike Ferrell and Director of Productions Sara Huddleston sitting in front of our timeline and design images

    General Manager Mike Ferrell and Director of Productions Sara Huddleston sitting in front of our timeline and design images

    (L to R) Eric Flatmo, set designer; Sarah Huddleston, director of production; and Sara NIna Hayon, who plays Vicky, talking to director Jessica Holt.

    (L to R) Eric Flatmo, set designer; Sarah Huddleston, director of production; and Sara NIna Hayon, who plays Vicky, talking to director Jessica Holt.

    Jessica Holt’s opening remarks launched us into the world of Bright Half Life:

    “The thing is. Soulmates. An idea that may or may not exist….”

    Sometimes you can just tell. You meet a person and you feel like they are just…major. You just know they will be in your life for a long time. And you know they will make a profound impact on you, the decisions you make in your life, and ultimately, they will indelibly shape your life. You will look back and realize that your journey through life was undeniably changed because you decided to take the leap with THAT person.

    Bright Half Life is about that journey.

    It is about the infinite moments that make up a great love over the course of an exhilarating, sometimes disappointing, often confusing, many times infuriating, every once in a while transcendent and ultimately ephemeral life.                                                                                                                              — Jessica Holt


    Magic Theatre Apprentices

    Have you met our awesome apprentices? Lily Sorenson is our Artistic Directing Apprentice, and Leigh Rondon-Davis is our Literary Apprentice.

    I snapped this while we were preparing for our NextGen event last Friday.

    Do you think they are texting each other?


    Things I Learned on Opening Night of Fred’s Diner

    We opened Fred’s last week. Don’t miss it! It closes a week from Sunday!

    Here are a few things I learned on Opening Night:

    1. The Mexican Museum is awesome, we had our pre-party there. Special thanks to Mela (pictured below). I plan to go back down there and buy a colorful tortilla holder.

    2. Penelope Skinner is not only smart, talented, sweet and funny but incredibly photogenic (see evidence below). And she has cool shoes.

    3.  Magic staff cleans up nice. And Associate Directing Apprentice Lily Sorenson is a ham.

    Mela from the Mexican Museum

    Mela from the Mexican Museum

    Lily Sorenson tending the pre-party bar

    Lily Sorenson tending the pre-party bar

    Me and Penelope being silly

    Me and Penelope being silly

    sonia and penny

    Which of these two women is our Artistic Director?

    Which of these two women is our Artistic Director?

    Loretta thanks all the wonderful artists who worked on the show!

    Loretta thanks all the wonderful artists who worked on the show!

    A toast to Penelope

    A toast to Penelope

    Photos of “American” Roadside Diners in England

    image4image7Roadside "American" Diner in Englandimage6image8


    Mother/Daughter dialect team

    deb and jess
    (Deborah Sussel and Jessica Berman)
    Fred’s Diner, written by English Playwright Penelope Skinner, is set in a motorway diner outside of Oxford. We called upon our favorite Mother/Daughter team of dialect coaches to help make our production sound as Oxfordshire-y as possible. I spoke to Jessica Berman and Deb Sussell about their work. They also shared with me a youtube video that they used as the basis of their accents for Fred’s. Check it out.
    Can you talk a little about the dialects in Fred’s Diner?
    Penelope Skinner  sets the play in rural Oxfordshire, and from our research we found that there are many varieties of that dialect. We chose to use, as a model, a man who was born in Oxfordshire, and uses sounds that are earthy and in contrast to the high status English accents we Americans usually hear on Masterpiece Theatre.  
    What do you love about coaching dialects:
    Researching dialects for plays is such fun for us because it bridges the imaginative aspects of the material with the living sounds of the real people we’re using as models.  This helps the actors believe and commit to the reality of the situation and their characters in a visceral way.
    What do we love about working together:
    It’s so helpful to speak the same language, and we find that the collaboration feels quite creative.
    Where are you two from and what is that dialect called:
    Having been born in Philadelphia, Deborah’s dialect is an East Coast variant of General American Speech.  Jessica was born in California and has a General American dialect.  We’re from a family that loves sound and language and we find that we’re influenced by the sounds we hear around us.

    Behind the Scenes at Fred’s Diner Rehearsal — Bootcamp

    I overheard Jessi Campbell (who plays Chloe in Fred’s Diner) talking about the mind and body workouts happening in rehearsal:
    Bootcamp for the body:

    “The ladies plank every day. Boys refuse to do it. They don’t want to get beat by the girls.”


    I took this photo yesterday [Clockwise from bottom left are Katharine Chin who plays Melissa; Julia McNeal who plays Heather; Jessi and Sofie Miller our Production Assistant].
    These ladies held planks for a full two minutes!  I joined in for the last minute or so, because girl power.
    And the mind:

    “There’s so much busy work on this show. So much [waitress] stuff! Food. Plates. Ketchup. And  we’re still working on lines. It’s bootcamp for the mind. Its good though because for them [waitresses] it is like autopilot. And we are so lucky to be working on the set so early.”

    Kind of like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time.

    On Dramaturgy for Fred’s Diner


    [From playwright Penelope Skinner, a photo she took at a diner last weekend]

    Fred’s Diner starts previews TOMORROW! Here is the first of several posts offering a look inside the world of our production.

    Fred’s Diner is set in a roadside American-themed diner in England and, like much of Penelope Skinner’s work, contains complex female characters — in Fred’s these are a trio of waitresses.

    From dramaturg Hilary Flynn:

    As dramaturg, you’re responsible for helping the rehearsal team acclimate to the world surrounding the play.  With Fred’s, I got to be an expert on England and diners, which meant I got to eat a lot of greasy breakfast and feel posh about it.  One day, I watched Mystic Pizza and called it dramaturgy.  Another day I drank a milkshake at St. Francis Fountain in the Mission and cried doing research about Uni.*

    The women of Fred’s Diner rock.  So I looked into waitress culture specifically.

    In an article, written in 1941 for The Diner magazine, Sam Yellin lists the advantages of having women work in diners:

    1. Women will work for less pay.
    2. Women won’t stay out late drinking and call in sick the next day.
    3. Women belong around food.
    4. Women will work harder than men.
    5. Women are always happy.
    6. Women are more efficient workers.
    7. Women are more honest than men– they don’t steal.
    8. Women can talk and work at the same time.
    9. Women clean diners better than men.
    10. Women are cleaner than men.
    11. The customers like women better.
    12. Customers don’t swear in front of women.**

    *Watching The Theory of Everything.

    ** Taylor, Candacy.  Counter Culture: The American Coffeeshop Waitress.  ILR Press: 2009.