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  • Down-To-The-Wire-Wednesday

    It’s Wednesday, and Wednesday means the beginning of our final performance week for And I And Silence.  You heard it right.  The final week!  

    Procrastinators:  All you sweet, back-footed, procrastinators; you adventuresome, too busy procrastinators; you anxious and neurotic, but lovely procrastinators; the last moments, the win by-a-noses, the hair’s breadths, the whiskers, the sweaty down-to-the-wires, the “I’m Living Life to the Fullest”s, the “Don’t Tie Me Down”s , and the “If You Try And Make Friday Plans on a Monday, You Are No Friend of Mine”s—this week it’s all about you.

    We know your type.  We know the struggles you face every day: people think you’re lazy and flighty, but we know that’s just not true.  You live life to the fullest.  You don’t like commitment, not because you’re scared, but because commitment means a loss of possibility.  You have SO many ideas and things to do and people to see— and people are always asking you to pick just one: to make a plan.  And you just hate that.  Plans make you sweaty, and you hate being sweaty.

    Well, it’s Wednesday.  For the entire run of And I And Silence, you have avoided planning.  You stuck to your guns.  When your friend stuck a laptop in front of your face and said BUY TICKETS TO THIS AMAZING PLAY, you pulled up a new tab and read this buzzfeed article.  You read our glowing review, and it inspired you not to see the play, but to go hiking, or diving, or skiing, or to get a manicure, because you KNEW that this Wednesday would come.  And come it has.  We’re down to the wire this Wednesday.  You’re in your element, and you know what to do.

    http://magictheatre.org/tickets

    Type A’s: we haven’t forgotten our sweeties.  Here is some content to share with your procrastinator friends—the ones you’ve told a hundred-and-one times to get to The Magic and see And I And Silence.  We appreciate you.  You do wonderful things and your word of mouth is commendable.  But some of our procrastinators are needy, and sometimes with them, its like that thing where your Mom has been telling you for years that you are neurotic, and you ignore her, and then you’re therapist says “You’re neurotic,” and you’re like THANK YOU, OF COURSE, WHY HAS NO ONE EVER SAID THAT TO ME BEFORE, YOU GENIUS!  In this situation, Type A’s, you’re Mom.  So we’re giving you some special second opinions for your sweet (and sometimes ungrateful) friends:

    Tristan Cunningham, who plays Jamie wants YOU to see the show because:

    “Sometimes you do a play that changes you, and this is a play that has changed me for sure. I am blown away night after night from the power of Naomi’s words. How they land on me, the other actors, and the audience. I truly believe Loretta, the design team, crew, staff and this company of actors has created something beautiful and real, and I hope everyone comes to see the story of these two woman.”

    Siobhan Doherty, who plays Young Dee wants YOU to see the show because:

    “There continues to be so much that resonates for me in this play.  Last week, when we were at Laney, I got nervous before a scene of mine because I knew my best friend was in the house, and I wanted the scene to go perfectly.  Then I chided myself because I was more focused on my friend’s perception, than my intentions as Dee.  All of a sudden, I heard the line “If you put rags in your mind, you’ve got nothing.”  Harsh self-judement can easily become “rags in your mind” up onstage.  After a few moments of meditating on that line, I was then able to go onstage knowing and pursuing my true purpose.  This play has really taught me the power of putting “flitter” in my mind instead of “rags”.  Of course, we all have stray thoughts, but if we can keep our priorities straight, and our hearts open, we can achieve great things.  Dee has been an incredible source of inspiration for me.  She dares to dream in a world where everything is completely stacked against her.  She manages to create her own reality.  I admire her greatly for that, and I will miss her dearly.”

    And_I_Baron

    If that is not enough, your procrastinator friends have no soul.  But we don’t judge.  Maybe they’re just visual learners?

    To the left are Brandin Baron’s beautiful costume designs for Jamie and Dee!  Rumor has it that Brandin can speak six languages…

    It’s Wednesday.  We have a show tonight (sold out– sorry procrastinators!), a show tomorrow night, one the night after that, the night after that, and the day after that is closing.   We’re down to the wire, and it’s Wednesday; I think you know what to do.

    http://magictheatre.org/tickets

    A Very Opening Night

     

    IMG_4008This past Tuesday we opened And I And Silence to a packed house full of friends, family, patrons, board-members, champagne, fancy cookies, and pitchers of Corky Lavallee’s much anticipated cocktail, aptly named, Take No Prisoners.  And I And Silence is the first show I have assistant directed professionally, and from first rehearsal to opening night,it was a whirlwind amazing experience. Earlier in the day, the team was sitting together on stage for our final rehearsal and Jessi Campbell (Dee) leaned over to me and said, “Wow—I can’t believe it’s finally here.  Feels like we started yesterday.”   It really did feel just like yesterday– huddled around a long table with the actors giving voice to a play the Magic staff had been reading and analyzing for months.  It was in that moment—just three weeks ago– when I knew I was going to be a part of something really special.

    Fast-forward to a few days later, and the cast and crew, led by our Dramaturg, Sonia Fernandez, was fully immersed in her research, which was rapidly becoming the jumping point for the rich and specific world of And I And Silence.  We listened to music from the 1950s, explored newspaper articles, examined print/media from the era, and ok… maybe we watched a few I Love Lucy’s.

    IMG_4024

    Later, when we had the play on its feet, we began delving into Naomi Wallace’s language as our landscape and platform for discovery.  We explored rhythm, tempo, games, and ritual, and I watched—mesmerized– as the language allowed the actors to soar.

    So on opening night when the crowd let out and spilled into the lounge and lobby, I couldn’t help but grin with pride as I overheard conversations about our little world, which had just increased 100-fold with its first audience.  Hearing people discuss and delve into the elements that I had helped to discover in the rehearsal room was incredibly gratifying.

    And I And Silence is such a special, powerful play.  It has made me laugh, cry, and grapple with some amazing questions.   So, come and see what it’s all about—I have a feeling you’ll be astounded.

     

    – Ellie Sachs, Assistant Director

    Is Sara Huddleston a Wizard? / A visit from Laney College

    Last Tuesday, a group of students from Laney College  (check out their cool theatre group: http://thefusiontheatreproject.tumblr.com/ ) made the trip out to Magic to see And I And Silence tech rehearsal in action. Magic’s five-year strong partnership with Laney College is headed by Dori Jacob, in conjunction with Michael Torres, the Chair of the Laney Theatre Department. The trip last Tuesday was very successful and exciting, mystical–even.

    IMG_0469

    We started the visit with a talk from Production Wizard, Sara Huddleston. Two things about Sara re: wizardry.  Excuse the Harry Potter reference.  One, she’s a Gryffindor.  Duh.  Brave, heroic, fearless, Sara most certainly has a time turner.  That’s the second thing.  Sara Huddleston runs everything; she wears nearly every hat as our Director of Production and our absolutely killer resident sound designer!

    Formidable Sara led the Laney group in a discussion about the technical side of theatre, engaging them in the specifics of lighting, sound, props and costumes in relation to And I And Silence.  We are hoping to integrate discussions and practical experience with Tech into our Laney program, which allows students hands-on access to every show in our season at every step of the process.  Laney students are invited to First Read and Opening; they analyze each script in a scene analysis class; and they talk with each visiting Magic playwright in their own classroom.  Finally, with every show, Sara Huddleston, who is apparently a wizard, leads the charge coordinating the movement of the Magic production to the stage at Laney for a free Oakland performance.  (Don’t miss this one—Saturday, November 15th at 2:30PM)!

    After Sara’s talk and a walk-through of the backstage area and dressing rooms where the Laney students met the actors, it was back to the theatre to be flies on the wall in Loretta’s rehearsal room.  We watched Loretta and the actors on the beautifully spare stage, first sitting cross-legged, talking through some new beats and blocking and then watched the actors swiftly put the new decisions to action on stage. It will certainly be interesting for the Laney students to see how the scene changes from that day in rehearsal to Opening Night.

    Speaking of…Opening Night! It’s TODAY!  Here:  You can BUY TICKETS!  See how convenient that was?  Read a blog, see some theatre— you’re so cultured this Tuesday!  Congrats to you and to And I And Silence and Laney and of course, Sara Huddleston.  This one goes out to you.

    Visiting the San Francisco County Jail

    “There are ghosts up there,” said our host, Angie Wilson, as we were waiting for the elevator.  Angie works with and oversees programming for Pod B in the San Francisco County Jail.  She is an extremely knowledgeable and generous resource.  When my three cast-mates, Loretta and I stepped out of the elevator into the “vertical” wing, which is currently empty, another employee greeted us and said the exact same thing.  Neither one of them said it to scare us, to be funny, or to get any kind of reaction.  In both cases, it was said in in a way that was simply matter of fact.  Apples are apples, and there are ghosts in the vertical wing.  Fact.

    Angie had taken us to this particular vertical wing, because it much more closely resembles what our characters might have experienced in a 1950′s prison. Bars, concrete, dim light, chipped paint, and long straight lines leading off into the distance– not like the brighter, bar-less panopticon style the jail mostly uses now.  In those panopticon style cells, you feel as though you’re in a fish-bowl more than anything else, since it is essentially a big round room in which everyone can see everything. As we walked past the empty cell blocks in the vertical wing, our heels echoing, Angie pointed out the places where the people who were confined there had eaten, slept, pissed, showered, been nursed, talked on the phone, and also, where some of them were probably murdered.  Ghosts.

    We walked past the “safety cells”.  Small, windowless rooms a person is sent to if they are being uncontrollably violent.  Angie said “Go, on.  Go inside.”  We did.  The tight, dark room was bare besides a small grate on the floor.  We were quiet.  “How long might someone stay in here?” one of us asked.  “Oh, a couple hours maybe.  Never overnight,” she replied.

    In And I And Silence, my character, Dee, is often sent to an equivalent room called “the Hole.”  Solitary. The hole was, and in many US prisons sadly still is common practice– inmates can be sent there to solitary confinement for days.  Months.  Years.  I have thought a lot about what effect this might have had on Dee’s own psyche. In my research, I was sobered to find an account from Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, whose research concludes that 15 days in solitary confinement (which constitutes torture) is the limit after which irreversible harmful psychological effects can occur.”  These effects are especially strong for juveniles.

    The thing is, I really don’t want to end my account of this visit, on that note.  Much like the aforementioned ghosts, it is also a fact that during our visit, Angie couldn’t wait to take us to the wing she currently oversees.  To say that she is invested in the women on her floor is an understatement.  Angie ensures there is robust programming for the women and also educational opportunities– we saw a group of women taking college midterms.  Angie seemed to have an incredible knack for seeing everyone there, inmate or staff, past or present, from a genuinely caring and nonjudgmental perspective. I appreciated Angie for her heartfelt and caring pragmatism.

    Throughout rehearsals for this play, with Loretta’s invaluable assistance, I am continually fighting the maudlin, sentimental impulse.  My job is not to wallow in feelings or sentiment about the injustices of the prison system on stage, but to deal honestly with the facts at hand– to create new “facts” in spite of the given situation.  At one point in the script, Dee describes to Jamie a peaceful imagined future, buttoning the hopeful dream with: “That’s a fact.”  It is not a luxury.  For these characters, living under such extreme circumstances, that kind of hope needs to be a fact.

    - Siobhan Marie Doherty, Young Dee

    Ryan uses similes to talk NEXTGEN

    What is a Magic Theatre NextGen Night?

    Magic Theatre has our NextGen Mixer for our upcoming show, And I and Silence by Naomi Wallace on Friday, November 7th at 8PM.  For those of you that don’t know about it, here’s what NextGen is:

    NEXT GEN NIGHT IS LIKE BIBIMBOP: It’s that thing you heard about at some point, and you were like, “I don’t know if I’d like that” and then finally you tried it and you were like that was awesome, how come I haven’t tried that before?” Unless you’re Korean, in which case you’re like, “I’ve always known about Bibimbop, what are you talking about?” at which point this metaphor breaks down. UNLESS you are Korean and have always been coming to NextGen night, in which case, you’re like “YES, NextGen night is like Bibimbop because I’ve loved them both since the beginning.”

    And I And Silence NextGen

     NEXT GEN NIGHT IS LIKE BURNING MAN: Art, cool people, someone often ends up naked (usually our General Manager, Michael Farrell).

     NEXT GEN NIGHT IS LIKE BRUCE BOCHY: This is just a shameless attempt to tap into positive feelings about the San Francisco Giants.

     NEXT GEN NIGHT IS LIKE OKCUPID: Full of attractive people that are 87% your friend and only 6% your enemy.

     NEXT GEN NIGHT IS LIKE EARLY MARIAH CAREY: Undeniably amazing. If you don’t think early Mariah Carey was amazing, watch this:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfRNRymrv9k

    If you still don’t think Mariah Carey is amazing, I don’t know if you should be at NextGen night, cause you and me might have to go Mano a Mano in the parking lot because I will defend early Mariah Carey by any means necessary.

    Young People Have Fun At Next Gen!

    Young People Have Fun At NextGen

    NEXT GEN NIGHT IS AN AMAZING DEAL: Join artists, students, and young professionals for a great show and great value.  Open bar.  Hang out with the actors, plus the rest of Magic’s loveable gang.

    Drinks (mixed by yours truly).

    Dessert.

    Theatre.

    All for $25

    So come to NextGen night at Magic Theatre.

    It’s Friday, November 7th

    .Click here: https://magictheatre.secure.force.com/ticket#sections_a0Fi0000008r9DLEAY

    And use Discount Code: nextgen25 at checkout. Limited seats available.

    See you at the theatre.

    Ryan

    From the Actors: 5 Chances Left to See BAD JEWS!

     

    000100168I’ve always found the hardest part of working on a play that you truly love— a production that you are truly proud of—is letting go of it at the end.  From the first time I read BAD JEWS, I fell for the character of Daphna.   While she can be over-the-top, there is something about her intelligence, her conviction, her youth and vulnerability, her amazing sense of humor, the speed at which her mind works, her relationships to her family-how she teases them yet desperately cares about them, which made me fall for her-hard.  

    Having the opportunity to play this role, exploring the way in which she thinks, acts and moves in this production, among these brilliant actors — Max Rosenak, Kenny Toll, and Riley Krull – guided by this amazing director, Ryan Guzzo Purcell, and helped along by all the other talented peeps who worked on this show and the generous, supportive audiences we’ve had, has been one of the favorite creative experiences of my life.  When we got extended for these two weeks, all I could feel was relieved.  Relieved that I didn’t have to give her up just yet—that I could take care of her and bring her to life a few more times.

    This is our last week running BAD JEWS at the Magic Theatre.  We have 5 performances left, and I intend to make the most of them.  From our pre-show warm up of attempting to choreograph a dance to Matisyahu’s “One Day”, which plays in pre-show music (listen for it!) to having my hair expertly done by Emielia Put while I bop around to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” (my own personal warm-up) to stepping on stage for the very first moment, to hearing the first big laugh or gasp from the audience, to noticing every little change my fellow actors make in their performances, to the curtain call, and to having a drink after the show, I will be enjoying every last minute.  Come join us.  If you meet us at the bar afterward, we just might show you that dance we’ve been working on…

    - Rebecca Benhayon (Daphna)

    Costuming Bad Jews

    One of the most exciting aspects of costuming Bad Jews was the amount of detail we were able to infuse into each character.  Contemporary shows can be tricky: when not adhering to the strict rules of dress from a bygone era, each costume choice onstage shows the audience something very intimate about a character.

    Daphna Character Page

     

    Each of the college-aged characters in Bad Jews is on a quest to develop his or her identity.  Part of college is trying out different identities, and that was the story we wanted to tell with costumes for this show.  As an undergrad at Vassar, Daphna (shown here) is active in the campus community and recently had a fulfilling experience on her trip to Israel.  Ryan (the director of Bad Jews) and I believed she would fully embrace the laid-back, sweatpants-and-tie-dye-wearing campus life—something humorously at odds with her Type A personality. She owns her look from the “show-offy” hand-woven friendship bracelets to the way she rocks her natural hair. It provides great contrast to Liam’s “geek chic” grad school attire.

     

    I think we all knew someone a little like Daphna in school—I think maybe we all were a little like her in school. After seeing the show, a few people said to me, “Daphna looks just like this person I knew in college–” that element of recognition is definitely the goal when working with this level of realism on stage.

     

    – Antonia Gunnarson, Costume Designer

    Magic’s Vacation to Ashland

    This summer, an intrepid group of Magic patrons and artists journeyed to Ashland for four days at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Over the next few years, Magic is thrilled to be collaborating with OSF and beloved playwright Luis Alfaro on his upcoming three-play California Cycle.  This summer’s trip was a celebration of sorts of that future artistic partnership—a chance for some of Magic’s most treasured family members to engage creatively with all OSF has to offer in their scenic Ashland home.

    The trip, which included five OSF performances, gave our Magic group unprecedented access to art as well as artists.  For participant, Shira Lubliner, “The highlight of the trip was dinner in a beautiful outdoor setting with our Magic group, actors, and directors of Ashland productions.”

    This meal at the beautiful and delicious Smithfield’s, was a chance for participants to talk with our own Producing Artistic Director, Loretta Greco, along with OSF company actors (pictured here left to right) Tobie Windham, Kevin Kenerly, Armando Duran and Danforth Comins, OSF Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy, Lue Douthit, and Magic playwright, Victor Lodato (Arlington).

    Tobie WindhamKevin Kenerlyduran.armandoComins_Danforth_130X160Lue DouthitvictorBio2

    Participant, Linda McFarlin sat with Danforth Comins at the dinner and found out some fun trivia:  Comins, who plays Bobby Kennedy in Great Society, studied Youtube videos to prepare for his role.  Danforth’s secret to the perfect Kennedy drawl?  The Kennedy family all have big teeth!  When Danforth concentrated on that distinguishing feature, he could speak like a Kennedy without consciously imitating.

    Bob Yoerg, another Magic group member, and Lue Douthit spoke about the importance of Audience Engagement. Yoerg was surprised and honored to hear how seriously Lue considers the audience’s thoughts and opinions when developing a new play.  That contract between artists and audience was strengthened in a unique way over the course of this visit to Ashland.

    For Tobie Windham, the experience of sitting in the audience of a theatre and being “lifted above everything” by a performance is what made him want to be an actor.  Toby and the wonderful OSF company definitely provided that experience for our group.  At Magic, we’re looking forward to a year of further developing that essential relationship of artist to audience, as well as to our partnership with Luis Alfaro and OSF.

    Thanks to all who made the trip happen!  Can’t wait for our 2nd annual OSF adventure in 2015!

    This Weekend: Magic @ Laney!

    Laney VisitLaney Group

    Hey Oakland/East Bay community! This Saturday 9/27, Magic is coming to Laney College for the free matinee of BAD JEWS. Did we mention that it’s FREE?! Last week, playwright, Joshua Harmon, and dramaturg, Dori Jacob, visited Laney’s script analysis class where we had a phenomenal conversation about this hilarious and powerful play that our Laney students have been studying since the beginning of the semester. The students are ready to come out and support Magic @ Laney and we hope you will join us at 2:30 on Saturday for the FREE performance and talkback to follow!

    Laney College and Magic Theatre have begun an unprecedented partnership where theatre students are given access to the new play development process start to finish. 2014-2015 marks our second year of this groundbreaking collaboration and we couldn’t be happier to continue building this relationship in our 48th season!

    Hope to see you there!

    Bad Jews Director, Ryan Guzzo Purcell: BAD JEWS IS OPEN!

    BAD JEWS is open.

    I first read this play on the 43 line, travelling from the Sunset into Fort Mason. In less than fifteen minutes, I was the crazy person you fear sitting near on the bus, laughing hysterically and talking to myself. It’s pretty normal for Muni passengers to hear voices in their heads, but the voices in this play were coming through so distinctly, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. They were so funny, so mean, so loving, and so YOUNG!

    This play is exactly what Magic is about: it tackles a serious question about modern faith, but does it with a huge heart and belly laughs, in a way that can only happen onstage. Brought to life right in front of us, the story becomes undeniable. It’s a play that sparks a difficult but vital conversation about tradition, faith, assimilation, and growing up. And it’s a conversation that truly comes alive when it occurs across generations.

    SO, with that in mind I want to mention an event we have coming up, the NextGEN mixer. If you are a student, artist, or young professional, you should check it out. For the low low price of $25, you can see the show, and then have cocktails and dessert afterwards to kvetch, schvitz, and get all verklempt (see what I did there, cause it’s Jewish!) with me, the cast, and other audience members. I’ll be making drinks. It’s Friday, September 26th, so if you come early, Off the Grid at Fort Mason is happening, so you can get some delicious food truck dinner too.

    You’ll leave feeling like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8WFJ3AeHzY

    Before I go, I want to give a shout out to my cast. Max Rosenak, Becky Benhayon, Riley Krull and Kenny Toll are FIERCE and fearless. They are putting it all out there, and I’m excited to have gotten to work with such amazing collaborators, hopefully it’s the first of many (we’ve already started planning a one-man show about Kenny Toll’s side job as an amateur pole dancer, called KT on the P.)

    Much love. See you at theatre.

    Ryan Guzzo Purcell