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  • Flying Blind – a First Preview Adventure

    One of the things that I can say, consistently across the board with every theater I work at, is that people are superstitious. There are plays you can’t mention, ladders to avoid, and wishing an actor “good luck” before a performance is a horrible faux pas. I should have remembered all that when people asked me if I was nervous about first preview. Instead of saying “I feel prepared,” or “This is a good bunch,” or “fingers crossed!” I said, “It’s an easy show. Everything’s gonna go well.” For fans of horror movies, this is the equivalent of saying, “What’s the worst that could happen.” Whether it was my poorly timed words, or just bad luck, at places the monitors in the booth died. For those unfamiliar with booth dynamics, monitors are small speakers in the dressing rooms and next to the stage manager’s console that broadcast the show as it happens. They are, quite literally, my ears for the show. My booth window was cracked, which means I got some sound, but not the finer points. Basically, I was flying deaf. With no intermission coming up to troubleshoot the problem, the only options were to hold and fix the issue, or keep running the show. “The show must go on” is a cliché for a reason, and one small glitch in a sea of complex lights, sound, and costuming wasn’t worth stopping for.

    I’m not sure if anyone else remembers the crazy Phelps Olympics where he took something like 8 gold medals. (It was one of the few times that I’ve obsessively watched the Olympics.) During one of the races where he won, I remember his frowning face as he came out of the water. Later the story circulated that his goggles came loose, and he was literally swimming the race blind. He said he was able to do it by counting strokes and hoping he remembered the dimensions of his lane.

    Tragically, I don’t have Michael Phelps’ ability to wear Speedos. But during first preview, I felt a sense of kinship for his gold medal winning blind swim. Calling a show is a bit like a dance, or an orchestra. There are rhythms and movements, and you have to be attuned to them to make a cue work with the show as it’s happening, instead of against it. A well-called show is something no one notices. That’s the goal – seamless timing in conjunction with the actors onstage.

    Up in the booth with a mostly silent show in front of me, I felt a huge sense of gratitude towards the actors down below. They are a phenomenal cast, led and shaped by an amazing director. They have worked so impressively hard to find the rhythms, the highs, and the lows of this play. I didn’t need to hear every word to remember where we were in the story. Their talent and consistency made it possible for me to metaphorically count my strokes. The actors didn’t miss a beat and, because of them, neither did I.

    That intrinsic feeling of support is one of the things that always makes me happy to return to Magic for another show. Working on a new, or relatively new play provides constant challenges. Without prior productions to look at, there’s no roadmap for success, so every question or issue that comes up doesn’t have a cheat sheet for answers. The directors, designers, and production team at Magic work overtime to find and fix problems before they’re even noticed. They work long hours, even on a tech-light show, to ensure that no one behind the scenes is unsupported, and that no one in the audience sees anything but the humor and caliber of the performance. By the time I get in to rehearsal today, the monitors will be fixed, likely along with five other things. That dedication keeps small problems from becoming big ones, and their hard work sets a bar that I gladly rise to, sound or no sound.

    I’ll never stand on a podium and accept a gold medal, but being surrounded by such driven and inspired people, having a great preview where the audience laughed and applauded, and the watching actors successfully transition into performances is the greatest achievement I could ask for in this hectic, superstitious, crazy theater world.

     

    Gillian Confair is the Stage Manager for Bad Jews.  

    A Bad Jew reflects on her Bad Jewishness

    I’m a Bad Jew.

    Yes: I’m definitely a Bad Jew.  Here’s the story, my Dad’s a self-proclaimed “Hebrew School Drop Out” and my Mom is a blonde “Shiksa” from Connecticut.  They’re lovely people, but couldn’t be more different.  As a result, I spent my whole life growing up vacillating between claiming a Jewish or “Half-Shiska” identity.  (My Father fondly refers to me as a Mutt).  Once, in the seventh grade, I triumphantly changed my religious views on Myspace to “Fifty Fifty,” in an attempt to share with my peers how cool I thought it was to occupy both spaces.  I always tried to pick and choose elements from both cultures that I could claim.

    When I was 13, I dyed my hair blonde with lemon wedges and Sun In and followed that with a Japanese Hair Straightening procedure that left my hair fried and yellow.  Even though it looked terrible, I remember feeling vaguely proud: I had successfully traded in my Jew curls for the stick straight blonde hair from the land of Connecticut.  In that moment, I was my Mother’s daughter.  I’ll also never forget watching my first Woody Allen movie- Bananas.  I was sitting on the couch with my Dad eating lox and bagels (not joking) and I remember watching Allen and thinking, “Wow.  He gets me.”  I, too, was (and am) neurotic, goofy, and totally Jew-ish.  In the years that followed I had bouts where I begged to get sent to “Jew Camp” (these institutions are located usually in Maine, and let me tell you they are the crème de la crème for Jewish thirteen year olds).  There was also one year when I got very involved with my Mother’s church’s youth group because the boys were so cute.  All throughout my youth I had moments of Jewishness and not-so-Jewishness.  Back then, my identity was fluid.  It changed with the occasion and I loved the flexibility of it.

    Today, I’m a probably a little bit like Liam Haber in Bad Jews, not only because he likes to call himself a “bad Jew,” but because he doesn’t claim his Judaism in a religious way like his cousin Daphna does.  I’ve never been to Israel, I didn’t have a Bat Mitzvah, I’ve never even stepped foot inside a shul.    Like Daphna, however, I have the hair that often leads people to say, “Are you a member of the tribe?”

    I love this play.  I love how it makes me confront identity and legacy and reintroduces an essential question from my youth: Who am I, really?  Now, as a 22 year old, these questions don’t strike me like they did when I was in the midst of adolescence.  I don’t feel like I have to choose one or the other, because, after all, I’m 50% my Mom and 50% my Dad.    And I guess that’s where I’ll leave it for the time being.

    Ellie Sachs is the 2014-2015 Artistic Direction Apprentice.

    LAST VIRGIN READING OF THE SEASON!!!

    mark your calendars, this is not one you want to miss!

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    Monday, June 16th 6pm

    SOJOURNERS

    by Mfoniso Udofia

    Commonwealth Club

     the last, but certainly

    not least, of the

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    Abasiama Ekpeyoung came to America with high hopes for her arranged marriage and her future, intent on earning a degree and returning to Nigeria. But when her husband is seduced by America, she is forced to choose between the Nigerian or the American dream.

    Mfoniso

    Mfoniso Udofia is a 1st Generation Nigerian-American storyteller, actress and educator. She attended Wellesley College for Political Science and obtained her MFA in Acting from San Francisco’s award winning, American Conservatory Theater. Some of Mfoniso’s plays include, The Grove, Sojourners, runboyrun, and Lilyvine. Her work has been developed and/or presented by the Sundance Theatre Lab, Playwrights Realm, Makehouse, Soul Productions, terraNOVA, Page 73 Development Programs, The New Black Fest, Rising Circle’s INKTank, At Hand Theatre Company, The Standard Collective, Liberation Theatre Company and JJCEO Youth Programs in Birmingham, Alabama. Mfoniso has received a commission from Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theater to work on the 4th installation in the Ufot Family Cycle. She has been a finalist for NYTW’s 20/50 Fellowship, The Source Festival, Lark Playwrights’ Week and the 2013 Many Voices Fellowship. She has also achieved semifinalist status for the 2014 Cherry Lane Mentor Project and the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference [2012 and 2013] for her plays, The Grove and Sojourners. Please follow her at @mfudofia and check out her site www.mfonisoudofia.com for the latest news.

    FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!! Bring your friends!

    Commonwealth Club of California
    595 Market Street (between 1st and 2nd avenues)
    Montgomery BART station on the corner

    No Comments »

    VIRGIN 4: KIMBER LEE’s NOCTURNE IN E-FLAT

    We had a WONDERFUL night last night at the

    Costume Shop, celebrating Kimber Lee’s

    newest play:

     

    nocturne in e-flat

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    Thank you all so much for joining us for communing with this fabulous play, with such a marvelous cast!!!

    Written by Kimber Lee

    Directed by Amy Kossow

    Cast (in alphabetical order)

    Robert……………………………………………………………. Carl Lumbly*

    Jeanie…………………………………………………………. Beverly Sotelo*

    Ofelia……………………………………………………………. Mia Tagano*

    Will………………………………………………………………. York Walker*

    * Member of Actors’ Equity

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    Nocturne in E Minor

    by Kimber Lee

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    KIMBER LEE’s plays include fightdifferent words for the same thingtokyo fish story, and brownsville song (b-side for tray). In 2014, Center Theatre Group will present the world premiere of different words for the same thing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles. Her work has also been presented by the Lark Play Development Center, Page 73 Productions (Page 2 Workshop), Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival, Dramatists Guild Fellows Program, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Represent Playwrights Festival at ACT/Seattle, Playwrights’ Center Core Apprentice Program, Theatre of the 1st Amendment/1st Light Program, Great Plains Theatre Conference (Mainstage), Southern Rep, and Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company. Her play fight received the 2010 Holland New Voices Award, and she has been a Finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, the Ruby Prize, Soho Writer/Director Lab, and Premiere Stages Play Festival. Kimber is a 2012-2013 Playwrights’ Workshop Fellow at the Lark, a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and the 2013-2014 recipient of the PoNY Fellowship. MFA: UT Austin.

    NEXT UP:

    LAST READING

    OF THE SERIES!!!

    don’t miss it!

    VIRGIN14Webtile

    Monday, June 16th 6pm


    SOJOURNERS

    by Mfoniso Udofia

    Commonwealth Club

    Abasiama Ekpeyoung came to America with high hopes for her arranged marriage and her future, intent on earning a degree and returning to Nigeria. But when her husband is seduced by America, she is forced to choose between the Nigerian or the American dream.

    Mfoniso

    Mfoniso Udofia is a 1st Generation Nigerian-American storyteller, actress and educator. She attended Wellesley College for Political Science and obtained her MFA in Acting from San Francisco’s award winning, American Conservatory Theater. Some of Mfoniso’s plays include, The Grove, Sojourners, runboyrun, and Lilyvine. Her work has been developed and/or presented by the Sundance Theatre Lab, Playwrights Realm, Makehouse, Soul Productions, terraNOVA, Page 73 Development Programs, The New Black Fest, Rising Circle’s INKTank, At Hand Theatre Company, The Standard Collective, Liberation Theatre Company and JJCEO Youth Programs in Birmingham, Alabama. Mfoniso has received a commission from Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theater to work on the 4th installation in the Ufot Family Cycle. She has been a finalist for NYTW’s 20/50 Fellowship, The Source Festival, Lark Playwrights’ Week and the 2013 Many Voices Fellowship. She has also achieved semifinalist status for the 2014 Cherry Lane Mentor Project and the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference [2012 and 2013] for her plays, The Grove and Sojourners. Please follow her at @mfudofia and check out her site www.mfonisoudofia.com for the latest news.

    FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!!! Bring your friends!

    Commonwealth Club of California
    595 Market Street (between 1st and 2nd avenues)
    Montgomery BART station on the corner

    Virgin #3: DOGEATERS Jessica Hagedorn

    VIRGIN PLAY SERIES #3: DOGEATERS

    by Jessica Hagedornhagedorn

    Dogeaters is an epic satirical soap opera with a corrosive current of rage set in Marcos-era Philippines. The play depicts a society riven with tensions of race, class, sexuality, and politics through the perspectives of two characters at the extremes of Manila society — Rio Gonzaga, the mestiza daughter of wealthy, privileged parents and Joey Sands, a street-wise hustler born of a black U.S. GI and Filipino mother. The plot shuttles between 1959 as thirteen-year-old Rio experiences her parents tumultuous separation and 1982 the year when Joey becomes an unwitting witness to the assassination of opposition leader Senator Domingo Avila.

    Jessica Hagedorn was born and raised in the Philippines and came to the United States in her early teens. Her novels include Toxicology,Dream Jungle, The Gangster Of Love, andDogeaters, winner of the American Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Hagedorn has taught in the Graduate Playwriting Program at the Yale School Of Drama, and in the MFA Creative Writing Program at NYU and Columbia University. She is the Parsons Family University Professor of Creative Writing and the Director of the MFA Writing Program at LIU Brooklyn.

    
    

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    Cast (in alphabetical order)

    Santos Tirador/Tito Alvarez/Young Man…………………………………………… Juan Amador

    Rio Gonzaga…………………………………………………………………………. Rinabeth Apostol*

    Chiquiting Moreno/Lieutenant Pepe Carreon……………………………….. Melvign Badiola

    Freddie Gonzaga/Severo “Chuchi” Alacran/Ka Edgar……………………………. Jorge Isla

    Joey Sands……………………………………………………………………………… Rafael Jordan*

    Daisy Avila/Young Woman………………………………………………………… Julie Kuwabara

    Romeo Rosales/Ka Pablo……………………………………………………………. Chuck Lacson

    Imelda Marcos/Leonor Ledesma/Lola Narcisa……………………………….. Melissa Locsin*

    Father Jean Mallat/Rainer Fassbinder/Bob Stone…………………… Lawrence Radecker

    Senator Domingo Avila/Boomboom Alacran…………………………………….. Brian Rivera*

    Pucha Gonzaga/Trinidad “Trini” Gamboa/Lolita Luna……… Carina Lastimosa Salazar

    Nestor Noralez/“Uncle”…………………………………………………………….. Sean San José*

    Barbara Villanueva/Ka Lydia…………………………………………………….. Beverly Sotelo*

    Andres “Perlita” Alacran/Steve Jacobs………………………………………… Jomar Tagatac*

    General Nicasio Ledesma/The Waiter/Pedro/Kalinga Tribesman……….. Ogie Zulueta*

    Stage Directions………………………………………………………………………. Rhoda Gravador

    * Member of Actors’ Equity

    10306172_10152428820318328_5462758509370454989_nRehearsing DOGEATERS at Magic yesterday…

     

    ……….

    VIRGINWebClick

    COME SEE THE PERFORMANCE!

    We SO want you in the room, to share this piece with you, and to hear your feedback.

    Tonight @ 7pm

    With a talk back after the Reading

    @ ACT’s Costume Shop

    Tickets are free to the public!

    ————————————————————-

    NEXT UP…

    KLee21

    KIMBER LEE

    comes to Magic!!

    Monday, June 9th 7pm @ A.C.T.’s Costume Shop

    A NEW PLAY by Kimber Lee

    KIMBER LEE’s plays include fightdifferent words for the same thingtokyo fish story, and brownsville song (b-side for tray). In 2014, Center Theatre Group will present the world premiere of different words for the same thing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles. Her work has also been presented by the Lark Play Development Center, Page 73 Productions (Page 2 Workshop), Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival, Dramatists Guild Fellows Program, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Represent Playwrights Festival at ACT/Seattle, Playwrights’ Center Core Apprentice Program, Theatre of the 1st Amendment/1st Light Program, Great Plains Theatre Conference (Mainstage), Southern Rep, and Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company. Her play fight received the 2010 Holland New Voices Award, and she has been a Finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, the Ruby Prize, Soho Writer/Director Lab, and Premiere Stages Play Festival. Kimber is a 2012-2013 Playwrights’ Workshop Fellow at the Lark, a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and the 2013-2014 recipient of the PoNY Fellowship. MFA: UT Austin.

    Virgin #2: A LIE OF THE MIND

    2. A LIE OF THE MIND

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    BY SAM SHEPARD

    directed by Loretta Greco

     SamShepardBrigitte Lacombe

    REHEARSING A LIE OF THE MIND

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    The Fabulous cast of our second Virgin Play Series reading, Sam Shepard’s A LIE OF THE MIND, gathered together today in our Magic Theatre Lounge for a day filled with picking apart this extraordinary play.

    Today is about our oldest Magic playwright in residence, Sam Shepard.

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    CAST

    Meg…………………………………………………………………………………….. Julia McNeal*

    Lorraine…………………………………………………………………………… Wilma Bonet*

    Baylor………………………………………………………………………… Robert Parsons*

    Mike……………………………………………………………………………… James Wagner*

    Beth………………………………………………………………………………………. Carrie Paff*

    Jake…………………………………………………………………………….. Sean San Jose*

    Sally………………………………………………………………………………….. Elaina Garrity

    Frankie…………………………………………………………………………….. Juan Amador

    Stage Directions………………………………………………………………… Ellen Abram

    * Member of Actors’ Equity

    COME SEE THE PERFORMANCE!

    We SO want you in the room, to share this piece with you, and to hear your feedback.

    Tonight @ 7pm

    With a talk back after the Reading

    @ ACT’s Costume Shop

    Tickets are free to the public!

    ————————————————————-

    —————————————–

    ————————

    NEXT UP

    hagedorn

    Monday, June 2nd 7pm @ A.C.T.’s Costume Shop

     

    DOGEATERS

     by Jessica Hagedorn

    Dogeaters is an epic satirical soap opera with a corrosive current of rage set in Marcos-era Philippines. The play depicts a society riven with tensions of race, class, sexuality, and politics through the perspectives of two characters at the extremes of Manila society — Rio Gonzaga, the mestiza daughter of wealthy, privileged parents and Joey Sands, a street-wise hustler born of a black U.S. GI and Filipino mother. The plot shuttles between 1959 as thirteen-year-old Rio experiences her parents tumultuous separation and 1982 the year when Joey becomes an unwitting witness to the assassination of opposition leader Senator Domingo Avila.

    Jessica Hagedorn was born and raised in the Philippines and came to the United States in her early teens. Her novels include Toxicology,Dream Jungle, The Gangster Of Love, andDogeaters, winner of the American Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Hagedorn has taught in the Graduate Playwriting Program at the Yale School Of Drama, and in the MFA Creative Writing Program at NYU and Columbia University. She is the Parsons Family University Professor of Creative Writing and the Director of the MFA Writing Program at LIU Brooklyn.

    Find out more at our website:

     http://magictheatre.org/virgin-play-series-2014

    Virgin Play Series Kicks Off With Sister Play!

    VIRGIN: IT BEGINS!!!

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    1. SISTER PLAY

    by John Kolvenbach

    Kolvenbach

    Welcoming back John Kolvenbach to Magic

    After Magic’s 43rd season kicked off with a double-bill of Kolvenbach’s Goldfish and Mrs. Whitney, we are THRILLED to have John back for SISTER PLAY next season.

    REHEARSING FOR SISTER PLAY’S WORKSHOP

    After two fruitful rehearsals, we excitedly gathered together at the Costume Shop for our first Reading of our 2014 Virgin Play Series.

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    Rehearsal with the Cast of Monday Night’s SISTER PLAY by John Kolvenbach: Arwen Anderson*, Jessi Campbell, Rod Gnapp*, Patrick Kelly Jones* and Sam Fiorillo

    * Member of Actors’ Equity

    Brenda will do anything to make her sister Lilly happy, including destroying all her relationships. When Lilly, Brenda, and her husband Malcom retreat to their late father’s cabin in Cape Cod, they expect to relax, unwind, and take stock. But when a charming but shadowy drifter enters the picture angling for Lilly’s heart, their pilgrimage takes a surprising turn.

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    PERFORMANCE @ THE COSTUME SHOP!

    Our first reading of the series took place Monday night at ACT’s Costume Shop on 1119 Market Street, right off of the Civic Center Bart. All of our upcoming Virgin Readings will be 7pm at the Costume Shop EXCEPT the last reading of the series, SOUJOUNERS by Mfoniso Udofia, which will be at 6pm at the Commonwealth Club.

    With a wonderful cast of actors (including a 3 month old baby, Rowan Anderson Gnapp!) we uncovered the world of SISTER PLAY.

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    UP NEXT…

    We hope to see you at our next Virgin Reading, which will be…

    A LIE OF THE MIND by Sam Shepard

    SamShepardBrigitte Lacombe

    Monday, May 19th 7pm @ A.C.T.’s

    Costume Shop

    This year, in honor of our march to 50, and in celebration of ‘Sheparding America’ and the Magic legacy, we will be including very special readings of a play by our original playwright in residence, Sam Shepard.

    Told in three acts set in the gritty American West, the story alternates between two families after a severe incident of spousal abuse leaves all their lives altered until the final collision at an isolated cabin. The two families, one composed of Baylor, Meg, Beth, and Mike, the other composed of Lorraine, Sally, Frankie, and Jake are connected by the marriage of Jake and Beth, whose beating and subsequent hospitalization at the hands of Jake initiates the beginning of the play. Exploring family dysfunction and the nature of love, the play follows Jake as he searches for meaning after Beth, and her family, as they struggle with Beth’s brain damage.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION, please see our website

    Christina Anderson Comes to Laney College!

    We had a terrific visit to the Laney College Theater class yesterday, accompanied by playwright Christina Anderson. This was our last visit of the season, and a great one. The students all asked great questions and we all had a blast!IMG_2704

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    Thank you Laney College! We sure will miss you, but we are excited to see you next fall!

    Linda McLean’s Every Five Minutes, A New World Premiere At Magic!

    Beloved Magic playwright Linda McLean’s newest masterpiece EVERY FIVE MINUTES  is about to make its world premiere on the Magic stage! We are thrilled to have Linda back at Magic, after the critically acclaimed world premiere of ANY GIVEN DAY .

    little-man-5-black-300x290“McLean is a gritty, fiercely empathetic realist of great skill. She elevates the ordinary, creating instantly recognizable people in spare but penetrating dialogue” 

    Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle exclaimed in his Leaping Man review of the show,

     and we couldn’t agree more.

    E5MWebtile2E5MWebtile2

    Previews begin this Wednesday, March 26 until we open on April 3rd!

    (don’t miss it! BuyButtonorrange here:)

    YESTERDAY LINDA CAME TO LANEY!

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    Yesterday Linda McLean came with us to our monthly visit to Laney College’s theater class in Oakland where we have created a very exciting partnership. Each play we premiere on the Magic stage is incorporated into Laney College’s theater class curriculum.  Students from Laney are involved in each production, from our first day of rehearsal to closing night.

    “Bringing the Magic to Oakland is just that – magic.” said Michael Torres, Chair of the Laney College Theater Department,”The magical power of storytelling and how it informs an audience can actually aid in the healing of a community. Oakland is not often exposed to quality professional theatre. We believe our partnership with Magic Theatre will do just that.”

    Yesterday’s theater class was ALL about EVERY FIVE MINUTES!

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    After studying EVERY FIVE MINUTES in their classroom and coming to our first day reading, the students at Laney had LOTS of great questions for Linda. Linda also had many questions for them!photo-40

    We spoke about the many ways that a playwright can tell a story. We spoke about the writer’s process. The students spoke at length about their different processes as writers.

    It was fascinating to hear all of the people in the room share their experiences and questions.

    We are ALL artists here.

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    <<So! Calling all OAKLAND folks>>

    Next up we will be performing EVERY FIVE MINUTES at Laney College FOR FREE

     [April 19. 3pm. ]

    Don’t miss it

    ;)

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    See you at the Theatre!

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    ‘Hir’ review: Comedy at Magic takes on

    gender ambiguity

    Robert Hurwitt   Published 9:52 am, Wednesday, February 5, 2014
    Paige (Nancy Opel, right) gets into her son Max's (Jax Jackson) shifting gender identity in Taylor Mac's "Hir" at Magic Theatre Photo: Jennifer Reiley

    Paige (Nancy Opel, right) gets into her son Max’s (Jax Jackson) shifting gender identity in Taylor Mac’s “Hir” at Magic Theatre Photo: Jennifer Reiley

    Gender isn’t the only mutable element in Taylor Mac’s hilarious and unsettling “Hir” at the Magic Theatre. Everything from family dynamics to theatrical genres, not to mention the Central Valley ground beneath the family’s home, is shifting in the world premiere that opened Tuesday.

    Written in a form Mac calls “absurd realism,” “Hir” challenges expectations on every level except that of providing engrossing entertainment, which it does to a remarkable degree. But be warned. The outrageous comedy and pointed satire in this battle of gender roles contains a tragic undertow with its own ambiguity about audience preconceptions in the end.

    A family-in-crisis play, “Hir” is Mac working in a very different mode from such large-cast, multifarious extravaganzas as his previous Magic outing with the five-hour “The Lily’s Revenge” carnival-play in 2011. As staged by Niegel Smith, “Hir” is more like a Sam Shepard drama of the “Buried Child” era put through a commedia wringer and gone creatively berserk.

    Seen one way, it’s the story of Paige, an ebulliently liberated suburban housewife, freed from the tyranny of an abusive husband and glorying in the gender ambiguity of her teenage child Max – formerly Maxine. As embodied by a radiantly playful Nancy Opel, Paige is a ditzy-progressive but surprisingly resourceful delight with a serious ferocity when cornered.

    But “Hir” is also the story of Paige’s older child Isaac (a solid, firmly focused Ben Euphrat). A Marine returning from Afghanistan with a dishonorable discharge (for reasons you probably won’t see coming), Isaac is in desperate need of the familiarity of his old home and the kind of male-dominated order to which he’s accustomed. He won’t find it in “Hir.”

    The opening tableau sets up the conflicts to come. The kitchen and every other room of the household – seen through the open wood-frame walls of Alexis Distler’s comically precise set – is a disaster zone of general household clutter. Peer carefully at the childish alphabet magnets on the refrigerator and you can make out the gender-neutral pronouns “ze” and “hir,” as well as the new-to-me acronym “LGBTTSQQIAA.”

    Isaac is no more prepared for this chaos than he is for the helpless post-stroke state of his once macho-dominant father – now kept dressed in frilly nightgowns and clown makeup by Paige and played with brilliant semi-intelligibility and a festering mean streak by Mark Anderson Phillips.

    Jax Jackson’s serious young Max is engagingly proud of hir emerging gay masculinity as ze glories in hir mother’s attention, and quick to construe almost anything as a comment on hir gender odyssey. That seems an apt adolescent trait at first, but it doesn’t take long to see how such self-centeredness permeates all these characters, and how deeply it resonates through the comedy and tragedy of Mac’s tantalizing view of contemporary American life.

     Hir: Comic drama. By Taylor Mac. Directed by Niegel Smith. Through Feb. 23. Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center, S.F. Two hours. $20-$60. (415) 441-8822.

    Robert Hurwitt is The San Francisco Chronicle’s theater critic. E-mail:rhurwitt@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @RobertHurwitt

    To be redirected to the original article click here.

    To buy tickets to HIR click here.