Theater Around The Bay: Self-Care And The Actor, Part One

February 18, 2015


This has something to say to playwrights as well.

Originally posted on San Francisco Theater Pub:

Bay Area actress Ponder Goddard offers up some thoughts for actors on keeping it together in today’s theater world.

The Problem

Actors are the foundation of theater. You can take away the lights, costumes, sets, you can even go Original Practices on Cymbeline’s ass and take away the director– but you cannot remove the actor or the audience and still have what we think of, know and love as theater.

Actors are necessary, actors are fundamental, if we want theater we need actors.  If we want bold, brave, exciting, moving theater we need bold, brave, risk-taking and vulnerable actors. An actor’s ability to show up and be seen, to be truly wholehearted and vulnerable in their craft and in their lives, is entirely undermined when they are perpetually struggling for a sense of self-worth and worthiness. The systems of production around us make that struggle for worthiness endemic to the actor’s…

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The Most Important Thing in Theatre You’re Not Talking About

December 3, 2014


If you love theatre, read this.

Originally posted on Bitter Gertrude:

There’s a massive disconnect between theatre intelligentsia– bloggers like me– and what’s actually happening on the ground.

Theatre writers have been doing an excellent job drawing attention to issues of inclusion and diversity, issues of copyright and contract law and copyright/contract violation, issues of audience demographics, issues of access to arts education, issues of season selection, issues of censorship, especially in schools. Those are crucial, vital, important issues about which we need to continue to write. I have no plans to stop writing about any of those, nor do I expect (or want) anyone else to stop.

But we’re all avoiding the elephant in the room, probably because it’s simple, and boring, and all too painfully obvious.


Nonprofit theatres all over the country are in trouble. While larger theatres are doing better than they were during the recession, a jaw-dropping amount of small, indie theatres and even…

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The Performance of Protest vs The Performance of Excusing Apathy

November 29, 2014


Thinking about American Indian (his term) Vine Deloria’s book We Talk, You Listen, which, among other things, discusses Marshall McLuhan’s theories as they apply to the Civil Rights movement. The message gets lost in the image. The image becomes the message.

How do we get the media to show all of the images? What role does the need to sell papers/get ratings play in choosing which images get shown?

Originally posted on Bitter Gertrude:

Once upon a time I met an actor with mental health issues. Just . . . save that joke for later; I’m serious times right now. He told me that the Korean government was trying to kill him because of his political street theatre. When I tell this story, it never fails to get a laugh. Political street theatre? Harhar. No one cares about political street theatre that much! Harharhar.

In the wake of the failure of the grand jury to indict Darren Wilson, protests have exploded all over the country. The internet has also predictably exploded with people condemning the rioting and looting that have been an unfortunate component of some of the protests. The theatre around this issue is fascinating, and enormously telling.

There have been peaceful protests in Ferguson (and elsewhere) literally every single day since Michael Brown was killed. Here are some shots:

Ferguson, August 11. Photo by Robert Cohen, AP. Ferguson, August…

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Playwriting and the Pet Peeves of Others

November 12, 2014

There’s an incredibly useful article over at the Playwrights Center website (not Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco, the group I’m involved with, but the national one in Minneapolis), Tips From Artistic Directors. In that article, there are a lot of positive tips: send your best work, follow guidelines, and many more.

Two ADs chose to include their pet peeves. Among these were opening monologues and phone calls. They suggested only using opening monologues if absolutely necessary and keeping phone calls to two or three lines. I’m assuming – I could be wrong – the ADs are referring to those phone calls where we only hear one side of the conversation.

One of my works contains two long one-sided phone calls and several have opening monologues. Do I:

1. Remove them immediately?
2. Make them better?
3. Not send them to these particular ADs?

Read more of Playwriting and the Pet Peeves of Others

Ninja words and phrases

September 14, 2014

What do the words and phrases cheeseburger, mentee, La Niña, Silver Alert, and Nannygate have in common? Answer after the jump.

Continue reading Ninja words and phrases

The Class Divide in Theatre

August 3, 2014

Originally posted on Bitter Gertrude:

For so long I’ve wanted the Theatre Industry machine to behave a certain way and suddenly I realized I want to take that machine apart and build a new one instead.

It’s been brewing in the back of my mind for awhile, but it really came to a head last week in a Facebook discussion about Charles Isherwood’s condescending language when writing about plays by people of color. Isherwood has enormous power to make or break the success of a play and/or playwright, and he’s not the only one using that kind of language, but he has extraordinary power because of his position with the New York Times.

But I think the problem isn’t just Isherwood personally, since we could fire him into the sun and there’d be another one right behind him to take his place. We should start thinking in terms of dismantling the power we accrue to that position…

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Things Playwrights Do That I Love

August 3, 2014


Interesting to hold my plays up to this yardstick.

Originally posted on Bitter Gertrude:

Sometimes I open a play and see something that makes me feel like this:

Here’s what you do that makes my heart sing as I’m reading the plays in my stack. Are these subjective? Sure. But I made sure to only include things I’ve heard echoed by other artistic directors. Is this meant to be all-inclusive? Of course not. I’ve written a lot about playwriting already, so there’s a lot I’ve left out here. (Search for the tag “playwrights” if you want to see more.) So here we go– what makes my eyes turn into cartoon hearts when I look at you:


1. Your play is set anywhere but New York. Every time I talk about this, I get ten playwrights saying, “That NEVER HAPPENS anymore. That’s OLD SCHOOL.” And then I open the next 20 plays in my consideration folder and 14 of them are set in New York…

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Our Role in This as Artists

May 29, 2014


Time to reread my plays for possible edits.

Originally posted on Bitter Gertrude:

Like pretty much every blogger, the plan I had for my next post got chucked out the window after the violence at UCSB. I’ve been closely following #YesAllWomen on twitter, the news stories, the many, many blog posts, the many discussions on facebook. Like we all have been. Like so many women, I’ve been repeating the truth: This isn’t at all surprising. This is just the extreme example of what women experience all the time.

The reaction to that, honestly, has surprised me far more than the attack itself. I expected some blowback, but I didn’t expect the AMOUNT and TYPE of blowback I got. Things like, “We need to wait for more information because I didn’t believe a word of that manifesto,” “You need to have more compassion for men. We’re sick of this vitriol,” “You’re just making men angry and scared,” “A lifetime of being nice to women down…

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Single-Field Password Set/Reset: Threat or Menace?

April 28, 2014

This post is dedicated to everyone who ever had trouble logging into a website (myself included, way too many times) or whoever had their account hacked because their password was too simple (way too many friends and acquaintances, way too many times).

This is for us.

Dear website designers and programmers:

Every modern website adds new features. Google added Maps, Books, Street View. Yahoo! added its latest e-mail layout. Twitter added hashtags and now is thinking about revoking them, but has added line breaks. And, most importantly, I have the choice whether to use them or not.

Then there’s the We-Have-a-Great-New-Feature-and-You-Must-Use-It Syndrome. Think Facebook Timeline. Well, that doesn’t cost me any time and I got used to it. And it doesn’t slow me down.

(By the way, Yahoo! initially took away Yahoo! classic e-mail, but after not too long a delay, restored it, if I recall correctly. Thank you for listening to your customers, Yahoo!)

Now there’s a new We-Have-a-Great-New-Feature-and-You-Must-Use-It Syndrome feature.

Your wonderful new feature is giving me a negative view of your website. Negative enough to write a 3300-word blog post complaining – occasionally ranting – about it. What would your advertisers think of that?

Day by day your numbers are growing, User Interface (UI) designers following the siren, zombie call of this new feature.

I mean you, force-me-to-use-a-single-field-when-setting-or-resetting-my-password-UI website. Yes, you. You’ve turned simple inconvenience into dread.

Warning: This is a scattered, discursive essay. Much like my experience of dealing with passwords on your website.

My first draft was about 500 words. But, as I thought about the complexities of what you are asking me to do with regard to the care and feeding of my password, the article grew and it grew, much like the burden you’ve placed on me.

Please stick with it. I’ve done my best to make sure it will be worth it. And I’ve actually proofread it.

And, hey, if your response is TLDR (too long, didn’t read), feel free to skip to Here’s the ideal situation and hope your customers – isn’t it time we retired “users”? – aren’t saying Too Hard, Didn’t Log In.

Continue reading Single-Field Password Set/Reset: Threat or Menace?

Cumulative advantage and women playwrights

March 12, 2014


I feel like I’m up against this as well, as an unknown non-MFA gay/queer white male playwright. Still, I’m just one guy, and this is a whole gender. A must-read about who becomes well-known and why.

Originally posted on writing.performance:

At The Summit, a public conversation with prominent DC theatres’ artistic directors convened by Washington Post theatre critic Peter Marks, Ryan Rilette tried to explain why it was more difficult for prominent theatres to stage women playwrights than to stage their male peers. Part of his reply–that there were fewer women “in the pipeline” (meaning a production circuit from major London and New York stages) went viral on social media, inspiring some very funny memes like Daniel Alexander Jones’: Daniel Alexander Jones' meme Daniel Alexander Jones’ meme .

It also inspired Elaine Romero to initiate WE EXIST, an open-source, editable list of female and trans* playwrights to which anyone can add herself or another playwright. (see my previous post.)

But I don’t want to make Rilette the bad guy here; his theater, Roundhouse, is committing to gender parity in future seasons, and is part of a group of 44…

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Unpopular Chinese New Year sentiments: on prosperity

February 1, 2014


心想事成 (Xīn xiǎng shì chéng / All wishes come true) to all my Chinese friends (and may you have good wishes). Happy new year.

Originally posted on Scribbles from a Singaporean girl:

Warning –these are my own reflections and not opinions I derived from anyone else. We can agree to disagree. 

It’s the eve of Chinese New Year. Families are gathered around tables brimming with delicacies, busily smacking their lips and rubbing their full bellies. The rare evening of the year that people gather to celebrate a one-ness that is made possible only by the ties of blood. Ties of patrilineal blood, the tiny voice of anthropology in me cries.

I’m thinking of what everyone is saying, wishing to each other and to themselves. Huat ah. I see on Facebook statuses and posts. We’re eager to usher in the new year with catchy phrases and sayings. Do we really mean what we say? Do we even bother to mean what we say?

Huat ah. Gong xi fa cai. Nian nian you yu. They sound good to the ears, I will…

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Hi-Ho, The Glamorous Life: I Don’t Want to Wait

January 9, 2014


While I’ll acknowledge I’ve hurried some of my plays to readings too quickly, yeah, the quest for perfection gets old. Williams and Albee produce(d) their plays and then revise(d).

Originally posted on San Francisco Theater Pub:

Marissa Skudlarek gives us her longest blog ever, because she’s got a lot to think about. 

As Allison Page noted here last week, self-producing is a hot topic among theater-makers right now. On Facebook, the group “The Official Playwrights of Facebook” frequently plays host to conversations about best practices for self-producing, and last week, HowlRound led a Twitter conversation on the topic.

In these discussions and conversations, there always seems to be someone (or multiple someones) offering advice along the lines of “Before you even think about self-producing a play, make sure you’ve done tons of drafts and multiple readings and workshops.”

Here’s why I think that that may be dangerous advice.

(Caveat emptor: I haven’t self-produced a play before, though I am planning to do so this year. Therefore, I may be writing this column from a place of naïve ignorance. If the play I self-produce this year…

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Six Things Playwrights Should Stop Doing

January 4, 2014


Words to those of us who would be wiser.

Originally posted on Bitter Gertrude:


Because what says “HAPPY NEW YEAR” better than a judgmental listicle?

One thing I want to say right at the start is that this is a list borne out of my own personal experience. These are things I personally see early-career playwrights do over and over and over. I also expect that there will be people who disagree with me, or who say, “But [name of play] does that and it’s the BEST PLAY EVER.” Sure. A genius can take a tired trope and use it ingeniously. But these tropes, I’m telling you, are tired.

The second thing I want to say is that your play is not irrevocably in the suck pile if it uses some of these. I know you’ll iron these out in development. Brilliant writers make a lot of mistakes early in their careers, or copy what writers of the past did when these things were new…

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The Politics of Accents

December 23, 2013

Originally posted on Bitter Gertrude:

While I could write plenty about nonsense like Asian actors being asked to do “the accent” in their audition for “Prostitute #3” and “Kung Fu Master Criminal,” or Black actors being asked for a more “urban” accent or audition piece, I’m actually heading in the opposite direction.

There’s a “Shakespeare accent” that American actors are taught to use, or sometimes just pick up on their own through exposure. I’ve seen plenty of teachers throughout the years refer to this as “RP,” “Standard American,” or “Mid-Atlantic” (not to be confused with the actual accent of people in that region– more on that later). The terminology is confused and not always accurate. “RP” stands for “received pronunciation,” which is in actuality a British dialect considered “proper,” and “Standard American” refers to an accent that uses a harder final R than these actors are being taught. But the accuracy of the terminology is…

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Post 1: Femme Visibility and Subjectivity in Technical Theatre – A Backstory

December 23, 2013

Originally posted on prettyunbearable:

Recently, while I was sitting in on a rehearsal, a director asked me, “Why sound?”

My immediate response: “Because it is like acting, but without being looked at.”

“Good answer.” he said thoughtfully, and the matter was dropped.

At least, it had appeared to be dropped. Yet my own mind continued to mull over my response again and again wondering how I had come to this conclusion.

In the beginning, I was an actor. Acting is what drew me to the theater. I loved the attention as a child, performance being what ultimately saved me from a shy and lonely childhood. When I became an adult, however, the attention repulsed me. As a female I am taught from earliest consciousness that my value is inherently measured in the realm of the physical. Without outward beauty, or even the correct kind of beauty, I may as well give up on…

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Overdue calendar reforms and conversational breakdowns

November 16, 2013

Calendar programs let you schedule meetings, and e-mail programs have long let you reply to messages and forward files. E-mail programs now let you follow conversations. But a more nuanced approach is needed for all of these. After years of calendar and e-mail programs, I can’t understand why the programmers haven’t gotten these very basic things right.

Continue reading Overdue calendar reforms and conversational breakdowns

Sex on Stage

October 4, 2013

I’ve made a post on my other blog, The Lark’s Nest, about sex on stage. Explicit content/NSFW.

A Bear for all Seasons….

June 24, 2013


How can I ignore a reference to *ahem* moi? Seriously, this is a cool project and a $36 Kickstarter pledge results in two young people being introduced to theatre, a good thing to do in this electronic age. Oh, and the Panda Kindergarten gets cuppycakes. What’s not to like?

Originally posted on The Panda Chronicles:

Am I not a panda?  What is in a name? A panda by any other name would smell as…well, they would probably be just the tiniest bit whiffy, if you know what I mean….

Every once in a while, the pandas come to aid someone who has a project, be it on Kickstarter, or elsewhere,  because we think it is worth supporting, and so we mention it to you, (some would say obsessively, but hey! we like what we like!) in hopes that you will check it out and consider supporting it too.

With just slightly over two weeks to go, Island Shakespeare’s Kickstarterproject has reached just over 60% of the needed funding to fulfill their goal and get any of the money.

Why should I care?

Well, they are my friends and neighbors and what they are doing is very, very cool.  In a nutshell, they do…

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Monday, Monday, and time for another episode of This Olde Den!

May 20, 2013


OMG I read this two minutes ago and I’m still laughing. Hoping reblogging this will let me stop.

Hey, it worked!!!

Um, no it didn’t.

Originally posted on The Panda Chronicles:

Greetings panda fans!  I hope you have recovered from the exciting conclusion of Mr. Wu’s most recent adventure, Bears in the Air! If you missed this exciting series, check in on Friday’s post for links to the entire series.

Today, we have a exciting, new episode of This Olde Den, the show that helps your inner panda embrace your outer homemaker. This cartoon also answers the question, “How do you do it ALL? How do you combine an exciting career as a painter, act as the director of The Institute of Contemporary Panda Satire, and still have time to do the dishes?”

I think this should clear up that question.

The sun is shining!  Go have fun.

Be the Bear!

Bob T. panda


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Having fucked up shit vs. saying fucked up shit

April 21, 2013


(Some of my plays include strong language. I don’t normally put it in my blog. I’m making an exception here.)

This is something I wrestle with in my plays. It would be very safe for me as a white male, albeit queer, playwright, to write only white male characters. On the other hand, if I write female characters and characters of color – which I want to do to ensure there are roles for such actors and because I want to comment on our world and not a tiny subset of it – I have to try to get it right.

The Ars Marginal post by RVCBard is an outstanding analysis of what it means to actually try. The distinction of whether the fucked-upped-ness is that of the writer or the world of the characters is critical.

Originally posted on Ars Marginal:

One of the things that always seems to trip people up when it comes to analyzing marginalized identities in stories is the difference between a story that has fucked up shit in it versus a story that says fucked up shit.

This is a very important distinction that everybody analyzing narrative media needs to understand.

So I’m going to help a muthafucka out right quick.

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