Fall Theater Season Begins
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The fall theater season in San Diego has begun. Dramas, musicals, and even a site-specific work are all opening across the county.
Pam Kragen is the arts and features editor at North County Times.
Jim Hebert is the theater critic at the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Mad cap comedy, strolls in a theatrical garden, a musical version of the odyssey, and doctor Frankenfurter. San Diego's fall theatre scene is rich, varied and actually a bit frenetic. Joining me to talk about the plays are my guests, Pam Kragen, arts and features editor at North County Times. Hi Pam.
KRAGEN: Thanks for having me.
CAVANAUGH: And Jim Hebert is theatre critic at the San Diego Union Tribune, welcome back.
HEBERT: Good to be back.
CAVANAUGH: Let's start with you, Pam in an unusual production at the La Jolla playhouse. It's called Cisserus, it opens tomorrow, but the play isn't actually at the playhouse. Tell us about this.
KRAGEN: That's correct. It's taking place at the San Diego botanic garden up in it Encinitas. And it is the first project in the playhouse's without walls series, where they're taking projects outside of the theatre to different venues around the county. And it's going to be an audio play where you put on an IPod and ear buds and you walk around the San Diego botanic garden. And it used to be called quail botanical gardens. And at different stations around the garden, you will play audio tracks. And it's sort of like a radio play.
CAVANAUGH: Is there hike a trail you follow and howune where to if?
KRAGEN: Apparently, I don't know yet, I'm going to see it this afternoon, but apparently you're either handed a map or there is a guide of some sort to get you around there, and then there are listening stations that are mapped out that tell you what track to play on your IPod.
CAVANAUGH: What issiseris about?
KRAGEN: Cisserus, I had to hook up the meek of the word, and it's sort of those onomatopoetic words about a rustling in the trees, and it's sort of a memory play where you're learning the story of this opera singer who is older now, and you're listening to stories being told by his adopted adult children. And he was apparently an opera singer in Benjamin Brtain's a midsummer night's dream, and his life is interwoven with that. It's sort of unusual. All the piece are disjointed at first, and then they we've been together over the course of 90 minutes will tell us about the playwright, David Leti.
KRAGEN: He's a Scottish playwright, he's based in Glasgow, and he's known for doing avant garde site specific theatre. He has staged shows in his bedroom, and in, like,a a big paper box, and in the back of a Victorian theatre. He told me he's doing a show right now where everyone closings their eyes, and sits there, and they're told to imagine Venice, then they hear the stage being flooded with water. Kind of an aural sensation. He likes to do things that are different and engage all the sense it is.
CAVANAUGH: Whoa, wow. And tell us a little bit more about the without walls series.
KRAGEN: This is the first project. I believe it was a $900,000 grant that the playhouse got from the Irvine foundation. And Christopher Ashley, artistic director at the Playhouse was saying he's really excited about the program. It allows them to explore different places around the county, which they've never done before. And they're going to do six projects over the next couple of years with the festival of all six events in 2,013.
CAVANAUGH: That's fascinating. Will Cisserus opens at the San Diego botanic garden tomorrow and runs through October 2nd, rain or shine right?
KRAGEN: That's right.
CAVANAUGH: We move to the play Walter Cronkite is dead. It begins previews this weekend at San Diego repertoire theatre. What's this play about, Jim?
HEBERT: It's not really about Walter Cronkhite. And he's not really, you know, a character. He's more of a presence in a way. The play is about two women who are stranded in an airport together. And they -- it becomes clear after a while that they come from very different backgrounds and different worlds and have different political views. And the more they talk, the more that friction develops. But the title comes from this idea that when Walter Cronkite, who was known once upon the time as the most trusted man in America, passed away that this era ended of kind of a sense of civility or maybe more of a sense of national be unity. And that's reflected a little bit in the relationship between these women and the way they perceive each other.
CAVANAUGH: And so this corresponds to the highly partisan rhetoric we're seeing in politics and out of Washington right now.
HEBERT: Yeah, are it gets to the sense that people just aren't really talking to etch -- other anymore. That they're kind of sizing each other up as the enemy before they really even listen to what each other has to say. And that goes for -- it's really a play about the relationship between these two women. But with a larger context is this idea of in society and in politics that as we see, and there's so much just -- people rooting into their respected camps and not really having much dialogue.
CAVANAUGH: Do they really take on any political issues in depth in this play?
HEBERT: Not really. The political defense between them really comes up because Margaret, who is kind of a very reserved, easterner who turns out to be pretty prosecutive politically, brings up her adoration for the Kennedys, and she has named all her kids after the Kennedys. And that kind of sets the other character on edge because she's from the south, she's very talkative, very bracing person, but she also, you know, you could -- I guess using a cliché, say she's more of a red state presence. But they really react to each other in ways that don't have anything to do with what they're like as people. It's more what they believe each other stands for.
CAVANAUGH: Right. And is it funny?
HEBERT: Yeah, you know, I think it's essentially a comedy. I read through the script. It's kind of wistful and it has some poignancy to it. There are some rev lazes that bring a little bit of sadness to these characters' lives. But it really is -- it has humor to it as well.
CAVANAUGH: And Shana bride is directing the play. She's acted in other productions at the rep. This is her first time directing one of their plays. Tell us about her.
HEBERT: She was at the rep a number of years ago in plays like six women with brain death, and and she was a prominent actor here, and left for LA for a while. I think she was doing some radio and she was acting there and directing. And she came back to town about three years ago and has really been making her mark once again directing around town and acting at Signet and other places. And back at the rep directing this show now.
CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know, San Diego repertoire's protection of Walter Cronkite is Dead starts Saturday at the Lyceum Theatre. And the official opening night is September 23rdrd. Pam, back to you with the Marvelous Wonderettes. Of the performances began yesterday. It's a musical, and what range of music is included in this production?
KRAGEN: Marvelous Wonderettes is a 1950s musical review. It starts in 1958, and the second act is in 1968. So you see a lot of the music of the late '50s and the mid60s.
CAVANAUGH: I've read this production, this play is called the female forever plaid. Is that pretty accurate?
KRAGEN: That's extremely accurate. I was watching, I went and saw it last night, and the whole first act you're think being this is forever plaid without the tuxedos. But the second act is total he different. Basically it's a high school prom, and then the second act is ten years later, their high school reunion. So there's some plot development, which I was really happen to see. And I thought it was really cute.
CAVANAUGH: What stands out for you in this Vista production?
KRAGEN: I would say the personalities of the four actresses who are playing the roles. They are really very good singers, and really good actresses. It's very funny, and it's just really some of the -- -- two of the actresses have been with it for years. They played in the off Broadway production. And they're just very funny. And they have their parts down really cold. So they can improvise a bit. And I just thought it was -- the performances that stood out to me.
CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, are you going to go to a show like this, the Marvelous Wonderettes for the music or the story?
KRAGEN: I think people are going to come for the music. A lot of the audience is older for the Moonlight, and people were singing along and tapping their tows. And oh, I love this song. I kept hearing that. But the second act, you seem to get into the characters. Because they're all optimistic high school students in the beginning, and the second act, some hardship has come their way. So I went away after the first act, I was saying be, what they going to do? The story is done. The second act, I watched and I thought oh, there's a lot more going on here. And I really enjoyed the story.
CAVANAUGH: Bets Malone is originally from Vista. She's performing in this musical. Can you tell us a little bit about her?
KRAGEN: She grew up in Vista. I'm from Vista. So I've seen her for many membership years. She grew up performing; I think she might have gone to Vista and Rancho Buena Vista high school. And she performed as a teenager at the moonlight amphitheater. Then she went off and she has been all over the country on tour tours, she's worked all over California, been on Broadway, and comes become whenever she can. Which is about every 2 or 3 years, and she has a huge following. Everyone knows her and loves her.
CAVANAUGH: Performances of the Marvelous Wonderettes began last night in Vista and run through October 1st. Lend he a tenter is playing at north coast rep. What's this about?
HEBERT: This is a basically there's a whole lot of sweating involved. It's a farce that is -- has the usual ingredients of that genre which is basically mistaken identities and lots of slammed doors, you know? And it's about the visit by an Italian tenor to a Cleveland opera company in 1934, I think, and he is coming this to do a benefit performance, but he's kind of ill, and he's having problems with his wife. And eventually, through a series of unfortunate events, he becomes incapacitated. So the company tries to basically dress up a gopher that works with the company as a stand in for this guy. And when he wakes up, crazy things happen.
CAVANAUGH: Confusion enshoes.
HEBERT: Pretty much.
CAVANAUGH: So what was your over all impression?
HEBERT: You know, I thought that at the beginning -- I saw it last Saturday, and it felt as though it was really kind of laborering at the start to get going. There's kind of a lot of shouting and sweating. But once it does get moving, it actually was -- I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a good show. It really does what a good farce does, which is to have that kind of split second timing. And you don't really know who knows what in any given time. Everybody's reality for the play is a little different. And so that creates a lot of fun to see how everybody gets confusioned, and deals with the situation.
CAVANAUGH: And sweats as you put it. Lend me a tenor plays at the north coast rep theatre in Solana beach through October 2nd. I want to have you both comment on these plays that are at and coming up at The Old Globe. There's a disaster plagued rocky horror show that opens tomorrow at the old globe. It's been a tough road getting this show to opening night. Tell us a little bit about that.
KRAGEN: Midway through rehearsals, they lost their leading man when it was revealed quite publicly on a local conservative radio talk station that he had a past. He had been involved with an under aged girl and had pleaded guilty to some misdemeanor charges related to that. That was more than ten years ago. And he was rehabilitated. But he felt and the globe felt it was best for the production that he.
CAVANAUGH: And that was their star.
KRAGEN: That was their star.
CAVANAUGH: Doctor Frankenfurter.
KRAGEN: James Barber. And he's a Tony nominated act are on. Fantastic singing voice, really talented. Will so it's kind of a sad situation. Then they lost their director last week. From Chance Theatre in Orange County, also very talented, avant garde, edgy director. And they have an associate director coming in.
CAVANAUGH: Do you know why the director left?
KRAGEN: He has not commented other than he said that he -- there was artistic differences. Sort of heard some rumblings that possibly the globe wasn't comfortable with how Avaunt guard he was staging it. There was a lot of sexual over tours in the show. And I think that maybe that was probably --
CAVANAUGH: Too much for the globe?
KRAGEN: A little too hot.
CAVANAUGH: Tell us about the new director, Jim.
HEBERT: James Vasquez is -- he's been a really busy director around town, the past few years. And a very well regarded well liked director. He actually was serving as assistant director on this production when this all happened, and he was given the top job. He also directs the early production of the Grinch at the globe. And he's worked at New Village Arts and signet, and some other companies. He does really good work, and he's a Julliard graduate. He also a film maker, and people might know the show true blood on TV, one of his film partners is cary Preston who is an actor on that show. And she just directed their latest, which I think they're shopping to festivaling right now.
CAVANAUGH: I see. Given all the trouble in the rocky horror show, are you two looking forward to seeing it.
HEBERT: I've never seen it on stage, you know? I want to know what happens -- because most people know from the movie, and of course part of the phenomenon of the movie is all the stuff that gets thrown, toast that gets throat at the screen, and people -- there's that audience participation aspect that people are so into.
CAVANAUGH: The time warp.
HEBERT: Yeah. And the globe, I think is talking about selling some kind of participation bag. They haven't said what that might include. I think they want to have a way of controlling it. I think James Vasquez said I don't want toast flying by the actors' heads while we're doing this. But it's a part of the audience participation is a big part of the phenomenon so we'll see how that goes.
CAVANAUGH: We're just about out of time and we can't talk about the musical version of the odyssey. But since it's opening September 30th, we're going to have time to talk about that in subsequent shows. I want to let everyone know, the rocky horror show begins tomorrow and runs through November 6th at The Old Globe. And I want to thank my guests. Pam Kragen, Jim HEBERT, thank you for speaking with me.
KRAGEN: Thanks very having me.
HEBERT: Thank, Maureen.
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