OnStage Playhouse Returns To Live Performances With 'Sheepdog'
Speaker 1: 00:00 Onstage Playhouse reopened earlier this month for in-person performances, KPBS arts reporter, Beth Armando speaks with artistic director, James Darvis about returning to live theater and why he chose the place sheep dog. As the play to return with Speaker 2: 00:16 James onstage play house has just opened an actual in-person event, a new play sheep dog. What is attendance been like? What has the audience response been to coming back to the theater? Speaker 3: 00:29 Right now? We're at a, we can sell 25 tickets, a performance until June 15th. Hopefully there'll be an announcement coming up soon. So opening night was sold out the people that are coming and the people that are calling in ordering the tickets are just exuberant to be able to come back and see live theater. Onstage has done a lot. We, uh, installed a new air filtration system with the ultraviolet virus, eating, whatever it is. They explained it to me, but I don't understand it. Uh, we have the company come in and sanitize every day. Yay. Speaker 2: 01:01 And sheepdog is the play you were performing. Why did you choose this play Speaker 3: 01:07 Sheep dog by Kevin RT? I was planning on doing one final, um, livestream production, uh, and I wanted to do something that was so very current and could spark conversation. Uh, so I Googled a couple topics about police to see what I could find and sheep dog came up and I ordered a copy of it and I read it and I was so enamored with it being a play about something. So topical, sometimes playwrights can be very heavy handed and what their perspective is on that topic. Mr. Artie did not do that. Mr. Arteaga is telling a love story of two police officers. One's an African-American woman. One is a white male. They are in a relationship together. Uh, they serve on the Cleveland PD. Cleveland is my hometown. So that's also a little serendipitous and he shoots an unarmed black man. And we watch this relationship and how this relationship can endure that or not enjoy that Speaker 4: 02:10 His blood pressure remains at stage two. They keep him overnight for observation. For the first time you hear it's Ryan's version of events. So I'm pulled over, just fast to the intersection at 55th and Cedar, I call over the radio and before I'm even out of the car, I smell weed is high. I assume so, but Speaker 3: 02:30 It doesn't speak, uh, politics at all. It just shows this very interesting perspective on a topic that has been so polarizing that I was so refreshing to hear two police officers discuss this, which is something that we don't hear very often. We hear families of victims. We hear advocates. We hear people who are extremely liberal or are extremely conservative, but to find this opinion and this perspective I think is, is brilliant. And it's a beautiful play. Speaker 2: 03:02 So your theater company is located in Chula Vista. How does choosing a play like this reflect what you think are community concerns and issues? Speaker 3: 03:13 Great question. Thank you so much. So, uh, this past summer onstage showed some support for the black lives matter movement. When Mr. Floyd was murdered, we decided to take some time to listen. We changed our marquee to, we are listening and we put the black lives matter on in the window. And we received some very negative comments from people, not from Chula Vista, proper from different areas around San Diego. And we went public with those. And then the neighborhood of Chula Vista embraced us so well for being able to, uh, support a, another organization in need of support. Uh, I kind of felt that there was, uh, a need in our community to talk about this. So that was one of the main reasons. Uh, she dog, uh, came to life, but the community of Chula Vista is changing rapidly. The street is now full of micro, uh, pubs full of nightclubs, full of restaurants, full of coffee shops, but anybody knows third avenue in Chula Vista for the longest time, it was simply quinceanera halls and places where you could buy dresses and or tuxedos for those keen scenarios. It has changed drastically, uh, there's people on the street, people probably from, from age 21 to age 50, which is that sweet demographic that we want to get into the theater right now, uh, new faces in the neighborhood and they are looking to be entertained and also challenged and onstage Playhouse is focused entirely on that for our upcoming season. Speaker 2: 04:51 Now onstage Playhouse is a community theater. And how does that position you in San Diego in terms of having to compete with a lot of other theaters that are much larger with bigger marketing budgets, how do you find an audience and how difficult is it to survive? Speaker 3: 05:08 It's difficult and actually onstage Playhouse as moved into the semi-professional theater realm, every single one of our artists receive compensation for their time and talents. There are two now paid staff positions at the theater. We have a lovely grant writer, which is helping a lot with that question. It is challenging that it's really challenging to be, um, trusted at the helm of an organization that's been around for a very long time, over 37 seasons of theater. And for them to trust you taking that wheel and turning it a little bit, um, making sure that we are relevant, we are current and we are as professionals as possible. That takes a lot of money. Uh, the grant writers doing a wonderful job. The county of San Diego has helped out a lot through out COVID a tool, just a proper has helped out, uh, throughout COVID. So have some resources and it is very challenging when your name is up next to the old globe or the San Diego rep repertory theater. But I'm super proud of the work that onstage has been doing and that we are doing. And I just urge people to come out and see the magic that can happen in a really small intimate room for a really low budget. Speaker 2: 06:21 And talk a little bit more about sheep dog in terms of this is a two person play, correct. Speaker 3: 06:27 It's actually a cast of four. There's a male voices and female voices, which have all been recorded. But so when you come into the theater, you simply see the two actors, a two hand play was super safe for COVID. Um, so that was one of the decisions that, uh, reason we made that decision. Secondly, it is told Quintin Tarantino asks, which is amazing to watch. It's told out of sequence it's lovely, the way it's written. It's perfect for a smaller crowd. I wasn't sure what we were going to be able to capacity-wise to sell 25 tickets in a 70 seat venue is not too bad. You know, we're able to cover costs if we sell those 25 seats every night, but it's a really nice intimate play that lets you feel like you are almost just staring through the window of this couple's life kind of being very voyeuristic and you're you're you happen to walk by and you're, you're watching this story unfold, sheep dogs in amazing play. I, I I'm so thankful that we were the first people in San Diego to be able to produce it. I was absolutely shocked when I found that out. Um, so yeah, it's, it's the perfect play for right now about it's the perfect play for right now? Speaker 2: 07:37 Well, I want to thank you very much for talking about onstage Playhouse and sheepdog. Thank Speaker 3: 07:41 You for having me, Beth, please support local art. Please support local businesses and please come see our website. Speaker 1: 07:47 That was Beth doc. Amando speaking with onstage Playhouse artistic director. James Darvis sheepdog runs Fridays through Sundays till June 27th.