ACTOR-SINGER STEPHEN WALSH REMEMBERED – Jan. 21, 2018
Some people make a lasting impression with a smile, a handshake, a way with a joke or a compliment, or perhaps with a beautiful singing voice and a knack for delivering a line on stage in an unexpected way. For Stephen Walsh, known to many Petalumans for his frequent appearances on stage at Cinnabar Theater, Stephen was known for all of that.
Sadly, Walsh, 61, passed away suddenly last Saturday morning, following a diagnosis, just last week, of accute Myeloid leukemia. The suddenness of his passing has left the North Bay theater community shaken and grieving, most potently among those who worked with him at Cinnabar and at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, where he served as cantor.
Walsh most recently appeared at Cinnabar in last fall’s “Man of La Mancha,” playing the role of The Governor. Of that appearance, critics and co-players alike noted Walsh’s generosity of spirit, proving as skillful at helping to make his fellow performers look good in the spotlight as he was unforgettable when taking the spotlight himself, in lead roles such as Tony in “The Most Happy Fella” (2016), Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” (2014), or Georges in “La Cage aux Folles.”
In my own Sept. 2016 review of Walsh’s performance in “The Most Happy Fella,” I wrote, “There are many reasons to see this show, but in the end, it all comes down to Walsh, giving one of the best performances of his career.”
He was nominated that year for a Best Principal Actor award by the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle.
A funeral mass for Walsh was held on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Cinnabar plans to dedicate this summer’s production of “The Fantasticks” to Walsh.
“Stephen was pure light and love and kindness,” recalls Sheri Lee Miller, who directed him in “La Cage aux Folles.” Echoing those who’ve praised his generosity on and off stage, Miller adds, “He was a remarkable talent, yet completely ego-free. I know everyone has a dark side, but I never saw his. We have lost a truly good man.”
— By DAVID TEMPLETON
Jim DePriest Memorial bench planned for Ives Park
March 23, 2016 — When word spread earlier this month that Jim DePriest had died at 79 there were those in the Sonoma County theater community who expressed more than just shock and sadness. To many, the tireless actor and director had given the impression that he might never die, so relentless was his commitment to local theater.
“It’s just so sad,” says Diane Bailey, a longtime collaborator of DePriest’s from back in the days when the Sonoma County Repertory Theater ran two theaters, one in Sebastopol (where Main Stage West now operates) and the other in downtown Santa Rosa, now business offices.
“Jim loved theater so much,” says Bailey, who has relocated back to Sebastopol after founding Theater Anew in San Francisco, “and Jim’s love of this art form was truly inspiring to many, many local theater artists. He changed our lives.”
A tribute to DePriest has been planned for this Friday evening, March 25, at the Raven Performing Arts Center in downtown Healdsburg at 7pm. Attendees are encouraged to bring a bottle of wine and their stories of DePriest.
Additionally, Bailey says that the entire run of her upcoming Theater Anew production of “Three Viewings,” by Jeffrey Hatcher—running April 1 – 16 at Santa Rosa’s Church of the One Tree—is being dedicated to DePriest.
“Jim had a wicked sense of humor,” says Bailey, “and I think he’d appreciate having a play about a funeral be dedicated to his memory. It’s ironic, and he loved irony. He’d get a good laugh out of that.”
Furthermore, says Bailey, there are plans afoot to commission a memorial “Shakespeare Bench,” to be placed in DePriest’s honor somewhere in Sebastopol’s Ives Park. There, DePriest founded the Sonoma County Shakespeare Festival, which for many years provided lavish outdoor productions of Shakespeare’s plays.
A percentage of the box office receipts from “Three Viewings” will be given to the campaign, said Bailey.
Go to theateranew.com for more information.
Two North Bay Theater Companies announce details of next season
March 10, 2016 —It’s a little like Christmas, this time of year, when one-by-one the majority of theater companies release details about their upcoming. And like Christmas, when lists of gifts become a focus of attention (whether it’s a child’s list of toys hoped for from Santa or a gift-giver’s list of sweaters, ties, gourmet food boxes and other items to pick up for friends and relatives). Lists are just as exciting when theaters send out their season announcement press releases, the main attraction of which are the lists of shows they plan to produce in the coming twelve months, after the current season of shows has come to an end, of course. With more than three dozen fully-active theater companies in the North Bay, there will be lots to report over the next few months.
Here’s a start.
For brevity’s sake, I shall make no commentary and add no description, just list the shows (which, after all, is plenty enough to get a theater-lover’s heart rate going).
At Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, a six show season.
‘August: Osage County’ by Tracy Letts (September, 2016)
‘Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley,’ a West Coast premiere by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon (November, 2016)
‘Native Son,’ a West Coast premiere by Nambi E. Kelley (January, 2017)
‘Peerless,’ a West Coast premiere by Jiehae Park (March, 2017)
‘Guards at the Taj,’ a Bay Area premiere by Rajiv Joseph (April, 2017)
TBA: A new American play (June, 2017)
At Lucky Penny Community Arts Center in Napa, a nine show season.
‘Big River’ by Roger Miller and William Haupton (September, 2016)
‘I Wanna Be Bad: An Original Speakeasy Musical,’ a world premiere by Shannon Rider and Barry Martin (October, 2016)
‘The Miracle Worker,’ by William Gibson (November, 2016)
‘The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical,’ by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso (December, 2016)
”Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ by Ken Ludwig (December, 2016)
‘A Little Night Music,’ by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler (January, 2017)
‘Kids Rule the 8×10: short play festival,’ (February, 2017)
‘Maple and Vine,’ by Jordan Harrison (April, 2017)
‘Clue: The Musical,’ by Peter DiPietro, Galen Blum, Wayne Barker, Vinnie Martucci, and Tom Chiodo (May, 2017)
Left Edge Theater to choose upcoming season by popular vote
February 13, 2016 —With just one more show to go in its inaugural season, Left Edge Theater has scheduled a season two announcement party like none other. On February 26 and 27, the decision of which shows the company stages next will be determined by audience vote.
It’s a clever idea, and it was bound to happen eventually.
It all began a few years back, this trend of throwing gala “Season Announcement Parties,” and the practice has quickly become a sturdy mechanism for building enthusiasm and (sometimes) raising a bit of extra cash, too. Though roughly half of the Season Announcement events surveyed for this news item were offered for free, many are used as fundraisers for the company in question, and that includes Left Edge, which is charging $20 a head for their event.
More on what will happen at that event in a moment.
Whether to raise funds or raise awareness, the “season Announcement” trend has found as many different spins and variations as there are theater companies. Custom Made Theatre, in San Francisco, staged their “event” solely on social media, announcing one new show twice each day for a week, generate valuable feedback (and lots of money-in-the-bank “shares”) with each new play announced. The award-winning Profile Theater of Portland, Oregon devotes each full season to the work of a single playwright, and their annual party announcing the following year’s playwright has become a major happening in a town that knows how to make happenings major. The tactics taken by other companies other companies include staging performances of songs and scenes from the just-announced shows, or incorporating the distribution of awards to VIP artists or outstanding volunteers. The point is, the better companies do at build excitement and interest for the announcement party, the more excitement and interest is carried over into the upcoming season.
Which brings us back to Left Edge Theater.
At their two-day-long event (another first, apparently) a cast of five actors will present staged readings of scenes from ten plays that are “under consideration” for the 2016/2017 season. After the presentation, a vote will be taken, though whether it will be secret ballot, show of hands, or some other method has not been revealed.
The five shows that get the most votes will become the next season.
The company feels confident that advance tickets for the “party” will sell out quickly, so enthusiastic has been the initial response to the recently-announced idea. Meanwhile, other North Bay Theater Companies should be watching closely. It seems that as the “trend” builds momentum, with more and more theaters using their season announcement the way high schools use pep rallies, we will see more and more innovation, whimsical fun, and sheer smart crowd psychology.
And to those companies who still announce their seasons quietly with a simple list of plays in a show program or a brief posting on their websitannouncement isn’t just news anymore, and it isn’t just about the quality of the shows being announced.
It’s now an opportunity, a chance to show the community how mush fun it can be just going to your theater. Because if you can have fun telling people about your new shows, then maybe the rest of us will have fun going to see them.
Benefit concert announced to send Mary Gannon Graham’s ‘Mother Jones in Heaven’ to the Dublin Fringe Festival this Fall
January 30, 2016 — In two sold-out Sonoma County productions of Si Kahn’s award-winning musical ‘Mother Jones in Heaven,’ actress-singer Mary Gannon Graham knocked out crowds with her stellar voice and heartbreaking performance. No she’s planning on taking Mother Jones back to her roots, with a planned run at this year’s Dublin Tiger Fringe Festival, in Dublin, Ireland, this fall. The project will cost an estimated $35,000, and though some of that has already been raised, there’s a long way to go between now and September. As series of benefits and other events are planned, kicking off Tuesday, March 1 with a concert, dinner and party at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma.
Performing will be the Mother Jones Band, a catered dinner, a silent auction, a raffle and wine toss! A cash bar selling beer and wine will benefit Main Stage West, which is producing the trip to Ireland. Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door.
Click Here to buy tickets.
ANOTHER WAY to support Mary and ‘Mother Jones in Heaven’ is to contribute via Go Fund Me, a site designed to assist artists and others engaged in significant projects.
Click Here to go to the Go Fund Me ‘Mother Jones in Heaven’ page
Marin Theatre Company to offer free daycare for matinee shows
January 21, 2016 — Sooner or later, someone had to do it. For years (and years, and years) younger theater fans, those with families, have claimed that it was the complexity and cost of childcare that prevented them for attending live stage shows. It’s Marin Theatre Company that is stepping up to plate and offering a solution—and perhaps a bit of a challenge. This Saturday, on January 23, during the company’s 2:00 matinee of the critically acclaimed ‘Gem of the Ocean’ (by August Wilson), MTC will offer free onsite daycare for any parents or grandparents attending the show. Marin Theatre Company, the first North Bay theater company to offer such a service (possibly the first Bay Area theater company), is teaming up with Urbansitter, a kind of high-quality Uber-style, web and app-driven babysitting operation headquartered in San Francisco. The service—which allows parents to search for, book, pay, review, and recommend babysitters—has been contracted to provide childcare professionals, paid for by MTC, during the 2-1/2 hour show. The theater plans to offer this for one performance per each show in 2016, so parents can stop making excuses and come back to the theater. To reserve a childcare spot, call the box office at 415-388-5208, and make arrangements while purchasing tickets.
NTC Announces new season, posts call for directors
January 17, 2016 — Well. It’s begun.
As happens at the beginning of each new year, a number of theaters are starting to announce the shows that will make up the next theatrical season. First out of the gate is Novato Theater Company, which earlier this week sent out a press release describing its 2016-17 season, along with an open call to interested directors, who are invited to submit their proposal. Pick a show you want to direct, and tell them all about what you’d do, how you’d do it, and why you’re the right artist to guide that show to the stage.
Proposals should be sent by email to Larry Sher at email@example.com.
Directors may submit proposals for up to two different plays. Interviews with a select number of candidate directors will take place on February 14 and 21.
Here, then, is the Novato Theater Company’s ‘s 2016-17 season:
Tennessee Williams’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire‘
Neil Simon’s ‘Jake’s Women‘
Peter Shaffer’s ‘Lettice and Lovage‘
Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Company‘
Tracy Letts’ ‘August: Osage County‘
Santa Rosa Junior College to refurbish and upgrade Burbank Auditorium
January 6 — In a recently distributed message from Frank Chong, President of the Santa Rosa Junior College, it was announced that the school’s much-used Burbank Auditorium – home to SRJC’s Theater Arts program and the popular Summer Repertory Theatre program – will be getting a long-delayed upgrade and remodeling. Using grant money’s set aside for the improvement of campus facilities, the upgrade, set to begin this month, will be completed by 2018, in time for the campus’s 100th anniversary celebration.
“Burbank is over 75 years old, and in need of an ‘extreme makeover,'” wrote President Chong in announcing the project, which will include improvements to audience sight-lines and general accessibility, weatherproofing of the exterior of the building, and various upgrades to the back-of-house systems, including new theater lighting and improvements in the theater’s many mechanical systems. “We are excited,” says Chong, “to kick off our 100th anniversary with a new Burbank Auditorium that will serve the college and community for the next 100 years!”
Santa Rosa’s Imaginists takes ‘War Circus’ to San Francisco
January 1 — Based on Euripedes’ ‘The Trojan Women,’ The Imaginist’s wildly original 2014 adaptation ‘War Circus’ was one of the more outrageous and innovative shows of that year. Now, the show is being resurrected for two more performances at The Imaginists theater space (461 Sebastopol, Santa Rosa), followed by three performances in San Francisco at A.C.T.’s black box Costume Shop performance space. In putting a circus spin on the tale of the doomed and tragic woman who survived (or didn’t) the Trojan War, the Imaginists found a new way to look at an old tale that still has resonance today. Now, in bringing the show back for a few more performances, they’ll be giving us a chance to catch the show again, and give new audiences a chance to see the show for the first time.
December 29 — It’s audition season in the North Bay, and to the other general auditions already announced by local theaters (see below), Pegasus Theater, in the Guerneville/Monte Rio/Nio Nido area, has just announced a general audition for January 24th and 25th. The company, which presents shows in various spaces throughout the river area, is seeking actors for all of its 2016 shows, and its series of staged readings. Shows include Ken Ludwig’s ‘The Three Musketeers’ (running June 3-26), the annual Tapas short play festival (Aug. 5-28), and ‘Steve Martin’s ‘Picaso at the Lapin Agile’ (October 7-23), plus staged readings of Eve Ensler’s ‘The Good Body’ (March 6), Joe Calarco’s ‘Shakespeare’s R&J’ (July 10), Aaron Posner’s ‘Stupid F***ing Bird’ (September 11), and Jane Anderson’s ‘The Quality of Life’ (November 13). Auditions will take place on Sunday, Jan. 24 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 25 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Marshall House at the Guerneville Senior Center, 15010 Armstrong Woods Rd., in Guerneville. Auditions require reservations; sign up on the website at http://www.pegasustheater.com.
Michael Tabib announces “fiery’ play-reading as benefit for Russian River Health Clinic fire recovery
December 29 — A fully-staged staged reading of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Don Juan in Hell’ will be presented on Saturday, January 16, and again on Sunday, January 17, to raise funds for the Russian River Health Center, which suffered serious damage last week after a devastating fire. The two-shows-only performance will take place at Russian River Hall, 20347 Highway 116, in Monte Rio. Showtime is 8:00 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Anyone interested in participating or pledging support can call 707-524-8739.
Sonoma Arts Live announces changes for 2016
December 28 — After five years operating as a theater collective, with several theater companies untied under one banner, Sonoma Arts Live has announced that it will discontinue operations as a collective, and begin 2016 as a single theater company called, for continuity’s sake and clarity, Sonoma Arts Live. According to Executive Artistic Director Jaime Love, the change is part of a move to give audiences and contributors a stronger sense of consistency. The move is one of several changes audiences will see in the new year, which will be broken up into separate “seasons,” beginning with a first-ever Winter Season featuring two shows fully produced by Sonoma Arts Live (Nora and Delia Ephron’s “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” and Bernard Slade’s “Same Time, Next Year”), one co-production (“Gideon’s Knot,” produced with Napa’s Lucky Penny Productions, and one youth production (Teens ‘N Training’s “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”). The other significant change is to move all evening showtimes from 8:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., beginning with “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” which opens the Winter Season on January 15. The Spring, Summer and Fall seasons will be announced in late January or early February, and will likely follow a similar pattern to the Winter season.
Auditions announced at a number of North Bay theaters
December 26 — A number of North Bay theater companies have posted audition notices for 2016 shows.
The Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, under the direction of Yave Guzman, will be auditioning trained movement actors and dancers for its modern dance interpretation of “The Odyssey” (running March 11-19) and actors 18-years and over for Oscar WIlde’s comedic masterpiece “The Importance of Being Earnest” (running May 13-22). Auditions for both shows will be held on January 9th from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and January 16 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. No appointment necessary. For information call Jason Edington at 707-367-2116 (Importance of Being Earnest) or Yave Guzman at 707-508-8339 (The Odyssey).
Main Stage West (under the artistic direction of Beth Craven) and Shakespeare in the Cannery (under the artistic direction of David Lear) will be holding auditions for its 2016 season of shows on Saturday, January 23 and Sunday January 24 from noon to 6:00 p.m. Shakespeare in the Cannery is casting for its repertory productions of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth‘ and David Beckman’s world premiere ‘The Plot Against Shakespeare,’ and Main Stage West will be casting for ‘Bob: A Life in Five Acts‘ (available: four multiple character “chorus” roles); John Patrick Shanley’s Outside Mullingar (woman: 50s of 60s; man: late 40s); Rebecca Louise Miller’s world premiere Capacity (numerous male and female roles playing multiple characters); Brian Friel’s Dancing At Lughnasa (available: role for woman in late 30s, early 40s); Si Kahn’s Hope (available: one man, one woman actors, singer, and musician, playing multiple characters, who sing and play instruments Audition must include a song). Auditions to be held at Main Stage West (104 N. Main Street, Sebastopol). Auditions are by appointment only. To arrange appointment email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Brooke Tansley leaving Sonoma Arts Live
October 24 — After a single season as Artistic Director, Brooke Tansley is stepping down to commit her energies to producing Sonoma Laughfest—which debuted this weekend—along with another upcoming theatrical/musical enterprise called “Immersive,’ details about which Tansley plans to announce in the future. Sonoma Arts Live, which operates out of the Sonoma Community Center, produces a series of shows in cooperation with several Sonoma-based theater companies. According to Jaime Love, SAL’s Executive director, describes the just-ended season as the company’s most successful yet, artistically and financially, and give Tansley much of the credit. “We’ve drawn a really solid blueprint this year for creating quality local theater in Sonoma,” says Tansley. “This season was a record-shattering year for Sonoma Arts Live brought forth by increased quality and clarity and I’m thrilled to see Sonoma Arts Live continue to soar! I’m also very excited to have more time to bring completely new entertainment to Sonoma.”
San Leandro’s Diane Dragone
named new Executive Director of Cinnabar
October 6 — After a months-long search for a replacement replacement for the former Executive Director Terence Keane, Cinnabar has drawn a new ED from the wilds of San Leandro. With a proven expertise in the area of development and marketing, Dragone has worked with Teatro ZinZanni, San Francisco Classic Voice, and most recently, San Leandro Performing Arts Center, where she’s served as Development and Marketing Director for the last two-and-a-half years. Under Keane’s two year stint, the company saw dramatic growth in its subscriber base, and continued a healthy string of critically acclaimed and (with 1 or 2 exceptions) extremely well-attended shows.
6th Street Playhouse Announces new Executive Director
October 6 — Attendees at last week’s ten year anniversary gala for 6th Street Playhouse were amongst the first to be introduced to the company’s newest staff member, incoming Executive Director Jared Sakren. A longtime veteran of Southwest Shakespeare Company in Mesa, Arizona, Sakren comes to California having earned a stellar reputation as a theatrical leader and artist with a strong ability to communicate the scope and importance of his company’s theatrical vision. With 6th Street’s recent financial struggles a matter of public record, and much community discussion, the new hire seems to be a positive move, though some are sure to wonder why the company chose from outside the North Bay. At any rate, the news does shore up the 6th Street’s board’s promise, made early this year, to take serious action to steady the company’s sometimes shaky course. About the appointment of Sakren, Artistic Director Craig Miller says, “I’m thrilled, without reservation. Of all the candidates we looked at, Jared is the one I most wanted to work with. I think we will make a great team.”
Narrow Way Sparking positive conversation with “Assassins”
October 2, 2015 — Sonoma Arts Live Executive Director Jaime Love says that taking a risk on Narrow Way Stage Company’s desire to stage Sondheim’s controversial musical “has definitely paid off.”
READ ARTICLE IN SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE
Napa’s Jennifer King reports on her artistic discoveries in Europe
September 30, 2015 — Writing from London in the Napa Valley Register, actor-director Jennifer King describes the collaboration that has changed the way she think about theater.
READ ARTICLE IN NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
Raven Windsor will Close in December
September 30, 2015 — Well, rumors have been circulating that the hammer was soon to fall on the Raven Players satellite location in downtown Windsor. Today, the Raven Players’ board announced that ‘It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play’ will be the final show to be staged in the one-time church the theater company took over two years ago. The reason stated in a press release was that, in order to make the theater work for the long haul, the company would need to purchase the place, something the troupe has decided is not going to be possible. Over the last two years, the Ravens have staged a pair of Nunsense shows, and several other projects. The closure of the Windsor theater will not affect the operations of their original location at the Raven Theater in Healdsburg.
Argo’s New Direction: Left Edge Theater
Sept. 16, 2015 — Inspired by memories of Santa Rosa’s Actors Theater, actor-director Argo Thompson brings a new theater company to Wells Fargo Center for the Arts.
READ ARTICLE IN NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN