Backstage Blog

7 Things to Know: Fool for Love & True West

As part of our goal to help you understand the thought-provoking work of American playwright and icon Sam Shepard, we’ve put together 7 things you should know about Fool for Love and True West.  If you don’t already, follow us on Facebook for daily “fun facts” about Sam Shepard, the plays, as well as behind-the-scenes info and pictures. 

3 things worth knowing about Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love:
-First performed at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco on February 8th 1983 with Kathy Baker as May and Ed Harris as Eddie.
-It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1984.
-The play was turned into a movie in 1985, for which Sam Shepard also wrote the screenplay and starred as Eddie opposite Kim Basinger as May.

4 things worth knowing about Sam Shepard’s True West:
-First performed at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco on July 10, 1980.
-It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1983.
-It was nominated in 2000 for the Tony Award for Best Play.
-The play was turned into a made-for-TV-movie in 2002, which starred Bruce Willis and Chad Smith.

7 things Sam Shep image

Kathy Baker/Ed Harris in Fool For Love (1984) – Bruce Willis/Chad Smith in True West (2002)

“Shep Rep” Survival Guide

Here at Cygnet Theatre, we affectionately call our next two shows, Fool for Love & True West, by Sam Shepard the “ShepRep”. Our dramaturg, Taylor Wycoff, is here to help you prepare for your upcoming visit to our theatre with a bit of insight into what exactly this whole ShepRep thing is…

What does “in repertory” mean?

When a theatre company says that they are producing two or more production “in repertory” it simply means that they are presenting several plays from their repertoire, usually in alternation or rotation. This can take on a variety of forms – for us it means we are presenting two related plays that alternate every night.



“The themes of family and the American Dream are universal, but few writers attack them so dramatically and brilliantly as Shepard.”

- Sean Murray, Artistic Director


What is the benefit of doing two shows in rep?

The idea behind the repertory part of our season is to give the audience the opportunity to see two related shows back-to-back, enhancing the experience of the plays and understanding of the themes. Last year we gave you two very different shows that shared some of the same characters, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and the subsequently inspired Travesties by Tom Stoppard. This year we are excited to again share two very different shows that this time share the same playwright, Sam Shepard

Why these plays?

Sam Shepard is often cited as one of the greatest American playwrights, along with likes of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O’Neill. His plays tend to explore themes of love, loss and dysfunctional family life and are often set in gritty small towns and the open spaces of the American West. Other than that, Shepard’s plays are difficult to categorize except for the fact that they blend unanticipated humor and beauty with brutal honesty and painful relationships. In selecting these two plays, Cygnet’s Artist Director, Sean Murray, wanted to give the audience two very distinct lenses through which to view Sam Shepard and his work. That being said and despite one show being about two brothers and the other about two lovers, having the opportunity to see both productions in such proximity will help you find those connections, providing for a much more involved and exciting theatre experience!


Lovable & Lighthearted…Miss West Coast

Moving from from East to West, our next Pageant the Musical feature shines the spotlight on Luke Harvey Jacobs, who plays Miss West Coast, the Miss Glamouresse contestant who represents our region!

What makes your character a winner?

Karma Quinn is a winner because she is the quintessence of a wholesome, All-American girl. She is incapable of devising an ulterior motive, so the audience naturally wants to like and trust her.

How did you prepare for this show?

I’ve always been fascinated by the pageant world, so in preparation, I boned up on my Miss America YouTube research, binge-watched pageant film classics like Drop Dead Gorgeous and Smile, and shaved my chest.

What did you learn about beauty pageants that you didn’t know before?

The new knowledge is unending! My favorite pageant technique I’ve learned is to blink every time you change your focus when looking into the house. Little specifics like these are meant to convey a naturalness that is so calculated! It’s fascinating!

 What will you never do on stage?

Forget my lines. (Purely a self-fulfilling prophecy)

 Do you have a role model?

My role models are people who don’t take themselves too seriously and execute their day-to-day goings-on with grace, humor, passion, and compassion.

What inspired you to be an actor?

It was a total ineptitude at sports when I was very young. My parents didn’t know what else to do with me and a neighbor suggested theatre. I’ve been hooked since day one.

What is your favorite part of a show?

Honestly, I love every moment of being in a show. For better or for worse, great production or “meh” production… From first read through to closing show, I love it all.

What is your favorite part about working at Cygnet Theatre?

I feel incredibly supported at Cygnet. The caliber of artists they’ve hired for this production is astounding. I know I go to work every day surrounded by talent from top to bottom, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

 Anything else to add?

PLEASE enjoy the show and ignore the five o’clock shadows.

Mock pageant question:

 If you were given the opportunity to reach every single American girl, what message would you give?

I would remind each girl in the American United States that before you reach for the stars, make sure to stretch your body thoroughly. Seventy-five percent of athletic injuries occur due to not warming up enough, and the other 30% occur from not warming up at all!



Spicy and Sassy…Miss Industrial Northeast

Up next for the  Pageant the Musical contestant feature is Max Cadillac who portrays the vivacious Miss Industrial Northeast, Cosuela Manuela Rafaella Lopez. 

What makes your character a winner?

Consuela is bright and bouncy with a big personality and even bigger smile. She’s “living la vida loca” and loco for her loving family and friends!Miss INE

How did you prepare for this show?

Besides twirling and dancing around my living room since birth, I’ve been researching and talking to pageant friends, as well as watching pageant movies like Miss Congeniality and Drop Dead Gorgeous.

What did you learn about beauty pageants that you didn’t know before?

I learned how hard it is to wear and change jewelry and accessories so often and so quickly.

What will you never do on stage?

I will probably never play the king in The King and I, but one can dream.

Do you have a role model?

My role models for this show are Sofia Vergara, Cindy Crawford, and Bianca Del Rio.

What inspired you to be an actor?

My biggest inspiration came from seeing my first show on Broadway when I was 5.

What is your favorite part of a show?

This whole show is my favorite, but I must say strutting down the runway in a bathing suit really makes my night!

What is your favorite part about working at Cygnet Theatre?

Cygnet is such a fun and intimate theatre space, I love getting to really engage with our audience.


Bold and Beautiful…Miss Bible Belt

Pageant the Musical is composed of  variety of beauty contestants with distinct personalities. We had an opportunity to chat with the actors about their characters, pageants, what inspired them to perform, and a chance to ask a mock pageant question as themselves. Our first contestant is Miss Bible Belt, Ryan Fahey.

Bible BeltWhat makes your character a winner?

Her blind faith in winning. She’s a pro and it’s with that finesse that she is able to confidently walk out on the stage to WIN!

How did you prepare for this show?

I watched a number of evangelist singers, mainly those who were larger than life. How did they perform their songs to spread the gospel, but most importantly SHOWCASE their TALENT?  What about them could I take and translate into a #1 winner? Miss Bible Belt can be preachy, so I focused on getting judges and audiences to not feel she’s too abrasive, but more a likeable force to be reckoned with.

What did you learn about beauty pageants that you didn’t know before?

All of us as contestants watched numerous beauty pageants and what became clear is how sharp and precise everything is – and while there is a focus on looks, there is an equal focus on the contestants “details.”

What will you never do on stage?

Nudity. I know 100% that I’m not willing to do it.

Do you have a role model?

Hugh Jackman. He has done so much with his career and has remained grounded and sincere each step along the way.

What inspired you to be an actor?

I noticed that once a year our high school did a show called Etcetera. We took top hits and put together a large scale show of singing and dancing with a band. I remember auditioning and being chosen to be a part of the show. Upon graduating high school I wanted to continue to sing- I joined two other friends in auditioning for a performing arts college in Toronto. We all got in and it started a crazy journey into this performing life that I now couldn’t imagine being without.

What is your favorite part of a show?

The live performance aspect. It’s the scariest and most thrilling thing.

What is your favorite part about working at Cygnet Theatre?

I love that we get to witness the passion that each member of the creative team has for their portion of the show.

Mock pageant question:

If you were given the opportunity to reach every single American girl, what message would you give?

Find who you truly are and let yourself be unique. Grow up knowing that life is a constant state of figuring out who you are- let that be okay. You don’t have to be perfect. Just be true to you and the rest will fall into place. Be a first rate person of yourself, rather than a second rate person of the messes that are already out there. 

Where the Beauty Began…

We had a chance to sit down with award-winning Set Designer Sean Fanning to find out what inspired him to create our fabulous and glamorous set for PAGEANT. A Resident Artist, this marks his twentieth production with Cygnet over the past 9 years.


The featured designer showing his ideas for the set of Dirty Blonde.

What are some of your favorite Cygnet shows/sets?

My first show with Cygnet was The Matchmaker, when I was a fresh-faced graduate student back in the 2006/2007 season. My most favorite collaborations include the re-imagining of the musicals Sweeney Todd, Cabaret, and Parade. Those three sets felt like characters of their own, but at the same time had an openness and changeability that allowed for so much interactive range. A personal favorite aesthetically was the Louse Nevelson inspired collage we did for The Norman Conquests during the 2010 season. The economy and focus of that design is something I still look back on fondly.

What do you like about working with Cygnet?

I love the sense of artistic freedom, which goes hand in hand with the challenges inherent in each production. The company’s collective vision is really about finding new ways to tell stories and for me this is also about taking risks as a designer. The thrust stage space of the Old Town Theatre presents a character and personality that cannot help but be reflected in the design approach, often in surprising and very invigorating ways.

How did you get into set design in the first place?

I’ve always loved art, loved drawing, and everything about architecture. And I had a real interest in seeing live theatre, which my mother really supported by making sure I got to see lots of it.  Interestingly, it was my profound hearing loss that would make me focus more on the set, because I often couldn’t hear or comprehend the actors, I would spend lots of time looking at and thinking about the environment. The sets that really supported the story and characters were the most successful ones. In high school, while attempting to be some kind of actor, I found myself assigned to the scenery crew, and I haven’t looked back since. I bought books, taught myself drafting and scene painting. I was determined to make a future out of it. More than anyone else, I owe my career to a person who saw that potential in me, my drama teacher, Jack DeRieux, from Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, CA.

Where did you find your inspiration for the Pageant set?

deluxebeautypageant4Initially, we knew we wanted to have a “stage within a stage,” some sort of portal within the Cygnet space with a stairway as the dominant visual. Early on in discussions with director James Vasquez, I was researching beauty pageants of the 1970’s and 1980’s – we were focused on a very rich era for both fashion and pageantry. The original goal was “cable access meets Lawrence Welk.” Much of what I found was downright tacky to modern eyes. Sill, there was a certain childlike innocence and playfulness that I really wanted to capture. It was when I stumbled upon an eBay listing for a late-70’s Dawn Deluxe Beauty Pageant toy set that I knew I had our inspiration.  It was just this iconic, plastic little princess-pink portal with a little runway. I took the shape and the proportion and blew it up to life size, and really amped up the color saturation and boldness so it felt right to the piece. Pageant_Model_Hi

What is unique, unusual, different, challenging or surprising about this set?

I think the most unique and surprising is the level of intimacy in this set. It feels very interactive, very “live.” James and I have focused on keeping the majority of the action out on the thrust stage. Very little of the action will be lost to audience seated along the sides. It has created some very dimensional opportunities for choreography, and I think it’s very exciting way to use the space.

How have you collaborated with other companies on this production? Is that helpful spirit the norm in San Diego?

We had some great help from the San Diego Opera’s scenic shop. We also had support from Joey Landwehr at J* Company, who let us use a set of silver curtains for our front swags. There definitely is a wonderful sense of community and support in San Diego when it comes to getting sets produced. In the past, we have also used the Old Globe and there is also a “loan-out” network amongst the smaller theatre companies, for props and scenic elements.

Final thoughts?

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this design is the “rebranding” we did for Glamouresse, the fictional beauty product corporation that has sponsored the pageant. The fonts and brand colors can be seen in nearly every scenic design element and prop. I started Glamouresse Imagewith this very iconic “G” and the script logo with “swoop” soon followed. It was inspired by the Revlon advertising done in the late 70′s and 80′s, but given Revlon1.jpga certain saccharine color sense to offset any elegance. Bold pinks, metallic gold, with an aqua accent color. Props designer Michael McKeon followed suit with his marvelous designs for the various beauty wares that are hawked by the “spokesmodels” throughout the show. It was a very fun collaboration.

Embracing the edge with Esteban

Esteban was born in Berwyn and raised in Cicero, Illinois and is thrilled to be making his San Diego stage debut with Cygnet, in The Motherf**ker with the Hat. We asked him to share why he is excited to be in this production, and give us some insight into why it is important.

EstebanCruzEsteban Andres Cruz (Cousin Julio)

Esteban is a proud company member of Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles. Before LA, Mr. Cruz trodded the boards of many a stage in Chicago and the East coast. He is the 2009 recipient of the prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of another Guirgis character: Angel Cruz in Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train. Other Favorite roles include Puck in Britten’s opera version of Midsummer at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Angel (in ‘A Train‘), Angel in RENT (David Cromer, dir.), which the New Yorker called “the most joyful and reckless” performance. In addition to acting, Esteban is a choreographer, singer, dancer, improviser, writer, director and teacher. Mr. Cruz would like to dedicate this performance to anyone struggling with the disease of addiction and their loved ones and to the memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

What excites you most about the show?

I’m excited that Cygnet is changing the face of American theatre by producing this show!  If we define what is “American” and what is “theatre” it tends to exclude the stories of the people in this play, for whatever reason; be it language, ethnicity or that they just don’t fit the standard of these two categories.  I love Guirgis’s work and I feel like he is a quintessential voice of contemporary American drama.  I feel doubly blessed that I get to work here in this beautiful city and it feels like home (Chicago) to be immersed in such a thriving and germinal community of theatre artists.

What scares you?

I’m so scared of the fights. I hid every time they practiced during rehearsal. If I do end up catching it, I cry. It really scares me. I’m also scared about people’s reaction to cousin Julio and this society’s needs to define things (gender, sexual orientation, etc), things that in this post-modern day and age can’t adhere to strict binary definitions of identity. Before answering the question about defining one’s sexuality, be it a character or person… there’s a long discussion that needs to be had about defining those very terms with which you are labeling people and their alleged value.

What do you like about working with Cygnet Theatre?

The entire company is one that prides itself on their collaborative nature. This is so empowering as an artist. It is a fine experience to just be told what to do and you do it. However, the way that Robby (the director) works and all the way up to the Artistic Director; everyone has been so generous and willing and open and it is really a lovely experience working with everyone, on both sides of the Artistic / Administrative fence!

Your favorite curse word!

F**k.  It’s the most versatile! It can be a transitive verb, intransitive verb, adjective, part of an adverb, and adverb enhancing an adjective noun. For people who can’t get down with this word: I don’t give a f**kety f**k about those f**king f**kers!

Anything else you want to add?

Please come and see this show! At it’s core, it is a love story and a story of the triumph of the human spirit! I hope that San Diego is able to look past some of the colorful language in this show to see the that these people, these characters are dealing with real human issues that everyone can identify with and hopefully be moved by them. I hope this show helps people accept how even though other cultures might be different than your own, at the end of the day; we’re all human, we all hurt and we all want to be loved.

Uncensored with Sandra Ruiz

Sandra is a veteran of San Diego theatre, but The Motherf**ker with the Hat is Sandra’s debut at Cygnet Theatre. We sat down with her to find out what scares and excites her about this uncensored character and play.

SandraRuizSandra Ruiz (Veronica)

Born and raised in San Diego, Sandra Ruiz received a BA in Theatre and another in Human Development from UCSD. She has worked in the theatre as an actor, director, playwright, teaching artist and costume designer. Sandra was last seen on stage as Young Dedé and The American Woman in In the Time of the Butterflies at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. Recently, she directed the West Coast premiere of Tricks at the 10th Ave. Theatre. A few of her favorite roles include Lupe & Others in Expecting Isabel (Moxie Theatre); Lady Akin in Earthquake Sun (SD Rep.); Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (UCSD); The Doctor in 4.48 Psychosis (Galbriath Hall Theatre); Amparo in Heroes and Saints and her own one woman show Nice Girls Don’t Dance (Centro Cultural de la Raza).

What excites you the most about this show?

Although its explosive and raw, this play truly is a love story.

What scares you?

What scares me is the way my brain corrects the language. There’s a rhythm and musicality to the way Veronica speaks and I keep correcting her speech. I want to honor the character and the language as written. :)

What excites you most about the show?

Cygnet Theatre is an amazing community of talented and supporting people. It has been an honor to work with ALL of Cygnet.

Favorite Curse word?

Mine is just too BAD… but oh so fun to say.

Getting raw with Steven Lone

The Motherf**ker with the Hat introduces audiences to people whose voices are rarely heard of on stage. Just like their characters, most of the cast is new to Cygnet Theatre. We sat down with the cast and asked them what excites them about working with this fairly new and raw material, working at Cygnet Theatre, and, of course, what’s their favorite curse word! First up: Craig Noel Award Nominee, Steven Lone

Steven LoneSteven Lone (Jackie)

Steven has been making waves in theatres across town, most recently in References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, The Listener (Moxie Theatre); and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety (2013 Craig Noel Award Nominee).

How did you get involved in theatre?

Originally from San Francisco, I started studying theatre and acting in 10th grade where my first play ever was playing Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I joined a theatre conservatory right out of high school, then came down to Southern California for college, where I attended UCSD for theatre. I decided to stick around, since I fell in love with the theatre community here. This is my first show at Cygnet, where I’ve always wanted to work. I admire Sean and the whole Cygnet brain trust for selecting such a daring play.

What excites you most about the show?

Going to see live theatre should be a shock to the senses. It should illicit emotion, whether positive or negative. This show in particular, I believe, achieves that, and I’m honored to be a part of the storytelling.

What scares you?

The content. The rawness. The language.

What you like about working with Cygnet Theatre?

From the first day, I felt so cared for and respected by the entire Cygnet family. They’ve built a reputation in this community for treating their artists extremely well, it’s what drew me to want to work with Cygnet for a long time now. I’m so happy that desire has come to fruition.

Your favorite curse word!

“F**k” and “Balls”.

Hanging Out with Whitney

Whitney is making her Cygnet Theatre debut with The Motherf**ker with the Hat. She returned to San Diego theatre community after several years in the San Francisco Bay Area as a talent agent. She says she’s happy to be back on stage where she belongs… and we’re happy too!

WhitneyThomasWhitney Brianna Thomas (Victoria)

What excites you most about the show?

I’m excited about the feeling of inviting people over to our home. The community that has been built is magnetic. It’s like when you know your mama makes the best cakes you’ve ever tasted and you just want to invite people over just to show how good those cakes are.

What scares you?

That the show is magnetizing. It’s ugly and filthy and honest. Honesty scares people…and scares me.

What you like about working with Cygnet Theatre?

Cygnet Theatre is a well-oiled creative machine. It sounds contradictory but it can happen. Cygnet is blessed with an exceptional Artistic Director who oversees with more patience than anyone I’ve ever seen. This process with Cygnet has been so friendly and open from day one. It’s an exceptional creative community to be a part of.

Your favorite curse word?

My true favorite can’t be printed so I’ll just use…“f**k”

Anything else?

This show is such a wonderful gift that has been given to us and I think we do a really good job at taking care of it and translating it to an audience. Come over and hang out in our hood for a little while. Come see the fucked up shit that goes down. I bet you’ll like it.