Backstage Blog

Sweeney Todd Music Rehearsals

We celebrated the opening of Sweeney Todd last night.  The performers were all outstanding, and the audience responded with a standing ovation.  Afterwards we enjoyed a wonderful post show party hosted by gracious folks at Casa Guadalajara.

Over the past couple of weeks I have caught glimpses of the show in rehearsals, and watched as the entire collection of artists, one of the largest we’ve ever assembled at Cygnet, have come together to create an exciting evening of theatre.  During that time I managed to also capture some video of the rehearsals, including the first time the cast and band rehearsed together, and the first rehearsals on the completed stage.  Please enjoy this peek behind the scenes.

A Sweeney Blood Rehearsal

In order to test drive the special blood effects designed by resident artists Peter Herman, Shirley Pierson, Bonnie and Nick Durben for our production of Sweeney Todd, we held a little blood-letting one night at our rehearsal space.

We have two different methods of producing the Grand Guignol style blood moments in the show, depending on which character is being killed at which moment. Without trying to give away too much of the mystery, it took a little trial and error to much hilariously ghoulish laughter from the actors! Check out the video James Vasquez shot of our experiments. It’s a little gory, but a lot of fun.

Check the teaser on youtube!

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Cygnet Theatre

CygLogo_bug1. The Cygnet Theatre Name has a Cheeky Origin.

As most theatre buffs will tell you, the Globe Theatre in London has long-been considered one of the “most magnificent” theatres the city has every seen.  Shakespeare’s legendary theatre was built in the 16th century by carpenter Peter Smith and his workers, and most arts-lovers of the day felt that no other theatre would ever match its accomplishments or stature.  Nor did many dare try.  The Swan Theatre became the Globe’s one major rival, continually striving to reach new heights in theatrical achievements, despite its later eminence.  Artistic Director Sean Murray was inspired by this driven-and-able historical theatre, and has held in the highest regard Craig Noel, the founding director of San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre.   As cygnet is the name for a baby swan, Sean liked the tongue-and-cheek title for his theatre.   Cygnet Theatre may have begun as a fledgling playhouse in a strip-mall, but we’ve got some big ambitions and some real cheek.

2. There’s a swan in every Cygnet set.

We at Cygnet love our namesake.  For this reason, every Cygnet set pays tribute with a swan hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) within the scenery.  The very first Cygnet show – Hedwig and the Angry Inch – included a giant paper mache swan head made entirely of paper plates which guarded the band’s drummer.  Copenhagen’s swan was displayed on the multiple chalk-boards. Set designer, Sean Fanning hand-drew a swan, along with notes, phone numbers and doodles on the Mauritius set’s bulletin board.  Escanaba in da’ Moonlight featured crates with a company logo swan stamped on their sides and A Little Night Music continued the tradition with a swan carved into Frederick’s elaborate bed.   Although they’re sometimes challenging to spot, the Cygnet swan will make its appearance in each and every season’s show.  Just another reason to enjoy a look around your next Cygnet set.

3. There’s a Ghost in the House.

Sure we’re theatre people and drawn to the dramatic, but we can’t deny the feeling that we’re not alone in here.  Our move to Old Town not only provided us some new digs, it seems that it came with a complimentary company member.  Nothing to worry about, of course.  The Old Town ghost – or Charlie, as he’s been named – seems to appreciate the entertainment.  We assume it’s why he’s stuck around and made his presence known to other theatre companies who made their home at the Old Town Theatre before us.  But he also seems to love a practical joke or two.  While we’ve become accustomed to his slamming doors and bumps in the night, we do wish he’d return the various props and costume pieces that have gone missing from our latest Cygnet productions.

The artist formerly known as Thom with Marci Anne Wuebben in A Little Night Music

The artist formerly known as Thom with Marci Anne Wuebben in A Little Night Music

4. Sean Murray isn’t His Real Name.

Artistic Director Sean Murray isn’t who he says he is.  His real name is Thomas Murray, but you tell that to Equity.   In order to get his Equity card, he had to choose a name that wasn’t already in their system, and his middle name seemed to be the next best choice.  Plus, Mama Murray was all for it.  When he asked her what she thought his Equity name ought to be, she told him that although he was a fifth generation “Thomas Murray”, if she’d had her druthers, his name would have been Sean anyway.  Of course, we love him as “Sean” as much as we’d love him as “Thom” but we DO wonder what else he’s not telling us.

5. Cygnet Theatre’s Wonderful Life Includes Some Real Radio Royalty.

Lovers of Cygnet Theatre’s It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, have come to recognize actor Jonathan Dunn-Rankin as cantankerous, old “Mr. Potter.”   But listen closely and you’ll hear the golden pipes of real radio royalty in his between-scene radio announcements.

Jonathan Dunn-Rankin in It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

Jonathan Dunn-Rankin in It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

At only 17 years old, Jonathan began working in radio in 1940s Florida.  He grew up to become one of the recognized, big-voiced 40s radio announcers of the era.  That broadcast history eventually brought Jonathan to San Diego where he spent many years as KFMB’s principle television newscaster. Artistic Director Sean Murray remembers watching him on Channel 8 regularly, never realizing they would one day work together.  Now Jonathan has become part of Cygnet’s annual holiday tradition.  This will be his third year of bringing his life experience to the stage.  As the station chimes play and he opens the show into the radio mike, don’t be surprised if you feel as though you’ve slipped back in time.

Revisiting “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”

Veronica Murphy and Tom Andrew

Veronica Murphy and Tom Andrew. Photo by Randy Rovang

Our theatre is presenting a 1940′s radio version of the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. We all know the movie. I remember the first time I saw the movie. In the olden days, before you could buy the video or dvd or see a movie on television, one of the ways to see an old classic was to catch it at a movie theatre that showed revivals. In San Diego when I was a kid, this theatre was the Ken Cinema in Kensington.

I was a freshman at San Diego State University at the time, and my best friend, Russell and I decided to go see It’s A Wonderful Life at Christmas time. Neither of us had actually heard of it before, believe it or not. This was well before the Wonderful Life TV blitz when you could not turn on the TV without seeing it on every channel. So, for me and Russell, this was a new movie.

Here’s what I remember: being so totally swept up in the film and all of those beautiful citizens of Bedford Falls that I actually forgot I was at a theatre watching a movie. The people around me disappeared. Russell disappeared. My popcorn disappeared. We had no idea that there was going to be an angel or the redemption of the average man. The existential journey of George Bailey took me totally by surprise. By the time the friends came pouring in at the end of the movie, I was as wrecked as I had ever been. Total tears. No, not tears. Sobs. Aching, side holding sobbing. The theatre’s house lights came up and I was jolted back to my own reality: I was not there in the Bailey living room celebrating life and family, but sitting in one of the Ken’s then-famously uncomfortable seats, sobbing and gulping and blinking tears out my dazed eyes. Okay, I was eighteen. I hadn’t had a lot of experiences yet. It’s kind of sweet in retrospect.

I turned around realizing where I was, and Russell, who was sitting next to me was far worse than me! Whereas I had started to come back to earth, he was inconsolable. He couldn’t get up. He was crying to hard, that we had to wait until the theatre emptied before we could leave. Only now, we are laughing through our crying because we begin to realize that it was, after all, just a movie, you know?

I STILL cry at that movie. The tears seem to come at different things as I get older and life’s journey becomes more clear, if it ever actually does become clear. I’ll let you know when I get closer towards the curtain call.

In the meantime, the story stirs up thoughts about life choices, career paths, how the smallest connection can be a turning point without your even knowing it. It raises questions about whether we’re all following a predestined path, or wandering alone blindly forward. Are all of those small turning points lined up for us in advance, or do we alter the predestined path every time we make a choice between two things? Are there infinite predetermined life paths, each completely valid? Or ultimately one life journey with all of our “choices” already made for us?

As long as we recognize the value of each person in our life and their contribution to shaping what we are, we also have to recognize our power over other people’s lives and how our contacts, no matter how small, can change their lives too. All of this is karmic, isn’t it? It’s A Wonderful Life celebrates how interconnected we are all, and that we are truly not alone in this world. We are surrounded by what we create, we ARE what we create, so create something you can be proud of!

I didn’t mean to get so… blah blah blah with this. I was going to write about working on the story as a play and working with wonderful actors to get all of these feelings to happen live on stage. But it brings out the romantic in me.

I love to watch the actors take the journey every time they do it. I never tire of the show. It starts as such a sweet show with its soda fountains, snow sledding, and dreamers. The darker questions in the story seems to come up from behind us while we’re not looking and without realizing it we are suddenly addressing the horrifying notion of non-existence: To be a complete void. No mother. No family. No identity. Nothing.

Tom Andrew, who has played George since our first production, takes this journey with his whole body and soul every night! I admire him so much for the depth of emotion that he shares in telling George Bailey’s story. And all of the other actors in the company, Jonathan Dun-Rankin, Veronica Murphy, Tim West, David McBean, Melissa Fernandes and Amanda Sitton bring each and every one of these rich characters to life as if they were a company of thirty. With the live sound effects provided by Scott Paulson and musical direction and accompaniment by Amy Dalton, this show has become very special to us and to our audience.

It’s A Wonderful Life is such a beautiful story to touch base with every year. It’s a great reminder for us to keep in mind that every tiny choice we make or contact we have with another human has giant consequences for us all. We are all interconnected. It is a wonderful life.

MAN FROM NEBRASKA: Road trip to Lincoln

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Jack Missett in front of Nebraska cornfield

On the road at 5 a.m., headed west from the bottom left corner of Iowa across the Missouri River on highway 34, which runs through the heart of the “Prairie Capital City,” Lincoln, the setting for Tracy Letts’ play Man from Nebraska (Oct. 3- Nov. 1, The Old Town Theatre).  When director Fran Gercke heard my wife and I would be visiting her Iowa relatives, he jumped at my offer to do a recon-and-report from Lincoln and blog about it.  So, at 5:42 a.m., I cross the Mizzou at Plattsmouth, Nebraska, on a tiny 2-lane toll bridge ($1.25 each way) – the bridge used to be privately owned by a family who built the bridge and kept all the tolls, but now the city owns it and I believe the price has gone up since my last visit.  A sign reads “NEBRASKA- THE GOOD LIFE.”

Lincoln isn’t just the state capital, it’s also the home to the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers football team – “Go Big Red!”  Corn figures in this story because there’s no escaping it…15 million beautiful acres producing more than a billion bushels of corn (most of it feeder corn for livestock, not sweet corn for our plates).  The gentle hills surrounding Lincoln are vast cornfields, “as high as an elephant’s eye.”  This is America’s farmland – corn, soybeans, sorghum (aka milo) and winter wheat. The most important subject other than the football team is the weather.

Highway 34 turns into O Street as I enter Lincoln at 6:53, searching in vain for a Starbucks.  It’s several blocks and several morning commuters honking their horns at me before I finally find one – Lincoln has lots of coffee shops, but not many Starbucks.  Help me, Toto, we’re not in California anymore.  But one thing Lincoln has plenty of is churches.  The population is about 250,000, and there are 229 churches, or about one church for every 1,000 people.  Man From Nebraska is the story of an ordinary guy who wakes up one morning and discovers he doesn’t believe in God anymore.  And he goes from being a regular church-going, insurance salesman, Baptist family man to a lost soul experiencing a “crisis of faith” in Lincoln.

My friend Carol and I meet up about 8:30.  She’s a U of N grad, lived all her adult life in Lincoln, and accepts my description of Lincolnites as “the plain people of the Plains” with bemusement.  Carol gives me a tour of the sights:  the towering State Capitol building, known to locals as the ‘Penis of the Prairie’ – hey, they said it, not me; the massive Memorial Stadium with it’s motto “Not the victory but the action, not the goal but the game, in the deed the glory” – pretty heady stuff for a football game; the beautiful Sunken Gardens and lovely neighborhoods filled with handsome homes.  Most of the cars I see are American made, and one car dealer has a sign out front reading “Here to Stay!”, I also talked to a couple of drivers and everyone seem to use the i4mt insurance or the best van insurance from onesureinsurance company around the area. All in all, Lincoln seems more of a college town than the seat of state government, perhaps due to the fact that Nebraska is the only state in the union to have a non-partisan, unicameral  legislature (a single chamber representative body – why waste money taking two votes on everything).

More Corn

More Corn

Nebraska is a long state.  With a girlfriend in Iowa and a family in Wyoming, I know – I’ve driven it many times, even got thrown in jail once in Hershey for speeding, but that’s another story.  The state is also divided into north and south Nebraska by the Platt River (remember the toll bridge at Plattsmouth) and Omaha used to be the capital, and Lincoln used to be a town called Lancaster.  Back in Civil War days, people north of the Platt were rooting for the Yankees, and those south of the river – including Lancaster/Lincoln – were Confederate sympathizers…and except for the people in Omaha, everybody wanted to move the state capital out of Omaha to some place more in the middle of the state.  So, in what was seen as a trick vote, the folks in Omaha said, “We’ll move the state capital to Lancaster, but we want to change the name of the town to honor our recently assassinated hero of the Union cause, President Lincoln,” figuring the vote would lose.  But, nope, it passed, they changed the name and moved the capital.  Which may or may not explain why Lincoln is even today a very Caucasian city – 89.3% white, 3.6% Latino, 3.1% Asian , 3% African-American and the rest Native American and Pacific Islander or “other.”  However, in 2008, while the state of Nebraska went for McCain, Lancaster County and the City of Lincoln went for Obama.

A thunderstorm breaks at 9:45, and I say goodbye to Carol, buy a bunch of “Go Big Red” T-shirts for my fellow cast members and head back to Iowa, pausing only to photograph a barn with an American flag, and stopping in Plattsmouth for a raspberry turnover – they were all out of apple.  Sadly, I didn’t make it to the Johnny Carson Theatre, the black box performance space at the University named for the Tonight show star who generously donated $11 million to his alma mater (BA in Radio/Speech, minor in physics). The University also renamed The Department of Theatre Arts the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film.  Other famous people from Lincoln include Oscar winning actress Hilary Swank, Vice President Dick Cheney (who graduated from the same high school in Casper, Wyoming, as I did) and Charles Starkweather, mass murderer, who took along his 14 year-old girlfriend Carol Fugate as he killed 11 people, 3 of them in Lincoln.  No one was injured during the research and writing of this blog.  By lunchtime I’m back in Iowa, the sun comes out and we all go to the County Fair – parking and admission are free.

The Best Kind of Madness

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Albert Dayan as Lloyd DallasPhoto by Daren Scott

Jason Heil drove up to my hometown of Los Angeles to see a play, not cast one. But there we were, sitting in the audience of a theatre in Glendale, when my friend of many years floated a completely insane idea.

“Hey, you interested in auditioning for a play that begins rehearsals in a week?”

“I doubt it. Wait. Where’s it going up?”

“At Cygnet. In San Diego.”

What’s so insane about that? Well, for one thing, I am the father of an 11-month-child. And by father, I don’t mean a “show-up-in-the-evenings-and-pat-him-on-the-head” dad. No, I’m talking about a “full-time, daddy-day-care, I’m-the-one-who-gets-him-to-take-his-nap” dad. Moving to San Diego in a week’s time would effectively turn my wife into a single mom for the month it would take her to join me with our son, and leaving would also mean shuttering my tutorial business smack dab in the middle of its most profitable time of year. Jason, as usual, was entirely out of his mind.

“Sounds great. I’ll check with Katharine,” I told him.

A week later, there I was in the rehearsal room at Cygnet’s office, getting ready for the first read-through of Noises Off. It had all happened so fast. Seated around the table was a spectacularly talented cast. As luck would have it, a few among them were students or former students of mine. I’ve long taught a weekly acting class in San Diego and now, to my great delight, I’d be performing opposite several of them. Also in the show were San Diego luminaries Jonathan McMurtry and Rosina Reynolds, who I knew by reputation to be dauntingly talented actors. My role? Director Lloyd Dallas, the one who bosses them around.

Rehearsals turned out to be a blast, albeit a mind-numbing, exhausting blast. Anyone who’s done Noises Off can confirm for you two key things: one, it’s a hell of a good time and two, performing it is like running a marathon… in a blender… with a blindfold on. It’s the kind of show that leaves you with war stories. Just ask Rosina about her daily battle with the phone cord, or Sandy Campbell how I spit all over her, or Craig Huisenga how hard it is to make your pants fall off on cue. Ask Sean Murray how he manages, day in, day out, to keep us from accidentally killing each other.

Heading into previews I’m excited as hell. From the beginning, this whole journey for me has been absolutely the best kind of madness. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. As my character Lloyd so aptly puts it in Act One, “That’s farce, that’s theatre, that’s life.”

It’s Not an Age Thing…

Jessica John and her mom

Jessica John and her mom

The opening night of Hedwig and the Angry Inch left me with a quandary. Admittedly a “mama’s girl”, I take my mother to see everything. She’s an artist and an intellectual and some of my best conversations take place after accompanying her to a particularly fascinating foreign film or live performance. But this was Hedwig and the Angry Inch after all. And for everything broad-minded and cultured she is, my mother is as equally and as gracefully a 70-year old Catholic woman of the 1950’s. And again… Hedwig.

I’d never seen Hedwig. I’d heard great things. I’m a theatre person. Four of my closest friends are gay. I have spent good chunks of my life dedicated to furthering my belief in being nonjudgmental. Why hadn’t I seen the first production? Or the movie? I had heard the music was fantastic. I had heard segments of Hedwig songs sung at the Cygnet Gala. Beautiful, funny, moving vocals out of the mouths of Manny Fernandes and Tom Zohar. I looked up past reviews for a description to give my mother. I looked at the postcard. A large, wigged angry-looking woman in shredded tights and weeping blue eye shadow seemed to be screaming at me…screaming at my 70-year old mother.

I called my mom. She wasn’t home so I left a message that sounded something like this. “Hi Mom. I’ve been meaning to ask if you’d like to join me for the opening of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It’s tomorrow. Sorry I didn’t mention it sooner. Um… It’s a little racy… It’s about a transsexual whose surgery goes…uh awry, I think? But… It takes place in Berlin right before the wall comes down and I understand it’s really kind of symbolic for people who feel like outcasts and need to feel whole. It’s about love and finding your other half and finding yourself… I think… I won’t be offended if you don’t want to come… But I’d love for you to come. I wouldn’t ask Dad. But I thought you might want to see it with me? Call me back. I love you.”

Flash forward to opening night and I’m sitting in a sold-out theatre next to my 70-year old mother. The audience is buzzing and decidedly diverse. Women and men, straight and gay, reviewers and friends, theatre denizens and their unprepared dates. The band looks rough-and-tumble. The instruments they throttle threaten ear-splitting potential. Suddenly the double-doors swing open and in comes Hedwig in all her wigged glory. The show is off on its breath-less, silvery, hilarious and emotional journey. We were mesmerized.

I wouldn’t dare ruin the show by trying to retell it here. I will only describe the moment of the night that summed it all up for me. With Hedwig’s tale told and her final strains of music winding down, she asks the audience to put their hands in the air. Her song was one for anyone who had ever felt alone, had ever hoped for love, had ever sought completeness. Around me every single audience member put their hand in the air. I looked over at my mom; both of our hands were extended high and waving with the crowd of others.

Thank you, Hedwig.

I’ve been Advocated!

Jason HeilWhen Sean Murray offered me a part in Noises Off, he didn’t have to go very far – he just strolled the ten feet from his office to the “Development Suite”, as we affectionately call the corner office that houses Development Director Veronica Murphy and myself. I casually accepted and continued working on my grant proposal, while internally turning cartwheels!

I’ve been a part of the Cygnet team for over a year and a half, but this will be my first time appearing on the Cygnet stage, and I’m honored to be joining such an amazing cast in a production helmed by Sean. As Veronica’s part-time right hand, my workload typically consists of assisting with processing donations, grant writing, donor appreciations, special events, and of course, making our morning coffee! For the past few years, when my Cygnet day has ended, I drove off to theatres in Coronado, San Diego, Solana Beach, and Vista to do my acting and directing work. Now my commute consists of walking to the rehearsal space in the back of our offices!

Several times a year, Cygnet sends out various mailings. When we do, we send out a call to volunteers, I make some extra coffee, and we have a great time folding letters, stuffing envelopes, and adding labels and stamps. (Quick plug, we will be doing a mailing this week and need volunteers on Wednesday, June 10 from 9:30am-1pm – contact me at jason@cygnettheatre.com if you want to join us!). It’s always a fun time chatting about theatre with board members, donors and other people who just want to help Cygnet out.

Recently, I came into work to find out that I had been Advocated! One of those volunteers (with whom I had debated the pros and cons of San Diego, New York and London theatre) had chosen to sponsor me through Cygnet’s Artist Advocate program. Thanks, Marilyn!

Jason Heil (right) with Judith Harris and Bill Schmidt

Jason Heil (right) with Judith Harris and Bill Schmidt

This program allows donors to direct their donations to an artist of their choice (actors, directors, designers and stage managers). All monies go directly toward the artist’s salary. Since its inception, Cygnet has made paying a competitive wage to artists a priority. This is made possible through the support of our donors!

As I write this, we are nearing the end of our second week of rehearsals. We’re at that bumpy stage where we’re still trying to remember all of the lines; where we’re juggling plates of sardines, slamming doors that aren’t there yet, pretending to run up and down stairs that are really taped squares on the floor, all the while trying to create real people who are experiencing real chaos. It’s maddening, frustrating, overwhelming. In other words, it’s theatre! And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

So, a big thank you to Arthur & Marilyn Neumann, who helped make it possible for me to be a part of this wonderful production. And thank you to ALL of the Advocates who are sponsoring artists, casts, and even productions. In the Development Suite, we are always looking for new and fresh ways to thank people. Sometimes, the simplest can be the best: We could not do this without your support. Thank you.

Hedwig past and present

Mathew Tyler as HedwigWow does time fly.  I can’t believe it is already June and Summer is almost here.  What is even more amazing is that we are about to start our 7th Season.  When Sean and I started Cygnet, I never realized that it would put my life on the fast track and the years would start to fly by.   It’s been so much work and fun.  Nevertheless, I don’t think I would change a thing that we did.  The mistakes we made were as valuable as the great successes we had.

The first production we did was Hedwig and the Angry Inch.   It seemed like the perfect first production for us, it was obnoxious and loud with great music and would make a statement but also, we hoped, attract the kind of cult audience that The Rocky Horror Show enjoyed.  It seemed to work, we received a lot of attention and the production was very well received.  We were on our way.

It seems like yesterday when we built the Rolando space and put on that first production.  Now this Saturday we will be opening our last production at the Rolando space.  The last production will once again be Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  It seemed like the right choice for us.  It’s really a fun show, a little twisted, and music is just wonderful.

I think  Sean would agree that this a bittersweet time for us.  We put so much of ourselves into the Rolando theatre and will definitely miss that great space but in life the time comes when you need to move on.  Hedwig was a great start for us and I can’t think of a better swan song for the Rolando space.

Announcing our 2009/2010 Season

Bill and I are really excited to be able to finally announce the slate of plays selected for our 2009/2010 Season.  It takes a very long time to assemble a good variety of stories that we think fit our mission and that you might want to see and we think we might just have done it! Our seventh season is a line up of productions celebrating an eclectic series about strong individuals in extreme situations. With the exception of a revival musical which will play at Rolando, the entire season will be presented at our new home, the recently renovated Old Town Theatre. Therefore, we are saying a sad goodbye to the Rolando Theatre we have called home since 2003.

Our ‘swan song’ at the Rolando Theatre will brings the return of the show that started it all, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, with book and lyrics by John Cameron Mitchell and music by Stephen Trask.  Hedwig announced our beginnings as a company and after 40 shows, she’s bringing us full circle in our Rolando space! The story of a wannabe rock headliner and her search for identity, love and her “other half” will be directed by James Vasquez and feature Jenn Grinels as Yitzhak.  Filled with comedy, camp and serious rock and roll, Hedwig will touch your heart and ears!

The 09/10 season officially begins with the wildly funny Noises Off, by Michael Frayn (Copenhagen).  I am already working on the casting for this Tony-Award winning play about a motley and disorganized theatre company attempting, against all odds, to rehearse and perform their own production of a slamming-door farce called Nothing On.

In September, we will present the San Diego Premiere of Man from Nebraska by Tony-Award and Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Letts (August: Osage County, Bug).  It’s the tale of an ordinary middle-aged man on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery.  The production will be helmed by Associate Artistic Director Francis Gercke (Mauritius, Curse of the Starving Class).

For the holidays we bring the return of It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, adapted by Joe Landry.  Our audiences demanded that this show return and we listened!  As one subscriber noted: “There are several Scrooge’s in San Diego, but only one George Bailey!”  Tom Andrew returns with his award-winning performance as George Bailey, and the brilliant Scott Paulson will once again reign over Bedford Falls with his old-fashioned Foley sound effects ‘orchestra’.  This year the cast of the fictitious “WCYG Theatre of the Air” will take over the Old Town stage as they recreate the classic story in a “live” 1940’s radio broadcast filled with music and the beloved characters from the film.  In it’s fourth year, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is quickly becoming a San Diego tradition.

2010 will kick off with The Piano Lesson by August Wilson (Fences). We are bringing back several of the artists that made our production of Fences so amazing and powerful. The Piano Lesson will be directed by Delicia Turner Sonnenberg (San Diego Critic’s Circle Award Best Director for Fences) and star Mark Christopher Lawrence from NBC’s “Chuck” and our very own Fences, Monique Gaffney (San Diego Critic’s Circle Award Lead Actor, Yellowman) and Antonio TJ Johnson (San Diego Critic’s Circle Award Lead Actor, Fences). August Wilson won his second Pulitzer Prize for The Piano Lesson, his fifth play in the “Pittsburgh Cycle”.  The story of a brother and sister in a war over the fate of a family heirloom, a unique, one-of-a-kind piano carved with the images of the history of their family.  It’s a spiritual, funny, moving and beautiful story of family, ambition, and tradition. 

The Piano Lesson will be followed in the spring by a musical.  I’m still working on rights and availability, but I do have my sights set on a couple of different shows, and any way you slice it, either of them will surely delight fans of musical theatre.

We wrap up the season with the classic comedy of style, Private Lives by Noël Coward.  Still considered one of the most flippant and witty plays ever written. I plan on being in this production, playing Elyot Chase and look forward to diving into the elegant Coward world of moonlit balconies over bone-dry martinis. Private Lives will be directed by James Vasquez, who choreographed A Little Night Music.

It will be a fun and interesting year, that’s for sure. I’m really looking forward to it.