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Q&A With a Director

October 19, 2010

A play where the actors have their scripts on stage with them? It’s called Readers’ Theater, and San Luis Obispo is home to one readers’ theater group that is frequently producing thought-provoking new plays.

Ubu’s Other Shoe, the readers’ theater group at SLO Little Theater, has just begun production of Boy Gets Girl, a play by Rebecca Gilman, that focuses around what happens when a simple blind date goes awry.

I sat down with Ginny Anderson, director of Boy Gets Girl, the morning before the cast list was posted, to discuss how readers’ theater differs from more traditional forms of theater, and about what makes Boy Gets Girl a play worth checking out.

Interview Ginny at MySpaceFileHosting.comInterview_Ginny.wma

Q: Hi, I’m sitting down with Ginny Anderson, director of Boy Gets Girl, a Readers’ Theater production at SLO Little Theater that will be opening next month and we’re going to do a question and answer session. So, can you tell me how you got involved with Ubu’s Other Shoe, the Readers’ Theater group at SLO Little Theater?

A: Sure, absolutely. I was delighted to be contacted by Michael Siebrass who’s the whole artistic director/coordinator of Ubu’s Other Shoe over the summer. He had become familiar with my work, quite fortunately for me, by hearing about the show that I did at Cal Poly last spring, Marisol, which has to do with some similar issues that relate to social justice. That is, similarly it’s a dark comedy. And he said that he could tell that we had similar values when it comes to why we want to do theater. He also told me that he noticed that I teach women’s theater here at Cal Poly and Rebecca Gilman is one of the great female writers of American theater right now and he said he thought that it would be a really good fit. So we got together for coffee and just had a really great chat about the show, about theater, the purpose of theater even in San Luis Obispo, and the rest is kind of history. That’s how we all got started.

Q: What can you tell me about Boy Gets Girl? What is it about?

A: Boy Gets Girl, the title kind of tells you quite a bit. On a certain level, it’s a very simple love story, but it calls to question what is it that we call love? What is it that we call courtship? And ultimately it’s a case, it’s a story that follows a stalking case, and one wouldn’t think that that would be a particularly pleasant evening at the theater but to be honest with you it’s a very fast piece, it’s a very funny piece. It has everything to do with the way that we put expectations on other people and on relationships that men place on women, that women place on men. It asks a lot of questions about the way that we relate to one another today. It goes from a blind date to what happens when it goes awry and really how one needs to ask for help and to be on the lookout to help others who might be in similarly quite frankly dangerous situations.

Q: How does Readers’ Theater differ from regular theater?

A: Well this will be interesting. I’m excited to be working with Ubu’s Other Shoe; this will be my first time being involved with them. I actually saw a wonderful production of theirs, Sideman, that was done just a few weeks ago and I think the very obvious difference is that people have scripts in front of them. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t even say it’s that different. Theater is storytelling, and that is what the Readers’ Theater does as well on a very basic level. There’s going to be very simple staging. Anyone who might be coming expecting full costumes or extravagant sets, lights, they won’t find that there, but they will find enough classical, theatrical elements to really follow along, to get caught up in the story. And to be honest with you, I think that the most compelling theater I’ve seen, “regular theater,” is the theater that is staged most simply, that asks the audience to engage their imagination, to be a part of the world, to fill in the blanks, which is why I think that this is a particularly exciting opportunity, both for me personally, but also for the people that are involve and hopefully the people that come to see the show.

Q: And finally, what are you enjoying the most about your directing experience? I know it’s early on, but I’m sure there’s something that sticks out.

A: Oh, it’s very early on. To be honest with you, we are notifying the cast later today, so this is extremely early. We’ll be having our first rehearsal coming up soon. I think for me, there have been two things that have been particularly exciting. One, getting involved with the community that’s out here. Seeing firsthand the interest both from people from Cal Poly who auditioned and have similarly gotten involved, people from the community, people of all ages, backgrounds. It’s just thrilling to see the kinds of value that’s placed on the arts here and to feel like a part of that. And that means a lot to me personally again because I’ve only been living here for a year. I moved her from Boston last July and it’s wonderful to feel like I’m a part of that kind of artistic community. I think the other thing, regarding this particular production, that means a great deal to me, is the opportunity to get involved with the SARP center in town, and that we’re going to be doing this in conjunction with them to raise some awareness about sexual violence, about stalking cases, and to not only perhaps raise a little bit of money for them but more importantly to get some actual information out there. It’s always been very important to me to tell stories through theater that are relevant, that speak to some kind of issue today and to engage not only the audience within the community but also other organizations. So I’m excited to be working with them on this particular project.

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Upcoming: SLO Little Theatre Presents Pertinent Play

October 13, 2010

Intro: A group of actors in downtown SLO are using theater to raise awareness for sexual assault prevention. I’m Victoria Billings, coming to you from downtown, covering Boy Gets Girl, a play opening next month at San Luis Obispo Little Theatre.

Report: If one weren’t specifically looking for San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, it might be very easy to miss. Like the name indicates, it is a small blackbox theater, but it is home to over a dozen theatrical productions a year. Right now, rehearsal has begun for a provocative sort of show: Boy Gets Girl, a play about a blind date that quickly becomes a stalking case. The show is being presented by Ubu’s Other Shoe, the readers’ theater group at SLO Little Theatre.

Michael Siebrass, artistic director of Ubu’s Other Shoe, chose the play because he felt it was a pertinent issue, and will be working with the Sexual Abuse Recovery and Prevention Center of San Luis Obispo to raise awareness and funds.

“You have these stalking situations going on all around us,” said Siebrass. “It’s a timely play.”

Boy Gets Girl is directed by Cal Poly professor Ginny Anderson and will open November 5.

Editor’s note: A full Q&A with Ginny Anderson, director of Boy Gets Girl, will be posted next week.

Actors and Ex-cons

October 4, 2010

Imagine a play that takes you behind prison bars, to where race is the major dividing factor, and snitches are punished with death. Now imagine that most of the cast has actually spent time in prison, jail, or juvenile hall. Now imagine that it’s a musical.

Sound interesting?

These are the ingredients for Off the Hook, a production of the Poetic Justice Project, which seeks to change public opinion on crime and punishment through original theater.

The action of the play focuses on the series of conflicts that arise behind bars as prisoners try to either redeem themselves, or assert their position in a particular gang. Violence erupts as a result of the complicated code the prisoners abide by. This honest portrayal of prison conflicts is meant to open audience members’ eyes to the need for reform.

“We’re hoping that this play raises people’s consciousness,” said Johnathan Felch, who plays the leader of the “Woods,” or white prisoners.

Deborah Tobola, the playwright and artistic director, was inspired to write Off the Hook while working as an artistic facilitator at the California Men’s Colony. After last year’s sold-out run of Blue Train, which showed at the SLO Little Theater, she “wanted to do an ensemble play” that focused on the intricacies of prison life, said Tobola.

The actors themselves are excited to share their experiences, and also how arts have changed their lives, with the public. Each performance is followed by an open Q&A session with the cast and crew.

“We find what we’re doing not merely as theater,” said Guillermo Willie, who plays the character of Joker. For Willie, the arts programs in prison were what helped him turn his life around, and now he wants to spread that message. “We’re like troubadours.”

Through grants from the California Arts Counsel, LEF Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, Off the Hook was able to tour throughout California, and wraps up next weekend in San Luis Obispo, at Unity Church. Tickets can be purchased at the Poetic Justic Project website.

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Covering SLO county’s drama

September 29, 2010

Theater is not just a form of art that exists in urban centers like Los Angeles and New York City. In fact, San Luis Obispo county is home to many different amateur and professional acting groups.

San Luis Obispo itself is home to the SLO Little Theater, a black box theater home to year-round comedies, tragedies, and musical productions. Farther north up the coast, the small town of Cambria is home to the Pewter Plough Playhouse, which has been staging live plays for 33 years. To the south of SLO, the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville presents professional comedies and vaudeville revues in Oceano.

This blog is a gathering point for theater lovers in SLO county who want to discover new theaters and upcoming plays, as well as understand a little about what goes into putting on these productions. Look for more on upcoming local productions soon!