Thursday, December 06, 2012

Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Graphic Novel + Stage Play = Awesomeness

Two indie art forms intersect in the world premiere production of Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Graphic Novel by Bay Area writer Katie May. This darkly comic story follows a struggling graphic novelist who falls in love with a mysteriously silent manic pixie dream girl and explores what happens when she becomes more than just a character type. Told in the style of a comic book, this world premiere production is directed and designed by Jon Tracy and features the art of Rob Dario. More Judd Apatow than William Shakespeare, MPDG is a beer drinking, pop-culture referencing punch in the theatrical gut. 

Commissioned by PlayGround, MPDG is produced by Manic Pixie Productions (Katie May, Liz Anderson, and Jim Kleinmann), PlayGround, and David Steele. The play performs January 17–February 10, 2013 at the A.C.T. Costume Shop Theater (1117 Market Street, San Francisco). The production runs Thursdays through Sundays at 8pm. Opening night is Saturday, January 19, 2012, at 8pm. Tickets ($25–$35) are available for purchase at or at 415.799.8350.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl was born out of a need to write a play for my friends,” said playwright and producer Katie May. “I find myself surrounded by people in their 20s and 30s who appreciate art and performance but don’t go to the theater because so few productions speak directly to their interests or to their own experiences.” Director Jon Tracy adds: “A sardonic play for a sardonic world created by a sardonic company. What could be better?

What is a manic pixie dream girl? Film critic Nathan Rabin, who coined the term in 2005, describes the stock character type as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” Think Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown, Natalie Portman in Garden State, and Kate Hudson in Almost Famous! May’s play takes this stock character and traces what happens if the quirky, girlish character that is supposed to serve the needs of the eccentric leading man becomes a full-fledged character.

MPDG is a unique beast, exploring an indie film stock character through the lens of a graphic novel within the confines of an intimate theatrical experience. What it is not is a super hero story, so don’t expect any tights or capes. Inspired by indie graphic novels known for their political and emotional punch, the play oscillates between the artwork of Dario and live theatrical storytelling to deliver a darkly comic story of love, loss, and, against all odds, finding oneself and growing up.

“This world premiere production is the first project to come out of PlayGround’s new Demo Day “accelerator” launched earlier this fall and is a shining example of what we’re striving to do at PlayGround,” said Jim Kleinmann, artistic director at PlayGround, which commissioned the play and is coproducing. “Our goal is to create opportunity for significant new voices and new stories by tearing down the barriers between new playwrights and full production. And I don’t think there could be a more perfect play than Katie’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl to help launch our new partnership with A.C.T. in our efforts to bring new life and new audiences to the mid-Market area.” A.C.T. has created partnerships with numerous local theater companies, including PlayGround, to allow them to perform in its newly opened The Costume Shop Theater for no cost thanks to generous grants from the San Francisco Neighborhood Arts Collaborative and Kenneth Rainin Foundation. This production marks a new phase in A.C.T.’s expanded community engagement initiatives and outreach into the mid-Market neighborhood.

The cast for MPDG features Liz Anderson, M. Barrett Austin, Lyndsy Kail, Lucas Hatton, and Josh Roberts. The creative team, who will bring this unique graphic novel world to life, includes director Jon Tracy, who will also design the set and lights, costume designer Antonia Gunnarson and projection designer Micah Steiglitz.

What:              Manic Pixie Dream Girl
a world premiere play by Katie May
directed by Jon Tracy
featuring the art of Rob Dario
Told in the style of a comic book, this world premiere play follows a struggling graphic novelist who falls in love with a mysteriously silent manic pixie dream girl and explores what happens when she becomes more than just a character type. More Judd Apatow than William Shakespeare, MPDG is a beer drinking, pop-culture referencing punch in the theatrical gut. 
When:             January 17–February 10, 2013
Performs Thursdays through Sundays at 8pm
Where:            The A.C.T. Costume Shop Theater
1117 Market Street, San Francisco
Pricing:           $25–$35
Info and tix:


Katie May (playwright, producer) is a playwright, comedy writer, and performer. Her plays include Black Sheep Gospel (Great Plains Theater Conference), A History of Freaks (finalist for the David Mark Cohen Award in playwriting), and Manic Pixie Dream Girl (SF PlayGround fellowship commission) among others. Her short play Rapunzel’s Etymology of Zero (Best of Playground Festival, Short + Sweet Sydney) was published in the Best of Playground Anthology, 2011. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Virginia Piper Writing Center and the National University of Singapore, a grant from the Society for Women in Film, and an E-merging Writers Award from San Francisco Playground. Upcoming projects include the play, Abominable or the Misappropriation of Beverly Onion by Forces Beyond Her Control (SF PlayGround alumni commission) and the web series Liz/Kat with Liz Anderson. May holds an MFA in Playwriting from Arizona State University.

Jon Tracy (director, set designer, light designer) works as a director, playwright, designer, and educator throughout the Bay Area and beyond. He works with such companies as Shotgun Players (company member; directed The Farm, The Salt Plays Pt. 1: In the Wound, The Salt Plays Pt. 2: Of the Earth and is commissioned to write and direct Hoodlum, a new opera based on Robin Hood), SF Playhouse (directed Man of La Mancha, Bug, Slasher, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, and Aaron Loeb’s award winning First Person Shooter, as well as being recently commissioned to write All of the Above, an adaptation of the story of Joan of Arc), Magic Theatre (directed Any Given Day and the upcoming Terminus), American Conservatory Theater (directed their MFA students in The Diviners and the upcoming  The Rainmaker), Darkroom Productions (Founder and former Artistic Director; directed and designed productions of Macbeth, subUrbia, King Lear, Marisol, Some Devil Whisper, his movement adaptation of Titus Andronicus,and The Good News, which he also wrote), Willows Theatre (West Coast premiere of Evil Dead: The Musical), Impact Theatre (wrote and directed See How We Are and the upcoming VS.), Aurora Theatre (developed Ron Campbell’s Sinker and directed The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity), Marin Theatre Company (developed A. Zell Williams’ Blood/Money and directing their upcoming production of It's a Wonderful Life), TheatreFIRST (directed Grapes of Wrath), Sonoma County Repertory (directed Nixon’s Nixon, Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, Macbeth as well as adapting Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), New Conservatory Theatre (Bay Area Critics Circle Nomination for Fight Choreography of R & J), Missouri St. Theatre (writer and director of the award winning Chatterbox: The Anne Frank Project), Solano Repertory Company (directed subUrbia, Speed-the-Plow, and Midsummer Night’s Dream), Traveling Lantern Theatre Company (former Artistic Director), and the San Francisco, Marin, Carmel, Napa, Sebastopol, and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festivals. Further, Jon is an Affiliate Artist with The Foothill Theatre Company (developed and directed Gary Wright’s Evermore) and Alter Theatre Ensemble (developed and directed Robert Ernst’s Catherine’s Care), a Company Member and Resident Director for PlayGround (developed Geetha Reddy’s The Safe House among others), an Associate Artist at The Berkeley Playhouse (directed The BFG, The Wizard of Oz, Narnia, Pirates of Penzance, the upcoming Guys and Dolls, and the writer/director of Born and Raised as well as core instructor for their youth programs) and an Affiliate Artist with Marin Shakespeare Company. A graduate of Solano College Theatre’s Actor Training Program, he is also the recipient of the Kennedy Center Meritorious Achievement Award, 15 North Bay Arty Awards, a Sacramento Elly Award, a Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award and is a grant recipient from Theatre Bay Area and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a proud member of SDC, the union for stage directors and choreographers.

Rob Dario (graphic artist) is a freelance artist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His clients include Peet's Coffee, Hipline Dance Fitness, AlterTheater, Arclight Repertory Theatre, Asian American Theater Company, Catchy Name Productions, Custom Made Theatre Company, Darkroom Arts, SF Playhouse, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Up Next, Cracked Light Productions (Ireland) as well as fellow artists, musicians, private commissions, and diverse businesses from around the US and the world. Influences include comic books of the 1970s and 80s (especially Marvel and DC), movies and cartoons (Star Wars and imported Japanese manga), and his cousin Ricky Stangl. Rob received his BA from California State University at Sacramento, studying acting and directing. A native of San Francisco, he has worked at many Bay Area theaters as an actor including Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, the Asian American Theatre Company, the Custom Made Theatre Company, the SF Shakespeare, Napa Valley  Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare at Stinson, Darkroom Arts (Vallejo), the Pear Avenue Theatre, the New Conservatory Theatre Center, Impact Theatre, Berkeley Playhouse, among others. Favorite productions have been Trainspotting (Johnny Swan), Hamlet (Horatio), Three Sisters (Tuzenbakh), and A Midsummer's Night Dream (Oberon). Working on educational tours, Rob has travelled to nearly 200 schools and community centers throughout California, performing Shakespeare, and advocating tolerance and anti-bullying. He has also appeared in television, commercials, music videos, short films, advertising, and print.

Liz Anderson (producer, actor) is an actor, writer, director, producer, arts educator and consultant. Her credits include: Trauma (NBC); the West Coast premiere of Project: Lohan; the upcoming web series SanFranLand; commercials for General Electric, US Cellular, PG&E, Google, and just shot a Dorritos commercial with some of the funny folks behind Robot Chicken. She served as an artistic company member at BRAVA! For Women in the Arts, and as an artist-in-residence for many California schools, including the San Francisco Academy of Arts and Sciences. She created the Shakespeare for Literacy Program through L.A.’s Best for use in LAUSD and has received grants from the California Arts Council and the Miranda Lux foundation in recognition of her work using art as a pedagogical catalyst, She and co-producer Katie May are the recipients of the 2012 Film Finishing Fund Grant from Women in Film LA, courtesy of Netflix, for their animated film The Etmology of Zero.  A graduate of the NYU Tisch theater program, Ms. Anderson received the NYU-Stonestreet Award for excellence in acting and producing.  She is a four time California State Arts Scholar in Theater & Creative Writing and is a 2011 Kevin Spacey Foundation Emerging Artist. Anderson has trained with Stonestreet Studios, the Atlantic Theater Company in NY, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and is a Semester At Sea alumna. She is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA, and AEA.

Jim Kleinmann (producer) co-founded PlayGround in 1994 and has served as Artistic Director since 1996.  For PlayGround, he has provided artistic and administrative leadership for the past nineteen seasons, developing PlayGround’s unique array of new playwright and new play incubator programs, including Monday Night PlayGround, the Best of PlayGround Festival, the full-length play Commissioning Initiative, the New Play Production Fund, and most recently the PlayGround Film Festival.  He is a veteran arts administrator with more than twenty years of experience, including stints leading Traveling Jewish Theatre, Smuin Ballet and Berkeley Symphony. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and Brown University.

David Steele (producer) is a Financial Advisor at J.P. Morgan Securities, as well as a  managing partner in the ne timeas restaurant group responsible for some of SF’s most acclaimed eateries including Flour + Water, Central Kitchen, and the deli Salumeria. David earned a B.B.A. in Business Administration from Temple University and an M.A. in English from San Francisco State University. Outside of the office, he sits on the board of ArtSpan, a non-profit committed to building a community by connecting the public to visual arts in the Bay Area.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann, PlayGround has been a leading incubator for some of the Bay Area’s most promising new playwrights since 1994, premiering 110 original short plays by 57 Bay Area emerging playwrights from several thousand submissions through its Monday Night PlayGround staged reading series and Best of PlayGround Festival. PlayGround has also commissioned 48 new full-length plays and supports the premiere of many of these works in partnership with Bay Area theatres through its innovative New Play Production Fund. PlayGround alumni include a who’s who of the Bay Area’s best up-and-coming writers, including Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Lauren Yee, Aaron Loeb, Daniel Heath, Ken Slattery, among others, with many having their first professional production through PlayGround. PlayGround’s alumni have gone on to win not only local but also national honors for short and full-length work, including recognition at the Humana Festival, Sundance Festival, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Aurora Theatre Company’s Global Age Project, Guthrie Theatre, Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival, and The Drama League’s New Directors-New Works series. Works have been premiered at numerous theatres throughout the Bay Area, including: Theatre Rhinoceros, San Jose Stage Company, Shotgun Players, and SF Playhouse. Of particular note is Aaron Loeb’s Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party which, following its premiere at SF Playhouse in 2008, received a sold-out run at the 2009 New York International Fringe Festival (named “Outstanding Play”), its off-Broadway debut in 2010, and is being produced around the country this season.

For more information or to purchase tickets, click here. To learn how you can become a Manic Pixie Producer, contact PlayGround Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann at jim<at> or by phone at 415-992-6677.

Photo Credit. Lyndsy Kail as Lilly, the manic pixie dream girl who turns out to be more than just a character type, in the world premiere of Katie May's MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL, directed by Jon Tracy. Photo by Chesca Rueda. Illustration by Rob Dario. 


  1. We will put this up on OPENINGS ON all that chat--west coast of


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