Friday, July 26, 2013

Film Fest Competition: Deadline Extended!

The deadline for the 3rd PlayGround Film Festival competition has been extended. The new deadline is Monday, September 16 and selected filmmakers/films will be announced on September 23 at the PlayGround Season Kick-Off and rescreening of the 2nd PlayGround Film Festival.

On the heels of opening of the second PlayGround Film Festival this week, PlayGround announced today the guidelines for the third annual PlayGround Film Festival, to be produced in association with Dances with Light and local filmmaker Barry Stone. The competition, open to teams of local filmmakers and playwrights, will award $1,500 in seed funding to each of six finalists to create short films adapted from some of the 116 award-winning short plays originally premiered in the celebrated Best of PlayGround Festival. The films will be screened in San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto and San Rafael as part of the 18th annual PlayGround Festival of New Works, taking place in May 2014. The deadline for completed applications is September 16, 2013 (Revised Deadline). Guidelines and copies of the eligible plays are available online at

Since 1994, PlayGround has been a leading incubator for some of the Bay Area’s most promising new playwrights, premiering 116 original short plays by 61 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, Aaron Loeb, Garret Jon Groenveld, Lauren Yee, Katie May, and Ken Slattery, among others, with many having their first professional production through PlayGround.

In support of these writers and the body of work they have generated over the past nineteen years, and to encourage collaboration between local filmmakers, actors, writers and technicians, PlayGround launched the PlayGround Film Festival. The first festival was presented in May 2012, with screenings in Berkeley, San Francisco, and San Rafael, and featuring Jonathan Luskin’s Ecce Homo, Katie May’s Etymology of Zero, Kenn Rabin’s Reunion, Daniel Heath’s Wednesday, and Tom Swift’s The Beginning, winner of the inaugural People’s Choice Award. The second PlayGround Film Festival opened on May 1, 2013 at the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood and will be screened in Berkeley, San Francisco, Palo Alto and San Rafael through May 25. The film festival features Jonathan Luskin’s Aegis, Sean Owen’s Climax, Kirk Shimano’s Miss Finknagle Succumbs to Chaos, Geetha Reddy’s Obit, Garret Jon Groenveld’s The Secret Life of a Hotel Room, and Diane Sampson’s Undone.

Since its founding in 1994, PlayGround has staged more than 650 original ten-minute plays by 185 early-development writers, contributing towards its status as the leading developer of short stage pieces in the Bay Area.  Through the PlayGround Festival, PlayGround has premiered 116 original short plays by 61 Bay Area playwrights and has presented staged readings of 48 new full-length plays commissioned by PlayGround.  In the process of staging those works, PlayGround has helped to identify some of the most promising new local writers and, at the same time, has engendered a true community of theatre artists by bringing together hundreds of Bay Area actors, directors and playwrights.  Most, if not all, of the participating writers receive the first professional staging of their work through PlayGround, thereby formally introducing these new talents to the professional theatre community.

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, Just Theater, 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”) and its off-Broadway debut in 2010.

Barry Stone, owner of Dances with Light, made his first film in 1979. He has professional credits as an actor, composer and director in the theatre, and as a producer, director, writer, composer, actor, cinematographer and editor in film and television. His directorial credits include four episodes of the British hit series rENFORD rEJECTS, filmed in London for Nickelodeon and Channel Four, "All Ways Welcome", produced and directed for the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation, and numerous commercials, music videos and corporate films. Barry has been the cinematographer on forty-seven episodes of series television, six MOWs, numerous commercials and twenty-one feature films, notably Lie with me, Mouth to Mouth, Cherish, Triggermen, Pale Saints, Paris France, Rude, Dumbarton Bridge,  The Perfect Son and Dream with the Fishes.  Recently Barry produced and directed SNIFF, a feature length drama / documentary hybrid with Amanda Plummer, Neil Morrissey (and a lot of great dogs).

For guidelines and a complete list of eligible plays, visit  For more information, contact PlayGround Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann at or (415) 992-6677.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

O Happy Writer: A Chat with Crish Barth

Crish Barth and I joined PlayGround in the same year, and during that time, I’ve always been impressed by his focus on dialogue and characterization. He’s also impressively tall. Crish will be presenting a reading of the first act of O HAPPY DAGGER, his full-length adaptation of the 2008 Best of PlayGround short, on Monday, July 29 at 8pm as part of the FREE PLAY: PlayGround Residency at the A.C.T. Costume Shop, so I took the opportunity to ask him about writing the play, adapting Shakespeare, and who the leads should be in the subsequent film adaptation of this darkly funny piece.

- Ignacio Zulueta, PlayGround Resident Playwright

Ignacio: Hi Crish!

Crish: Hey Iggy.

IZ: Thanks for taking the time to talk about your work. Now, many PlayGround commissions grow from simple prompts given to writers during the Monday night series. Is this what inspired O HAPPY DAGGER?

CB: Yes, a prompt from my first ever PlayGround Monday Night submission in October 2007: “Launch!”

IZ: “Launch!”, that’s right. How did you interpret that for this play?

CB: It sparked a scene about a producer trying to talk an actor into killing himself - along with an actress playing Juliet of course - on stage (to both end AND launch their careers) at the end of a run of Romeo and Juliet.

IZ: What can you tell us, in a spoiler-free way, about your approach to the star-crossed lovers?

CB: They're modern and talk really fast.  Of course this is paired with video of them performing in the actual play, so...

IZ: Eat your heart out, Baz Luhrmann. It's been a good year for Shakespeare in the writers pool, with playwright Ken Slattery developing THE SHAKESPEARE BUG, based on Othello, with Killing My Lobster. What's your take on the Bard and other sacred cows of Theatre with an 're'?

CB: I'm like Robert [the lead- I.Z.] in the play.  I don't really understand the obsession with Shakespeare.  Aaron Sorkin yes, Shakespeare no.  So I thought to myself, what would get me to go to another production of Romeo and Juliet?

IZ: And?

CB: Well.  If I knew the actors had signed on to kill themselves on stage at the end of the play…

IZ: (laughter)

CB: I'd probably go see that.

IZ: What are your future plans for O HAPPY DAGGER after the reading?

CB: Broadway. Subsequent feature film starring Bradley Cooper and Zooey Deschanel.

IZ: I’d totally see a snuff film with those two in it. So, tell us about your collaborators on the project - their history with the piece, and working with them for your reading on Monday the 29th.

CB: Well.  Really, PlayGround has been the collaborator, integral in the birth of this idea and the growth of it into what it is becoming.  They chose it for a Monday Night, they selected it for the Festival, they awarded the commission for the full-length.  Without all of that, it would probably still be an idea I'd hope to get to someday (and I'm not getting any younger).

IZ: Has anything changed in rehearsal? What's your weekend look like as you head into Monday's show?

CB: I doubt I've ever written more than I have in the last year - nothing will change about that this weekend.  Thankfully my fiancĂ© is an attorney so she works more than I do.

IZ: In three words, none of which can be Happy, Dagger, or O, what's exciting you most about the play?

CB: Believable Relationship (on) Stage.

IZ: Thanks for giving this interview, Crish! I’m looking forward to act one of O HAPPY DAGGER this Monday July 29 at 8pm at 1117 Market St. The A.C.T. Costume Shop readings are free and open to the public, with donations graciously accepted at the door. For more information, visit

Ignacio Zulueta is a five-year PlayGround member and, along with Crish Barth, a new member of the PlayGround Resident Playwrights. His full-length evening of one-acts and songs, AROUND THE BAY IN 80 MINUTES, plays Friday and Saturday, August 2 and 3 as part of FREE PLAY: PlayGround Residency at the A.C.T. Costume Shop.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Madness Never Ends: A Chat with Ignacio Zulueta

I ran into Ignacio Zulueta at the A.C.T. Costume Shop recently, as we helped set up lights and seating for PlayGround’s month-long residency there. No time to chat, but we promised to catch up online and trade notes on our respective ventures there. Today we did. Here’s what I found out about Iggy’s latest offering.
- Josh Senyak

Josh Senyak recently completed his first year in the PlayGround Writers Pool. His show, The Hair of the Triple Dog, three one-acts by Senyak, Victoria Chong Der and Cleavon Smith, directed by Cindy Goldfield, plays tonight, July 17, at 8pm at the A.C.T. Costume Shop.

JS: Iggy, tell me about your new show.

IZ: The working title is Around the Bay in 80 Minutes. It's a nod to Jules Verne but more importantly a lighter-than-air-hearted look at what makes us such distinct inhabitants of this vivid region.

JS: One play or many?

IZ: Many, in true travelogue style. I'm actually still working on the script with director Ken Sonkin and composer Don Seaver, but at present, the draft consists of several 10-minute shorts that have been presented at PlayGround SF Monday nights. I think about 80% of the material was seen onstage at Berkeley Rep as part of the Monday night series. In between those are standalone 1-minute plays that I've written for the BAPF 1-minute play festival two years running now. While the majority of plays have been done as staged readings or short productions, I'm also using this to showcase a few lovely 'orphans' that haven't been produced but fit the theme and format.

JS: So how do you keep continuity with all that material flying around?

IZ: I've been in close contact with Ken my director to address that directly. We're making sure that the thematic content of each play fits a kind of comedic arc.

JS: Comedy? Hey! What's so funny about the Bay Area?

IZ: What ISN'T funny about where we live? - The Bay Area has this peculiar quality of being critical to America's corporate culture and progressive political culture.... while 'enjoying' a reduced media presence in depictions of american urban life. It's neither Hollywood nor New York and, while I'm thankful for that, the Bay Area sometimes comes across as a series of small towns with incredibly large buildings in them.

If you're a fan of Portlandia, you'll see how the best stereotypes are those rooted in truth and satirized by the people to whom they are attributed to. It's the whole phenomenon of ownership in comedy. In a way, Around the Bay in 80 Minutes is a funhouse mirror of the Bay Area that Bay Area natives (who are mostly transplants - which is a joke in and of itself) are uniquely poised to present onstage. I'll be dabbling with some of the comic format you see in shows like Tim & Eric and That Mitchell and Webb Look. Or for a stage analogue, more like Killing My Lobster.

JS: What's the role of composer Don Seaver? Should we be expecting "BART Stations, the Musical?"

IZ: Hahah! That would certainly be a 'strike'-ing show. -  Don will be playing his own compositions live for the two short musicals, Meet the Breeders and A Matter of Taste, that I've worked into the core of the show. But the music, ideally, won't stop there. Don's talent, and those of my cast, add a super-exciting dimension of cabaret-style transitions as we explore the use of other music in both setting the immediate scene of the play as well as giving a musical sense of place to where we've landed next in the evening. I won't promise a 1-minute musical, but I think some covers of iconic Bay Area songs are very likely.

JS: I'll look forward to the dancing in the aisles.

IZ: Please dance!

JS: Is this your first time working with Ken Sonkin?

IZ: Ken and I have worked together on one of the PlayGround plays that will be incorporated in Around the Bay, as well as at the Eugene O'Neill Foundation in Danville, and at Wily West in SF. Experience, generosity, and sanity - two of which are so often in short supply in our line of work - are what Ken brings to the table when we start rehearsal on the 21st.

JS: So, in three words...?

IZ: Everyone should come! There are some wonderful actors involved. Maggie Tenenbaum, Isabel Siragusa, Steve Westdahl, and Alex Lydon are all currently signed on to perform. (Maggie was in the original cast of Breeders at PlayGround, and Steve appeared as the Yeti in Katie May's Abominable. Isabel and Alex are both members of PlayGround actor Gabriel Grilli's Duck Duck Octopus theatre show.

JS: Is there a moment in the madness to think about what your next project will be?

IZ: Yes! I'm already planning for the Bay One Acts this fall, and there's a 2pm matinee show of a grand guignol horror one-act I wrote for middle schoolers on the 26th at the ThrillPeddlers Hypnodrome. My full length comedy The Fellowship is being produced at AlterTheater this winter, and I'm working on bringing my playground commission, Kano & Abe, to the 2013 Demo Day in September. Looking back at what I just said - it looks like the madness never ends!

JS: Sounds busy. Sounds GREAT!

Alas, the one question on everybody’s mind (will Iggy buy a new fedora for this show?) slipped my mind before we signed off. You’ll have to be there, dancing in the aisles and laughing at the funhouse mirror, to find out for yourself.

PlayGround's Second Demo Day: A Producer's Primer

On Monday evening, September 16, PlayGround will host its second Demo Day at A.C.T.'s Geary Theatre for members of the PlayGround Producers Circle and prospective Angel Investors. What is Demo Day and what can attendees expect to see? And how might the results of Demo Day affect your theatre-going plans in the next season?

Modeled on the tech incubator Y Combinator, PlayGround's Demo Day provides a platform for teams of artists and producers to pitch several new full-length plays commissioned and developed by PlayGround, now being readied for production and in search of funding.Two projects successfully emerging from the inaugural Demo Day last fall are Katie May's Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Evelyn Jean Pine's First (formerly Altair), the former which premiered this past January at the A.C.T. Costume Shop and is a 2013 New York International Fringe Festival selection and the latter to receive its world premiere at Stage Werx in October.

While each project's needs are different, the proposals generally outline a premiere four-week engagement with total capitalization costs (the costs of preparing and mounting the world premiere and running costs for the initial run) between $25,000 and $50,000 per production. PlayGround often invests in these productions through its innovative New Play Production Fund which has, since 2007, supported the premiere of more than a dozen new plays by Bay Area playwrights. Teams will seek to secure their target capitalization from donors and investors participating in Demo Day, as well as through crowdfunding, grants and other outside investment. Prospective producers and angels (theatre investors) will have a chance to meet directly with the lead artists (playwrights, directors, and in some cases, actors and designers already committed to the project) at a reception immediately following the presentations.

Producers/angels can elect to structure their financial participation as tax-deductible contributions (with no financial return though non-monetary perks may be offered) or investments (with investors having a financial stake in the production), depending on the level of participation and personal goals. Each project offers a unique opportunity for backers to become intimately involved in the process of producing a new play, from assisting in securing additional capitalization to providing feedback at developmental readings to serving as a sounding board for the producing team, etc

The ultimate goal? To help bring together the artists, producers and angels needed to ensure more quality new plays by local playwrights make it to the stage... and have a heck of a good time while doing it! Here, then, are the projects being pitched for the second Demo Day and hopefully coming soon to a theatre near you:

A Marriage by Tom Swift
As the country debates gay marriage and on the heels of the recent Supreme Court decision, Tom Swift addresses the defining civil rights issue of our generation. A Marriage tells the story of one gay marriage, spanning a period of forty years. Heartfelt, poignant and outrageously theatrical, A Marriage is a play for our time. Adapted from two Best of PlayGround short plays, The Beginning (2005) and A New Season (2010).

Abominable by Katie May
A Yeti-obsessed mortician’s assistant finds herself at the mercy of Fate and Luck. Can she regain control of her life and fulfill her destiny? Adapted from the 2013 Best of PlayGround short play and a 2013 PlayGround Festival finalist. Written by the author of 2013's smash hit, Manic Pixie Dream Girl (a 2013 New York International Fringe Festival selection). 

Ecce Homo by Jonathan Luskin
A romantic comedy. Troy Steel is an aspiring action movie hero, fired from a reality television show for his inability to lie, and left publicly humiliated but internationally famous. Annabella is a talented actress, too big-boned and brusque for a career on screen, she can only find work performing behind the mask of computer-animated characters. When Troy is hired to animate a heroic warrior using a motion-capture suit, he is unable to perform even the simplest of scenes without suffering a crisis of confidence. The producer coerces Annabella to act Troy’s part for him. The animated pilot is a wild success and Troy and Annabella are bound together by her secret work on his behalf and his unknowing collaboration. Their journey together is perilously guided by therapy sessions with Oona, a plush-toy orca whale, and Troy’s grandparents, famous vaudeville actors who return from the past. Adapted from the 2011 Best of PlayGround short play and a 2012 PlayGround Festival finalist.

Hella Love Oakland by Robin Lynn Rodriguez
Can a conscientious mother choose between raising awareness and raising her kids? Hella Love Oakland is a ninety-minute one-act play that uses mixed genres of spoken word poetry, turf dancing, meta and traditional theater to tell the stories of three women who are negotiating family life in the city of Oakland. It particularly deals with issues of equity in education and the experience of gentrification in urban public schools. Based on the 2012 Best of PlayGround short play of the same and a 2013 PlayGround Festival finalist.

Kano and Abe by Ignacio Zulueta
Abe’s the good son, Kano’s the prodigal, and Regina’s the woman who comes between them. A Daly City-set Filipino family thriller about sibling rivalry, illegal immigration, murder, and other biblical pastimes. A 2012 PlayGround commission.

The Tale of the Sleeping Cutie by Diane Sampson, music by Doug Katsaros
It’s a 21st century fairytale musical that will leave you smiling. A very confused Narrator introduces the story of Lucy, a young woman raised in blissful ignorance by her soon-to-be-incarcerated father (think Bernie Madoff).  Awaiting word on his final appeal, he signs Lucy up for an on-line dating service, hoping to marry her off before he has to go “away.” Lucy has other plans – to become a drummer in an indie rock band.  The plot thickens as Lucy meets the prospective suitors and the Narrator loses control of the story. A 2013 PlayGround Festival honorable mention.
Want to know how to get your invitation to PlayGround Demo Day? Unable to attend on September 16 but want to get more involved with one of these projects? Call PlayGround Artistic Director Jim Kleinmann at (415) 992-6677 or email us for more information. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

PlayGround Company in the News Jul-13

Read on to learn more about PlayGround Company Members' recent news, current happenings, and upcoming events. 

Rosie Hallett and Aaron Wilton will be performing in Joan Holden’s FSM, a new play about the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, as a part of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, with readings on July 20 and July 28. Erin Bregman’s BEFORE & AFTER will also receive staged readings on July 20 and July 28, featuring company members Lizzie Calogero and Carla Pantoja. Anthony Williams and Cathleen Riddley will be performing in Kimber Lee’s brownsville song (b-side for tray), with readings on July 20 and July 26.

From July 3 through August 3, PlayGround playwrights will be showcasing their full-length and short works as part of a month-long residency at the A.C.T. Costume Shop. Participating playwrights include Crish Barth, Erin Bregman, Victoria Chong Der, Garret Jon Groenveld, Daniel Heath, Brady Lea, Evelyn Jean Pine, Josh Senyak, Ken Slattery, Cleavon Smith, Tom Swift, and Ignacio Zulueta. For the complete calendar of events, visit 

Lauren Yee is participating in this summer’s Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference in Waterford, Connecticut, where her new play SAMSARA will receive readings on July 5 and July 6. She is joined by PlayGround Education Coordinator Celine Delcayre who was selected for a dramaturgy fellowship at the O’Neill. 

Aldo Billingslea was named Santa Clara's first Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion. 

Tim Bauer has been named Associate Head Writer of SPEAKEASY, an immersive theatrical experience being produced by Boxcar Theatre this fall. Meanwhile, his documentary about the Harwood, Texas, zombie attack will be produced this October at Florida's Hippodrome Theatre, at Washington's Key City Public Theatre, and at the University of Kentucky's Guignol Theatre. 

Molly Noble is acting in a reading of Kathy Rucker's new play Crystal Springs, directed by Tracy Ward, July 22 at 7 pm at Z Below. 

Mary Baird will be performing in LOVE IN THE DARK, a First Person Singular/Shotgun Cabaret presentation at the Ashby Stage on August 5 at 8pm. 

George Maguire is directing Eugene O'Neill's ANNA CHRISTIE for the O'Neill Foundation at Role Players in Danville in August.

Nancy Carlin is text coaching ROMEO AND JULIET at Cal Shakes (opens July 7) and directing Almost Maine for Marin Summer Theater in Novato, opening  July 18. 

Tracy Held Potter will be directing a piece by Megan Cohen for the Pint-Sized Plays showcase at Theater Pub in July. She is directing and producing The Fantasy Club, August 2-11, with All Terrain Theater. Tracy and Rachel Bublitz are writing and presenting BABIES, THE ULTIMATE BIRTH CONTROL: TERRIFYINGLY HILARIOUS PLAYS ABOUT PARENTING at the SF Fringe Festival, including Best of PlayGround Finalist PRINCESS AUDREY. 

Sean Owens' short film Climax was selected for this year's Frameline Festival, and played to a packed house on June 23, 2013. Sean is also producing a limited-run series of short plays and songs in private homes through August 2013, as part of Foul Play's Home Theatre Experience. 

Katie May’s MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL will perform at the New York International Fringe Festival, August 9-16 at The Living Theater, featuring the original San Francisco cast, including Michael Barrett Austin and the original San Francisco cast.

Tom Swift's MY NAME IS YIN (Best of PlayGround, 2004; Winner, Samuel French Off-Off-Broadway Short Play Festival) will run for three weeks at 10 by 10 in the Triangle, at the ArtsCenter, in Carborro, NC. And, in other North Carolina news, Swift's short film THE BEGINNING has been accepted to the 18th Annual North Carolina Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

Jonathan Spector is producing two plays with Just Theater: A MAZE by Rob Handel, directed by Molly Aaronson-Gelb and UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL, directed by Mina Morita and featuring PlayGround regular Mick Mize. They run July 12-August 4 at Live Oak Theatre.