Friday, November 22, 2013

November People's Choice Award

The people have spoken... The November People's Choice Award goes to Maury Zeff for his short musical, Love Spacewalked In, presented as a staged reading at the capacity-crowd Monday Night PlayGround Musical Theatre Night on November 18 at Berkeley Rep. Congratulations, Maury!

Courtesy of Mr. Zeff, we're pleased to share the first two pages from the award-winning script. Enjoy!

by Maury Zeff

Cast in Order of Appearance:

LIEUTENANT KIP STRONGBOW – Astronaut – Male – 40s – Any race –All-American astronaut made from the Top Gun fighter pilot mold. He spent much of his astronaut career earthbound, since NASA’s budgets dried up just as he reached his prime years. He is thrilled to get this crack at a mission before he is too old to be sent into space. Realizing that this may be his first and only space mission, he hopes to squeeze as much glory out of it as possible.

CAPTAIN NORMAN “BUZZ” GLICKSTEIN - Astronaut – Male – 30s or 40s – White – In the vein of the great astronaut-nerds who willed their way into space through sheer intellectual horsepower, Norman has always excelled at the more cerebral aspects of the job. Not so much the physical demands. He absolutely hates zero gravity. Please call him “Buzz,” although nobody does.

HOUSTON – Disembodied voice – Male – Any age – Any race – The ubiquitous Houston control center voice from every NASA-related space movie you’ve ever seen. Should be crackly and officious. On top of being efficient-sounding, Houston is morose. His girlfriend recently dumped him. Until his conversation with Valentina on page 7 turns flirtatious, Houston should speak in the desultory tones of a broken man.

RAFAEL DUNWOODY – Mogul – Male – 20s or 30s – Any race       – Founder of a global conglomerate of media properties, telecommunications companies, Internet businesses, airlines, and a space exploration company. He is an adventurer of the highest order, a risk-taker extraordinaire, and an egomaniac par excellence. He has been invited along on this mission in the interest of promoting greater collaboration between NASA and private industry.

LIEUTENANT VALENTINA BLAZHENOV – Cosmonaut, technical wiz, zero gravity handiwoman – Female – 20s or 30s – White, with a Russian accent – Valentina is the hardest working person in the interplanetary space business. She is the personification of “If you want a job done, do it yourself.” Whether it’s reprogramming a dust collection satellite or hanging pictures that won’t look crooked in zero gravity, she’s your cosmonaut. She is also an intergalactic femme fatale, turning spacemen’s helmets wherever she goes across the galaxy. She has worked hard to achieve this level of skill and recognition, but she has not given herself enough ‘Valentina Time’: She almost never gets to her parents dacha in the country on weekends, rarely stops to smell the chamomile, and has not taken the time to find the right petro-oligarch to settle down and have little Sputniks with.

Featuring the George and Ira Gershwin song “Love Walked In.”
Note about the music: When Kip sings the first few lines of the song on page 3 and Norman does the same on page 6, they should sing it in the torchy style in which it was recorded in the 1930s. But during the bigger musical number, the cast should sing it in the more upbeat style in which Frank Sinatra recorded it in 1961.

SETTING: Five miles above the lunar surface. The Pluto 1 is orbiting the moon, tracking the movements of an unmanned specimen collection module that has been sent down to explore and collect samples of lunar dust and rocks. The astronauts have been in space for three weeks and are getting a little sick of each other. They are in zero gravity.

CAPTAIN NORMAN “BUZZ” GLICKSTEIN and LIEUTENANT KIP STRONGBOW sit at different places in the spacecraft. They are “strapped” to their seats. When people move around the spacecraft, they should “float” as astronauts do in zero gravity. Actors should have fun with the simulation of a gravity-free environment, remembering that they will also have to use their hands to bounce off the “ceiling” and “walls” of the craft as they walk/float around.

New coordinates coming in from Pluto 2 on the lunar surface.

Let me have ‘em.

30 degrees longitude, 47 degrees latitude.

Okay, at 32, 49, have Pluto 2 collect another sample of rocks and dust.

KIP presses some buttons on the “computer.”

(Into the “microphone.”) Houston, this is Captain Buzz Glickstein on Pluto 1. We are collecting lunar samples at 32 long and 49 lat. Pluto 2 is operating smoothly. All systems are go. I repeat, all systems are go. Over.

Norman, this is Houston. Copy. Proceed with flight plan as indicated. Over. (Exaggerated sigh.)

Houston, this is Buzz Glickstein on Pluto 1. Copy. Over. (To KIP.) What’s wrong with him?

His girlfriend dumped him. Been a mess for months. [Taking notes] What do you think? “So that future generations of mankind may leap forward, we take this modest step of understanding.”

You are not going to have a Neil Armstrong moment where you get to say something profound.

(Making edits to the page in front of him.) Hmm, how about this? “From our smallish gait, we produce a huge bound for all of mankind.”

Americans will not be gathered around their TVs waiting for transmission of us sorting through moon dust. And, anyway, you’re totally plagiarizing Armstrong.

All great literature is derivative. Armstrong copped it from Churchill’s ‘We will fight them on the beaches’ speech.

No, he didn’t. Space travel wasn’t exactly front of mind during the Battle of Britain.

I have one request: When the transmission goes live, can I make the announcement to the world?

Kip…Lieutenant Strongbow, our mission has been christenened Pluto 1. We are named after a downgraded former planet. (Pause.) We are in space, collecting rocks that will be catalogued at NASA to reveal the same minerals we’ve been studying for decades. I wish this was a more high profile endeavor, but it just isn’t. We will land, the doctors will check us out, we will drive home on I-95 to our suburban homes, and the minivan drivers in the next lane will have no idea that we were orbiting the surface of the moon only two days earlier.

Don’t you think there should be more to it though?

More what?

More, I don’t know… More recognition…More humanity.

More connection?

Yes, more than just flying around collecting rocks. It should matter to someone other than geologist nerds in some laboratory. This trip should somehow change us, make us better.

Change us?

Opening bars to ‘Love Walked In’ begin to play.

Yes, something is missing. (Unstrapping himself, standing, beginning to sing and float around.)
Nothing seems to matter anymore,
Don’t care what I am headed for,
Time is standing still,
No one counts till…
(Sighs. Music ends. Sits down, straps himself back in.) I just can’t put my finger on what’s missing…

NORMAN looks thoughtful. RAFAEL DUNWOODY zero gravity-walks in.

(Matter-of-factly, carrying the Wall Street Journal.)
Head’s not draining, guys.


Join us for the next Monday Night PlayGround on Monday, December 16, at Berkeley Rep and choose your own favorite. Click here for more info.

Friday, November 08, 2013

PlayGround's 5th Annual Musical Theatre Night: S'Wonderful! S'Marvelous!

S’wonderful! S’marvelous! PlayGround writers will draw from the music of George and Ira Gershwin for their inspiration for the fifth annual Monday Night PlayGround Musical TheatreNight, taking place at 8pm, Monday, November 18 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Writers have four days to generate their original scripts, inspired by some of the greatest music written for the musical theatre, including Embraceable You, Fascinatin' Rhythm, Lady Be Good, Let's Call The Whole Thing Off, Our Love Is Here To Stay, S’Wonderful, and They Can't Take That Away From Me, among others. Performed on the set of Berkeley Rep’s current show, The Pianist of Willesden Lane, the Monday Night PlayGround performances will include accompaniment by noted Bay Area pianist and arranger Steve Sanders, currently working on The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess at the Golden Gate Theatre. Tickets and discount season subscriptions can be purchased online at

PlayGround audiences get to enjoy a unique behind-the-scenes perspective, with a free Pre-Performance Discussion at 7:10pm.  Audience members can also experience the thrill of being a producer through the monthly People’s Choice Awards, helping to determine which plays and playwrights go on for consideration in PlayGround’s annual showcase, the Best of PlayGround Festival.

PlayGround, the Bay Area’s leading playwright incubator, provides unique development opportunities for the Bay Area’s best new playwrights, including the monthly Monday Night PlayGround staged reading series, annual PlayGround Festival of New Works, full-length play commissions and support for the production of new plays by local playwrights through the New Play Production Fund. To date, PlayGround has supported more than 185 local playwrights in the development and staging of over 650 original short plays and 48 new full-length plays, with 3 more commissions currently in development. For more information, visit

WHAT:          Occurring monthly, October-March, the popular Monday Night PlayGround series presents staged readings of thematically-connected short works by the Bay Area’s best new playwrights each month at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, staged by leading local professional actors and directors.  For November, PlayGround will present six original short plays inspired by the music of George and Ira Gershwin, performed with live accompaniment by noted Bay Area pianist and arranger Steve Sanders (1776, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess).

WHERE:       Berkeley Repertory Theatre
2025 Addison St
Berkeley, CA

WHEN:          Monday, November 18, 2013 at 8pm
                        Additional Season Dates:
                        December 16, 2013 – Holiday Extravaganza
                        January 13, 2014
                        February 17, 2014 – Math Night
                        March 17, 2014

TICKETS:     $15, available online or at the door.  Pay-What-You-Can at the door beginning one hour before the performance, subject to availability.  6-pack flex subscriptions are just $60 (50% off priority seating).  For more information about the Monday Night PlayGround series, call (415) 992-6677 or visit

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

October People's Choice Award

The people have spoken... Last month's People's Choice Award goes to Ruben Grijalva for his original short play, Mr. Wong’s Goes to Washington, presented as a staged reading at the Monday Night PlayGround October 21 Season Opener and Barbara Oliver Tribute at Berkeley Rep. Congratulations, Ruben!

Courtesy of Mr. Grijalva, we're pleased to share the first two pages from the award-winning script. Enjoy!

Mr. Wong’s Goes to Washington
by Ruben Grijalva

Kevin Asian Male, Delivery Man, 16-25
Mick Male, House Speaker’s Chief of Staff, Late fifties
Kim Female, House Speaker’s Junior Staffer, 25-30
Denise Female, White House Chief of Staff, Mid-forties
Ben Male, White House Junior Staffer 25-30

(Muffled, unintelligible shouting. LIGHTS UP on KEVIN,
holding two large delivery bags. He approaches a door,
goes to knock, hesitates. He puts his ear to it, the shouting
grows louder, but no more intelligible. He knocks. No
response. He waits a moment, knocks again. Nothing.)

Hello! It's Mr. Wong's! Delivery! Hello! Your food is here!
(He steps away from the door, checks the ticket, the
address. The noise settles, MICK peaks his head out.)

Wrong address.
(He shuts the door. Kevin freezes, listens. The cacophony
swells, then stops. The door opens, BEN appears.)

Mr. Wong. Come in, please.

(Enters.) Actually it's Kevin. You did order food, right?

That has not been established.
(Inside, a conference table and chairs. When seated,
DENISE and Ben sit stage-right, Mick and KIM stage-left.)

It has been well established. Thank you, Kevin.

(Checking the bill.) Alright, cool. That'll be, uh...eighty-two, forty-five, please.

Eighty-two dollars? I don't think we can justify that kind of expense.

Our research shows an average dinner for four in D.C. costs one-hundred thirty-three
dollars and four cents.

And my research shows there's a deli down the street where you can get four
perfectly good sandwiches for under thirty bucks.

But, you already ordered this.

I did not order this. I do not order Chinese food. I'm very sensitive to MSG.

We don't use MSG.

Well, sure, you say that, but there's really no way for me to verify, is there? And
my policy is to, as the Gipper said, trust but --

I ordered it.

Great. So, you pay?

You ordered it without approval.

I approved it.

(Turns to Denise.) Great. So, you pay?

Nobody is paying for anything. All stakeholders must be present when decisions
are made. We will not abide another executive power grab. We will not have Mr.
Wong's forced down our throat.

Kim approved the order, on your behalf, Mick.

Kim is not authorized to approve anything.

I'm sorry. It wasn't approval, in any official sense, it was just, you know -- my
personal consent. Because, I'm starving. Star-ving.

(Turns to Kim.) So, you pay?


Join us for the next Monday Night PlayGround on Monday, November 18, at Berkeley Rep and choose your own favorite. Click here for more info.

PlayGround Company in the News Nov-13

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

Lauren Yee's play THE HATMAKER'S WIFE received its Off-Broadway premiere in September, produced by Playwrights Realm. The Goodman Theatre just commissioned her to write KING OF THE YEES, supported by the Virginia B. Toulman Foundation.

Aaron Loeb’s new play, IDEATION, will premiere November 14-December 7 as part of San Francisco Playhouse’s Sandbox Series at The Tides Theatre.

Steven Westdahl has joined the flagship ensemble of the new SF Neo-Futurists and will soon begin performing 50 weekends a year while continuing to host and produce the monthly Write Club SF and Shipwreck literary competitions.

Cindy Goldfield starts rehearsal directing  SNOOPY!!! at 42nd Street Moon, and also begins her 10th year with A CHRISTMAS CAROL at A.C.T.

Madeline Puccioni's WALLS OF TROY will be performed November 21 at the SF Olympians Festival at the Exit Theatre.

Alex Moggridge is currently in NYC understudying BETRAYAL on Broadway, starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz and directed by Mike Nichols.  It's been quite a ride!

Zoe Young has recently joined the editorial team of the literary magazine The Bensonhurst Review. She will be co-editing the poetry section. You can read a short prose piece of Zoe's entitled "Moni" in this Month's issue at

Ellen Koivisto’s First Class is to be published by Bare Fiction magazine,

Arisa White received a cultural funding grant from the City of Oakland to create the libretto and musical score for Post Pardon: The Opera, in collaboration with NYC-based composer Jessica Jones.

Karen Macklin recently participated in the Portuguese Art Colony's Live Writing event at The Make-Out Room.

Rebecca Pingree will be performing in The SF One Minute Play Festival, Dec 14-15 at Thick House.

Rachel Bublitz's full-length play, UNDER THE GODS' GOLDEN CLEATS, is getting a staged reading at The Exit Theatre on Saturday, November 9th at 8pm, part of the 2013 San Francisco Olympians Festival. Visit the event page for more information or to RSVP:

The lineup has been announced for the One-Minute Play Festival, December 14-15 at Thick House. Writers include: Trevor Allen, Tim Bauer, William Bivins, Erin M. Bregman, Victoria Chong Der, Garret Jon Groenveld, Daniel Heath, Aaron Loeb, Jonathan Luskin, Katie May, Evelyn Jean Pine, Kenn Rabin, Geetha Reddy, Jonathan Spector, Aimee Suzara, Arisa White, Ignacio Zulueta, Andrew Saito, Tom Swift, Inbal Kashtan, and Robin Lynn Rodriguez, among others.