Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stained With the Blood of Youth: Potrero Hill, The de Haro Twins, and the Forgotten Murders of Prince Johnson and Jamar Samual

[EDITOR: In conjunction with the launch of PlayGround's 23rd season as well as the launch of PlayGround's Potrero Nuevo Project I attempt to explore the rich and often tragic history of Potrero Hill.]
The Potrero Hill neighborhood is rich with San Francisco history, from being the home of former Mayor Art Agnos and O.J., to being the location where tents were set up for those displaced by the 1906 Earthquake and the home of the Pickle Family Circus to soon becoming PlayGround’s new community. It’s impressive that this neighborhood with a skyline and view that has been featured in films from A Walk to Remember and Bullitt can also be home to the segregated population of the Terrace-Annex Housing Projects. Nestled in the middle of Potrero Hill and the Dogpatch areas with their multi-million dollar homes,  stylish storefronts, homey restaurants and bustling bars, the Terrace-Annex Housing Projects are San Francisco’s Bermuda Triangle. Fraught with gun-violence and facing the same fate as the rest of the city (in particular the low-income Housing Projects) in terms of gentrification and relocation/displacement, you would think that Potrero Hill would get more attention than an occasional mention of their Street Festival or news on the redevelopment but that is not the case. Take for instance the shooting deaths of Prince Johnson and Jamar Samuel in July/August of 2015. Two young men, shot dead, in the daytime, and still so many do not know their names. This occurred for a variety of reasons. The first is that violence of this kind is not new to the Terrace-Annex projects. Described as a fishbowl, the isolated housing projects have in a way recreated the hunting grounds that Potrero Hill (formerly Potrero Nuevo) were first known for. The stories of Prince Johnson and Jamar Samuel were largely overshadowed by the shooting death of Kate Steinle on Pier 14. The Steinle case was huge, taking up space on all major news outlets, sparking debates on local and national levels about immigrants and gun policies and the status of San Francisco as a “Sanctuary City”, but the major question was “a sanctuary for whom?”, and furthermore, “who are we saying matters in San Francisco?” Three people lost their lives, but only one person stood as a story worth telling. It brings to mind another buried story of the deaths of two young men. A story that is not often told but is vital to both local and national history. That is the story of Francisco and Ramon de Haro. Nephews of Don Jose Berreyesa and sons of Don Francisco de Haro, Yerba Buena alcalde (mayor) the de Haro twins were granted the Potrero Nuevo lands by the Mexican government, they were seventeen at the time. Two years later, in 1846, almost 170 years before the untold deaths of Prince Johnson and Jamar Samuel, the de Haro twins were with  their uncle heading to visit their cousins incarcerated as part of the Bear Flag Revolt and were shot dead by none other than the American Hero, Kit Carson) upon disembarking from their boat at Point San Pedro (near San Rafael). Their deaths along with the shooting death of their uncle were ultimately overshadowed by the larger U.S.  war against Mexico and acquisition of Alta California. Politics. Gun violence. Gentrification. Land grabs. Immigrants. All of these things that we now speak about as National debate topics have solid foundation on The Hill. But now that we know these things… what are we going to do with that knowledge?

On Monday, September 19th, PlayGround will kick off its 23rd season with Alumni Night. Six plays have been chosen as the foundation for the larger Potrero Nuevo Project, premiering at the newly renovated Thick House in January, 2017. For tickets and more information please visit:

Ashley Smiley is the newest member of the PlayGround team, having started earlier this month in the new full-time position of Administrative Associate. After obtaining her B.A in Performing Arts and Social Justice from the University of San Francisco and her M.A. in Drama from San Francisco State University, Ashley became a full-time freelance Stage Manager, Production Manager working with companies/venues such as Theatre MadCap, Z Space, Campo Santo, Youth Speaks/Ictus, Intersection for the Arts, The Rueff at the A.C.T. Strand, Berkeley Rep, and various others. Most recently Ashley acted as the Assistant Director for Campo Santo’s world premiere production of H.O.M.E. (Hookers On Mars Eventually), written by Star Finch and directed by Sean San  Jose. Currently, Ashley is continuing to work as a core member of Campo Santo, project managing for CandiceAntique/Antique Naked Soul, and is in the process of writing two original works, Crosswood Burning which is being developed with the Clika writing group of Campo Santo, and Of Thunderclaps and Icepicks which is being developed for submission to the JUMP! Theatre new works showing in March 2017.

Monday Night PlayGround "Alumni Night" Selections!

On Monday, September 19, PlayGround launches our twenty-third season of Monday Night PlayGround, the Bay Area's #1 short play staged reading series, with a special "Alumni Night" evening at Berkeley Rep's Peet's Stage, featuring six original short works by distinguished PlayGround alumni playwrights as part of our new Potrero Nuevo Project. What's the Potrero Nuevo Project, you say?

Last October, PlayGround signed a six-year master lease for the Thick House Theater in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill, where PlayGround has been producing the Best of PlayGround Festival and numerous full-length co-productions since 2008. PlayGround is currently raising funds for significant renovations, including air conditioning, new seats, lights and more, to take place this winter, with a grand-reopening celebration planned for January 2017. And, as part of that celebration, PlayGround is developing a new evening-length play, The Potrero Nuevo Project, in partnership with the Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA) and Potrero Hill Archives Project (PHAP), to explore our continuing and deepening relationship to Potrero Hill and the community and examine how Potrero Hill’s history reflects on the larger stories of San Francisco, California and the United States.

Potrero Hill has a rich and storied past and a complex future to mine for theatrical material. A former Native American hunting ground, the region was named “Potrero Nuevo” or new pasture by the Spanish missionaries in the 1700s, later granted to the ill-fated de Haro twins by the Mexican government in the 1840s, and served as home to such notables as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and SF mayor Art Agnos. Today, the neighborhood is at the epicenter of San Francisco's change and transformation, struggling to find the balance between old and new, between longtime residents - including many artists - and high-priced housing or commercial development.

Earlier this summer, PlayGround invited more than 80 alumni playwrights representing some of the Bay Area’s best new writers to create original short plays inspired by Potrero Hill’s past, present and future and the top six works will be presented for their first public staged reading as part of our season opener Monday Night PlayGround “Alumni Night” this coming Monday, September 19 at Berkeley Rep.

This upcoming Monday Night PlayGround will be your very first opportunity to see/hear/experience the plays that will be developed for the Potrero Nuevo Project premiering in January at the soon-to-be-renovated Thick House theater. We’re truly excited this Monday to share six new plays by alumni Genevieve Jessee, Patricia Cotter, Ignacio Zulueta, Ruben Grijalva, Maury Zeff, and Martha Soukup, exploring themes such as family, cultural history, gentrification, generational shifts, the disappearance of the Ohlone people both visually and historically, rapid redevelopment, and so much more. Come out, dig with us, explore with us, imagine and reimagine with us, engage with us, commune with us, inform us, be with us.

Advance tickets are $15-$20 and seven-admission introductory subscriptions start at just $70, a 50% savings off individual tickets. Tickets are $20 at the door and subject to availability. To purchase tickets online, visit

What: Monday Night PlayGround “Alumni Night”
When: Monday, September 19, 2016 at 8pm
Where: Berkeley Rep’s Peet’s Stage, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley
Why: First chance to see the developing Potrero Nuevo Project!
How: To purchase tickets, click here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

PlayGround Company In The News Sep-16

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

Amy Glazer’s latest feature film, KEPLER’S DREAM (a kid’s film perfect for 9-12 year old girls), will be premiering at the Mill Valley Film Festival in the Family Film section on Friday, October 7 at 6:30pm at the Lark Theater. Additional show times include Thursday, October 13 at 3pm (Lark Theatre) and Saturday, October 15 at 11am (Sequoia 2).

Short play THE STORY OF OUR LIVES, written by Madeleine Butler, has made it into the semi-finals for the FABUM  “A Strong Woman” 10-minute play festival in Washington D.C. THE STORY OF OUR LIVES was originally written for Monday Night PlayGround, where it won a People’s Choice Award.

On September 26 at 7:30pm at The Shelton Theater in San Francisco, Aren Haun will be having a developmental reading of his full-length play, A SEPARATION. The reading is produced by Playwrights Center of San Francisco and will be free of charge. For more information about the play click here:

Garret Jon Groenveld's short play, HE COMES UP BEHIND ME, will be in the first After Orlando project, Monday September 12, 7 pm at Eugenio MarĂ­a de Hostos Community College, Bronx, NYC. The project is a response to the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Orlando on June 12.  60 playwrights contributed 3-minute plays that will be performed at fourteen venues (and counting) across the country including Round House Theatre in Maryland, The Inge Center, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre; Philadelphia Theatre Company and a special marathon reading at Finborough Theatre Co.

PlayGround playwright Steven Westdahl (most recently seen as the Yeti in Katie May’s Abominable) will be partnering with The Unscripted Theater Co. to give his short play, I HATE GERSHWIN, the Un-Scripted treatment (an unrehearsed staged reading by a team of actors before those same actors then improvise the characters and situations into a full length two-act play). The Un-Scripted experience will be taking place on Saturday, September 24 at 8pm at the Un-Scripted Theater in San Francisco. More information here:

Liz Anderson will be playing Rosalind in the Petaluma Shakespeare Company production of AS YOU LIKE IT, directed by Chloe Bronzan.  The production also features PlayGround regular Heather Gordon and opens September 16th.

Carla Pantoja joins fellow PlayGround company members, Lizzie Calogero, Maryssa Wanlass, Rosie Hallett, and Davern Wright in performing THE WINTER’S TALE with San Francisco Shakespeare Festival at the Presidio through Sept 18th and at McLaren Park's Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre until Oct 2nd. The production is directed by Rebecca Ennals.

SPENDING THE END OF THE WORLD ON OKCUPID by Jeffrey Lo starts rehearsals for its world premiere at Fremont’s Ohlone College, who commissioned the piece.

Cindy Goldfield will be appearing in the Center Rep production of IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU and is also preparing to direct BAKER STREET at 42nd Street Moon.

M. Graham Smith is teaching his directing course, DIRECTING WITH PRECISION, at Berkeley Rep School of Theatre this fall, Oct 12-Nov 16 (, and directing a workshop of THE EMPEROR’S NIGHTINGALE for the CAATA festival at Oregon Shakespeare Festival on October 6, in Ashland Oregon.

Originally developed for ON THE SPOT, an SF TheatrePub production, Madeleine Puccioni’s COOLEY’S REEL will be recorded as an audio play by FAD Theatre for i-Tunes this September. COOLEY’S REEL will also be staged at the Northern Arizona Playwright’s Festival on September 11 and 12 as well as by Santa Cruz County Actor’s Theatre in their 8x10’s festival in January 2017.

SIMON DAWES BECOMES A PLANET by Alex Moggridge is now in rehearsals in New York. It will be showing at the Access Theatre, September 23-October 8, 2016.

Evelyn Jean Pine and Katja Rivera's new full-length play, THE INVISIBLE PROJECT, about invisibility as both a super-power and a super bummer, will have a Dramatists Guild San Francisco Footlights staged reading at the Phoenix Theater at 7pm on Friday, October 7.

Nicole Jost’s one-act play, SLUT, was produced by Gadfly Theatre Productions in Minneapolis in June. Her short plays, MARIA and CHARLIE, were produced in San Francisco by ReproRights! Theater as part of their “Women and the Body Politic” benefit performance for NARAL on August 25. Nicole was awarded the James Milton Highsmith Playwriting Award for her play, THE TERROR FANTASTIC, as well as the Browning Society’s Myna Brunton Hughes Award for her poem “Sucia”. You can read her short play THUG in the Spring 2016 issue of Transfer Magazine.

BURNING CITIES by Simon Fill has just been accepted for publication in the upcoming issue of Proscenium Theatre Journal. In November 2014, BURNING CITIES won the BETC Generation Award and was workshopped by Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company at the Denver Center with a public staged reading at Chautauqua in Boulder.

Teddy Spencer is currently in rehearsals for the title role in MACBETH with the Arabian Shakespeare Festival, directed by Terri McMahon. Performances run September 29–October 16 at the Royce Gallery in San Francisco.

In celebration of Aurora Theatre’s 25th anniversary, Joy Carlin will be directing a revival of DEAR MASTER by Dorothy Bryant. The production is currently in previews with an official opening on September 8. The production features Kimberly King and Michael Ray Wisely.