How City Lights Streams Magic

http://cltc.org/thenextstage

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit 2020, theaters around the world were forced to pivot to an online environment. Ever wondered how they do that? So did we. We sat down (virtually, of course) with the one and only Rebecca Wallace, marketing director of San Jose’s City Lights Theatre Company, to go behind the scenes of a virtual show.


How does a virtual livestreamed event work at City Lights?

We host livestreams every Thursday night at 8 p.m. through our streaming and video series The Next Stage, which we started in April 2020. Our goal is to provide a virtual venue for as many artists in our community and beyond as we can: actors, writers, musicians, dancers, designers and, really, all other creative types.

While we sometimes have streamed via Twitch and Instagram, we primarily broadcast through Zoom or Facebook. Many musicians choose to perform concerts on City Lights’ Facebook page because they already have a following on that platform, and it’s an easy way to reach their current audience members and find new ones.

Other artists choose to have their events on Zoom, where I host the Zoom room, conduct artist interviews, and moderate an audience Q&A. The ambiance feels up-close, and we have lots of lively discussions. It feels like a great match for Play On Words.

Compared to a live in-person show, what’s different?

Nothing beats live theater when we’re all sharing the space and experience together, of course. But we have discovered some silver linings in the last year.

The intimacy of the Zoom room and the Facebook chat makes it comfortable for audience members to talk directly to artists, when they might feel shy about asking a question in aa regular talkback. This is especially nice when artists are debuting a new work and really want valuable feedback.

It’s also wonderful to bring people together across the miles. We’ve had several artists performing with City Lights from their homes in New York, and audience members watching and engaging from as far away as Finland. Casts of past City Lights shows have reunited and performed together again from afar.

The feeling is bittersweet because online theater wouldn’t be our first choice, but there have been moments of real theater magic.

The most moving for me was when actors Ivette Deltoro and Davied Morales reunited four years after their powerful 2016 performances in Lauren Gunderson’s play I and You, and did a scene once more. I got so choked up that afterward I could barely tell the actors how much it had meant to me. Well, also because I was still on mute. #blamethefeels

sound like fun? Join us on Thursday, May 13 to watch Melinda Marks perform “Not a Gardener” by Melissa Flores Anderson.

POW Graces City Lights Theatre’s Next Stage on May 13

We’re thrilled to announce that Play On Words has been invited to participate in City Lights Theatre Company’s Next Stage program at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 13. The free online event will feature POWSJ co-founder, casting director and actor extraordinaire Melinda Marks reading a piece selected from our upcoming June show, followed by a short Q&A with City Lights marketing director Rebecca Wallace, Melinda and co-founder and publicity director Julia Halprin Jackson.

The one and only Rebecca joins us today to answer a few questions about her pandemic arts experience.

tell us about the next stage program. How has it evolved during the pandemic? 

The Next Stage is City Lights Theater Company’s weekly streaming & video series, with broadcasts every Thursday night at 8 p.m. on Zoom or Facebook. I host and curate the series, which highlights actors, writers, directors, musicians, designers, dancers and other artists.

When we premiered The Next Stage in April 2020, it was purely a performance series, in which the artists would design and run their own livestreams. Our first events were play readings, a dance class, and a singer giving a backyard concert. We had no idea if anyone would attend. It was a good surprise.

Soon I also started hosting interview shows. Before working for City Lights, I was a newspaper journalist, and it felt natural to bring that experience to a new medium. And It has been so much fun to interview talented people like scenic designer Ron Gasparinetti, Broadway actor James Monroe Iglehart, and costume designers Pat Tyler and Melissa Sanchez (a.k.a. The LIZZIE Dream Team).

City Lights is a huge supporter of our fellow art-makers in the South Bay, so it was also natural to start showing them off. We’ve hosted a virtual art class with the San Jose Museum of Art, highlighted Los Altos Stage Company’s amazing streaming season, and are planning shows with Veggielution and of course Play on Words.

Over time, we’ve also added better streaming software, cameras and lighting, and greater use of video. I’ve learned so much technology with the help of superstar City Lights consultant Ron Evans, who happens to be my husband. So that’s convenient.


what do you most miss about live theatre?

The energy in the room. The way even when an audience is completely silent, you can hear them listening. The smell of fresh wood on a new set. Intermission debates. Curtain speeches. That moment when an actor drops a line or a prop or another actor and keeps on going like nothing ever happened. Every single opening night I’ve ever attended.


what’s one positive thing that has come out of this past year? 

The way our little City Lights family has only gotten closer.

what is your personal creative outlet?

Writing and singing of all kinds, knitting of the amateur kind, and creating slightly unsettling collage art. And of course I dream of getting back on stage again.

We hope you can join us and City Lights on May 13! Visit http://cltc.org/thenextstage/ to reserve your tickets. And stay tuned to learn more about the writer whose work Melinda will be performing!

Ryan Alpers’ “Union Meeting” Comes to Life

union meeting
Ryan Alpers, Ronald Feichtmeir, Melinda Marks and Julia Halprin Jackson perform “Union Meeting.”

On October 19, Play On Words was thrilled to return to San Francisco’s LitCrawl to participate in a raucous evening of storytelling, good food and friendship. Thank you to our friends, new and old, for making the show possible and for coming out to support our work. Thanks, also, to the more than 40 donors who contributed to our fall t-shirt drive—it is thanks to you that we will be able to start incentivizing artists to do their thing in the coming months.

What kind of rad art are you supporting by buying our shirts, you ask? Look no further than “Union Meeting,” a hilarious short play written by #powsj digital asset manager Ryan Alpers and created by him and #powsj alumnus Andrew Christian. We kicked off our Play On Words: Live in San Francisco show with this great piece, performed by Ronald Feichtmeir, Julia Halprin Jackson, Melinda Marks and Ryan Alpers:

Big thanks to Cleveland Motley for filming and Branden Frederick for acting as our resident photographer, as well as to the wonderful folks at Stage Werx in San Francisco.

 

Ryan Alpers’ Play Debut

Who knew the drama, history, romance and conflict one could find in a teacher’s union meeting? Ryan Alpers sure did. The longtime San Jose teacher and frequent Play On Words performer and contributor wrote his first ten-minute play after months of deliberation with his teacher colleagues. The resulting “Union Meeting” captures a fictional teacher’s union as they try—and, spoiler alert, fail—to understand technology, recognize retirees, and raise money for “the children.” We’re thrilled to be performing this hilarious sketch at 5 pm this Saturday, October 19, at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre. 

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Writer, teacher and playwright Ryan Alpers.

Ryan lives in San Jose with his wife and daughter. He says that his former colleague and fellow teacher Andrew Christian helped him develop the concept. He is—how shall we say this?—also very succinct. Here are his answers to our standard #POWSJ three questions:

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

My wife told me to do it.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

As a teacher, I am inspired by the stories my students tell in their own writing.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play that inspired this piece, as well as the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Intrigued? RSVP for our Live in San Francisco show. Get the full LitCrawl lineup!

5 Reasons to Partner with #POWSJ

photo-059_tonyaExciting news: Reading through submissions for our LitCrawl show this fall, we received so many amazing pieces through the transom that we have more than enough to feature in San Francisco as well as for our next show. Our challenge? Finding a space to showcase all of this great work. Today we’re going to go behind the scenes at Play On Words to illustrate to potential community partners why you should partner with us to make these shows a reality:

  1. We bring talented, diverse, original voices to the stage. Since our founding in 2013, we’ve produced the work of over 60 writers, many more than once. These includes former Steinbeck fellows, award-winning novelists, tech writers, teachers, engineers, fellow literary producers, journalists, and–in our last show–an eighth-grader with a keen eye for narrative. Finding talent is never the hard part. Finding space, however, is.
  2. We do all our own marketing and we promote the hell out of everyone involved, from writers and actors to photographers, videographers, and venues themselves. Play On Words shows typically attract 70 patrons at a minimum–more than 140 at our last sold-out show. Our homegrown marketing is the result of partnering with people and organizations we truly believe in, and promoting their work alongside our own. We will never stop singing the praises of our beloved Blackbird Tavern (RIP), Cafe Stritch, the San Jose Downtown Association, Anne & Mark’s Art Party, San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum, Redwood City’s Dragon Theatre, City Lights Theatre and the San Jose Museum of Art. We’re always looking for opportunities to promote our downtown and Bay Area partners.
  3.  We don’t need much. Our performances are stripped down–no major production beyond having a few actors on stage. The only requirements to host a show are ample seating, a stage or elevated area to perform, and amplification. We provide a photographer and videographer and are happy to share assets following a show. Most shows are about 90-120 minutes in length with a brief intermission.
  4. There’s a message behind our work.  We pour our heart and soul into every show because we believe in the work we do—we see art as a civic responsibility and an opportunity to learn from our community. In 2017 we partnered with the Flash Fiction Forum and a few community members to create Activate, a chapbook created in response to the 2016 election. We are currently planning a show that could elevate the voices of people stuck in immigration detention. We see art as an avenue to change, and we want to partner with organizations who share these values. Our mission to elevate, promote and perform the work of unknown and established voices is behind everything we do.
  5. And finally: we are mobile, pop-up and adaptablePlay On Words exists thanks to the network of tremendous writers, artists, community partners and patrons who have made each show possible. Because we have no brick and mortar theatre, we can bring a fully-imagined, 100 percent-planned show to any venue that can support performing artists. 

Interested in partnering with us on our next show? Email Julia and Melinda (because it’s just the two of us!) at playonwordssj@gmail.com so we can get the conversation started. Let us fill your house.

 

LitCrawl Call for Submissions: Deadline June 18

Five years ago, we had the pleasure of performing in San Francisco’s Clarion Alley as part of LitCrawl, an evening of events hosted by LitQuake, a weeklong literary festival. Today we’re thrilled to share that we will once again participate in the SF LitCrawl, this time at the amazing Stage Werx theatre at 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 19.

litcrawl2
Michael Weiland, Melinda Marks and Ryan Alpers performing at Play On Words: Your Words, Our Voices in October 2014. Photo by Michelle Anderson.

We Need Your Words!

We’re looking for fresh, smart, funny, provocative, absurd, thoughtful, goofy, surprising work to perform at this year’s show. We will be curating about 45 minutes of content, which means we’re especially interested in flash pieces, poetry, ten-minute plays—anything that can be performed aloud with gusto. We are looking for:

  • Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, theatre, work in translation accepted under 1500 words.
  • Submit all work to playonwordssj@gmail.com as an attachment or Google doc.

In order for your work to be considered for LitCrawl, you must include the following with your submission:

  • A 20-word bio and head shot.
  • Contact information for day of the event.

Work must be submitted no later than Tuesday, June 18, at 5 p.m. This gives you two weeks to polish off your words and prepare to submit.

Call for Submissions: New Terrains

This week marks five years since our first Play On Words show at San Jose’s Blackbird Tavern. With every season, we’ve tried something new–performed at festivals, partnered with Flash Fiction Forum on a chapbook, staged live readings of television shows. This fall, we’re delighted to partner with the San Jose Museum of Art on its upcoming “New Terrains: Migration and Mobility” cross-disciplinary exhibit. We’ve got our first 2019 date on the calendar–Sunday, February 24, from 3-5 pm–which means that we need you, faithful writers and artists, to share your work with us!

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What Does New Terrains Mean to You?

For our February show, we are seeking work that responds to the theme of New Terrains: Migration and Mobility. What does that mean to you? Does new terrain denote geography, movement, space? Could it be a crossing of emotional territory? Or a literal reflection on what it means to move your body, your family, your city?

Send Us Your:

  • fiction (short stories, flash fiction, stand-alone novel excerpts
  • nonfiction (memoir, short essays, meditations and reflections)
  • poetry
  • theatre (one-act plays, sketches, comedy, satire, drama)

For prose pieces, we ask you to cap submissions at 1500 words. Depending on the work of theatre, you can submit something longer if it reads quickly.

Email us your submissions to playonwordssj@gmail.com by December 15 to be considered for our February show.

Join Us for the Exhibition Kick-off: November 15

We’ve been invited to present at the museum’s November 15 partner kickoff, which will feature many of the organizations contributing to the New Terrains exhibit. Mosaic Silicon Valley will offer a number of special performances during the evening. The international creative collective known as RadioEE will roll up to the party with Autopiloto, a marathon radio transmission that will be broadcast while on-the-move in a semi-autonomous vehicle traversing the Bay Area, examining how emerging autopilot/AI technologies are transforming the world. RadioEE will be live streaming their interactions with partner organizations and visitors while at SJMA, as part of their project commissioned by the Lucas Artist Residency Program at Montalvo Art Center.

Play On Words will be reading a few show selections at the event. We’ll be there to promote our call for submissions and enjoy an evening of performance, artistry and excitement. We hope to see you there!

Tickets are available on the San Jose Museum of Art website: $5 after 5 pm, free for museum members.

 

 

New Terrains at the San Jose Museum of Art

This year marks our fifth anniversary of producing original content in the Bay Area. Every year, we’ve been lucky enough to find great collaborators–our 50+ contributing writers, many of whom we’ve gotten to perform more than once; our 20+ amazing actors, working professionals who perform regularly in San Jose and beyond; and the community partners who have exposed us to new opportunities, venues, and artists. For our 2018-2019 season, we’re thrilled to announce that Play On Words is partnering with the San Jose Museum of Art as part of its “New Terrains: Mobility and Migration” exhibit.

New_Terrains_logo_walking_RGBThrough “New Terrains”, South Bay arts organizations band together to present a series of cross-disciplinary exhibitions, programs and experiences that explore how bodies move through spaces–social, political, literal and figurative. Projects address timely topics such as transportation and urban planning, navigation and orientation, public protest, immigration and migration, and mobility in its many forms. With expanding partnerships, “New Terrains” will embrace multidisciplinary thinkers and cultural producers through a growing range of events. Collaboratively presented through spring of 2019 by organizations of all sizes and types–from museums and artist residencies to community centers and civic think tanks–events and programs will take place across the greater Silicon Valley.

We are thrilled to throw our artistic hat in the ring, and can’t wait to learn from the multitudes of creative partners involved in this exhibit. Play On Words plans to host at least one (and hopefully more) performance as part of this show, and we will be sharing a call for submissions on the theme New Terrains: Mobility and Migration in the coming months.

Until then, we encourage you to check out the amazing programming at the San Jose Museum of Art–and if you have a short work of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or theater that responds to this theme at the ready, feel free to send it along for consideration at playonwordssj@gmail.com.

 

Where Everybody Knows Your Story

What’s the story, friends? Tonight we are delighted to present Nostalgia-rama at Dragon Theatre in Redwood City. Five years in, we have an amazing cast of Play On Words regulars who are hungry to share the stage. We’re dedicating tonight’s show to our childhoods–to good writing, bad hair, terrible puns and overall awesomeness:

wishbone
Wishbone
“Flea-bitten Bargain”Written by Vincent Brown and Mo Rocca

 

cheers
Cheers
“Fairy Tales Can Come True” (1984)
created by Glen Charles and Les Charles
written by James Burrows and Sam Simon

TalesFromtheCrypt
Tales From the Crypt
“Top Billing” (1991)
created by Steven Dodd
screenplay by Myles Berkowitz
based on comic by William M. Gaines

twilight zone
The Twilight Zone
“Shadow Play” (1961)
written by Charles Beaumont

We’re grateful to our amazing readers and to the Dragon for making tonight possible: Melinda Marks, Ronald Feichtmeir, Jeremy Ryan, Adam Weinstein, Erin Southard, Tonya Duncan, Nita Duarte Lambert and April Culver. Artist Clif Gold will also be live drawing the event tonight, and photographer Branden Frederick will be there to take photos.

Join us at 7:30 pm tonight in Redwood City for a wonderful evening. RSVP on Facebook for more details.

Until tonight!