Our Stories, Our Actors, Ourselves

This Thursday, June 17, we are hosting one of our biggest and most ambitious shows yet — and that’s saying something. Not only are we producing our first-ever virtual show, we are doing it in partnership with the San Jose Museum of Art’s Third Thursday program.

We received far too many quality pieces to include this month but managed to narrow it down to 16 pieces, spanning from an excerpt from travel writer Chaney Kwak’s new memoir, The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruise & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship, a modern interpretation of Hamlet by Muse Lee; work in English and Spanish by Sebastian Gomez Biggeri and much, much more.

Who will be reading these amazing pieces, you ask? We’ve got some wonderful performers on the bill, including:

gaz jemeel

Gaz Jemeel is a storyteller in the mediums of acting and filmmaking. His calling as an artist is to help humans heal spiritually while also allowing them to question the reality around them. Raised in Pakistan, Gaz currently is based out of Los Angeles & Oakland. To connect more with Gaz, visit gazjemeel.wixsite.com/actorgaz.

christina shon

Christina Shon is an educator, writer, introvert, bookworm, vegan wannabe, and podcast enthusiast. She currently lives in Timnath, Colorado where she has been social distancing for the past year. 

evelyn huynh

Evelyn Huynh is a Bay Area artist of many mediums and is excited to work with Play on Words San Jose for the first time. When not creating or crafting, she devotes her time to Family Giving Tree, working to provide joy and tools for learning to those in the community who need it most. She sends her love to her ever-supportive husband and hugs to her tribe. Learn more about Evelyn’s artistic endeavors at evelynhuynh.ninja

francheska loy

Francheska Johanna Loy is an actor and a writer. She graduated from San Jose State University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Minor in Theatre Arts. Francheska was born and raised in Baguio City, Philippines, and she takes pride in her roots and brings that part of her both in her acting and her writing.

IVETTE DELTORO

Ivette Deltoro is the patron experience manager and casting assistant at City Lights Theatre, where she has also performed in a number of shows. She is one of the founders of City Lights’ Mini Lights Emerging Artist program, and served as the casting director for its inaugural production, boom! by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb.

jada roper

Jada Roper is a junior at Milpitas High School. She has participated in productions such as Shrek Jr. and High School Musical and hopes to one day be on Broadway or become a psychologist…it’s up in the air at the moment.

muse lee

Muse Lee (he/him) is the writer and co-executive producer of ARISTOS: the Musical, a pop/rock Iliad adaptation featuring an international cast and crew collaborating remotely during the pandemic. An artist and educator, he taught writing and performance behind bars as a member of the Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women/HIV Circle, and taught a novel writing course at a court school to youth involved in the juvenile justice system. 


At Los Angeles Opera, he founded and led the Opera 90012 Ambassador Program, a training program for teens interested in arts administration. In 2019, Muse graduated with a B.A. in English from Stanford University, where he served for three years as a teaching assistant in the Theatre and Performance Studies Department. He is currently writing the textbook Acting for Non-Majors with noted Stanford theatre lecturer Kay Kostopoulos.

tania odesho

Tania Odesho is an acting student focusing on improvisational comedy. She won second place in Dramatic Interpretation at the National Forensics tournament in 2007 representing Leland High School. She has worked in education combining improv and learning for K-12th grade students. She is working towards her goal of being an actor. Her hobbies include playing video games, watching documentaries, and playing with her poodle Tink.

melinda marks

Melinda Marks is a playwright, actor and director who has performed in the Bay Area for over 20 years. She holds a BA from UCSC in Theater with an emphasis in dramaturgy, an MA from San Jose State in Theater Studies, and an MFA in Shakespeare Studies from Mary Baldwin College.

julia halprin jackson

Julia Halprin Jackson’s work has appeared in Noyo River Review, Oracle Fine Arts Review, West Branch Wired, California Northern, Fourteen Hills, and selected anthologies. She has been awarded scholarships from the Tomales Bay Writer’s Workshops, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, and is a graduate of UC Davis’ master’s in Creative Writing program. Julia contributes to Washington Square, San Jose State University’s alumni magazine, and is at work on a novel set in Spain.

kai katayama

Kai lives in Northern Colorado with his mom, dad, and aunt. He enjoys playing MineCraft, Roblox, skateboarding, and creating science videos, such as his submission to the Poudre School District Science Fair and his performance of “You’ll Be Back” from the Hamilton soundtrack.

register now for our third thursday show, our stories, ourselves.

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!

Melinda Marks reads T.A. Edwards’ “Return of Saturn”

To what extent do the heavens influence our lives? Scientist and writer T.A. Edwards‘ moving essay, “Return of Saturn,” reflects on a time of great change in her own life, after the unexpected loss of her father. Melinda Marks performed her piece at our LitCrawl show on Oct. 19 at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre:

Many thanks to Cleveland Motley for filming, Branden Frederick for his amazing photos, and to the lovely folks at Stage Werx for helping us fill the theatre.

Want more #POWSJ? RSVP to join us on January 12 at the San Jose Museum of Art for our Beyond Boundaries show.

Sage Curtis’ “Small Apocalypses” in San Francisco

What, exactly, constitutes a “small apocalypse?” Listen as Melinda Marks reads Sage Curtis‘ poem, “A Series of Small Apocalypses,” as performed at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on Oct. 19:

Sage’s chapbook, Trashcan Funeral, is available from dancing girl press. You can also gain exclusive access to her poems, book reviews and more by supporting her work on Patreon.

Big thanks to San Francisco’s amazing Stage Werx Theatre for providing the great LitCrawl space, to Branden Frederick for taking photos and to Cleveland Motley for shooting the video.

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.

 

“Pedacitos” and “Hija de Tejas” by Anjela Villarreal Ratliff

How can you find pieces of yourself? We were moved by #powsj actor Ivette Deltoro’s performance of “Pedacitos” by San Jose State graduate and Texas poet Anjela Villarreal Ratliff. Check out her reading from our February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art:

Following our intermission, #powsj casting director and actor Melinda Marks performed “Hija de Tejas,” another beautiful poem by Anjela:

Big thanks to Ryan Alpers for filming this and Branden Frederick for taking photos.

Want more #powsj magic? So do we! Contact us if you’d like to be a partner for our next show,

 

 

Melinda Marks reads “Chimes” by Keenan Flagg

Last month we were thrilled to fill San Jose Museum of Art’s Wendel Gallery with stories, friends, and conversation. Many thanks to all of the writers, performers, artists and volunteers who made this show possible. We are excited to share footage from each of the pieces performed, starting with Keenan Flagg’s poem “Chimes,” performed by POW casting director and co-founder Melinda Marks:

Want more Keenan in your life? Check out City Lights Theatre’s production of “Eurydice,” adapted by Sarah Ruhl and interpreted in American Sign Language. The show runs through April 14.

Big thanks to Ryan Alpers for capturing our show on film.

 

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!