Friday, February 27, 2009

New Show by local playwright

From Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre

Opening tonight: “Last Resort Trailer Park,” a comedy by Elly-winning playwright Laura Sheperd.

Performances are

Fri 2/27 7 pm
Sat 2/28 7 pm
Sun 3/1 2 pm
Fri 3/6 7 pm
Sat 3/7 7 pm
Sun 3/8 2 pm
Fri 3/13 7 pm
Sat 3/14 7 pm
Sun 3/15 2 pm
Fri 3/20 7 pm
Sat 3/21 7 pm (closing show)

Reservations recommended.

Thomas Kelly
Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre
1901 P Street
Sacramento CA 95811
(916) 444-8209

B Street Extends "Wit" to March 7


Tuesday @ 7 p.m.
Wednesday @ 7 p.m.
Thursday @ 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Friday @ 7 p.m.
Saturday @ 8 p.m.
Thursday 2 p.m. Matinees (1/29, 2/12, 2/19 & 3/5).

BOX OFFICE: (916) 443-5300.

For a review, see our February 6 post . (Click link in panel at right.)
For more detail, click the title of current post.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Treasure of the Sierra Madre at California Stage

Mitch Arguss (L.) and Derek Byrne

Sacramento’s California Stage brings us a live version of “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” Like the 1948 classic film by John Huston, the play, by Herb Robins, bases its story on the 1927 novel by the mysterious B Traven. Like the film, the play also picks up the cautionary tale about greed, though it’s hard to capture on stage the imposing atmosphere of the Sierra Madre in Mexico.

The plot follows an aged and dithering Howard (Mitch Arguss) as he leads the treacherous Fred C. Dobbs (Tomas F. Maguire) and the younger and upright Curtin (Derek Byrne) on their search for wealth. Joining them is LeCaud (Eric Baldwin) a geologist. Among challenges confronting the group is a band of banditos, led by Gold Hat (Fred Goraieb),.

Out of all this come winners and losers, but greed is the big loser. Yet, despite capable directing by Mike Yazzolino, the stage can’t compete with the magnificence of the real mountains we see in the film. And the characters tend toward oversimplification. Still, though no competitor for the film, the play holds our attention.

“The Treasue of the Sierra Madre” continues through March 22 at The Wilkerson Theater, 1723 25th Street. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 general, $15 for students, seniors, and SARTA members. Call (916) 451-5822. See also

For a detailed review, see Village Life, newspaper of El Dorado Hills, or click the title of this post.

Enchanted April: a comedy of hope

Monique McKisson (L.) and Boots Martin

The Chautauqua Playhouse production of “Enchanted April” in Carmichael could make you think you’re in London’s West End. Not only the accents but the manner and mood are about as British as Americans can get.

Matthew Barber’s 2003 play, based on Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 romantic novel, captures the gloomy mood brought on by disillusionment with the hollow slogans of World War I. The play, though, transforms the gloom into the sunshine of hope, brought to life by an Italian spring. The only mention of the war occurs late in the play, when one character reveals that she’s a war widow.

The mood, intensified by incessant rain, hovers over the first act and echoes a parody of Chaucer by T.S. Eliot, who declared that “April is the cruelest month.” The action begins on a bare stage with a shallow backing of gray panels. Lottie Wilton (Lynnette Blaney) delivers a prologue about the inevitable “after” that follows every “before.”

The first exchange takes place on a bench, presumably at a women’s club, where, based on a newspaper “advert,” Lottie tries to recruit a dour Rose Arnott (Richanne Baldridge) to join her in a group vacation at a sunny villa in Italy. The big obstacle is getting away from their respective husbands.

Lottie’s lawyer husband, Mellersh (Michael Walker) is the quintessential English stuffed shirt for whom everything has its place, including women. In contrast Rose’s Frederick (Walter Thompson) is a poet turned romance novelist in pursuit of money. Each puts his foot down against the ladies’ project, but to no effect.

Completing the quartet signing on to the project are a glamorous Lady Caroline (Julie Bock-Betschart) and an aging and hard-nosed Mrs. Graves (Boots Martin), who conditions her agreement on a promise of wisteria and sunshine.

The second act is a complete transformation. Jerry Sutherland’s lavish set gives us a dining room gazing out to the sea. Next to it a gate leads to a garden and a pathway to the beach. Adding to the group is an excitable servant, Costanza (Monique McKisson), exploding into voluble Italian, especially when confronted by a demanding Mrs. Graves. Also on hand is the Villa’s owner, Antony Wilding (Warren Harrison, who also directs), eager to make everybody happy.

Gradually a transformation takes place amid unforeseen complications. Invited by telegram as an afterthought, the husbands arrive and almost get caught in an embarrassing coincidence. To top it off, Mellersh is victimized by an exploding shower. He arrives on the scene wrapped in a towel, which he almost drops. But we’re spared the full Monty. Somehow, everybody rises above the stress and finds the longed-for “after” that follows their dismal “before.”

Under Harrison’s quick-paced direction we see a joyous transformation come to the visitors. You can almost feel them soaking up the sun, as each contributes a compelling performance. Don’t be surprised to see a few Elly nominations (local equivalent to Oscars).

“Enchanted April” continues through March 15 at the Chautauqua Playhouse, 5325 Engle Road in the La Sierra Community Center in Carmichael. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Admission is $17 general and $15 for students, seniors, children and SARTA members. Call (916) 489-7529 (PLAY). See also

Friday, February 20, 2009

Multiple Benefit Performances by Garbeau's

Message from Garbeau's

Come and See Us! So far, we have three amazing benefit performances scheduled for the "Save Garbeau's" campaign. We are truly thankful to these groups for contacting us and offering to put on a benefit performance. That being said, we don't have much time to spread the word, and we're asking for your help!

Please re-post, invite, or otherwise let your friends know about these performances. We do have several others being scheduled, and three that are coming up very soon!

SUNDAY EVENING FEBRUARY 22nd @ 7:00 p.m. "BECAUSE," The Beatles Tribute Band (formerly known as The BBC). This local band has performed at Garbeau's twice before, for our New Year's Eve events, and they are fantastic! If you like The Beatles, you'll love this concert! Tickets $25, $20 and $15. Group Rates Available. Finger foods, desserts, salads, cocktails, etc., available for purchase. Doors open at 6:30. Reservations recommended: (916) 985-6361.

WEDNESDAY EVENING FEBRUARY 25th @ 7:00 p.m. "YOUNG PERFORMER'S SHOWCASE," talent from local youth that will amaze you! Singing and dancing on our stage from a host of performers under the age of 20. Fun for all ages! Tickets $25, $20 and $15. Group Rates available. Finger foods, desserts, salads, cocktails, etc. available for purchase. Doors open at 6:30. Reservations recommended: (916) 985-6361.

SUNDAY EVENING MARCH 1st @ 7:00 p.m. "BALLROOM OFF-BROADWAY," a spectacular ballroom dancing exhibition, combined with music from Broadway. Singing and dancing are both highlighted in this benefit performance. "Dancing with the Stars" comes to life on the Garbeau's stage! Tickets $25, $20 and $15. Group Rates available. Finger foods, desserts, salads, cocktails, etc., available for purchase. Doors open at 6:30. Reservations recommended: (916) 985-6361.

For more about Garbeau's, click the title of this post.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Joseph scores in El Dorado Hills

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, provides another triumphant production for El Dorado Musical Theatre ( It follows the Biblical story of Joseph, from the heights of being Jacob’s favorite son, through slavery and imprisonment, to redemption through his gift of prophecy through interpretation of dreams.

It could be called an opera rather than a musical because every word is sung. The music offers a range of styles, from country Western to Calypso, and there’s plenty of delightful comedy. It’s hard to believe we’re seeing a cast of youthful youngsters—26 performers between ages14 and 22, plus a choir of 18 between 8 and 13—gracefully coordinated at a brisk pace through song and dance. Can Broadway do better?

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” continues through February 22 at Oak Ridge High School Theater, 1120 Harvard Way in El Dorado Hills. Performances are Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., plus one show on Thursday, February 19, at 7 p.m. Get tickets online at or call (916) 941-SING. Tickets are $22 for adults, $17 for children and seniors.

For a complete review go to the website of Village Life of El Dorado Hills: Check A-18 and A-24.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

At BPP: A Gospel you never read in Sunday School

Over the last decade Sacramento has grown from a sleepy state capital to a sophisticated center for the arts, including some top-notch theater, professional and otherwise. In our admiration for many of the leading companies, though, we can easily overlook a few smaller groups that, on modest stages, often come up with shows that rival the big timers.

One such overlooked jewel is “Beyond the Proscenium Productions,” housed next door to a similar gem, California Stage, both near the light-rail tracks a few blocks west of the Capital City Freeway. In its intimate quarters, BPP now offers a stunning production of “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” by Stephen Adley Guirgis, a playwright seemingly obsessed with transforming the Gospels into clever modern scenarios. Two of his other titles are “Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train” and “Our Lady of 121st Street.”

In “Iscariot” we get the familiar Biblical characters, but they’ve been updated to contemporary Americans, both in attitude and language. We get a jive-talkin’ St. Monica (Joelle Wirth), mother of St. Augustine. And Henrietta Iscariot (Margaret Morneau) resembles someone we might run into in a Laundromat. The strategy not only makes the characters “relevant” but disarms those who might view the play as irreverent.

Giurgis also adopts what seems to be a kind of new genre: a trial in purgatory for celebrated sinners. The action pits Cunningham (Renee DeGarmo), an earnest and attractive young defense attorney and an agnostic with liberal tendencies, against the delightfully smarmy prosecutor, El-Fayoumy (Justin Munoz). And though we’re led to root for Cunningham, we discover that she too has feet of clay, as does just about everybody else we encounter, including even Jesus Himself (Kyle Gundlach).

What’s more, in Giurgis’ version Heaven seems kind of fuzzy and Hell turns out to be not such a bad place after all. You can even be promoted out of it—unless, of course, you’d prefer to stay. A wise-guy Satan (Barry Hubbard) seems an echo of Jack Nicholson and even bullies the domineering Judge Littlefield (Mark Hoffman), who had hanged himself during the Civil War.

Hoffman also doubles as a pedantic Caiaphus. Likewise P. Joshua Laskey magically swings from a pious St. Matthew to a poker-faced Sigmund Freud, complete with German accent. All belong to a strong cast of 17, solidly professional and with resumes that rival performers we see in more celebrated theaters.

But beneath the frivolous surface lies a disturbing question, a moral conundrum, based on a theological postulate that Jesus, in fact, recruited Judas (David Campfield) to betray Him. Left with a handful of silver and a profound sense of guilt, Judas hanged himself, only to face condemnation throughout eternity. Campfield plays Judas as an expressive yet near-brain-dead victim in a wheelchair, and there’s a surprising yet poignant meeting between him and Jesus late in the play.

Director Michael RJ Campbell skillfully compels our imagination on a spare stage, which he and DeGarmo designed. The mood is supported by Kyle Gundlach’s original soft music, played on an electric guitar.

The one major flaw in the play is a tacked on epilogue where a recently deceased juror, Butch Honeywell (Joshua Glenn Robertson), delivers a lengthy and anti-climactic confession of his marital infidelities. The point seems to be that our sins are all in our head, but then again, maybe not. Since the play runs more than three hours, we can do without this numbing addition.

“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” runs through March 15 at The Wilkerson Theatre, 1723 25th Street. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 general, $12 for seniors and students. Call (916) 456-1600 or e-mail For more information, click the title of this post.

For more information about Beyond the Proscenium Productions, click the title of this post.

Community Responding to Garbeau’s Plight

Benefit Performances to Kick Off with The Beatles

With hundreds of emails of support and four sold-out performances in the past two weekends, Garbeau’s CEO and co-owner, Mark Ferreira, sees grounds for hope in his effort to keep his venue alive.

“The response from the community has been both humbling and invigorating,” Ferreira said, adding that season passes have also been selling well. To help supporters purchase season passes without risk, many theater companies, now including downtown’s Cosmopolitan Cabaret, have agreed to honor Garbeau’s passes if the company does not survive.

While response has been encouraging, the battle is not over. Facing forced closure by their landlord, Andy Lakha of Washington-based Lakha Investments Co., Garbeau’s is sprinting to meet multiple financial deadlines between now and mid-March. “We need an infusion of capital that unfortunately can’t be met by sold-out houses alone,” Ferreira said. He said a combination of higher attendance, season pass sales and more revenue from weeknights could indeed secure the 27 year-old landmark. “Of course,” he mused, “investors are also always welcome to step forward.”

To help their cause, a number of groups are scheduling benefit concerts. With new bookings to be added to their website, the series kicks off February 22nd at 7 p.m. with Because: The Beatles Tribute Band (formerly known as The BBC). Wednesday the 25th will feature a talent showcase by young performers including Elly Award winners, cast members from Music Circus, and young people who aspire to have careers on stage.

More information can be found at or by calling Garbeau’s box office at (916) 985-6361.


Placerville, CA - Imagination Theater and Porter Media Group of Sacramento announce auditions for their film and stage production of Bram Stoker's haunting tale, "Dracula." Sacramento auditions will be held Friday, February 27th, from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. at Studio 24, 2220 K Street, Sacramento. On Saturday, February 28th, auditions for Nosferatu* (brides and victims of Dracula, all dancers) will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Foothill Dance Studio at 3965 Durock Rd, Suite C in Shingle Springs.

Auditions for acting roles will be held later that day from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Imagination Theater, located at 100 Placerville Drive on the El Dorado County Fairgrounds in Placerville. All roles are open and include Dracula, Dr. John Seward, Lucy Westernra, Mina Murray, Jonathan Harker, Renfield, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, and eight Nosferatu. *Nosferatus must be at least 18 years of age. Call backs will be on Sunday, March 1st, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Imagination Theater.

This multi-media presentation will use film to stage and stage to film seamlessly with incredible special effects. The film segment of the production will be shot at different locations from April 9 to 15. Actors selected must be available these days for evening shots. For further information call the director, Lanny Langston at (530) 903-6361. Scripts for review are available at the box office.

About Imagination Theater (IT)
IT has brought theatrical presentations to the area since 1999. IT is an organization that can proudly say it is devoted to tell good stories in an atmosphere of trust, respect, personal growth and challenge. For more information about IT, please go to www. or

About Porter Media Group (PMG)
Placerville native Joshua B. Porter founded PMG, which in 2007 produced the documentary, CASA: A Voice of Hope. Joshua has directed and produced several films including; “Garden of the Disappeared”, “Hatched”, (Director/Producer) and the upcoming feature film “Road to Red” (Producer). PMG is committed to creating films that inspire others and make a difference in our local and global communities. For more information about PMG, please go to

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stage Nine in Folsom extends Escanaba

Message from Stage Nine

Due to the popularity of “Escanaba in da Moonlight” - with performances selling out - Stage Nine Theatre has extended performances through March 8. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday at 4:00pm.

Stage Nine Theatre is located at 717 Sutter Street in Historic Folsom.
Reservations: (916) 353-1001

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Amazing Career of an Amazing Talent

Tyler Coppin as he really looks

I don't normally obsess about anything in theater, but with LyreBird and the unique talent behind it I can't help myself. Two days ago I posted a summary review of the play, with links to my review in Village Life. What I didn't mention is that I intended the post for a question-and-answer interview with Tyler Coppin, the play's playwright and star, that I'd conducted via e-mail.

What had happened was that my service provider had waylaid Tyler's response, shuffling it into a Guantanamo for suspected Spam. Today it was released...and blew me away! To especially appreciate what he says, you might check the February 11 post and its links.

The interview should be fascinating and instructive to anyone interested in theater--or the creative arts in general. If there's a moral, I think it's this: the only way to become disciplined is to be free.
So here's Tyler's answers to my questions, exactly as he wrote them:

Q.There’s some discrepancy about where you lived and grew up in California. In the review I put down Rancho Cordova. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

My mom and dad grew up, met, and married in Roseville. My maternal grandfather was Roseville City Clerk (Raleigh Terry), and my paternal grandfather was Roseville’s milkman (Sam Coppin). He owned Coppin Home Dairy and was affectionately known as “Sour Milk Sam.” My ancestors came over on covered wagons in the 1800’s and settled near Pleasant Grove. I was born in Roseville but when I was a baby we moved to Rancho Cordova. At 12 I moved to Carmichael and went to Rio Americano. At 18 I moved to Australia

Q.Available information holds that you accompanied your parents on their business trip to Australia when you were 18 or 19. Which age is correct? Also, what made you change your home to Australia? And what is your citizenship now: dual, Australian, resident American?

I was 18 when I went to Australia in June 1976. I turned 19 the same year in November, and the same day I found out I won a place at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art. At a birthday dinner for me I told my mom and dad that I planned to stay on by myself and go to this wonderful school.

I didn’t intentionally choose to stay in Australia for so long, it’s just that it’s such a wonderful place filled with theatre, film and television, and I have great friends there, so one thing led to the next and now I’ve spent a great deal of my life there. I am a dual citizen of Australia and the USA. I have two passports and I feel absolutely 50/50 American and Australian. When I come home to visit the USA every two years I feel wonderfully at home. When I return to Australia, I feel wonderfully at home there too. In the USA people think I sound Australian. In Australia they think I sound American.

Q.“LyreBird” premiered in Australia in 1998, where it became popular, and was later produced in England, winning several awards. Did it appear in other countries? Where?

As well as Australia, I’ve performed LyreBird in London, around the United Kingdom, twice to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, and also in New Zealand.

Q.Because your native land is the U.S., why did it take more than a decade before your play premiered here? Did you try to get it produced earlier and/or elsewhere in the U.S. or Canada?

No, I’ve never tried to get it produced here before. The show has a life in Australia, and one in the UK – due to its subject matter. But then my brother asked me to bring it to Sacramento and I said Why Not – I love an adventure, and during my performances in Scotland and at the Sydney Opera House there were audience members from America who said American audiences would love it. So…. we’ve taken the plunge and flown it over here.

Q.As director what contribution does Adam Cook make? Usually one-man shows don’t have directors. (Of course, yours is much more complex than the usual.) And since you’re both playwright and actor, why do you need a director?

Adam Cook, one of Australia’s most gifted directors, gives me the freedom to run wild on stage, but will pull me in when I’ve gone too far. He’ll encourage me to go farther when I’m holding back, and his sense of humor matches mine and he becomes somewhat of a muse during rehearsals. Adam, like the other members of my creative team, is integral to LyreBird. He’s been a part of my vision from the start.

Q.Besides the obvious, what inspired the title? Is there a sly allusion to Stravinsky’s “Firebird”? Incidentally, as a gay man was Helpmann spreading his plumage as a mating call?

Read into it what you will – that’s the fun. My play’s an expression, a lampoon and a tribute. Many things inspired the title. Helpmann’s first true Australian ballet was based on the mating ritual of the Australian lyrebird – a work he dedicated to his great friend Katharine Hepburn, who wanted to see one when she accompanied Helpmann to Australia. And a lyrebird is showy – like Helpmann. It pretends to sound like objects around it. It mimics. As Helpmann said, and as I do: “One can always create an illusion with people who don’t know you.”

Q.And the big question: Aside from his fame, quirkiness and professional stature, what was Helpmann’s special appeal to you? Are you thinking of doing similar one-man shows based on other celebrities? And did anyone else contribute to the script? What do you like and dislike about Helpmann?

Helpmann is an intriguing individual in so many ways. Firstly, his mask is incredible. I enjoy painting his face onto my own with gay abandon and a pile of make up, and using his very theatrical persona to tell not only his story, but my own: his and my feelings about theatre and fantasy and storytelling. He’s comic too, his physicality. At this stage I haven’t any plans to create another one man show. I wouldn’t call the experience lonely, but I would say it’s certainly a solitary experience up there. I enjoy being on stage with other actors most. As they say, “There’s nothing more boring than a cast party for a one man show.”. Well, I do love very much doing LyreBird – but I also can’t wait to write something that will have a few more actors in it besides myself.

Q.You have an extensive resume as a writer and director, with some activities here in the United States. What do you like to do best (e.g., act, write, direct) and in which media?

I’m a character actor, a type of comic and clown – rolled into one. I love writing, but when I do I always know in the back of my mind I’m writing for the stage. Having said this, I also love the naturalism of film acting.

Q.What are your future plans and ambitions?

I look forward to spending more time with my son and wife in Australia. Maybe I’ll finish some plays and a movie that I’ve been writing. I look forward to the possibility of performing LyreBird in front of more American audiences, and if that should not happen, well then my brother Mitch and my Sacramento LyreBird experience will have been an amazing journey regardless.

Q.Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Yes. My heart goes out to all the people who have been affected by the terrible bushfires currently raging in Australia.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

News from Thistle Dew

“Ba-Bang!" or "01/20/09: the end of an ERROR!” by Thomas M. Kelly.

A comedic look at a caricaturized "Dubya" with all his "Dubyaisms." God has answered Dubya's prayers by sending down some of the most brilliant voices in history to help Dubya create his legacy. In the first debate, George "Dubya" Bush played the smirking frat-boy. In the second, the unleashed whiner. In the third he was the smiling villain. “…O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!” (Hamlet Act I, Scene Five).

Performances: Friday, 12th (7pm), and Saturday, 13st (7pm) closes.



Sounds like a play, doesn’t it? The unique Thistle Dew Theatre’s Playwright’s Workshop, one of a few in the Western United States…and you can be a part of it! The Playwright’s Workshop meets every Monday at 7:00pm at The Thistle Dew Theatre, 1901 P Street. Readers, writers, theatre critics, directors, producers, actors, and theatre aficionados are invited and welcomed. If you have some Monday evenings free and would like to take part in the very rewarding process of bringing new plays and musicals to the Thistle Dew Theatre, and to the world, please attend any Monday evening. There is no charge to participate in the workshop. Thank you, from Tom, Ellie and the creative members of The Thistle Dew Playwright's Workshop.

For more information please call Tom Kelly at 444-8209 OR email

The Workshop members and the owners of The Thistle Dew, Tom and Ellie, are dedicated to supporting original works by local playwrights and offer the opportunity for new works to be performed on the Thistle Dew stage.

That's all, folks! See you Monday--

Julie, Ellie and Tom

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Historic LyreBird in Sacramento

LyreBird: Tales of Helpman has a history as remarkable as its story. A one-man show, written and performed by Tyler Coppin, it recounts the life story of the late Sir Robert Helpmann, a famed Australian choreographer and actor. Flamboyantly gay when homosexuality was anathema, he "put the ham into Hamlet" but is mainly remembered in the U.S. for a role in Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang.

The slight and modest Coppin is almost the exact opposite in personality but recreates a compellingly real alter ego on stage. Yet his story, and the story of his play, is equally curious. A Sacramento native he went to Australia at 19, where he studied drama at a prestigious school, then stayed on to make his home there. LyreBird, his masterpiece, has been a sensation in Australia, England, New Zealand and Scotland.

Now, 30 years later, it finally makes its U.S. premiere in his birthplace, earning standing ovations in a packed theater. What's more, the location is far from the downtown theater district. It takes place in a small but charming community center in a residential area south of Highway 50.

LyreBird continues through February 22 at 2729 24th Street in Curtis Park. Performances are Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets, $20 and $24, are available at, or Website is

For a review in Village Life of El Dorado Hills, click the title of this post. Sign in or sign up, then go to A18 and A19.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Treasure of the Sierra Madre comes to California Stage

Mitch Arguss and Derek Byrne

Sixty years after John Huston directed the classic film version of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, California Stage presents the story on Stage. Actor/writer Herb Robins adapted the novel keeping in the oft-quoted line: "Badges? We don't have to show you no stinking badges!"

At the center of this intense drama is Fred C. Dobbs, a down-on-his-luck American with a lust for gold, who hooks up with some prospectors to find the Mexican Mother Lode. Guided by greed and mistrust, Dobbs and company learn the hard way that the Sierra Madre is not going to give up her treasure without a fight.

When California Stage Company presents the play, Mich Agruss, local TV host for 30 years, will play Howard, the old prospector. "I met Walter Huston when I was a young actor in New York," Arguss said, "I never expected to play any of the great roles he created." Rounding out a cast of local veteran actors is Equity actor Tom Maguire to play Fred C. Dobbs. Dobbs starts out with two other prospectors on a hopeful search for gold and gradually sinks to a kind of depravity beneath the forces of greed. Fred Goraieb plays the Bandido, Gold Hat, while Diana Mandujano plays the mayor's daughter, "Melinda."

Director Mike Yazzolino believes that Robins' adaptation reaches beyond the 1948 film. "While this play is a story about three miners, it also echoes the looting of the oil-rich Mexican lands in the early 20th century and the violent misuse of Mexican native populations."

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a California Stage Company production. It plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. February 21 to March 22. Tickets: $20 general; $15 students, seniors, and SARTA-League members; (Note: professional organizations may apply as a group, and tickets do not have to be for the same performance.) For reservations or information about group prices, contact California Stage at 916-451-5822 or go to . The play will be held at California Stage Theater, 2509 R Street in Midtown Sacramento. Seating is limited.

California Stage Company is a partner of Duende Drama and Literature, a California non-profit organization with offices in Columbia and Sacramento, California:
PO Box 189056, Sacramento, California 95818
PO Box 1848, Columbia, California, 95310

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Funny Thing May Happen on the way to Auditions

Following is information on Stage Nine Theatre's upcoming audition for "A Funny Things Happened On The Way To The Forum."

music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.

where: Stage Nine Theatre
audition dates: Tuesday, February 17, 2009, 7:00 p.m.
callback dates: Wednesday, February 18, 2009, 7:00 p.m.
dates show rehearses: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday & Thursday, February 22 to April 16, 7 to 10 p.m.
dates show plays: April 17 - May 24, 2009, Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 4 p.m.
theatre address: 705 Sutter Street, Historic Folsom, CA(916) 353-1001 website
director: Susan Mason
plot summary: In a desperate attempt to win his freedom, the slave, Pseudolus, attempts to help his young master, Hero, earn the love of a courtesan, Philia. Meanwhile, Pseudolus has to outsmart Hero's parents, the slave-master, Lycus, and the large man that has already paid for Philia, Miles Gloriosus. This Broadway farce is light, fast-paced, witty, irreverent and one of the funniest musicals ever written.
what to bring: Headshot and resume, is desired. Please bring something to sing. Your song should be from a musical and may be from FORUM. If not from FORUM, please bring sheet music or a CD if you would like accompaniment. You will also be asked to do readings from the script.
parts available: 8 to 9 women, ages mature teens - 50s, including a set of twins or look alikes. Six of the women's roles are dancers.7 to 10 men, ages mature teens - 60+.Women will be considered for the Proteans.
paid position: no
Allen Schmeltz Productions & Stage Nine Theatre
717 Sutter Street
Historic Folsom
(916) 353-1001
Stage Nine Website
Allen Schmeltz Productions Website

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Snow White, the musical, at Stage Nine

Snow White and the Seven (count 'em) Dwarfs. Photo by Allen Schmeltz Productions

With book, lyrics and music by Carol Weiss, Stage Nine brings a fresh and lively version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to Folsom. While primarily entertainment for children, the show is a delight for all ages.

It may come as a shock to some, but Walt Disney didn’t invent the story for his classic film version of 1937. What’s more, in the ancient European yarn none of the dwarfs was named Happy, Sleepy, Dopey, etc. A Germanic version, from the collection by the Brothers Grimm, calls the heroine Schneewittchen. At least that’s how the name is written in Low German. The Grimm guys didn’t even bother to name the dwarfs (or is it “dwarves?”)

In fact the only Disney influence appears to be in the costume, hairstyle and make-up of Shannon Wagner, who portrays a winsome Snow White in the current version, directed by Stage Nine artistic associate Allen Schmeltz. Overall the show is charming, tuneful, clever and very funny. Packed with 15 original songs it loosely follows the traditional yarn with frequent winks at the audience.

We start off with a fresh new twist, a rivalry between two sisters, Witch Wicked (Jessie Stein) and the Queen (Bri Lynaugh). The witch casts spells although her powers are running out of gas and the Queen, though beautiful, is…well…not nice. The Queen receives a mysterious gift, a magic mirror (Nicole Schedler) who informs her that she’s Number Two among regional beauties. Snow White, the princess, is the title holder.

Of course the Queen has to keep up appearances, so she orders a good-natured Sir Pompous (Tyler Robinson) to do a Jimmy Hoffa with Snow White. One thing follows another and the princess winds up unconscious among the seven dwarfs and….well, there’s a nubile prince (Chris Celestin) on the prowl.

I guess it’s okay to say that after much storm and stress everything works out satisfactorily, with support from three ladies in waiting, two additional lords and some help from volunteers in the audience. We also get 17 original songs, including a forest ballet, and one of the dwarfs, Woeful (Miriam Mars) plays the fiddle.

And of course there’s a moral, prefigured in one of the songs, “Every Deed You Do”: "You’re the mirror of everything you do."

Backing up the production are Musical Director Susan Mason, Choreographer and Accompanist Connie Mockenhaupt, Scene Designer Mike Jimena, and Costume Designer Eileen Beaver, who deserves a bouquet for outfitting a living mirror. Mark Ferreira supplies some recorded piano.

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” runs through March 15 at The Stage Nine Theatre, 717 Sutter Street in Historic Folsom. Performances are on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m., lasting 90 minutes with a 10-minute intermission. Tickets are $12-15, with group discounts available. A special performance will be held on Saturday, Feb. 21, with a reception and a Disney artist available. Call (916) 353-1001 for tickets and reservations. See also

"Gem" launches 10-play cycle at STC

“Gem of the Ocean,” set in 1904, describes city life for African-Americans in the North as they try to adapt to freedom from slavery. The older characters vividly remember slavery. The oldest, Aunt Ester Tyler, played by Lisa Lacy, claims to be 285 years old, thus mixing reality with fantasy. She welcomes into her Hill District home Solly Two Kings (Donald Lacy) and Citizen Barlow (Hosea L. Simons).

Others in the household are Ester’s housekeeper, “Black” Mary Wilkes (C. Kelly Wright) and Ester’s student of soul cleansing, plus Eli (James Wheatley), Ester’s caretaker and Solly’s former comrade in arms when they served in the Union Army.

Rounding out the cast are two non-residents. Rutherford Selig (Matt K. Miller), the only white character, sells pots and pans. Caesar Wilkes (Hansford Prince), “Black” Mary’s brother, is a heartless policeman who harasses his own people.

“Gem” is the first of August Wilson’s ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle, “chronicling the African-American experience through each decade of the 1900’s.” In a bold experiment the Sacramento Theatre Company has dedicated itself to bringing the entire series to its stage in chronological order. After a slow first act, “Gem” comes to life, including mythical scenes about the days of slave ships plus violence between Caesar and Solly, who is suspected of burning down the local mill.

You can find a detailed review in today’s Village Life (, serving El Dorado Hills. For more information about the Sacramento Theatre Company, click the title of this post.

A Paradox of Life and Death in “Wit”

“Wit,” Margaret Edson’s startling and disturbing play, now at Sacramento’s B Street Theatre, rings with authenticity and won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Those who’ve studied English literature at a demanding university will recognize the shock treatment of penetrating thought and fussy precision, to the point of pedantry, generated by its professors. And those who’ve worked in a hospital will recognize the dedication of its doctors.

Edson, who teaches kindergarten as her main profession, has enjoyed wide experience in both pursuits, and the connection she sees between them is rooted in their uncompromising pursuit of truth.

The central character, Vivian Bearing (Julia Brothers), a professor of 17th century literature, is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her passion is the metaphysical poetry of John Donne, the preeminent example of “wit,” as the term was understood in his time. Based on the “metaphysical conceit” it ripped truth out of paradox, unity out of contradiction. A key line in the play comes from Donne: “And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die.” It also marks Vivian’s spiritual progress as she draws nearer and nearer to her own death.

A compassionate and elderly Dr. Harvey Kelekian (David Silberman) is in charge of her case and appoints a young physician, Jason Posner (Jason Kuykendall) to monitor her progress. By coincidence Jason turns out to be a former student from one of her classes. But his obsession turns out to be cancer and research into its cure. Cancer cells, he explains, never die; they have to be killed. And they represent “immortality in culture.”

Thus Vivian and Jason discover a kindred spirit, a devotion to research as they look for a way to transcend death itself. But their counterpoint is Susie Monahan (Katie Rubin), a kindly nurse who convinces Vivian that, in Vivian’s words, “now is the time for simplicity. Now is the time for, dare I say it, kindness.”

As the end approaches Vivian receives a visit from her own former teacher, E.M. Ashford (Catherine MacNeal), and rejects more readings from Donne. Instead she listens to a tale Ashford reads her from a children’s book.

Brothers, returning to B Street after a long absence, delivers a rich and complex performance, ably supported by a strong cast. As part of the B3 series “Wit” offers a rich and challenging experience aimed at adults. Directed by Greg Alexander it’s performed on a spare set designed by Ron Madonia. Adding to the artistry are quick scene changes through use of moveable privacy panels, like those used in hospitals.

“Wit” runs through February 28 at 2711 B Street, behind the Stanford Park Baseball Field. Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday, at 1 p.m. on February 29. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Thursday, February 12 and 19. Tickets are $22-$30, with student and senior discounts. Call (916) 443-5300.

For more about B Street, click the title of this post.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Garbeau's needs support urgently

Below is a letter with a familiar theme we just received from Garbeau's. The theater's plight is an echo of the pounding our theaters and our theater community has been taking from the current recession. If you have any ideas or information that could help Garbeau's and other theater groups with similar stories, please click "comments" at the bottom of this post!

To Our Patrons and Friends

It is with a combination of sadness and optimism that we are writing to you. As of today, we are launching a campaign to keep Garbeau’s from closing. We did not anticipate being in this position, but a conversation this past Wednesday with our landlord went far differently than we had ever expected. To explain, I will write chronologically from the start. We bought Garbeau’s in June of 2007.

For nine months, we were enjoying wonderfully sized audiences and healthy revenues. In March of 2008, gas prices broke $3.50 for the first time and—practically overnight—our attendance dropped in half. Apart from getting fewer calls, the huge and sudden energy cost spike that happened last spring resulted in a record number of cancellations from people who had existing reservations. We literally received many calls from guests who said they were looking forward to coming, but the murky outlook (that we months later found out was a full-scale recession) prompted people to cancel their reservations due to uncertainty of what might be in store. Changes were made to meet the lower attendance—our operating costs were smartly diminished to “skeleton crew” proportions without sacrificing our effort to provide quality customer service.

The decreased revenue set us on a path in which we were able to cover most of our costs, with the primary shortfall being rent. We tried to negotiate with our landlord for a temporary rent reduction considering the economy. Our effort was to have a rent based on a percentage of our sale until the economy recovered; upon having stronger numbers, we would happily return to the regular rent cost.We thought the negotiation would end favorably. If so, we would be like other companies who were struggling in this market, but who would manage to survive. This past Wednesday, our landlord flatly refused any negotiation whatsoever. His demands were that we come completely current (we have not been capable of paying full rent) AND supply financial proof that we are well capitalized enough to manage full rent going forward. He stated that if we did not satisfy his demands, he would terminate our lease, an act that would force us to close Garbeau’s forever.

To meet his demands, we are launching an effort to raise one hundred thousand dollars. On one hand, that number is depressing and we face the reality that not raising enough will leave us with no choice but to close. On the other hand, we are optimistic that this goal can indeed be met. For perspective, if the number of people who saw our production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (which ran for only seven weeks—20 performances total) bought a $26 gift card, we would overshoot our goal by over a thousand dollars. It is due to that context that we are hopeful.

What do we need? We are asking for help from everyone who wants to see Garbeau’s stay in business. Here’s how:

1)Purchase a season ticket—without any risk of being left empty handed! We are so grateful to the other theatre companies who are supporting our effort. Because of their backing, your season pass will be worth its price whether we make our goal or not. If we do not meet our goal, our season passes will be honored for either free, 2-for-1, or otherwise notably discounted admission at California Musical Theatre Company, B Street Theatre Company, Stage Nine in Folsom, and five other companies who have pledged to back us but who need final approval from their boards before being named. There is no risk in supporting us this way.

2)Purchase a gift card--$5, $20, $500, anything! Realistically, you know if Garbeau’s is forced to close, your gift card will not have value. If we make our goal, you obviously get to redeem 100% of its value. However, I point out again that $26 per attendee of just one of our past productions exceeds our goal. Can you risk losing $10 or $20 to keep Garbeau’s open? It will add up—but only if you make that purchase.

3)Tell every single person you know. Post it on your blogs, Facebook, MySpace—everywhere. Yes, it’s embarrassing to be facing a forced closure. But in talking to a few friends and mentors in the community, they all said that people won’t know to help us unless they know what’s happening.

4)Email a note to your favorite radio, television, or newspaper editors. Tell them to cover this story. We have already received a mention from KFBK’s Kitty O’Neal and an interview recorded this morning (February 2nd) will be aired on Channel 10 at 5pm this evening. Fox 40 is covering us at 10pm. Good Day Sacramento is covering us next Wednesday. The more press we get, the better our chances are to meet (and even exceed) our goal.

5)Do it now. If hundreds of people are on the fence about making a purchase—waiting to hear how we’re progressing or thinking someone else will step in instead, then we will be closed by the end of March. We are a couple of weeks from some very unexpected hard and fast deadlines from our landlord to stay open. If you have any motivation to support Garbeau’s, it has to happen now.

6)If the phone is busy, keep trying. Leave a voicemail if we’re tied up on the other line. If no one answers, it doesn’t mean we’re not there. If you get a busy signal, it doesn’t mean we’ve reached our goal already. We will also reply to emails.

7)If you like Frank Sinatra, make reservations for this final weekend of “My Way.” If you don’t like Sinatra, consider our comedy night or karaoke night!

8)Because of credit card fees, purchasing with cash or check is helpful. However, we are grateful regardless of how you end up paying.

9) You would help us by your knowing that we love Garbeau’s, we love what we do, and we love you, the people who have been with us—you who have sent emails saying how moved you were by a scene in “The All Night Strut,” or how much you laughed during “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!” or which character your grandchild liked best in “Alice in Wonderland.” I should also mention the sheer number of you who wrote your support to me in my simple effort to lose weight (27 lbs so far…). Your support, and the support we have already felt from the entire community, is overwhelming. We are truly touched and look forward to making it through this very difficult time.

Keep Smiling! Please note that our goal has always been, and still remains, giving our guests an evening of fun. This effort is getting media coverage and we will be letting you know what’s happening through our newsletter. However, if you walk through our doors, you are coming for dinner and entertainment—not an intensive care unit or telethon. If you approach us and specifically want to talk about this, we will. But otherwise, you will see us with genuine smiles as we do what we love to do—taking your cares away for the evening. Sincerely, we are optimistic that this goal can be met. Thank you for any effort you can make on our behalf. And please be aware that any help you provide may put you at risk for a hug the next time we see you!

All our best,
Mark, Andrea, and the Entire Garbeau’s Family

For more information about Garbeau's, click the title to this post.