Pear opens ‘This Street’ for streaming

Town Crier Report

Pear Theatre’s final show of its 2019-2020 season opened last weekend in an online format and is slated to be available for streaming for three more weeks.

“This Street and the Next,” a recorded play written by members of the Pear Playwrights Guild, replaces the originally programmed “Side by Side” by Stephen Sondheim. “Street” is set to be streamed to patrons beginning Friday, with the collection of short videos being viewable at any time and in any order.

“It has become obvious that a digital production of ‘Side by Side’ by Sondheim is not possible for us,” artistic director Sinjin Jones said. “Although we previously secured the rights to a stage production, the rights to stream ‘Side by Side’ are simply not available at this time. While we hope to be able to present this show in the future, for now we have to shift gears.”

Jones added that, “In connecting with patrons and looking at feedback from the digital incarnation of ‘Pear Slices 2020,’ we decided to use this gap in programming as an opportunity to double down on some of the things that make Pear Theatre unique.Our Pear Playwrights Guild, our commitment to developing new work, and our commitment to community are all things that we want to emphasize during this time.”

“Street” uses overlapping narratives to explore the strength of the human spirit in the most difficult of times. The stories were devised through exercises and conversations among the writers, local artists and musicians.
View from ‘The Street’

In one, audiences see a couple whose wedding plans changed due to the pandemic; in another, a man living by himself examines the difference between alone and lonely while under shelter-in-place. In a third narrative, two men navigate online dating; in a fourth, a married couple – the husband an essential worker and the wife just beginning a cooking show video blog – explores the demands and meaning of work. Audiences can see these individuals throughout their time in shelter-in-place, a wandering minstrel helping to connect their stories.

While four stories make up the “Street” section, another six or so – more monologue in nature – connect to the “Next” part of the title. Pear Theatre has involved two local musicians, Derek Bernard and Drew Weber, to develop music specific to this show. Over the course of production, Pear will be asking patrons to fill out surveys to help guide certain aspects of the production, incorporating audience feedback into the final product.

In addition to providing tickets for viewing the videos, “Street” also will offer a virtual backstage pass, allowing access to the videos, interviews and behind-the-scenes looks.

Based on feedback from backstage pass users for “Pear Slices 2020,” Pear will add more context, simplify the release schedule and allow for more special access. Pear also plans to host at least five live digital events in connection with the production – including two talkbacks – to provide more opportunities for patrons to connect with one another and with the artists involved.

Subscribers and patrons who already have tickets for “Side by Side” will automatically receive access to the new production. Others may purchase a $15 ticket to the “Street” collection of videos or a $30 ticket that also includes a backstage pass and live, interactive digital events.

For tickets and more information, call 254-1148 or visit thepear.org/this-street-and-the-next.

TheatreWorks launches Musical Making Workshop Monday

Town Crier Report

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s Musical Making Workshop for Bay Area high school students is set to begin next week.

Students will learn songwriting and storytelling skills from professional theater artists three times a week in two-hour sessions over Zoom, Monday through Aug. 14.

Led by TheatreWorks teaching artist and playwright Joanna Glum, the program will cover the basics of theatrical songwriting and storytelling. The workshop also features guest instruction by award-winning composer and librettist Min Kahng and TheatreWorks resident musical director William Liberatore. Students will work with the professional theater-makers and have the opportunity to compose and craft their own music-driven scenes, all inspired by the theme of “2020.”

Glum is a film and theater-maker, director, writer, teacher and actor. Her works have been developed at the Philadelphia and Edinburgh Fringe festivals. She was a finalist for the 2018 American Zoetrope Screenplay Competition and semifinalist for the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. Glum’s experience includes film editing and production, having worked on feature films such as “Bumblebee” and “Lady Bird,” and having created original documentary theater pieces. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in playwriting from the University of Edinburgh.

Kahng is an award-winning Bay Area playwright and composer. His musical “The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga” premiered at TheatreWorks in 2017. The production won seven San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle awards. Kahng also has won a Theatre Bay Area Titan Award for Playwrights and is a resident playwright with Playwrights Founda-
tion.

Liberatore is TheatreWorks’ resident musical director and has worked as a choir director at Gunn High School for more than 30 years. Liberatore has conducted more than 40 shows, including the world premieres of “Pride and Prejudice,” “The Prince of Egypt” and “The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga,” as well as TheatreWorks productions of “Tuck Everlasting,” “Sweeney Todd” and others. He has been a frequent recipient of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Best Musical Direction.

To register for the workshop and for more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit theatreworks.org/education.

LA Stage Co. takes summer classes online

By Christina Cheng
Town Crier Editorial Intern

A global pandemic hasn’t stopped Los Altos Stage Company from offering a slew of brand-new, virtual online summer programs.

The local theater company is hosting 24 virtual classes on Zoom, created specifically with an interactive online format, for participants ranging in age from 4 to 22 through July 31.

This year’s summer camp program is “very” different from previous years, LASC education director Jillian Cummings said. In previous years, the company hosted seven weeks of camps at Hillview Community Center. Initially, LASC hoped it would be allowed to continue its normal program, because “teaching acting and dance online is tricky, (as) being able to make physical contact with the student is helpful,” according to Cummings.

However, at the onset of the pandemic, LASC began offering its spring classes on Zoom “as a way to keep the students’ creativity flowing and also trying to find a way to employ so many teaching artists who were abruptly out of work,” Cummings said.

“We had ups and downs learning to work with the system, but have come a very long way and have a good handle on it now,” she said.

With experience hosting online classes heading into the summer, Cummings and LASC are focused on crafting interactive and engaging programs.

“As a mother of two almost-8-year-old children, I understand how isolating learning from a screen can be. I have watched my children walk away from the classroom screens and think no one would notice or care,” Cummings said. “So we researched many different ways of including students and have learned what worked and didn’t from past classes. We are stressing the interactive part of teaching and are having training meetings on how to make sure you include and engage every student.”

As a result, the virtual summer classes have shifted in focus from performance-oriented programs to ones focused on technique for older students, and creativity and physical engagement for younger students, according to Cummings. In addition, an online format has enabled LASC to invite instructors from outside the Bay Area to teach, such as casting agents and Juilliard-trained performers.

“It was a complete rehaul, but I am so excited to offer the camps we have,” she said. “It is of the utmost importance to me that the students get the one-on-one attention they all deserve. We are not about the numbers, but about the quality – and although we keep our cost down so everyone can afford the camp, we want the students to get the learning experience they deserve.”

Camp offerings

For children ages 4-6, there’s the Broadway Babies Camps. Each one-week camp runs 9-10:30 a.m. and themes change weekly. Offerings include the Out of This World Outer Space Camp (Monday to July 3) and the Magical Dreams Unicorn Camp (July 20-24). According to Cummings, participants spend the first hour learning songs and a dance, as well as playing theater games that “work well without people around,” followed by 30 minutes of crafts with the help of parents. Each camp costs $95.

For older children (ages 7-12), the Rising Stars Camps focus on a musical franchise – like Troll’s Camp, for example, slated 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. July 6-10. Those who attend the weeklong camps spend each day learning a song and dance from the musical along with time to make crafts, according to the LASC website. Each camp costs $145.

In addition, LASC is slated to host various multiday classes for participants of different ages, including a theater makeup class, private vocal coaching sessions, a Broadway scene study class, a puppetry class and an audition preparation workshop, among others. Costs range from $35 to $150.

For registration and more information, visit losaltosstage.org/virtual-summer-camps.

Smuin streams ‘Indigo’ this week

Indigo
Chris Hardy/Special to the Town Crier
Smuin Contemporary Ballet performs Stanton Welch’s “Indigo,” streaming free today through Friday as part of Smuin’s Hump Day Ballets series.

Town Crier Report

Stanton Welch’s “Indigo” is the next installment in Smuin Contemporary Ballet’s Hump Day Ballets series, performances from the company’s archives available for free streaming for 48 hours each week.

Set to Antonio Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto in B minor and Cello Concerto in G minor, “Indigo” examines the vagaries of romantic relationships as four couples come together, fall in love, fight and exchange partners.

Offered today through Friday, it will be accompanied by a video introduction from former Smuin dancer Erica Chipp-Adams, who danced in the West Coast premiere of the piece in fall 2016.

Streaming instructions are available through Smuin’s email list (sign up at smuinballet.org) or via Smuin’s Facebook (facebook.com/SmuinBallet) and Instagram (instagram.com/smuinballet).

For more information, visit smuinballet.org

Broken Box takes ‘Check Please’ online

Broken Box
Courtesy of Nancy Morgan
Members of Los Altos High School’s Broken Box Theatre Company gather downtown prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

By Nikki Suzani
Town Crier Editorial Intern

For drama teacher Nancy Moran’s Acting II class at Los Altos High School, COVID-19 probably could not have come at a worse time. Moran had just assigned her students roles in “Check Please,” the final Broken Box Theatre Company production of the school year.

With more than a dozen seniors in her class, Moran knew how devastated they would be if the show were canceled. So she decided to stage it online.

“It was a natural progression for me because these students, many of them have been with me for two, three or four years, so their culminating work is always the production,” Moran said. “I had 13 seniors this year, who would be losing that final show if we didn’t do it in some manner. As we kept getting the updates saying that we’re not coming back (to school), I just quickly shifted gears.”

“Check Please” turned out to be an almost perfect production for an online format, according to Moran. The play, which follows main characters simply named Guy and Girl as they go through a mess of blind dates, is designed to have only two to four characters in a scene. Actors were able to replicate that atmosphere using face cameras and the different views on Zoom. Further, the modern-day setting of the show meant that it was a little easier for them to figure out props and costumes at home.

“They made their own props and menus, and worked with the costume designers to find things at home that would fit,” Moran said. “Luckily, it was just all in the cards that this show worked for this format, and they really wanted to try it because they were excited about the show and it was the last hurrah for the seniors.”

With assistant costume designer Ella Freda-Eskenazi volunteering to do the editing with software she’d never used before, Adobe Premiere Pro, and working with the record function on Zoom, the class made it happen.

The process seemed simple enough. First, actors used an online spreadsheet to post availability and schedule times to work with their scene partners. They hopped on a Zoom call, recorded the video and audio, and sent the recording to Freda-Eskenazi. She used editing software to add the sound effects and music, cropped the Zoom video and merged the scenes.

However, there were a few technical issues due to Wi-Fi connections.

“A lot of the time, just because it was over Wi-Fi – to no fault of the students or the software – things would glitch once in a while or their audio would cut out so I’d have to ask them to rerecord it,” Freda-Eskenazi said. “We had a situation where one of the scenes we did a voiceover, since Serena (Gaylord, who stars as Girl) had no reason to have to act the scene out again. It actually ended up working very well.”

Gaylord said one of the biggest challenges of the production was getting accustomed to the focus on facial expressions rather than physical movements.

“On stage, you can read body language, and you can read what they’re doing with their hands and the way they’re standing,” she said. “Now, it’s been very reliant on facial expressions. It’s a fun thing to learn, but it’s difficult to really convey the essence of the scene without the in-person acting.”

To Moran, dealing with that challenge is part of the fun of staging the show virtually.

“I think there is so much to learn about developing character for close-up, camera-type action,” she said. “It’s a different type of acting, really focusing on facial expression and tone of voice and reaction rather than physical movement. It’s definitely worth trying.”

Prerecorded productions also gave the actors more room for mistakes.

“If you make a mistake, it’s easier to just start over or cut it out,” Freda-Eskenazi said. “I think that may be an advantage to film over theater, the fact that there is always more than one take.”

Still, the lack of interaction, especially off-stage, was hard for the students: friends who had grown closer and closer over the year.

“It’s really sad that we can’t all see each other because we’re just a random group of a bunch of people from different parts of campus and friend groups and grades, but we all get along so well over our shared love of acting,” Gaylord said. “They’re just all really great people.”

Ultimately, Freda-Eskenazi is proud of how far they’ve come and hopes people will view the show.

“The actors have really done amazing; they’ve brought the same enthusiasm and concentration that they would to a stage production,” she said. “I think as a whole the entire class really adjusted nicely. With the given situation, everyone handled it really well.”

For a link to view the play, visit facebook.com and search “Broken Box Theatre Company.”

Smuin streams ‘Stabat Mater’ ballet today through Friday

Town Crier Report

Michael Smuin’s “Stabat Mater” is the next installment in Smuin Contemporary Ballet’s Hump Day Ballets series, free video streaming of a ballet from the company’s archives.

A response to the events of 9/11, the ballet is set to composer Antonin Dvorak’s composition. Smuin artistic director Celia Fushille will introduce the video.

The performance will be available for 48 hours, starting today. Streaming instructions are available through Smuin’s email list (sign up at smuinballet.org) or via Smuin’s Facebook (facebook.com/SmuinBallet) and Instagram (instagram.com/smuinballet).


Schools »

Schools
Read More

Sports »

sports
Read More

People »

people
Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

photoshelter
Browse and buy photos