Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Theatre Offers Hope

Charlene Baldridge
Photo by Ken Howard
Playwrights Project Showcases New Works

A trip to the Old Globe’s White Theatre Saturday night brought assurance that the future of theatre is in good hands. The Playwrights Project, founded 32 years ago by Deborah Salzer, presented Plays by Young Writers, a festival of winning scripts from the 2016 California Young Playwrights Contest. The winners were selected from a total of 385 plays submitted by students ages 11-18 from across the state. The Festival took place January 19-29 at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at the Old Globe.

On the evening I was able to attend, the full productions were Supermarket of Lost by 16-year-old Cassandra Hsiao of Walnut and Hackathon by 16-year-old Eliana Dunn of Pacifica. The program included a staged reading of Turtle on a Rock, written by 12-year-old Absinthe McDonald of San Diego. The fully produced plays were directed by George Yé and the reading of Turtle on a Rock was directed by Erika Beth Philips. Actors were Roberto Castillo, Brandon Kelley, Gabriella Korte, Dylan Nalbandian, Kelly Nichole, Michelle Trester, and Olivia Wiese.
Roberto Castillo, Olivie Wiese and Gabrielle Korte
in Supermarket of Lost
Photos by John Howard

The works surprised me with their imaginative concepts, the maturity of the writing and language usage, and the establishment of character in so short a time (the entire evening lasted two hours and was followed by audience discussion with the actors, Ms. McDonald, Festival Artistic Director Ruff Yeager and Executive Producer Cecilia Kouma).
Gabrielle Korte in Supermarket of Lost
Because of its imaginative premise and fascinating unfolding, my favorite piece was Hsiao’s Supermarket of Lost. The playwright is a senior at Orange County School of the Arts and has already been recognized for her work nationally.

Winning plays and playwrights in the program not seen are The Dumping Ground by 17-year-old Matthew Maceda of Rancho Penasquitos; Pros and Cons by 16-year-old Katie Taylor of Woodlake; and A Play on Words, written by a team of San Diegans, 14-year-old Samantha Rafter and 13-year-old Minh-Son Tran.

For more information about the Playwrights Project and the opportunities it affords, visit www.playwrightsproject.org

Altar Boyz hit Coronado

Media materials call it “irreverent.” Some might find it blasphemous and sexually explicit, but that’s the point. These Altar Boyz, in the popular, long-running, off-Broadway musical (book by Kevin Del Aguila, music and lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, conceived by Marc Kessler and Ken Davenport) are a bit beyond boyhood.

It’s a case where one is tempted to write about the capacity audience Sunday at Coronado Playhouse and their reactions to what they saw and heard as they experienced Altar Boyz, munched on their chips and drank beverages alcoholic or not. The atmosphere is casual, and many patrons seemed to know one another. After all, this has been going on for 71 years. The cabaret-table seating for 4 affords ample opportunity for friendly interaction, and it’s self service, so if you go, go early enough to provision yourself and your friends. Coronado Playhouse calls itself “the Community's Theatre,” and indeed it is a member of ACT, construed to be Association of Community Theatres, which include, Lamplighters, Onstage Playhouse, Pow PAC, and others. Because of my limited time, these theatres are seldom on my list; however, I am a fan of choreographer Michael Mizerany, who staged Altar Boyz, and I promised to attend.
The Altar Boyz: Peter Amado, Cody Ingram, SeeJay Lewis,
Dennis Peters and Patrick Mayuyu
Photos courtesy of Coronado Playhouse

Patrick Mayuyu as Juan

There’s not much to the book, just a few lines holding together these five lads who sing about God and Jesus (“Jesus dialed me on my cellphone, telling me to spread the gospel”), dance for 90 minutes and apparently have been doing so for quite some time, having girded up their loins in leather. They are Matthew (Cody Ingram), Mark (SeeJay Lewis), Luke (Peter Amado), Juan (Patrick Mayuyu) and Abraham (Dennis Peters). 

Da Boyz are out to save souls on their tour entitled Raise the Praise, the backsliders among us identified by a machine that measures the numbers of sinners in the room. And the running gag is the number at any given time.

The best thing about the production is that thanks to director Mizerany each “boy” manages to establish a consistent personality, body language and thus fosters the achievement of a tight ensemble. All are good singers with a reverence for delivering the words. They are also good dancers. In support of them we find an excellent band comprising music director/conductor/keyboard Sean La Perruque, keyboard II Michelle Gray, electric guitar Nikko Nobleza and drummer Raynald Marte. The take away songs include “Rhythm in Me” and the heartfelt “Believe.”

Altar Boyz, which is played without interval, continues at 8pm Thursdays-Saturdays and 2pm Sundays through February 19 at Coronado Playhouse, 1835 Strand Way, Coronado. www.coronadoplayhouse.com or (619) 435-4856.

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