Playwright Danielle Mohlman Announces ‘Nexus,’ a Live Theatre Project Performed by Quarantined Couples

Nexus will run April 17 to May 17, with a different couple performing the play each night.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle-based playwright and Encore Spotlight contributor Danielle Mohlman is bridging the digital divide with a three-week run of her two-character play Nexus, with a different quarantined set of actors performing the play live from their living room each night. Nexus, which was developed at Arena Stage from 2013–2014 before premiering at Hubbard Hall in Cambridge, NY in 2015, is a modern love story that explores what transpires when two people become addicted to each other. It’s a play about two people who can’t stop seeing each other, a theme that’s become increasingly literal in the age of self-quarantine.

Tickets to Nexus are pay what you can, with ticket sales going directly to the artists involved. The play will be performed on Zoom, with a different set of performers broadcasting live from their living room each night.

Nexus features actors from across the country, representing Seattle, WA; San Diego, CA; New York, NY; Washington, DC; and Jersey City, NJ—among others. Performers include Erika Vetter and Adam Fontana, Jenna Berk and Danny Cackley, Alia Thomaier and Ricky Spaulding, Keiko Green and MJ Sieber, Corinne Magin and Andy Buffelen, Emily Huntingford and Mike Lion, Mariella Klinger and Dave Seamon, and Noelle Viñas and Kevin Vincenti, with additional performers to be announced.

About the Play

When two iPhone-armed strangers meet at a bus stop in Washington, DC, they’re entirely unprepared to spend three years falling in and out of love with each other. But, of course, that’s exactly what happens. This unexpectedly honest and refreshingly modern love story explores what transpires when two people become addicted to each other — putting them metaphorically on display at the Museum of Broken Relationships.

About the Playwright
Playwright Danielle Mohlman. PHOTO BY KATIE GULLICKSON

Danielle Mohlman is a nationally produced playwright based in Seattle, WA. Her plays have been developed or produced at Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center, the Cherry Lane Theatre, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, Rorschach Theatre, Forum Theatre, dog & pony dc, Hubbard Hall, Pinky Swear Productions, Dreamwell Theatre, and Field Trip Theatre, among others.

Her plays include Stopgap (Field Trip Theatre, DCCAH Larry Neal Award finalist); Nexus (Hubbard Hall, Dreamwell Theatre, Kilroys honorable mention, DCCAH Larry Neal Award finalist, Woodward/Newman Award finalist); Dust (Dacha Theatre, Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center semi-finalist, Finish Line Commission); Halcyon (Seattle Public Theatre, Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center semi-finalist); Rushing (The Scratch, Umbrella Project Writers Group); Voyagers (ACT Theatre, ART/New York); and Frankenstein.

Danielle is an alumna of Playwrights’ Arena at Arena Stage, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Artist Fellowship, and the Umbrella Project Writers Group. She is a proud graduate of both Cal Poly Pomona and Emerson College.

Updated May 4, 2020: Nexus was originally scheduled to close on May 3, after a successful three-week run. The production is now scheduled to run until May 17. The extension week will include performances from Claire Idstrom and Dylan Zucati, Leah Sainz-Jones and Ben Swenson-Klatt, Kathryn Metzger and Rob Hille, and Julia Holden-Hunkins and Spencer Funk.

Tickets and more information can be found at

Bringing Hanns Eisler’s Music Back to Life

Coming to Bing Concert Hall this December, Hell’s Fury examines the extraordinary life of composer Hanns Eisler. Known for his Marxist politics, Eisler was exiled in turn by three countries—and three of the most powerful ideologies of the twentieth century: Nazi Germany, McCarthyist United States, and communist East Germany.

A highly theatrical recreation of Eisler’s remarkable journey of expatriation and migration, Hell’s Fury resonates in a world of borders and ever-increasing fear of the other. The centerpiece of the production is Eisler’s ironically titled Hollywood Songbook. Written while he was composing Oscar-nominated movie scores in the early 1940s, the song cycle is a lyrical outpouring of wit, anger, and pain.

Stanford Live talked with Hell’s Fury director Tim Albery about bringing Eisler’s life and music to the stage.  

Stanford Live: How did the idea originate to bring Eisler’s music back to life?

Tim Albery: Listening to a recording of The Hollywood Songbook for the first time at the start of this century, I immediately sensed the inherent theatricality of the songs. As I learned more about Eisler’s extraordinary story, the notion of a “day in the life” of Eisler began to take shape.

I was attracted by the fact that Eisler, although a very distinguished composer, is largely unknown. If fictional, his life story would seem utterly incredible; the fact that, with all its unlikely twists and turns, it is true makes it all the more surprising and strangely exhilarating. And his coruscating self-knowledge deflects any potential sentimentality at his cruel fate.       

‘Hell’s Fury’ premiered at Luminato in Toronto over the summer. Photo by Bruce Zinger

What directorial challenges or surprises emerged as you balanced Eisler’s story with the historical context and its contemporary echoes, as well as language and art?

As the narrative began to evolve, the happiest surprise was finding that many of the songs, though all written in Hollywood in the 1940s, applied equally well to Eisler’s later life in communist East Germany. It is something of a liberty to repurpose the songs in this way, but once rehearsals began, their use outside of their original context seemed entirely appropriate.

The challenge throughout was deciding how much biographical information an audience needs and how to include it. I was eager to present an emotional journey told through songs and not a history lesson, so the story of Eisler’s travels and travails between the three ideologies of Nazism, capitalism, and communism is revealed as allusively as possible. The singer and the pianist live out Eisler’s life within the very real world of a mid-twentieth century recording studio. The setting is constantly transformed in surprising and unsettling ways using light, video, and sound to reveal the inner landscape of the songs.

Pianist Serouj Kradjian and baritone Russell Braun. Photo courtesy of Luminato

Discovering which should be the final song of the show was crucial. “Elegy 1943” is a cry of pain at the relentless cycle of history: “From age to age we destroy our neighbors because we fear them.” With this song, Eisler immediately becomes our contemporary, as we witness once again the rise of nationalism and populism, and a determined assault on all the valiant attempts since World War II to devise global laws and institutions that would temper the worst instincts of our species.        

What do baritone Russell Braun and pianist Serouj Kradjian bring to the piece in their portrayals of Eisler’s personal or musical interiority?

Serouj is the brooding introvert of Eisler’s almost bipolar nature, and Russell the ironic, savage, and playful extrovert. The roles are sometimes merged, sometimes almost reversed. Like twins, they each have something of the other. They co-exist while apparently unaware of each other.

A Canadian who was brought up in Germany, Russell is bilingual and bicultural, great assets for discovering Eisler. He is also an entirely instinctive actor, who, in rehearsal, quietly finds his way to the truth of the moment. Serouj listens and breathes with Russell—voice and piano sound as one. And he can turn on a dime; a serious song morphs into a cocktail bar vamp, doodling an improvisation for a movie score crashes into one of Eisler’s manic Piano Sonatas.

‘Hell’s Fury’ is a one-act show running 70 minutes. Photo by Bruce Zinger

Why is it important to bring Eisler’s life and his song cycle—haunted by McCarthyism, displacement, and, even still, beauty—to a contemporary audience, most of whom did not live through the horrors and movements that defined twentieth century?

Displacement is still with us and growing daily—displacement by war, poverty, and increasingly, climate change. The response of many governments is to deliberately breed an atmosphere of fear and contempt for those who can be branded as “not one of us” on grounds of ethnicity, religion, or political views, which is the essence of McCarthyism. Can we really say that fascism or uncontrolled capitalism are merely relics of the twentieth century? And do we not hear contemporary politicians glad, once again, to call themselves socialist, a term that was a death knell for electability only a few years ago? The cycle of history does not stop. Eisler’s life story is mirrored in the lives of countless others today, and it is bracing, salutary, and moving to hear in his songs how relevant his experience remains.

This Dialogue with Director Tim Albery was originally published in Stanford Live’s November/December program. Used with the permission of Stanford Live.

Hell’s Fury, The Hollywood Songbook is Produced by Luminato, Soundstreams & Pinkhouse Productions with support from Opera North, UK. Hell’s Fury will play at Stanford Live’s Bing Concert Hall December 6–7. 

SIFF Names Andrew L. Haines as Executive Director

Yesterday SIFF announced that Andrew L. Haines will take over the role of executive director in January as Amy Fulford steps down from serving as interim executive director. Fulford served as interim since last March when former Executive Director Sarah Wilke stepped down.

Haines will come to SIFF after serving as director of marketing and communications at Seattle Rep since 2015, where he was also on the leadership team. Haines was responsible for all promotion and communication of Seattle Rep’s artistic programming and core values. He oversaw the marketing, communications, business operations and patron experience departments. Through his leadership, Seattle Rep increased subscriptions by 45 percent over three years.  

Before his role at Seattle Rep, Haines held multiple positions in sales including executive director of the National Group Sales Division, in which he was responsible for more than $32 million in annual ticket sales.

Haines showed excitement about his new role saying, “I am honored to join SIFF, one of the preeminent film organizations in North America, as the next executive director. This is an exciting time for SIFF, and I look forward to collaborating with the staff and board to advance the mission, expand audiences, and deepen engagement within the community.” 

As executive director, Haines will have the opportunity to share his experience in sales and engagement as the Seattle International Film Festival celebrates its 46th year in 2020, in addition to overseeing the year-round cinema and education programs. A fact that SIFF’s team is enthusiastic about. “I’m looking forward to working with and learning from Andrew, who brings a wealth of experience to SIFF,” said Beth Barrett, SIFF’s artistic director. “We are so pleased to have a leader who has exciting new ideas about audience engagement and enhancing our ability to deliver our mission.”

10 More Shows Added to Stanford Live’s Season

Stanford Live has added 10 more performances to their 2019-20 Season. Tickets will be available to the public on November 15, 2019. Check out all the great performers, artists and writers coming in the winter and spring of 2020.

Talisman 30th Anniversary Concert

February 8

For their 30th anniversary concert, Talisman alumni and current members from the past three decades will come together to sing and showcase the many voices that have contributed to Talisman’s growth. 

A Night in the Piano Bar with Brandon James Gwinn

February 15

A crowd favorite at NYC’s famous piano bar, Marie’s Crisis, Brandon James Gwinn  is a singer-pianist, composer-lyricist, and producer lauded as “one hell of an entertainer” by the Bistro Awards. For one night only, Gwinn is bringing his unforgettable piano bar experience to the Bing Studio.

Hanzhi Wang

February 16

Praised for her captivating stage presence and performances that are technically and musically masterful, Hanzhi Wang is the only accordionist to ever win a place on the roster of Young Concert Artists.

Sounds of Cuba: Jane Bunnett & Maqueque

Feburary 28–29

Canadian soprano-sax/flutist Jane Bunnett showcases the best young female artists from Cuba. Drummer Yissy Garcia is the heartbeat and power that propels Maqueque.

Common in Conversation

March 3

Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy and Grammy-winning artist, actor, and activist, Common continues to break down barriers with a multitude of critically acclaimed, diverse roles, and continued success at the box office.  Let Love Have the Last Word shares Common’s own unique, personal stories of the people and experiences that have led to a greater understanding of love and all it has to offer.

Colin Quinn

March 13

Colin Quinn is a stand-up comedian from Brooklyn (okay, Park Slope). From MTV’s Remote Control to SNL to Comedy Central’s Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, Mr. Quinn is not one to take a hint and bow out gracefully. 

Bobi Céspedes

March 21

Gladys “Bobi” Céspedes has been at the forefront of representing and promoting Cuban music in the Bay Area and the United States for over 40 years. On her new album, Mujer Y Cantante, Bobi Céspedes thrills us with her prowess as woman and singer. 

Alfredo Rodríguez & Pedrito Martinez

March 22

As a result of their beginnings, Rodríguez and Martinez share a natural chemistry that makes for a galvanizing musical experience when they come together. Their first duo outing, Duologue, finds the pair exploring a range of moods and influences, from Cuban classics to collaborative original compositions to a number of unexpected favorites.

Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge

April 1 at Memorial Church

April 2 at Bing Concert Hall

The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge is known and loved by millions from its broadcasts, concert tours, and over 90 recordings. Founded in the 1670s, the Choir is known for its rich, warm, and distinctive sound, its expressive interpretations and its ability to sing in a variety of styles. 

Margaret Atwood in Conversation

April 8

Acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood will make a visit to Bing Concert Hall for a discussion. Her 2019 release, The Testaments, is a finalist for the Booker Prize.

Being There: The World of Nassim Soleimanpour

Ross Manson, artistic director of Volcano, recounts how his trip to judge a theatre competition in Iran turned into a discovery of much more.

I traveled to Tehran in February 2011 to adjudicate the Fadjr International Theater Festival. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president. The Green Movement had been violently suppressed months earlier.

It was an interesting time to be in Iran. While there, I got to know a young writer named Nassim Soleimanpour. He and I went all over Tehran together, and through him, I developed a more nuanced picture of Iran than I had ever gleaned from the western press: two armies, opposing secret police forces, government censors, artists everywhere circumventing the censors. People would come up to me on the street and apologize for their government.

It was a complicated place.

On February 14—or Bahman 25 in the Persian calendar—Nassim and I witnessed a massive but strangely quiet demonstration: no signs, no slogans, just thousands of people walking calmly towards Tehran’s famous Azadi Tower. The silence was a technique to avoid police violence. What I didn’t realize was that the theater jury I was a part of was scheduled to travel directly through this demonstration. When we were told to get in the minivan, it was a shock.

The theater jury in their minivan going through an anti-government demonstration.
The theater jury in their minivan going through an anti-government demonstration. Courtesy of Ross Manson

We were about to drive through an antigovernment demonstration in Iran to go to a play! I sat in the back with my camera. Nassim had warned us about photos. If you take any, he said, do not get caught.

I got caught.

In the middle of the demonstration, the van was swarmed—young men screaming through the windows, pounding on the van for it to stop. The sliding door opened and plainclothes Revolutionary Guards reached in to drag me out.

But they couldn’t reach, and this gave Nassim time to talk. It was dusk, slipping into night. A surreal blur of electric light illuminated the minivan and the masses of men. Nassim talked to a series of increasingly higher-ranking officers, and somehow engineered my freedom through the cleverness of his words. Nassim is good with words.

A page from the script of 'NASSIM.'
A page from the script of ‘NASSIM.’ Courtesy of Studio Doug

I brought Nassim’s play, White Rabbit Red Rabbit, out of Iran. This allegorical examination of control and violence is designed to be read cold by a new actor every night. My company, Volcano, and our partners, premiered it simultaneously in Edinburgh and Toronto. Every night, I’d email notes to Nassim—trapped in Iran—and he’d email me back a new draft for the next night. It became a global hit.

Nassim is part of a generation born during the horrors of the Iran–Iraq War; a generation that has known no Iran other than the Islamic Republic. They are smart, well-informed, fearless. A theater artist, Nassim uses reality as a dramatic technique. As I learned in the minivan in Tehran, experiencing something for real is a very different experience than watching it on the news. For humans, nothing is like being there. Nassim understands this. He puts you, as audience, into a living connection with something you may not have realized about the world: the thing happening is really happening.

This feature was written by Ross Manson and was originally published in Stanford Live’s September/October program. Used with the permission of Stanford Live.

Ross Manson is the founding artistic director of Volcano in Toronto, the company producing Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha at Stanford Live in April 2020. For more information about his trip to the Fadjr festival in Iran, you can visit his blog.

NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour will be performed November 7–10 in Stanford Live’s Bing Studio. Tickets are available online.

Here’s Who Will Fill the Iconic ‘Pride & Prejudice’ Roles in TheatreWorks New Musical Adaptation

The stellar cast features many TheatreWorks Silicon Valley veterans, as well as many actors who originated the roles in the 2018 TheatreWorks New Works Festival, where this musical was first work-shopped.

Pride and Prejudice will play December 4,2019 through January 4, 2020 at TheatreWorks Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto.  

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley rings in the holidays with the new musical Pride and Prejudice, the 2019 Tony-winning company’s 70th World Premiere. Based on Jane Austen’s iconic novel, this engaging work features book, music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, whose musicals include TheatreWorks favorites Jane Austen’s Emma, Daddy Long Legs, and the Tony-nominated Broadway musical Jane Eyre. Pride and Prejudice follows delightfully liberated Lizzie Bennet and dashing, disdainful Mr. Darcy as they discover the irresistible power of love. A favorite from TheatreWorks’ 2018 New Works Festival, this brand new musical romantic comedy will be directed by TheatreWorks’ Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley.


Mary Mattison (Lizzie Bennet) Mattison has been seen onstage at the Northern Carolina Theatre and Theatre Raleigh, and in readings of Clueless, The Musical and Superhero at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. Her television credits include CBS’s Blue Bloods.

Justin Mortelliti (Mr. Darcy) Mortelliti was seen on Broadway in Escape to Margaritaville and Off-Broadway in The New Group’s Clueless, The Musical and The Columbine Project, for which he received an Artistic Director’s Achievement Award for Best Lead Actor in a Drama. His regional credits include starring in the original Las Vegas cast of Rock of Ages and performing at regional theatres including La Jolla Playhouse and The Wallis Annenberg Center. His film and TV work includes Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, CBS’s Numb3rs, AMC’s TURN: Washington’s Spies and Nickelodeon’s Victorious, in addition to performing as the musical guest for CBS’s The Queen Latifah Show.

Sharon Rietkerk (Jane) Originating the role of Jane Bennet in the 2018 TheatreWorks New Works Festival, Sharon Rietkerk returns to TheatreWorks where she won San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle (SFBATCC) Award for her performance in Triangle, a Theatre Bay Area (TBA) award for Marry Me a Little, received a SFBATCC Award nomination for her performance in The Secret Garden, and was also seen in Cyrano, Little Women and the 2015 production of Jane Austen’s Emma. Other awards include a TBA Award for Born Yesterday at Center REPertory Company. Rietkerk has also performed onstage at Old Globe Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, 42nd Street Moon and American Conservatory Theater, in concerts with the San Francisco Symphony and Chicago Cubs, and was seen in Streaming Musical’s filmed theatrical production of Emma.

Melissa WolfKlain (Mary) Originating the role of Mary Bennet in the 2018 TheatreWorks New Works Festival, Melissa WolfKlain returns to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley where she was nominated for a SFBATCC Award for her performance in the World Premiere of Tinyard Hill and was seen in TheatreWorks New Works Festival workshops of Caraboo and Asphalt Beach. Receiving a 2019 TBA Award nomination for Dames at Sea at 42nd Street Moon, she also won SFBATCC Awards for her performances in Broadway by the Bay’s Singin’ in the Rain and Crazy for You. Seen in the national tours of White Christmas and 42nd Street, WolfKlain has also performed at regional theatres including San Francisco Playhouse, Hillbarn Theatre and Arizona Repertory Theatre, and her film and TV credits include FOX TV’s America’s Most Wanted and Lifetime’s The Truth about Jane.

The Bennet sisters (Adrienne Kaori Walters, Monique Hafen Adams, Melissa Wolfklain, Hannah Corneau, and Shannon Rietkerk) meet Mr. Collins (Brian Herndon) in a reading of "Pride and Prejudice" at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's 2018 New Works Festival.
The Bennet sisters (Adrienne Kaori Walters, Monique Hafen Adams, Melissa Wolfklain, Hannah Corneau, and Shannon Rietkerk) meet Mr. Collins (Brian Herndon) in a reading of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 2018 New Works Festival. Photo by Kevin Berne

Tara Kostmayer (Lydia) Making her TheatreWorks Silicon Valley debut, Tara Kostmayer has been seen Off-Broadway in A Chorus Line at Encores! New York City Center and has performed regionally at theatres including La Jolla Playhouse.

Chanel Tilghman (Kitty) Making her TheatreWorks Silicon Valley debut, Chanel Tilghman has been seen in productions at Berkeley Playhouse and Bay Area Musicals.

Christopher Vettel (Mr. Bennet) Returning to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley where he was seen in Little Women, Christopher Vettel plays Mr. Bennet, the patriarch of the Bennet family. Seen in a national tour of Sunset Boulevard and the 30th Anniversary national tour of Annie, Vettel has performed in the German company of Really Useful Group’s production of Sunset Boulevard, the European tour of Cabaret, and Cameron Mackintosh/JAR production’s Hey, Mr. Producer!. Vettel has also performed Off-Broadway at New York Musical Festival and Westside Theatre, and his regional theatre credits include San Jose Repertory Theatre, Barrington Stage Company, 42nd Street Moon and San Jose Stage Company.

Heather Orth (Mrs. Bennet) Originating the role in the 2018 TheatreWorks New Works Festival, Heather Orth makes her TheatreWorks mainstage debut as Mrs. Bennet, the matriarch of the Bennet family. Receiving 2019 TBA Award nominations for her performances in Sweeney Todd at Hillbarn Theatre, Passion at Custom Made Theatre Company, and Sister Act at Broadway by the Bay, Orth has won TBA Awards for her performances in Sister Act at Berkeley Playhouse and The Boys from Syracuse at 42nd Street Moon. Orth has won SFBATCC Awards for her performances in Jesus Christ Superstar at Ray of Light Theatre and The Secret Garden at 42nd Street Moon, as well as for Chess and Grey Gardens at Custom Made Theatre Company. Orth has also performed at Feinstein’s at the Nikko and with Symphony Silicon Valley.

Travis Leland (Mr. Bingley) Seen as Miles Tuck in last season’s Tuck Everlasting, Travis Leland returns to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley as Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy’s charming, well-mannered friend. Leland’s other TheatreWorks credits include the 2017 production of Rags and the 2015 production of Jane Austen’s Emma. Leland has also performed at the Geffen Playhouse and the Wallis Annenberg Center.

Monique Hafen Adams (Miss Caroline Bingley) Originating the roles of Caroline Bingley and Kitty Bennet in the 2018 TheatreWorks New Works Festival, Monique Hafen Adams makes her TheatreWorks Silicon Valley mainstage debut as Miss Caroline Bingley, Mr. Bingley’s snooty sister. Also seen in TheatreWorks New Works Festival workshops of Eric Hermannson’s Soul and Past, Present, and Future, Adams’s honors include SFBATCC Awards for She Loves Me, Company, My Fair Lady, and Camelot at San Francisco Playhouse and The Liar at Center REPertory Company, as well as a TBA Award for Threepenny Opera at San Jose Stage Company. Adams has performed at theatres across the Bay Area including American Conservatory Theater, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Hillbarn Theatre and Pear Theatre.

Taylor Crousore (Mr. Wickham) Making his TheatreWorks Silicon Valley debut, Taylor Crousore plays Mr. Wickham, a handsome soldier who catches the eye of the Bennet sisters. Crousore’s Off-Broadway credits include A Musical About Star Wars, NEWSical the Musical and Forbidden Broadway. He has also performed in The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and at Carnegie Hall and trained with the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Brian Herndon, Adam Shonkwiler, Sean Allan Krill, Dani Marcus and Hannah Corneau in a reading of "Pride and Prejudice" at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's 2018 New Works Festival.
Brian Herndon, Adam Shonkwiler, Sean Allan Krill, Dani Marcus and Hannah Corneau in a reading of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 2018 New Works Festival. Photo by Kevin Berne

Dani Marcus (Charlotte Lucas) Originating the role in the 2018 TheatreWorks Festival, Dani Marcus returns to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley as Charlotte Lucas, a friend of Lizzie Bennet. Playing Harriet Smith in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 2007 World Premiere production of Jane Austen’s Emma, Marcus reprised the role in productions of the musical across the country at The Old Globe, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and in Streaming Musical’s filmed theatrical production. Marcus was seen in the national tour of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and her New York theatre credits include performances at National Yiddish Theatre and New York Musical Festival. Marcus won a SFBATCC Award for her performance in Beggar’s Holiday at Marin Theatre Company and appeared in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 2003 production of A Little Night Music. She has also performed at regional theatres including San Jose Repertory Theatre, Center REPertory Company and Broadway by the Bay. Marcus was seen in FX Network’s Lucky and her voice can be heard in Pokémon: The Dragon Master’s Path and Pokémon: Keeping in Top Forme.

Brian Herndon (Mr. Collins) Originating the role in the 2018 TheatreWorks New Works Festival, Brian Herndon returns to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley as Mr. Collins, a pompous clergyman. Playing Mr. Elton in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 2007 and 2015 productions of Jane Austen’s Emma, Herndon reprised the role in productions of the musical across the country at The Old Globe, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Arizona Theatre Company, and in Streaming Musical’s filmed theatrical production. Herndon has appeared in many TheatreWorks Silicon Valley productions including Rags, Being Earnest, The Elephant Man, The Learned Ladies of Park Avenue and the World Premiere of A Little Princess. Other theatre credits include performances at Marin Theatre Company, San Francisco Playhouse, Aurora Theatre Company, Center REPertory Company, 42nd Street Moon, Berkeley Playhouse and Shotgun Players.

Lucinda Hitchcock Cone (Lady Catherine de Bourgh) Originating the role in the 2018 TheatreWorks New Works Festival, Lucinda Hitchcock Cone returns to TheatreWorks as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, an imposing noblewoman who is Mr. Darcy’s aunt. Cone returns to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley where she was most recently seen in last season’s Tuck Everlasting, in addition to appearing in Outside Mullingar, Ragtime and Cabaret. Cone has also performed in the National Tour of Big River and regionally at American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Marin Theatre Company, Hartford Stage, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Portland Stage Company, San Jose Repertory Theatre and others. Cone has won SFBATCC Awards for her performances in River’s End and Lips Together Teeth Apart at Marin Theatre Company, Night of Hunter at Willows Theatre, and Mad World.

Sean Fenton (ensemble) Rounding out the ensemble is Sean Fenton, who returns to TheatreWorks Silicon Valley where he was seen in the World Premiere of The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga and the 2003 production of A Little Night Music. Receiving a 2014 TBA Award for his performance in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon at Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Fenton has also performed at Custom Made Theatre Company, Broadway by the Bay, and Foothill Music Theatre.

Tickets for Pride & Prejudice are now available online or by calling the box office at 650.463.1960.

Berkeley Rep Announces ‘Gatz,’ a Special Event Unlike Anything Else in Theatre

Berkeley Repertory Theatre announces the highly anticipated special event of this season, Gatz, which enacts the beloved classic novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and is directed by John Collins, to create a once in a lifetime experience.

The theatrical ensemble Elevator Repair Service will make its Berkeley Rep debut with Gatz, an astonishing tour de force unlike anything else in contemporary theatre.The winner of two Lucille Lortel Awards, three Elliott Norton Awards and an Obie Award, Gatz has enthralled audiences around the globe, from New York to Lisbon and Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi.

Gatz follows an anonymous office worker at a shabby small business who finds a copy of The Great Gatsby on his desk one morning and starts to read aloud. At first his coworkers hardly notice. But after a series of strange coincidences, it’s no longer clear whether he’s reading the book or the book is transforming him.

“[A] work of singular imagination and intelligence. The most remarkable achievement in theater not only of this year but also of this decade.”

New York Times
Performance Schedule

Each performance of Gatz runs 6 hours, plus two 15-minute intermissions and a 2-hour dinner break.

Chapters 1–3: 2 hours
Intermission: 15 minutes
Chapters 4–5: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Dinner break: 2 hours
Chapters 6–7: 1 hour and 25 minutes
Intermission: 15 minutes
Chapters 7–9: 1 hour and 25 minutes

(Due to the nature of live theatre, these times may vary slightly.)

Gatz begins on February 13 and runs through February 23, 2020. Individual tickets are now available and can be purchased online or by phone at 510.647.2949.

Elevator Repair Service is a New York City-based company that creates original works for live theatre with an ongoing ensemble. The company’s sources range from found material (transcripts of trials, old movies, YouTube videos) to literature and conventional plays (both classical and contemporary). Founded in 1991, ERS has authored an extensive body of work that includes 19 original theatrical productions. These have earned the company a loyal following and made it one of New York’s most highly acclaimed experimental theatre companies. ERS’s productions share a commitment to risk-taking and reinvention, blending unusual texts with innovations in theatrical form. The finished works feature ERS’s signature dynamic performance style and playful sense of humor coupled with a rigorous commitment to psychologically complex performances. ERS has received numerous awards and distinctions including an Obie for Sustained Excellence, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts Theater Grant, and the Theatre Communications Group’s Peter Zeisler Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement. ERS ensemble members have received Obies for Sound Design and Sustained Excellence in Performance and Lighting Design.

ArtsFund Kicks Off 50th Anniversary with Newly Proclaimed “ArtsFund Day”

ArtsFund announces the launch of its 50th anniversary year with a proclamation from Mayor Durkan, who has declared October 15, 2019 to be “ArtsFund Day”. The honor officially kicks off ArtsFund’s milestone year. 

Founded in October 1969, the Seattle-based nonprofit has been building community through the arts for 50 years. ArtsFund is one of the nation’s leading United Arts Funds and has contributed to the vibrancy of the Central Puget Sound region by supporting the health and vitality of arts and cultural organizations and the individuals they serve.

ArtsFund Interim President & CEO Sue Coliton stated, “ArtsFund was founded 50 years ago to generate support for the arts from the business community. Since then, it has evolved into a leader of the sector. We work to ensure arts are accessible to all and valued as central and critical to a healthy society. A future for the arts is a future for community, and ArtsFund is uniquely positioned to help deliver on that promise.”

“Whereas, the City of Seattle recognizes the work ArtsFund has been undertaking for the past 50 years and wishes them continued success.”

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, City of Seattle, from the proclamation

The celebration of 50 years of impact will complement ArtsFund’s annual fundraising campaign, which runs through May 31, 2020.  Each year, ArtsFund’s fundraising empowers companies, individuals and community partners to make collective, regional and significant impact strengthening the community through support of the arts. Revenues from ArtsFund’s annual drive will support grants and capacity building programs, as well as additional activities and services strengthening more than 120 organizations throughout the Central Puget Sound region. 

ArtsFund Board Chair Anthony R. Miles added, “As we celebrate 50 years of impact, we remain focused on realizing ArtsFund’s unique potential to enhance the role of the arts and creativity in our region. In addition to grantmaking, ArtsFund’s research, programs and advocacy contribute to a sustainable, collaborative, informed, equitable and inclusive future. As the region has grown and evolved ArtsFund has been there every step of the way for the arts and cultural community. We are committed to empowering the sector in the years ahead.”

As the region has grown and evolved ArtsFund has been there every step of the way for the arts and cultural community.

Anthony R. Miles, ArtsFund Board Chair

ArtsFund was originally founded as the United Arts Council of Puget Sound to bring corporate and civic leaders together to help establish and sustain our region’s arts and cultural institutions. Upon completion of its inaugural fundraising campaign, the first grant beneficiaries included ACT Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Opera, Seattle Symphony and Seattle Rep—all organizations still supported by ArtsFund today. Fifty years and a few name changes later (to Corporate Council for the Arts in 1975 and to ArtsFund in 2003), ArtsFund has supported nearly 240 arts nonprofits with more than $84 million in grants, and by providing valuable leadership and advocacy.

Anniversary events will include a birthday edition of ArtsFund’s Celebration of the Arts Luncheon on March 20, 2020. Registration will open in February 2020.

The full mayoral proclamation can be viewed on Artsfund’s website.

Learn more about ArtsFund’s 50 years of impact and the plans for the year ahead.

Chucho Valdés, Jazz Batá, and the Evolution of Afro-Cuban Jazz

A look at the emergence of Afro-Cuban jazz and its spread to the US and Canada.

By the 1940s, the stage was set for the birth of a new kind of jazz. In the United States, big band orchestras had been including Latin rhythms in their jazz tunes, as well as rumbas and congas in their repertoires, and many Cuban musicians were traveling regularly to play in cities like New York and New Orleans. Others immigrated, especially to New York. Meanwhile, Cuba had become well-known as a playground for U.S. tourists. Travel to the island was easy, alcohol flowed freely (it was prohibited at home), and casinos and live entertainment were in abundance.

Mario Bauzá, who emigrated from Cuba to the US in 1930, is usually held up as the pioneer of Afro-Cuban jazz. In 1943, as director of the New York big band Machito and the Afro-Cubans, he composed “Tanga,” considered by many musical historians to be the genre’s first single. This new style consisted of jazz with Afro-Cuban rhythms including the clave, which is the basis for almost all Cuban music. Latin elements and African percussion instruments such as timbales, bongos, and congas were part of the mix. Bauzá had a further key role in Afro-Cuban jazz: introducing fellow Cuban émigré Chano Pozo to Dizzy Gillespie in 1947. As the popularity of swing and big bands faded, Gillespie, a leader in the new bebop jazz style that fused nicely with Afro-Cuban rhythms, hired Pozo, making him the first regular conga player in an American jazz big band. Soon after, they recorded the standard “Manteca.”

“Soon after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the United States cut diplomatic relations with Cuba, putting an end to the back-and-forth of musicians for about 20 years. With the 1961 United States–backed Bay of Pigs invasion fresh in its mind, the government of Fidel Castro labeled jazz and rock as dangerous foreign influences.”

The mambo craze of the 1950s heightened interest in rhythms from Latin America, and the evolution of Afro-Cuban jazz continued, mostly in the United States. For example, in New York, Havana-born Chico O’Farrill, an important arranger, composer, and bandleader, worked with many artists, including Benny Goodman.

Soon after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the United States cut diplomatic relations with Cuba, putting an end to the back-and-forth of musicians for about 20 years. With the 1961 United States–backed Bay of Pigs invasion fresh in its mind, the government of Fidel Castro labeled jazz and rock as dangerous foreign influences. Nonetheless, they recruited Jesús “Chucho” Valdés, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, and other outstanding musicians for the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, created in 1967. The group was allowed to perform jazz, but in a manner that could be tolerated by the government.

Seeking greater creativity, Valdés, Sandoval, and D’Rivera became key members of Irakere, founded in 1973 and directed by Valdés, during what was known as the “five grey years” (1971–76). During this period of increased cultural orthodoxy, Cuba became more integrated into the Soviet bloc and African culture was considered backward by many apparatchiks. Irakere pushed ahead nontheless, incorporating popular Cuban dance, Afro-Cuban folkloric, and even classical music. With a heavy horn section, it also included funk influences from American and Canadian-American groups like Earth, Wind & Fire and Blood, Sweat & Tears. When Gillespie, Stan Getz, and a few other American jazz musicians visited Cuba in 1977, they found the band at the forefront of a rich music scene. Invited to the United States the following year, the band won a 1979 Grammy award for its first album, recorded live in part at Carnegie Hall. Arguably, Irakere remains Cuba’s most important jazz band to date.

Afro-Cuban jazz musician Chucho Valdés.
Afro-Cuban jazz musician Chucho Valdés. Photo by Carol Friedman

The ability of artists to travel between the United States and Cuba has continued to wax and wane according to the politics of the day. D’Rivera and Sandoval defected to the United States in the 1980s, where they have had tremendous success. A plethora of American-born artists have taken up the genre, many of whom have performed at the annual Havana Jazz festival that began in 1978.

Given the difficulties inherent in getting visas both to leave Cuba and to enter the United States, a good number of Cuban artists have ended up in Toronto after collaborating and touring with Jane Bunnett, the renowned Canadian sax player and flautist. Bunnett has been traveling to Cuba to perform and record with Cuban musicians since the 1990s. One of her latest projects, the Afro-Cuban jazz band Maqueque, is comprised of young Cuban women.Some of these artists have already left Maqueque to start their own groups, only to be replaced by Bunnett with musicians from what seems to be a never-ending talent pool from the island.

“Valdés is firmly rooted in Cuba, but there now exists a considerable diaspora of Cuban musicians not only in the United States and Canada, but in Europe and other Caribbean countries as well.”

In order to concentrate more on piano playing, Valdés started his own band in 1998, while continuing with Irakere until 2005. Chucho Valdés and the Afro-Cuban Messengers emphasizes African percussion instruments and often includes vocals. Similarly, his latest project, the trio Jazz Batá, focuses on Yoruba music and Batá drumming. Both groups exemplify the current trend of small ensembles and soloists. Valdés has said that he was discouraged from taking up the Batá project in the 1970s, but Jazz Batá has him looking once again toward the roots of Afro-Cuban music and a “deeper Cubanization of jazz and the classic piano jazz trio.”

Valdés is firmly rooted in Cuba, but there now exists a considerable diaspora of Cuban musicians not only in the United States and Canada, but in Europe and other Caribbean countries as well. Non-Cuban musicians have also embraced the music, with the result that Afro-Cuban jazz can be enjoyed live year-round in a number of countries, as well as during the festival season. The genre has slowly evolved over the decades and has seen a rise in the technical talents of its musicians, but continues to hold to its Afro-Cuban roots.

This feature was written by Celeste Mackenzie and was originally published in Stanford Live’s September/October program. Used with the permission of Stanford Live.

Chucho Valdés will perform at Stanford Live’s Bing Concert Hall on October 18. Tickets are available online.

In Conversation with Kelly Tweeddale

Kelly Tweeddale bec[ame] San Francisco Ballet’s new Executive Director on September 3. She succeeds Glenn McCoy, whose steadfast stewardship over 17 seasons has left the Company with an operating budget of $56 million, the second largest amongst ballet companies in the country, and an endowment that grew from $43 million to $127 million. That’s a tough act to follow, where does one go from there?

As arts organizations across disciplines grapple with the challenges and opportunities to stay visible and pertinent, a new leader at the helm is both exciting and suspenseful. We caught up with Kelly in August to catch up about leadership, organizational culture, our role in the community, and the ever-present pendulum of preserving tradition while fostering innovation.

You You Xia: You have led symphony orchestras and an opera company throughout North America. What is your impression of the ballet world?

Kelly Tweeddale: Even though I’ve spent most of my career in the fields of orchestra and opera, I actually discovered the world of performing arts through dance. I studied ballet in college and worked for an improvisational dance company through a work-study program. The way that ballet seems to defy physics, by being controlled and exuberant at the same time, and how movement connects music with emotion, is something that we all need in an era where our world has become as small as the devices that we hold in our hands. I think dance gives us peripheral vision; it is three-dimensional and almost forces us to look up, take notice, and see what happens beyond our screens and ourselves.

Excellence transcends all art forms, be it music, opera, or ballet. That standard of excellence that is a signature of Helgi’s artistic leadership is what attracted me to SF Ballet.

“You never know where the next set of leaders for our field will come from and I feel a deep responsibility to offer guidance to anyone who shows potential and promise. ”

Kelly Tweeddale

In your opinion, how does leadership set the tone for an organization?

I have been fortunate to have worked with several leaders and mentors early in my career who led by example. I come from the mindset that “paying your dues” in the nonprofit world, especially the performing arts, starts with doing whatever is necessary so that the curtain rises and the show goes on. That means going the extra mile, lending a hand regardless of whether it’s your job, and always remembering to say thank you. 

Today, I think leadership is about giving back and being accessible. You never know where the next set of leaders for our field will come from and I feel a deep responsibility to offer guidance to anyone who shows potential and promise. When I was at Seattle Opera, the Executive Director became terminally ill. Speight Jenkins, the General Director and board president, came to me and asked me to step into the role. They saw something in me before I knew that of myself and gave me a chance. I think that is what leaders do—they know when to step forward, and when to step aside. I guess I’d say mentorship is a dance, one that is so much more rewarding when done with others. I’ve never been a leader who thinks that success can be achieved alone.

Along those lines, what makes an organization great? Is it the internal DNA or having the right leadership?

I think great organizations attract great leaders, and great leaders can create great organizations; but it’s not a given. I had the opportunity to spend time with the author Jim Collins when he was writing the book Good to Great. The difference between a good organization and a great organization comes down to a few things, such as having a laser-like focus, having the right people in the right roles, and taking advantage of momentum. That’s why I’m an avid student of the creative leaders within our organizations. Building a great company takes curation—in opera it is casting the roles with the right type of singer, in symphony it is building the ensemble, and in ballet, it is having a physical aesthetic that becomes the signature of the Company. I believe that the DNA of an organization starts with knowing who you are and why you exist. Once you know that, you build the organization through passion and tenacity. It’s never easy, but if you have alignment around purpose, it’s rewarding and can be life changing. It was for me. I think if you focus on the “why” of what you are doing rather than the “what,” you connect with each other, the art form, and ultimately, the audience.

“…if you focus on the ‘why’ of what you are doing rather than the ‘what,’ you connect with each other, the art form, and ultimately, the audience.”

Kelly Tweeddale

You have said that a thriving arts community is the bellwether of a great city. Can you elaborate on that?

If you look at any thriving city—London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, etc.—it is multi-dimensional. It has transcended past economic markets and built cultural centers and cultural organizations that are unique to each city. The sign that a city has evolved to provide its citizens more than just food, shelter, and economic livelihood can be measured by how it celebrates culture—its own indigenous culture, traditional and classical cultures of the world, and the cultural expression of the future. The cultural community is a measure of creativity, and one sign of a thriving city is how it invests in keeping that community healthy and relevant. What was left behind by the thriving civilizations that came before us is their art—dance depicted in paintings and sculpture, buildings that celebrated performance and drama, literature that highlights the value of the pursuit of creativity and art. Part of what we do today is leaving a lasting record.

And there is value in all of that.

One of the values that a ballet company brings to the ecosystem, which is especially relevant today, is that we are humans, with physical bodies, that exist outside of an electronic device. Ballet reminds us of our physicality and the miraculous things that a human is capable of when creativity is harnessed through our bodies. It tells a story, passes on traditions, and expresses the complexity of emotions that we are faced with in our daily lives. That expression is something that connects all of us, and that connection is what builds community. San Francisco is a diverse and evolving city, and SF Ballet should reflect that on stage and off, as well as act as a mirror to the world at-large.

We have a role to play for our communities now, but what about the future? At Vancouver Symphony Orchestra you oversaw the youth orchestra as part of the organization. It seems that arts organizations have also taken on a duty to enrich future generations.

Often, a music or art class at school or trip to a community center is the first exposure a child has to the arts. I know it was for me. I discovered dance when I was enrolled in a community program where we learned what a choreographer was, and how to make a dance. I still remember performing for peers and family, and how powerful it felt to put your ideas into action. That is the power of what we do, putting ideas into action, and in our case it is physical action, using the body and mind to make a statement. One of the things that I am excited about is the deep and sustaining role that SF Ballet has played in education. With the 40th anniversary of SF Ballet’s Dance in Schools and Communities program, we can extend that reach even further. I believe we have one of the most creative generations ever to have existed before us. They are craving something that allows them to connect, and our DISC program begins that connection in a sustaining and important way.

Tell us about the livestreaming agreement you spearheaded at the VSO.

I have always been an early adopter when it comes to technology; I guess I’m just wired that way. When I was in Vancouver, my orchestra colleagues asked if I would represent all Canadian orchestras and work with the Canadian Federation of Musicians to create a set of rules for livestreaming. Up until then, each project had to be separately negotiated with the local and national unions and by the time the negotiations were concluded, often the opportunity had passed. I assembled a committee with representation both by size of orchestra and geography. It took almost two years, but we got there. Canada now has a livestreaming agreement that is experimental, offers turnkey implementation, and provides incentives for multiple projects. We also recognized that technology is changing at a rapid rate and in order to be relevant and continue to build audiences we needed to do something now. The agreement isn’t perfect, but hopefully over the next three years, it will result in Canadian orchestras becoming visible in the digital space, learning by experimentation, and reaching new audiences.

“A streamed performance will never replace or be able to deliver the impact of a live performance, but it is the exposure and the ability to capture memorable moments [that ballet needs].”

Kelly Tweeddale

Would you say that is the biggest impact of new presentation formats such as livestreaming?

New technologies have only increased attendance to the performing arts. When recording was the new technology, opera and symphony audiences grew; radio and television broadcasting also expanded audiences. A streamed performance will never replace or be able to deliver the impact of a live performance, but it is the exposure and the ability to capture memorable moments. That is what I believe ballet needs–more exposure and the ability for our audience to relive the memorable moments our dancers deliver. Digital capture is also essential for documenting new work and for passing choreography from one generation to another.

Yet much of what we do is preserving the traditions of the classical art form. Why should they matter in our world today?

There is a lot of debate over whether tradition or classic art forms have relevancy in a world that is agile and is constantly reinventing itself. Classical art forms like ballet are just as valid today and may even have more impact than in the past. Why? I often ask people to tell me about a family tradition that they have and then I ask them what would happen if the tradition simply faded away. The response is always emotional and an expression of loss. Traditions have a way of making us feel connected to the past and the people who came before us. Ballet is like that. But traditions also evolve and are kept fresh by succeeding generations through adaptation and invention. Ballet is also about aesthetics. There is a discipline, a predictability, and yet a virtuosity that is just as awe-inspiring. And because we perform live, anything can happen, and no two performances are ever the same. That unpredictability makes for a great experience in the theater. And I think the world is thirsty for great experiences.

“We don’t know who the next Balanchine will be, but we have an obligation to give the composers, the choreographers, and the dancers the chance to put their mark on the art form…”

Kelly Tweeddale

What about new works? Visual artists, composers, choreographers: what is their role in our institutional communities?

I’ve often said if we only perform the works of the past, we are on a mission to become obsolete. Another way to make work new again is to re-stage the classics. It is so important to set existing works in new contexts, and ballet can do that and lend a new perspective to a well-known work by changing the production elements (like sets and costumes). By changing the perspective without changing the choreography, we often reveal something about the work to ourselves and our audiences.

New work is also essential to what we do. We don’t know who the next Balanchine will be, but we have an obligation to give the composers, the choreographers, and the dancers the chance to put their mark on the art form and that tells us what dance looks like today, what ballet has to say in the 21st century, and what we as a Company are thinking about. As a Company, it is our job to create. Audiences will determine what stands the test of time. They always have and I expect they will continue to do so.

Unique to the ballet world is that the goal of pre-professional training programs, such as San Francisco Ballet School, is to prepare young dancers to hopefully join professional companies upon completion. This is different from the orchestra world, for example, where youth orchestra musicians are not necessarily in the program in order to eventually join a professional orchestra.

To me ballet has always been way ahead of other art forms in the commitment to invest in how we train the next generation of artists. Training facilities are an investment in the pipeline both by creating the future dancers, but also choreographers, audience members, and advocates. We also know that the impact of San Francisco Ballet School is seen on not only our stages, but stages around the world as alumni find professional careers at leading companies. It reminds us that we as a Company exist not only to keep the art form alive and evolving, but that ballet is a human endeavor that transcends both the past, and present.

If the future of ballet starts at the School, what does that mean for how we run our training programs today?

One important element about SF Ballet School is the concept of mentorship. Technique can be taught, but mentorship is how the traditions of the company, the aesthetics of the art form, and the safeguarding the well-being of future professional dancers are transferred from the professional to the trainee. I think one of the questions that SF Ballet will have to ask itself as it relates to the School is how we ensure that we reach potential dancers outside of those who already have access to the Chris Hellman Center for Dance. I have some experience with setting up satellite programs in neighborhoods that may not currently be represented with our current schedule. Seeing how we can both expand our reach and our impact as we look to change the face of ballet to represent our diverse community without sacrificing aesthetics will be an exciting challenge, but one which is essential as we strengthen our commitment to making ballet more inclusive and equitable.

This interview was conducted by San Francisco Ballet Director of Communications You You Xia and was originally published on SF Ballet’s blog. Used with the permission of San Francisco Ballet.