Category Archives: Performing

The Aristeia of Clarence Clemons @ 3:12 a.m., and a New Puzzle!

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Good Morning:

Did you know that Clarence Clemons’ legendary saxophone solo during “Jungleland” on the Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75 album runs exactly two minutes, twenty-three seconds?

In simple English, I have taken part in another 24-hour “play in a day” festival and at 3:12 a.m., determining the exact length of The Solo was the most important thing I could do. The Playwrights Center of San Francisco runs two of these events each as fundraisers, and they conduct business by picking slips of paper from a hat. I was selected as a writer by a software version of the same, assigned my director by drawing his name from a hat, assigned the cast size by drawing a number from a hat (3), and assigned the specific actors by the same process.

Finally, the theme. “The Devil Made Me Do It.”

Assignment was the same as ever: write an entire play in 9 hours for a production the following night.

Usually, writing a short play under these circumstances proves surprisingly easy, but for some reason, the theme made this the most difficult 24-hour project I’ve undertaken in 15 years, since the night our theme was a Rene Magritte painting. Oddly, the final script is only 8 pages long, but the theme still made the project tough. However, I can proudly proclaim that I wrote the line “Niccolo Machiavelli. Dear Nicky–always in a class by himself,” and it actually makes sense in the context of the play.

In slightly over 14 hours, “The Latest Small Triumph of Levia Stand” receives its world premiere. I have never worked with the director or any of the actors before, but feel cautiously optimistic that they can wring something decent from what I dump upon their poor heads. If the show turns out well, I will publish the script here. If not, I shall do the right thing and spare you the agony.

Meanwhile, if you like anagrams, I have a fun new puzzle for you! “Levia Stand” is an anagram containing two names used for one of the great characters in all of literature, theater, and musical comedy. What are the two names?

Vonn Scott Bair

The Genuine Show! Rehearsal, 12 March 2015.

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Good Evening:

Load-In Day. A phrase that frequently evokes terror in the theater world, Load-In Day refers to one of the physical events in theater, when the entire cast and crew combine to move all of their costumes, props, special equipment, cases of 8 oz. bottles of water, and other sundry heavy items into the theater they will call home during the show’s run. Fortunately, we have an excellent director in Wesley Cayabyab, whose organization worked so well we only needed an hour to get everything done.

So we had our first full run-through.

And all I can say is “Wow.”

The Cast of The Genuine Show! Listening to Instructions from Their Director

The Six Actors of The Genuine Show! Listening to Instructions from Their Director

“Wow” has become one of our inside jokes (from one of the plays, “Jack & John & Jackie & Joanie”), but here it means that I am ab-so-lute-ly THRILLED with the work the cast has done. They bring more than creativity to their acting; they always surprise me with interpretations that I would never imagine in a hundred years, yet whatever they do remains true to the script.

Incidentally, I took all of these shots with my iPhone 6 Plus, which has done surprisingly well in low-light conditions, requiring only a few adjustments in iPhoto.

Sarah Galarneau & Philip Goleman in "Yes Maybe No."

Sarah Galarneau & Philip Goleman in “Yes Maybe No.”

Playwrights become pretty darn useless at this point in the production; seriously, the best help we verbose critters can provide consists of silence. At the end of the run-through, I kept it simple: “I have just one word to add, no, two. Thank you.” OK, that’s eleven words, but still really, really reticent by playwright standards.

Rehearsing "Keeping You Man in Line on the 21-Hayes." Left to right: Sarah Leight, Jocelyn Truitt, Philip Goleman, Colin Hussey (standing), Sarah Galarneau, Richard Wenzel.

Rehearsing “Keeping You Man in Line on the 21-Hayes.” Left to right: Sarah Leight, Jocelyn Truitt, Philip Goleman, Colin Hussey (standing), Sarah Galarneau, Richard Wenzel.

Keeping You Man in Line of the 21-Hayes has two unique distinctions among the plays–the only one with no dialogue and the only one inspired by one of my own blog posts! Please see this post (one of my very earliest!) for the story.

Can’t wait for Opening Night on Thursday. No jitters, just good old-fashioned excitement. If you can’t wait, either, tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets.

Vonn Scott Bair

Vanishing Venues in San Francisco (Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone, But Not Forgotten)

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Good Evening:

If San Francisco keeps losing the people, places and organizations that make the city so interesting, how long can San Francisco remain, well, you know, interesting?

Formerly the Cafe du Nord Music Venue, Market Street, San Francisco, CA

Formerly the Cafe du Nord Music Venue, Market Street, San Francisco, CA

The performing arts scene here probably cannot get more confusing at this juncture in the city’s existence; like a famous Dickens sentence, we live in the best of times, we live in the worst of times. The average two-bedroom apartment rents, which have now skyrocketed to about $3,500 (believe it or not, one American city is worse–Palo Alto, California), have driven out so many actors, writers, musicians, and other artists that currently I represent the only member of the Playwrights Center of San Francisco who lives in San Francisco.

Gone and Pretty Much Forgotten; Former Theater on Guerrero and 16th

Gone and Pretty Much Forgotten; Former Theater on Guerrero and 16th

That blank wall used to be the storefront of a 30-seat theater in the Mission, perfect for very young companies just starting out. Fifteen years ago, Bertolt Brecht was a thing in San Francisco until people realized that most of what he wrote doesn’t work (good thing Kurt Weill helped out; Master Puntila and His Chauffeur Matti is completely unwatchable without the music). I saw a performance of Fear and Misery of the Third Reich one night because a friend had a role in it. Before the show began, a homeless woman wandered in and accosted a few of the spectators. Just as I began to suspect that she might have been a member of the cast, the lights went down, she accosted me, and then began reciting the opening speech of the play. We became good friends and acted together in a few projects, but when television work dried up in the Bay Area, she moved to Los Angeles and we lost touch.

Formerly the Home of Theatre Rhinoceros, San Francisco, CA

Formerly the Home of Theatre Rhinoceros, San Francisco, CA

Market forces are driving out more than individuals. The demand for new housing has gone from insane to really really insane, and when leases expire, landlords kick out the tenants and then sell out to developers for more money than they thought they would see in a lifetime. If decades ago you bought a mixed living/retail building for $250K and someone offers you a few million to take it off your hands so you no longer even need to think about it, I can’t blame you for taking the cash. That’s how the system works–if how the system works means that it is not working, then that become a discussion about economics, at which point I would rather remain silent and be thought a fool.

Theatre Rhinoceros (“The Rhino”) occupies a special place in American theater as a home for world premieres of plays that “explore both the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of our queer community. (from the mission statement)” Currently homeless, the next show will premiere in the Eureka Theatre on Jackson Street.

And speaking of the Eureka…

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…this isn’t the current home. This is the old home, where among things, actors like Danny Glover started building careers, and playwrights like Tony Kushner could premiere plays like Angels in America. Yes, that play got its start right there back in 1988 in that blue industrial building. Times have proven tough for artists in San Francisco, especially theater artists, and the Eureka Theatre Company is now a venue on Jackson Street that rents its space to local companies. Great space, too; I am proud that my one-act play Allegro Passionato led off the 2006 BOA (Bay One-Acts) Festival.

So the mood among theater and music artists in San Francisco remains gloomy. Venue after venue keeps closing. And yet, somehow, someway, we persist. The Rhino and Eureka lost their homes, but have kept going, somehow, someway. Another local company, PianoFight, has opened a restaurant-bar-theater venue in the building once occupied by Original Joe’s restaurant. A new theater company has approached me with an offer to produce one of my full-lengths.

One of my fellow playwrights has described theater and film people as “hard to kill as cockroaches, only worse, because cockroaches don’t make so much @#$% noise.” So we continue onwards, lurching from one funding crisis to the next. Saw this film crew today on my way to the Rainbow Grocery:

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The American Conservatory Theatre has already opened one new space on the 1100 block of Market, and will soon open a second theater on that same block, converting a building that used to house the Strand movie house (speaking of endangered arts spaces). So I should feel more optimistic than I do.

Best of times, worst of times; worst of times, best of times.

What continues to bother me is the attrition diminishing the numbers of theater artists in San Francisco. When I began in the late 1990s, I looked up to, admired, and sought to emulate a lot of men and women who seemed to me to have their stuff together, who could juggle the poorly paid waiter/clerk/bartender job with their true passion, earn a couple of extra hundred or perhaps a thousand dollars per year, and whom the arts establishment regarded as up-and-coming artists with bright futures.

Of all those people from back then, one still continues onward, however blindly.

Me.

That’s so bizarre. Talent, ability, artistry don’t seem to matter. Only pure dumb bull-headed wrong-headed too-stupid-to-know-when-to-quit stubbornness seems to matter. I don’t know if I’m any good, only persistent. The brilliant and imaginative director, subject of articles published in the national press, quit abruptly after a show in 1998 or 99. I wanted so badly to work for him, but who know what he’s doing now? A woman in that show still acts, but moved to LA a long time ago–just like a lot of other artists from the Bay Area.

For all the new companies, spaces and artists I see in San Francisco, it does not appear that they have popped up fast enough to replace all of the people who quit or moved on. Of course, this represents a perfect time to remind one and all that I am most emphatically NOT a professional journalist, so take extreme care before accepting my own personal experience as universal truth.

But if artists can’t afford to live here, then how can they pop up here fast enough to replace the ones who quit and/or left San Francisco entirely?

Vonn Scott Bair

The Leftover Memories of Venue 222 (Weekly Photo Challenge: Container)

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Good Evening:

This ugly little dump contains some of my happiest memories in the theater.

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During the 1960s and 1970s, City College of San Francisco’s enrollment grew so much so quickly that the buildings could not hold all of the students, and the administration could not build new classrooms quickly enough. Therefore, the college threw up these pre-fab cabins for use as ad hoc temporary classrooms. However, ad hoc temporary solutions have a way of becoming ad hoc permanent solutions. Cabin 222, notwithstanding its leaky confines, lack of heating, and air conditioning, became the home of theater majors getting rained on or freezing or cooking in its confines depending upon the season.

A few decades ago, a drama professor named Ann Shay had a bright idea: double-purposing the cabin as both classroom and a 49-seat black box theater. She created her own company, the California Travel Troupe, so named because they usually travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland to participate in the grandfather of all fringe festivals. In between trips, she would produce shows in what was no longer cabin 222; it had become Venue 222.

I met Ann when one fine day, totally out of the blue, the at the time complete stranger emailed me and offered me a directing job for her next evening of one-act plays. My first directing job? No problem! I didn’t even ask her how she got my name. What I did not know was that everyone else she asked had declined the offer because everyone else–including the playwright!–thought the little ten minute script was garbage. So she offered me the leftovers. I didn’t know the play was garbage, numbskull that I am, but because I didn’t know how to evaluate scripts, took this opportunity seriously and to the surprise of Ann and the cast, and the shock of the playwright, directed a, well, um, pretty good play.

Ann Shay producing her last show, another evening of one acts, at about the time when her friends suspected, and she knew, that she would not win her final battle with cancer.

Ann Shay producing her last show, another evening of one acts, at about the time when her friends suspected, and she knew, that she would not win her final battle with cancer.

Ann felt grateful enough for my salvage job that when time came to produce another evening of one acts, she invited me to submit one of my own scripts. I had just finished a 20-pager called Starvation, an experiment in the horror genre to see if it was still possible to scare a theater audience in this day and age.

She accepted it into the show, which was great, not telling me that on paper she thought that Starvation looked like a piece of s— (one of her favorite words). She needed one more play to fill out the evening and would have accepted anything. Much to the surprise of the director and cast (and playwright), and much to the shock of Ann, the 20 page horror play that looked like a piece of s— on paper worked astoundingly well when performed, and was in fact the best play of the show. On the night of the world premiere, I snuck into the audience to gauge reactions. The play describes an encounter between two women, both monsters; Mrs. Essex is a sexual predator and Melody–nah, no spoilers here. I sat next to a young couple on a date. At the climax of the play, the young lady of the couple shrieked “Omigod, she’s a ____!” wrapped her arms around her date, and buried her face into her young man’s chest.

I think I made his night.

My leftover script turned out rather well.

The Former Dressing Room at Venue 222.

The Former Dressing Room at Venue 222.

In 2004, I had built up a curious acting resume; lead roles in a few feature films (none of which went anywhere), and zero leads in full-length stage plays. So when Ann emailed me out of the blue and offered me the title role in a masque production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, yes, of course I took it. Incidentally, for all of my gigs with the California Travel Troupe I received the combined grand total of $0 in payment. What Ann did not tell me at the time was that she couldn’t find anyone else for the job. Once again, the leftovers ended up on my plate.

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The show did very erratically in terms of attendance, alternating sellout crowds with near-empty houses. One performance had exactly one audience member, and the only reason we had that one person is that a woman in the cast was juggling two boyfriends at the time. Still, Hunchback remains one of my happiest memories; the above moment, from the final scene between Quasimodo and Esmeralda, generally elicited audible sniffles and crying from the people who did see the show. Ann herself told me after the last performance that she sometimes cried. This was right before she told me that she only picked me because she couldn’t find anyone else. Just another leftover.

Today, Venue 222 is every bit as decrepit as it looks, and when Ann died, the California Travel Troupe died with her. As I passed the cabin on my way to my date with destiny and a beer can in Almost, Maine, I took a few pictures with my iPhone.

And wondered how something so ugly could contain such beautiful memories.

Vonn Scott Bair

I Don’t Mean to Brag–Well, Maybe Just a Tiny Little Bit…

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Good Evening:

“Madame de Vionnet,” writing for A Beast in a Jungle, another WordPress blog (!), has reviewed Sheherezade 14 and raved about the entire show. The entire production deserves it; I feel ridiculously fortunate to have become part of such a show. “Madame” has kind words in particular for “The Duck:”

My favorite play of the evening was The Duck, by Vonn Scott Bair, directed by Cayabyab. The premise is ”ripped from the headlines” with a twist. Mbele-Mbong plays Hope, an appropriate name for a character who does not give up. Her monologues are gut-wrenching as she describes what her life has become. The Duck is a well-crafted and beautifully acted short play, with Homan and Galloway delivering solid supporting performances.

What lies beyond “ridiculously fortunate?” Because that’s how I feel about director Wesley Cayabyab and actors Leontyne Mbele-Mbong, Cameron Galloway, and Rick Homan. I frequently use the phrase “legal cheating,” as in “having a director and cast this good feels like legal cheating,” but that phrase has never so true before.

Anyway, we have two more weeks, Thursday through Saturday, ending on the 28th. Hope you can attend!

Vonn Scott Bair

The Stage Is All the Worlds (Weekly Photo Challenge: Room)

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Good Evening:

This is the sold-out house that greeted the world premiere of Sheherezade 14, the short play festival that includes my own world premiere, The Duck:

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Surprisingly decent shot for an iPhone 4, given the lighting. Set up for the first play, that stage had to serve as the backdrop for 8 different worlds, including 6 rooms. In order from beginning to end:

  1. Dissonance (playwright: Terry Anderson): an absurd Dadaist, Pirandellian landscape.
  2. Almost Like Being Alive (Steve Koppman): a coffee shop.
  3. The Interview (Madeline Puccioni): a bar.
  4. Photo Dynamic Therapy (Jennifer Lynne Roberts): a bedroom.
  5. Reframing Rockwell (Jim Norrena): Norman Rockwell’s studio.
  6. The Box (Madeleine Butler): a museum storage room.
  7. The Duck (yours truly): Hope Judith Hauser’s front yard.
  8. Brew, Drink, Repeat (Bridgette Dutta Portman): A coffee shop that exists outside the space/time continuum.

One stage, one room, eight worlds. I think Shakespeare had it backwards.

Anyway, we had a great opening night; full house, actors in top form. When it works, theater is quite the universe.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Duck World Premiere, June 7-28!

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Good Evening:

And good heavens…less than two weeks until my next world premiere, The Duck at the 14th annual Sheherezade festival of very short plays at the Exit Theatre in downtown San Francisco.

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My life has gotten rather a bit maddening this month of May. Between rehearsals and performances for Jinshin Jiko at the Fringe of Marin theater festival, plus meetings & correspondence for a film project in the first weekend of June (I’m the screenwriter), I haven’t had a chance to attend more than the first rehearsal of my own play The Duck (you can read the seven page script here and here).

Normally, I prefer to attend a few early rehearsals and a few late ones. The early ones so I can listen to my howlingly bad tone-deaf dialogue and fix the script, the later ones so I can marvel at how the cast and crew have salvaged the show. This time around, people keep saying the same two words, over and over. The second most common: “stunning.” The most common? “Beautiful.”

I feel most curious to see the first run-through of the entire show; apparently, I have something good.

Director Wesley Cayabyab selected an amazing cast that carries the play to whole new levels, and they have worked very hard on a challenging little play, even if only 7 pages long. Here are two of the actors, Rick Homan as an FBI agent, and Leontyne Mbele-Mbong in the lead role as the amnesiac Hope Judith Hauser.

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The third member, Cameron Galloway, is one of San Francisco’s best comedic actors, but as the other FBI agent, she is tackling one of her most serious roles.

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I keep hearing that The Duck looks really good at this stage, but knowing almost nothing of the rehearsal process, it feels like I have a surprise present awaiting me in June.

Anyway, Wily West is a terrific small theater company based in San Francisco, which has produced a number of Sheherezade short play festivals, an annual event of the Playwrights Center of San Francisco. If you need just one more reason to visit my home town next month, Sheherezade 14 might prove the perfect “just one more reason” you need.

Vonn Scott Bair

Jinshin Jiko at the Fringe of Marin Festival

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Good Evening:

I have a role in a terrific one-act play entitled Jinshin Jiko, a ghost story that will appear at this year’s Fringe of Marin theater festival. The play takes place in a Japanese subway, and the title roughly translates as “human accident,” a term used to for people who commit suicide by jumping in front of trains. We perform on May 24 and May 25 at 2:00, and May 30 and May 31 at 7:30. For more information and tickets, please visit the Fringe of Marin website.

During tonight’s tech rehearsal at the theater, I noticed an odd phenomenon of light when I looked up at the ceiling. First, take a look at the pictures below, all taken with my iPhone 4, all unedited. The question is simple: how many colors of paint do you see?

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The correct answer: a lot fewer than you think. Aside from a little brown wood trim on the edges of the first and last pictures, there’s only one color in all of these shots. It’s the off-white color you see in the left-hand side of the middle photograph. Yes, they all belong to my “Someone Notices the Contrast of White on White” series of pictures, but I have never seen such color changes resulting from shadow, the angles of light, and nearby lamps.

Anyway, I feel most fortunate to have become a part of Jinshin Jiko; we have a really good combination of script, director and cast. I hope you can attend. After all, how many good reasons to visit the San Francisco Bay Area are there?

Vonn Scott Bair

The Sound of Silence on the Set on Mt. Tamalpais (Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence)

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Good Evening:

One fine spring day in 2002, I received the first of a series of phone calls from a casting agent in Los Angeles who said that he really needed me for the starring role in an episode of a television series. Well, that’s what he said. Given the size of the acting pool in LA (mindblowingly huge) and the size of the acting pool in the San Francisco Bay Area (um, not terrible), it seemed reasonable to believe that maybe a modest modicum of mistrust might come in handy.

After several more phone calls from him, and after I conducted a little online research, he seemed real, but I made sure we met in a very public location. I’m glad I did. Not only did everything prove legitimate, but I found myself with my first lead role in an episode of a foreign television show, a Channel 4 UK reality crime series called Supersleuths. The good news: I had and have the exactly right look for the role.

The bad news: the role was David Carpenter.

David Carpenter (no links), born 1930, is The Trailside Killer, one of California’s all-time worst serial killers and today he might be the oldest person on any Death Row in America. Yours truly in 2002 bore a striking physical resemblance to him circa 1980 when he committed a series of rape/murders in the Bay Area, many of them occurring on Mt. Tamalpais, the highest peak in the Marin Hills and one of the most beautiful locations in the Bay Area.

Therefore, we spent many days on “Mt. Tam” creating reenactments of the crimes on the actual locations where they occurred. In my experience, most film sets are boisterous fun places; for most people in the industry, getting a job is the tough dreary part, working the job is the fun part. By contrast, the cast and crew on “The Trailside Killer” episode of Supersleuths maintained by far the most sober and serious environment of any acting job on which I’ve worked, especially after the first day of shooting, which took place at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin County Civic Center. A woman who had worked with the detective who literally handcuffed Carpenter watched the first take of the first scene and immediately fled the set. When an assistant caught up with her, she kept whispering, “That’s Carpenter. That’s Carpenter.” We never saw her again after that day.

Everyone, both local and British, figured it out; the crimes remained very painful memories.

But early one grey, foggy, drizzling morning on Mt. Tam, the director, cinematographer and I studied some actual photographs of the crime scene we planned to recreate. Yes, actual photos, another reason for the sobriety. The crew prepped their equipment whilst simultaneously shielding it from the minimal wetness, while the actress who would portray the first of the four victims I would kill that day stood under an umbrella gazing at the place where she would die. We had set up our work site at a picnic area a little over 2,000 feet above sea level, normally a noisy environment: this part of the park can get very windy, and the Bay Area has so much vehicular traffic below us and so much air traffic above us that ambient noise always poses a challenge for sound crews.

Then I said, “Guys, did you hear that?”

The director, an Englishman, said, “I don’t hear anything.”

“That’s my point. I hear nothing.”

The light drizzle fell so lightly that it made no noise as it landed upon asphalt, grass, wood, or leaf. But it fell thickly enough that combined with the low clouds overhead and fog all around, the weather managed to muffle all of the sounds of the mountain and the San Francisco Bay Area without itself making any sound. The weather even managed somehow to stop the wind.

We listened to nothing. The crew stopped working, looked around and listened to nothing. The actress looked up at the sky and heard nothing.

The director said, “I’ve never heard silence in my entire life.”

I said, “Neither have I.”

The cinematographer said he had heard absolute silence once before. He was almost 60 years old. I remember one of the crew slowly stomping his right foot up and down on the grass, making no noise at all. Then he stood still again. We all held still for two, perhaps three minutes, and listened to silence, listened to nothing, and aside from the cinematographer, we were listening to the sound of silence for the first time in our lives.

Then we all grinned. Simultaneously. For the only time during the entire project.

The director said, “We’re falling behind schedule,” and we sobered up and got back to work. I still had to kill four people that day and we were losing time.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Duck, Part I (Weekly Photo Challenge: Family)

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Good Evening:

I form a lot of families over the course of a year. Tis the nature of the theater and film world; for anywhere from a week to several months, a group of people will gather as strangers, become a family of greater/lesser functionality/disfunctionality, and put on a show or make a movie.

Behold my latest family:

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My latest collection of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles include the combined forces of the Playwrights Center of San Francisco and Wily West Productions. Laylah Muran, in the bottom right, performs the combined role of theatrical mastermind/overworked Executive Producer, whilst the rest of the gang (not including yours truly) consists of playwrights, directors and sundry personnel.

They have selected my very short one-act play The Duck for a festival of short works in June. Even better news, I have a very good director in Wes Cayabyab (extreme left).

Funny thing is, The Duck is a play about family, inspired by a rather chilling document called NISMART-2 (2nd National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children–and yes, I wrote “Thrownaway”). Two FBI agents want to solve a 24-year-old missing person case, but the woman they interview (at age 7 she survived a murder attempt at the cost of permanent retrograde post-traumatic amnesia) refuses to cooperate. Herewith I present the first half of the play: the rest shall follow tomorrow.

THE DUCK

a one-act play by Vonn Scott Bair, copyright 2013, all rights reserved.

  • HOPE JUDITH HAUSER: Born circa 1968, any race, ethnicity
  • AGENT DEMARCO: FBI, any age, race, gender, ethnicity
  • AGENT FREDRICKSEN: FBI, any age, race, gender, ethnicity
  • TIME: December 1999.
  • SETTING: Exterior of HOPE’S home. Duck-themed decor.

(LIGHTS UP. ENTER DEMARCO and FREDRICKSEN.)

DEMARCO: Guy said, “Just look for the house with lots of ducks.”

(DEMARCO rings the doorbell.)

DEMARCO: Duck theme mail box, duck theme address plaque, knocker, doorbell, custom-designed welcome mat. Lots of ducks.

(ENTER HOPE JUDITH HAUSER from the same direction with shopping bags. She sees the detectives, stops, stands behind them at a distance. No facial expression.)

FREDRICKSEN: Mat’s upside down. Faces the house, not the visitors.

DEMARCO: And that does not represent a typical welcome message.

FREDRICKSEN: “Don’t give up. Don’t let go.” Not normal.

(FREDRICKSEN knocks.)

FREDRICKSEN: Message is for her, not us.

DEMARCO: No question. (Pause.) Think about it. Our last case of the year, on the last week of the last year of the millennium, and the first case ever that might have a happy ending.

(FREDRICKSEN knocks again. DEMARCO turns around.)

DEMARCO: Hope Judith Hauser?

HOPE: You’re police, and you come from another state.

FREDRICKSEN: FBI. Agent Fredricksen, Minneapolis office.

DEMARCO: DeMarco, also representing Minneapolis. How did you know?

HOPE: Only the law uses my middle name.

FREDRICKSEN: You must get a lotta visits from our kind.

DEMARCO: And we came for the same reason as the rest. First, we need to verify your, um, state of mind, if that’s the correct-

HOPE: Yes, yes, yes, I remain a retrograde post-traumatic amnesiac, with no memory of my life before I woke up in a hospital 24 years ago on July 20, 1975.

DEMARCO: We have a very unusual assignment. For us. We just need to take a quick DNA swab and we’ll get out of your way.

FREDRICKSEN: You know better’n us how quick these go, and we can do it–right–here–Ms. Hauser?

DEMARCO: Ms. Hauser, you OK?

(Pause. HOPE has remained absolutely still and motionless during this entire time.)

HOPE: I’m–I’m not–no, I’m. (Pause.) Let me start over. I don’t, don’t–really–demonstrate much–emotion-

DEMARCO: We noticed-

HOPE: -so I have to tell people how I feel. I–just–snapped.

FREDRICKSEN: Thank you for sharing-

HOPE: Total mental breakdown. Except it’s more like an epiphany, and I feel almost good. (Pause.) You can’t have my DNA.

(Pause.)

DEMARCO: We’re trying to help a family, and you’ve always cooperated with the law in the past, and-

HOPE: No. This time, I do not cooperate. This time, I help me.

FREDRICKSEN: What is so different this time?

HOPE: Bad timing. Real bad for you. I realized–I can say no. I feel free. And it feels so good. Because I met the Ones who Came After Me Once Too Often. I met you.

For twenty-four years, 15, 20 times a year, you come after me. Shut up and listen! I am the only one who counts…

Over 50,000 children go missing every year. There must be hundreds of thousands of families with missing children. They all want them back. The families–come after me. They need me. They need their hope, wishes, dreams–they need me. Families who lost a daughter any age except mine, lost a daughter any year except 1975, lost a daughter with different hair, different skin, they, they, they–come after me.

Because I might be the one…

I am not the one. Not now, not ever.

And thank you ever so much for coming two days before the first anniversary of the night a drunk driver killed my parents in an accident CRASH AND BURN and he wasn’t even scratched but just try to get the smell of burnt flesh out your mind and the drunk with six DUIs SIX on him and a liter of vodka in him was joking about barbeque sauce and thank you for helping me smell the accident right here and right now just two days before and he had drunk a liter of vodka my parents killed for the price of one liter of cheap liquor and go back wherever you came from and tell that family their daughter is lost lost lost lost LOST AND THEY HAVE TO GET REAL AND DEAL WITH IT THEIR DAUGHTER IS LOST AND THEY WILL NEVER GET HER BACK tell all those hundreds of thousands of families to JUST ACCEPT THAT THEY ARE GONE AND THEY ARE NEVER COMING BACK and maybe they don’t want to go back maybe they ran away because their families abused them or neglected them or maybe they were just too plain BORING and life is nothing but DEATH and loss just GET USED TO IT and you came here two days before the first anniversary my parents are gone BURNT and…

There was a time when I enjoyed dashing hopes, when I wanted your kind to visit so I could disappoint another family that would not leave me alone.

Now, I just want you to stay away. Forever.

The worst part is I feel the same hurt as these families. They can’t think about the chance that I might be their missing daughter without reliving the hurt of their loss, and I feel how it hurts when their hope gets crushed yet again–my name is a pitiful JOKE–and maybe I only feel one or two per cent of the sorrow, grief and pain each family feels, but I have felt the sorrow, grief and pain of hundreds of families and I have inflicted sorrow, grief, and pain upon hundreds of families and I can’t take it anymore and I just want you to GO AWAY AND STOP HURTING ME MY FAMILY WILL NEVER BE FOUND AND THESE FAMILIES WILL NEVER FIND THEIR CHILDREN and stop causing all this hurt and YOU and all the rest of YOU JUST GO AWAY!!

He joked about barbeque sauce.

These children are lost, and they will stay lost. Forever.

There is no hope.

(HOPE sits on the welcome mat, ducks her head, curls up into a tight little ball. Long pause.)

HOPE: You have a warrant. Your ilk always does. You’ve never needed it before, but you need it now, so shove it in my face and force me. Just do it and get out of my life.

(FREDRICKSEN starts to reach inside a pocket for the warrant, but DEMARCO stops this with a gesture.)

DEMARCO: We prefer that you choose to help. (Pause.) Hope, we said this was an unusual case for us. We did not say why.

END OF PART I.

I Meet Clark Kent–Yes, *That* Clark Kent–on the 6-Parnassus Bus

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Good Evening:

First, the boring preamble part:

Friday night, about 10:15 p.m. on Market Street. I had just spent an evening attending the theater and boarded a 6-Parnassus bus along with a large group of people to return home, including a very short man whom I thought was going from passenger to passenger asking for spare change. I took a seat, but he didn’t, and I noticed that he spoke only to women. Finally, one of these woman, about 60, stood up, confronted him, and shook a finger in his face.

“You! Get off this bus! You have been sexually harassing all of the women on this bus, and I want you to leave right now, or else I will have you arrested! Get off the bus, right now!”

I have a major role in the new web series The Cipher Effect (look us up at YouTube). We shot a few scenes this week. Here is the star of the series Beau Ballinger.

I have a major role in the new web series The Cipher Effect (look us up at YouTube). We shot a few scenes this week. Here is the star of the series Beau Ballinger.

I didn’t know he had been harassing the women because he spoke so quietly, but looking closely, this was a homeless man, and he was clearly high on something like meth. I know what percentage of the homeless consist of families; I know what percentage consist of children; however, a small percentage of the homeless are bums, and sometimes bums are bums, and this was one of those bums-are-bums kind of bums, harassing women just like this guy. The older woman continued to stand her ground and shout at him, an impressive display of courage because as short as he was (less than five foot six), she was even shorter. Finally, she shouted to the bus driver, “Security! Security!” The bus driver did nothing–she was way in the back and he might not have heard her. Or he acted like he might not have heard her.

Well as you well know, an evening at the theater will bring out the mucho macho machismo in any manly manful mannish man, so I stood up and said to the men in my immediate vicinity, “Who wants to help?” They looked at me as if I was crazy (how did they know?), so I asked again, “Who wants to help?” All of the men nearby were much younger and stronger than me but they shrank away.

“I am not going to do this by myself. I want at least two men to help me. Three on one, we can persuade him to leave. Who wants to help?”

One gentleman had made threatening gestures at the bum when the guy wasn’t looking at him, so I asked the man, “Would you like to help?” His response consisted of curling into a ball and looking away from me. Meanwhile, the drug addict had moved to the stairs at the back of the bus while berating all of the women on the bus and all of the women in the world in general. This was his way of staging a protest: the back doors open and stay open when a San Francisco electric bus stops and someone stands on the steps. If you don’t get off the steps, the doors don’t close, and the bus cannot move (it’s a safety measure). He had stopped the bus to punish and vent his feelings about all of the women in the world in general.

“Who wants to help?”

“Are you serious? Because I am.”

I hadn’t seen or heard this stranger, whomever he was, approach me. I turned to my right and found myself face to face with Clark Kent.

Yes. That Clark Kent.

Set Change During the Friday Shoot for The Cipher Effect. I play Dr. Mabus, a kind-hearted, well-meaning, absent-minded mad scientist who accidentally puts the entire planet at risk of annihilation. Yes, the role is a lot of fun.

Set Change During the Friday Shoot for The Cipher Effect. I play Dr. Mabus, a kind-hearted, absent-minded mad scientist who accidentally puts the entire planet at risk of annihilation. Yes, the role is a lot of fun.

No joke. If you have ever wondered how Clark Kent appears in real life, I can tell you. Seriously, he looked almost exactly as he does in the comic books and graphic novels, lacking only the grossly over-inflated chest. He was maybe two inches taller than me, with short curly black hair and nerdy horn-rimmed glasses, plus that intense burning stare, but his lanky graceful movements reminded me of some of the black belts I’ve known. Think of Clark Kent as a capoerista or a Muy Thai or Jiujutsu black belt (how many spelling errors did I just commit?) and you can picture him. Imagine that–not only is Clark Kent as strong as, well, you know, Clark Kent, he knows martial arts, too. I said, “Yes I’m serious, but let me talk to the guy first.”

I had begun to feel sorry for the meth head.

Talking to the guy was a waste of time; after all, he was stoned. He made up his mind that if he was going to get off the bus at all, he would leave via the front door. I picked him up but he got loose and sat down again, but this time he made a big mistake–he sat with his back to my partner. Clark Kent hooked his hands under the meth-head’s shoulders, lifted him clear off the ground, I hooked my hands under his legs, and together we threw the addict ten feet through the air into a metal railing. He hit the railing hard, just as you might expect–after all, Clark Kent had thrown him with a tiny assist from me–as stared at something real hard, his jaw hanging down. The doors shut, the bus moved on, and my partner and I shook hands and received a combined standing/sitting ovation.

But that’s the boring preamble part.

Clark Kent sat down next to his girlfriend, Lois Lane.

Yes. That Lois Lane.

She styled her hair in a dark wavy bob, just like Lois Lane, and boy was she thrilled to have him all to herself. Her eyes glittered, glistened and shone like white diamonds in water in a petri dish lit from underneath. She French kissed Clark with extreme aggression and stroked his thigh very close to you-can-guess-what-she-put-her-hand-very-close-to. Actually, a little closer than very close, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Funny thing about Clark—the strong man turned flimsier than a strand of overboiled linguini in Lois’ hands as if she wore bracelets made of Kryptonite. The more she stroked him and kissed him, the louder and harder she breathed. It’s a good thing they got off the bus a quarter-mile later because Lois was this close to losing all self-control and doing something that would have gotten herself and Clark Kent in trouble with the law, and wouldn’t that have been ironic? Funny thing–the superhero seemed curiously helpless in her hands.

But that’s still the boring preamble part.

Meanwhile, I sat down next to a woman who turns out to be my epistolary competition. This was a tall young woman with a brown ponytail close to three decades younger than me who was using her iPhone to post what she had just seen to Facebook. Colleen has been living in San Francisco for only two years, and during those two years she has collected stories of her experiences on public transit and sent them to her friends. Unlike me, she can provide extra value to her readers: by a strange coincidence, she is usually on the cell phone with her mother when her events occur, so she can not only tell her friends what she saw, she can tell them what her mother had said about what she had seen.

So we swapped stories. We had enough time to share two apiece, so she told me about a crackhead on one bus who freaked out over nothing and started screaming to the other passengers, “You are all Satan’s Kitties! You are all Satan’s Kitties! You are all Satan’s Kitties!” Fortunately, most of her experiences were benign: her other story told of how she sometimes sees a woman on the bus who will spontaneously start pole dancing (clothes on) while singing cheerful love songs and bringing smiles to everyone’s faces. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what Colleen’s mother had to say about that. Sorry, folks.

Apologizing for Being Only the Second Best Public Transit Story Teller in San Francisco, I Remain,

Yours Truly,

Vonn Scott Bair

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense – Constructing San Francisco, Part IV

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Good Evening:

All photos taken of the same construction site at 8th and Mission, tracking the progress of yet another one of San Francisco’s future apartment buildings. Aside from the rainbow shot, all taken from various floors at SFPUC HQ.

In 1999, I had the enormous pleasure and privilege of performing with the Thunderbird Theatre Company (possibly the only theater company in history named after a motel in Chico, California) in a cowboy comedy called Lariats of Fire. I played the virtuous Marshall Stewart, who drank a potent brown liquid “…called lat-tays, and a lat-tay is a kinda coffee made from an Italian coffee called ee-spresso. Don’t be surprised if you taste something strange to you. It’s called hazelnut, and I think it’s dee-licious.” That remains one of my greatest experiences in acting.

5 September 2012: Double Rainbow

5 September 2012: Double Rainbow

A curious feature of the excellent cast consisted of this: aside from myself, and an actress who moved to Hollywood and failed to make it there, everyone else in the 15-strong cast worked in various dot-coms in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco. All of them worked ridiculous hours for a rediculous number of days per week, for a rediculous (as in rediculously low) salary–and rediculous amounts of stock options in the companies for which they worked. In a few years, their companies would go public. Following the model of companies such as Pets.com, they would cash in their options for millions of dollars, and they would quit their jobs en masse and devote the rest of their lives to acting in movies and films.

In simple English, they were this close to paradise before the age of 30.

19 September 2012

19 September 2012

Yours truly, the low-paid temp at the time, did not envy his fellow actors. Envy is The Pointless Emotion–it does nothing to make your life better and everything to make your life worse. I felt nothing but happiness for them. I could not partake of the same great fortune as did they. Silicon Valley and the San Francisco dot-coms would not have the likes of me for one simple reason.

Age discrimination.

A now-defunct but then a must-read weekly called Tech Week or TechWeek (whichever) published exactly one Anonymous article during its short history, written by an HR specialist in the Valley whose company blatantly practiced age discrimination. His or her article explained that they discriminated, how they got away with it, and why they felt that they had to commit age discimination. I don’t know if anyone else remembers the story, but at the time it whipped up a huge storm in the tech world.

15 October 2012

15 October 2012

Well, Tech Week or TechWeek (whichever) is long gone, a casualty of the dot-bomb. So is every single one of the companies where my friends worked. So is every single one of their stock options. Some of them were only a few months away from wealth. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only cast member out of 15 who still lives in San Francisco.

30 November 2012

30 November 2012

San Francisco, the world’s ultimate boom-or-bust city, has attracted the attention and fascination of the world again. The New York Times recently published an article going to great lengths to describe how our legendary Exploratorium moved all of their exhibits from their old home in the Marina to the new one on Pier 15. Everyone seems to want to weigh in on the new San Francisco constructing itself before our very astonished eyes.

19 December 2012

19 December 2012

Salon has become the latest to chime in, with a sometimes brilliant, usually witty,  and always snarky article (How the Internet ruined San Francisco, again) on the changes in my hometown. The author makes some superb points worth keeping in mind the next time some major media outlet publishes some major media article about Baghdad by the Bay. The funny thing is that some of the commenters disagreeing with him also make some superb points in reply. The best comment: “It’s not like the displaced artists and minorities and other longtime residents ever moved back. So, you know, the fact that it’s happening again does, in fact, suck.”

26 March 2013

26 March 2013

And that is the best and worst of San Francisco’s latest boom, summed up in one sentence, and the commenter probably doesn’t even know it. We don’t know what comes next. The Salon writer is absolutely correct to skewer the moaners and whiners who moan and whine about how things are changing and therefore they are changing for the worst (sic). However, it is every bit as correct to wonder what happens when the artists who make San Francisco well, uh, you know, San Francisco move out–which frankly looks inevitable. No one, but no one, has any idea of what will move in, and the people who assert that life will be fine and dandy because life has always been fine and dandy are no less ignorant of the future.

The San Francisco Future could prove amazing, glorious and wonderful, as new art forms spring up, created by the tech workers moving into the city during their days off from work. And I would truly be a total and hopeless moron to lament changes that have not yet arrived–for cryin’ out loud, a WordPress blogger complaining about the tech boom?? Our gracious hosts are those very same tech workers, and I’ve visited the WP HQ on Mission Street! Heck, I want to know when they plan to go public.

However, San Francisco historically has proven a city of busts as big–and as inevitable–as the booms. When the next bust comes down upon like an earthquake from above, and the city empties out again, who will move in?

My final speech as the virtuous Marshall Stewart of Lariats of Fire, to the equally virtuous Sheriff Betty: “And I would be honored to have a warrior woman like you by my side. A woman true to herself, and in touch with both the feminine, and masculine, aspects of her spirituality.” I want to say lines as bizarre and inspired as that for decades and decades to come. I want to say those lines in San Francisco, as part of a cast of wild and crazy artists who can somehow afford to live in this magnificent City by the Bay.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–I forgot to mention something in Part III of this series. All those people who obtained real estate licenses in 2004-2005? Today, I read their job applications.

Snippets of San Franciscans Speaking, 7 March 2013

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Good Evening:  (Update: I can’t believe I forgot to title my own post. No, wait–actually, I can.) Some odd odds and ends. 1. “If karma exists, I am so f_____!” A college-aged woman to her group of friends, including her boyfriend.

Backstage at La Brava Theater, San Francisco, 2012

Backstage at La Brava Theater, San Francisco, 2012

2. This one comes from yours truly, the accidental diplomat, and took place at the party after Opening Night of Just One More Game: Older male wearing a black cowboy hat: The entire cast did a great job tonight. Myself: I have to give a lot of credit to the director. Have you met her? Mr. Black Cowboy Hat: She’s my daughter. Myself: Oh. So you have met her. Mr. Black Cowboy Hat: Thank you for justifying all that college tuition I spent on her.

Backstage at the Dark Room Theater During a Performance of "The Night"

Backstage at the Dark Room Theater During a Performance of “The Night”

3. The 100 block of Eddy Street consists of a lot of SRO residential hotels (SRO: Single Room Occupancy) inhabited by San Francisco’s poorest. But they care about their block and take care of their block, as I witnessed when an African-American male in his 50s confronted an African-American male in his 80s and stopped him from–well, read for yourself: “Hey man, don’t pee on this side of the street, this is the decent side of the street. You got a parking lot right ‘cross the street, go there. Don’t pee on this side, that ain’t healthy, women and children live here. You pee here, you peein’ on them. You pee here, you peein’ on me. Don’t do that man, just cross the street and pee where you s’posed to.” You pee here, you peein’ on me, man, an’ you don’ wanna do that. Vonn Scott Bair

Just One More Game Opens March 1st!

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Good Evening:

My next big acting job is only one week away! Just One More Game has been a great experience, I have worked with a great bunch of people, and we have a really good, funny and touching show. I hope you can attend!

Vonn Scott Bair

If love is a game… is it worth one more quarter?

First publicity still from the new play Just One More Game. I'm the overacting chap in the bottom right. http://tripleshotproductions.org/

First publicity still from the new play Just One More Game. I’m the overacting chap in the bottom right. http://tripleshotproductions.org/

Just One More Game

A New Romantic Comedy by Dan Wilson

Triple Shot invites you to the world premiere of Just One More Game.

Geeks of a feather, every gamer brings their play-history with them.  But is love a game?  Marjorie and Kent bet more than their virtual lives in this rom-com by San Francisco playwright Dan Wilson.

Having grown up in the Atari Age, they’ve pursued careers on opposite sides video game industry: programmer and critic.  With heart meters running from full to almost empty, will the game end in defeat, or will they put it all on the line for Just One More Game?

San Francisco playwright Dan Wilson has been called a “local theatre maverick” by the San Francisco Weekly, and “ambitious and savvy” by SF Bay Times. His previous work has been dubbed “viciously funny,” (Sweetie Tanya) and “caustic and incisive” (Vagina Dentata).  You won’t want to miss the world premiere of this hilarious comedy.  Featuring Vonn Scott Bair, Candace Brown, Linda-Ruth Cardozo, and Christopher DeJong.

Just One More Game

By Dan Wilson

Directed by Bahati Bonner

At The Exit Theatre

156 Eddy St., San Francisco, CA

Opens Friday, March 1st, 2013

Performs Thursdays thru Saturdays until March 30th, 8PM performances

Sundays:  March 10th & 17th, 2pm performances

Tickets:  $25

Reservations:  (877) 556-7396  / or online at www.tripleshotproductions.org

An Acute Critic at the Civic Center BART Station

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Good Evening:

I can’t deny the truth: Beck’s “Loser” annoyed and irritated me more than any other song during the entire decade of the Nineties. Drives me up the wall every time I hear it. So the busker with the acoustic guitar and the thin voice at the Civic Center BART did me no favors Tuesday night by performing that song, and performing it badly. Across the corridor sat a beggar with a blue plastic milk crate holding sundry items.

“I’m a loser, baby/so why don’t you kill me.”

Even better, the busker knew only that line from the song’s lyrics, so he kept singing that one line over and over and over. Badly. Very, very, badly.

Finally the beggar stood up and grabbed his milk crate.

“Man! Yo s— gonna kill me!!

The beggar stormed off. The busker followed him with his eyes, not playing or singing one note.

A moment of silence.

The busker improvised a quiet slow tempo blues number. Which, to be fair, was actually pretty good.

Vonn Scot Bair