This weekend I was up at my sister’s house for my niece’s eighth birthday. As we were watching my niece and nephew miming running against a gale-force wind, their proud grandpa said to me, “These kids would really enjoy theatre classes, don’t you think?”
My sister and I both were in theatre camp when we were kids, and I continued to take theatre classes through various local companies up through high school. Neither of us pursued acting later in life, but our early experiments with thespianism did their job: instilling confidence and public speaking skills and leaving us with a lifelong love of theatre.
That’s one reason why I’m always pleased to present our annual youth issue, listing theatre camps and classes offered by Theatre Bay Area company members. Youth theatre is integral not just to the individual development of the kids who take part in it (although if that were all it did, it would be more than enough to make it an essential public good), but it’s also the gateway to building the next generation of theatre-makers and theatregoers. Plenty of people who were in those classes with me are still onstage today.
In addition to our youth listings, we also bring you Lisa Drostova’s feature on the challenges of creating theatre for young audiences and Nirmala Nataraj’s profile of Little Opera, a new local company that guides children through the conception, creation and performance of an original opera.
But it’s not all kid stuff by any means. While we were finishing up this issue in March, a scandal broke about monologist Mike Daisey playing fast and loose in his theatre piece “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” with what he actually saw at the Chinese factories that make Apple projects, and what was stuff that he’d merely heard about but then presented as firsthand experience. It might never have become a scandal had Daisey’s tale stayed in the theatre, but it had been adapted into a radio segment on “This American Life,” and it was in that journalistic context that the fabrications were exposed, leading to a full retraction and an entire new episode devoted to setting the record straight.
This was an odd coincidence, because one of the articles we’d already prepared for this issue is all about truth in solo performance. Sara Felder interviewed many of her fellow monologists about the audience expectation that any first-person solo show surely must be autobiographical, and she asked to what extent the performers tweak the facts even in stories that are explicitly about their own lives. While obviously related to the issues that came up in “l’affaire Daisey,” Felder’s story is about an entirely different level of fictionalization. It’s no great crime to invent some dialogue from when you were four (although the Internet has taught us that people will get outraged about anything), but the stakes are very different than when you’re fibbing about eyewitness testimony versus hearsay regarding labor conditions. In any case, it wound up being a timely article, but in ways we couldn’t have expected.
Associate editor Laura Brueckner takes an in-depth look at several new play festivals around the Bay, contrasting their models and missions. Laura also interviews director James Dunn, who’s ending a 30-year run directing the annual Mountain Play on Mount Tamalpais, and I profile the prolific and suddenly ubiquitous playwright Lauren Gunderson.
And not to toot our own horn, but...well, we’re totally tooting our own horn here as well. For the last couple of months on our website, we’ve been profiling 35 people who have been associated with Theatre Bay Area programs over the years, as part of the “35 Years, 35 Faces” celebration of our first 35 years of service to the theatre community. Now we wrap it up with a photo spread of two dozen of those faces in the magazine.
That may seem like a lot, but there’s even more on our website. Besides the “35 Faces” profiles, we put up original editorial content at theatrebayarea.org several times a week, from Chatterbox blog posts to breaking news to short features. There are also online-only installments of Velina Brown’s “The Business of Show Biz” column in addition to the ones in the magazine. But lest we forget the power of print, in the next issue of the magazine we’re pleased to present the full text of Rajiv Joseph’s Glickman Award-winning play “The North Pool,” so check back in July for that. In the meantime, I recommend looking into theatre classes for any kids in your life. They’ll thank you for it later.
Sam Hurwitt is editor-in-chief for Theatre Bay Area. He is also the author of The Idiolect, a blog about theater, movies, comics, media and the decline and fall of Western civilization. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.