Seducing Amy Glazer (away from the stage)

Charlie Barker 3 copy
Stephen Barker Turner is the title character in the Amy Glazer-directed feature Seducing Charlie Barker, based on Theresa Rebeck’s play The Scene. Below: Theater and film director Amy Glazer. Photo by Lisa Keating

Theater folk know Amy Glazer as one of the busiest directors in Bay Area theater. But she also has a burgeoning career as a film director, which is no surprise given that she grew up on movie sets.

I interviewed Glazer for a feature in the San Francisco Chronicle pegging to the release of her second full-length feature, Seducing Charlie Barker, which is based on Theresa Rebeck’s play The Scene, which Glazer directed at SF Playhouse in 2008. (Read my review of that production here.)

You can read my interview with Glazer here.

Amy Glazer head shot

As usual, there wasn’t quite enough room in the newspaper for every interesting thing Glazer had to say. Given that she’s becoming a specialist in turning plays she directed on stage into movies, I asked her what the secret of adaptation is.

“First, you have to pick the best of the dialogue, the greatest hits,” she says. “It’s hardly surprising that playwrights are now in demand as TV writers. They write great dialogue and great characters, and film needs that. Then you have to learn to show and not tell. Wherever a play is relying on the grammar of drama, like using dialogue to create exposition, that has to become a scene or somehow it has to inform the visual picture. I discovered ways of including details that can be more powerful than dialogue.”

I also asked her how the movie world feels about plays becoming movies. “People in the know that at the end of the day, a movie has to come from good writing,” Glazer says. “Those people do not have an attitude about turning plays into movies. They understand that you’re not just shooting the play as a movie. You’re deconstructing the world of the play for a film because film is a visual medium and can only sustain so much dialogue. Film condenses time, which is something I didn’t understand on my first movie. I’ve definitely had a learning curve.”

Glazer and her producing partner, Lynn Webb, have formed a production company called Beshert, a Yiddish word meaning destiny or kismet, and they have four projects in pre-production, all based on plays Glazer loves and has directed.

“I’d love to get old doing this. Or stay young doing this,” she says.

Visit the official Seducing Charlie Barker website here.

Watch the Seducing Charlie Barker trailer:

Official Seducing Charlie Barker Trailer from Seducing Charlie Barker on Vimeo.

Theater Dogs changes, Cal Shakes’ Cowardly courage

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde

What a tumultuous year it has been here at Theater Dogs. Thank you for taking the ride.

The news is that I have jumped the fence, from writing about theater to working in theater. As the new communications manager for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, I find that I can no longer review Bay Area theater without feeling a nagging conflict of interest. So what’s a dedicated blogger to do?

Here’s what I have figured out for the time being – and this may evolve in time: I’m going to keep the blog alive with news, both local and national, as well as occasional reviews of theater-related music, books, TV and film.

Because I am a devoted fan of Bay Area theater, I will continue to see as much theater as I can, and when I see something wonderful, I will give it a shout out here at Theater Dogs. We’re not talking full-on reviews but boosts, encouragement to get out there and experience the best the Bay Area has to offer on its multitude of stages.

And I invite you to do the same. When you see something great, please drop me a line at I’ll happily post your thoughts and keep the conversation about our vibrant theater scene alive.

And the first shout out goes to…


To get the conversation started, here’s what I enjoyed about the California Shakespeare Theater production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives.

First off, we lucked out and saw the show on a gorgeous summer night – warm, no wind, starry skies, in short, heaven at the Bruns Amphitheater.

I happened to catch Private Lives the same day I saw Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno, and I have to say, I was relieved to lose myself in the sophisticated humor of Coward after finding myself completely turned off by Cohen’s generally mean, uninspired and fruitless attempt to wring laughs from ridicule and dick jokes (and this from someone who still hasn’t stopped laughing over Borat).

What bliss to be immersed in the world of 1930s Coward, where adults with complicated romantic entanglements parry and thrust with words and wit, all the while looking glam and gorgeous.

I have a great love for all things Coward, and I must say it’s a delight to see the main characters in Private Lives, Amanda and Elyot, played with such warmth and passion by Diana Lamar and Stephen Barker Turner (above right, photo by Kevin Berne). The characters, originated by Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, can be played as brittle facades, but Lamar and Turner, under the direction of Mark Rucker, turn from icy Brits in formal wear into pajama-clad lust buckets with convincing glee.

Act 2, which takes place in Amanda’s Paris flat (the colorful set design is by Annie Smart), bursts with passion as Amanda and Elyot proceed to destroy the flat – and each other – all the while proving over and over again how impossible it will be to live with each other and how equally impossible it will be to part company.

Turner and Lamar have sizzling chemistry that flares and fires consistently and with ever-richer results.


Cal Shakes’ Private Lives continues through Aug. 2 at the Bruns Amphitheater, just off Highway 24 at the Shakespeare Festival Way/Gateway exit, one mile east of the Caldecott Tunnel in Orinda. Tickets start at $20. Call 510-548-9666 or visit for information.
Coming up at Cal Shakes:

Next up is Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days starring Marsha Mason, Aug. 12-Sept. 6.

Also the Cal Shakes costume department has just completed a huge reorganization of its inventory, and the result is tons and tons of costumes, wigs, and accessories, to be sold to the public at thrift-store prices for a few days only. Thirty-five years’ worth of hats, armor, capes, Renaissance and Tudor, unique modern pieces—a little bit of everything! Perfect for Burning Man costumes, Ren Faire, Halloween and what-have-you.

Here are the details: Cal Shakes Costume Shop Sale, Thursday, Aug. 6–Sunday, Aug. 9, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. at the Cal Shakes Rehearsal Hall, 701 Heinz Ave., West Berkeley (Just a few blocks west of San Pablo and north of Ashby). Call 510.548.3422 x131 or e-mail for information.

Countdown to ACT’s `Carol’

James Carpenter (center) is Scrooge in American Conservatory Theater’s annual production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Kevin Berne

American Conservatory Theater’s annual production of A Christmas Carol is in full swing in downtown San Francisco. Rather than reviewing this holiday perennial, let’s just hit some of the major points. Herewith, in descending order, some reasons to see the show. (To read the complete list, visit my theater page here.)

10. Before and after the show you get to wander around the festive Union Square area, which, despite the general mood of the nation, is rich with decoration and holiday cheer. The ice rink in Union Square, just under the enormous, beautifully decorated tree, is especially nice.

9. The special effects, especially where the ghosts are concerned, are marvelous. The first appearance by Jacob Marley’s ghost is a doozy, and the giant Ghost of Christmas Future is creepy in all the right ways (young audience members should probably be at least 4 years old to see this show).

8. During the Fezziwig’s ball, choreographer Val Caniparoli goes to town with the joyous dancing. His moves for the children are especially charming.

7. Speaking of children, the youngest members of the cast are wonderful. Their enthusiasm is contagious. Noah Pawl Silverman St. John is a notable Boy Scrooge, and Lauren Safier is a whirlwind of affection as his sister, Little Fan.

6. The not-so-enjoyable aspects of the production (the sketchy set, the wan music) are trumped by the better aspects of the show and by the story itself. That Charles Dickens knew a thing or two about entertaining while moralizing.

5. Nicholas Pelczar adds a welcome jolt of real holiday feeling as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred. His unfurling of a red scarf as a gift for old Ebenezer is one of the show’s simplest yet most enduring images.

4. The costumes by Beaver Bauer are gorgeous and funny (see No. 3). The colors, textures and patterns swirl around the stage like a confectioner’s dream.

3. The dancing Spanish Onions (Isabella Ateshian and Ella Ruth Francis), Turkish Figs (Rachel Share-Sapolsky and Kira Yaffe) and French Plums (Megan Apple and Megumi Nakamura) bring a whole lot of charm to the Ghost of Christmas Present’s dissertation on abundance.

2. Some great Bay Area actors sink their considerable chops into delicious supporting roles. Ken Ruta as the ghost of Jacob Marley is a delight, as is Sharon Lockwood as Scrooge’s char woman, Mrs. Dilber, and as the festive Mrs. Fezziwig. Jarion Monroe, in a curly red wig, is adorable as Mr. Fezziwig, and Cindy Goldfield and Stephen Barker Turner are warm and fuzzy as the Cratchits, impoverished only in economic terms.

1. James Carpenter’s performance as Scrooge is reason enough to see this production. He’s a brilliant actor and breathes life into this chestnut of a character. The production surrounding him isn’t always up to his level, but he lifts the entire experience to an appropriately Dickensian level.
You can also read my review of ACT’s A Christmas Carol in the San Francisco Chronicle here.


A Christmas Carol continues through Dec. 27 at the American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $18-$102. Call 415-479-2ACT or visit

Photo at right: Ken Ruta is the Ghost of Jacob Marley in ACT’s A Christmas Carol. Photo by Kevin Berne

Review: “Hedda Gabler”

(opened Feb. 14, 2007)
ACT’s hip, sassy `Hedda’ starts strong, fades quickly
two stars Too cute ‘n’ casual

Theater, or so they say, is all about the communal experience. We breathe the same air as the actors and we commune with our fellow audience members.

On the way out of the theater after American Conservatory Theater’s Hedda Gabler on Wednesday night, a couple behind me compared notes on the production. “Tedious, tedious,” the woman said. “Well, it was better than A Doll’s House but they were both terrible,” the man said. “We should have watched `Infamous,’ ” the woman added.

I didn’t feel quite as strongly as my fellow audience members about this Hedda, but I was disappointed, especially because the show starts out so strongly.

Director Richard E.T. White reveals his stage in stages. First, we see a giant mural of a glacier on the back of the theater wall surrounded by scaffolding and a catwalk (set by Kent Dorsey). Then the walls of the Tesman home fly in, but, curiously, the walls of the house are made of rope — many thick strands of rope, which makes them rustic and see-through.

John Gromada’s original music — piano and a string or two — lends an unsettling air, and we jump right into Henrik Ibsen’s story of a most unpleasant woman making life a nightmare for just about everyone around her.

Hedda (played by ACT company member Rene Augesen) admits that one of her goals in life is to have power over someone’s destiny. Too bad that someone can’t be herself. This is a woman out of control.

Her new husband, Jorgen Tesman (Anthony Fusco) bores her silly, and his touch repulses her. She treats him with cold disdain, and he doesn’t even seem to notice.

He’s a scholar, and she’s the spoiled daughter of a celebrated general. She’s the upper crust, he the dusty crust. It’s a match made in heaven — if your idea of heaven is a play where everything that could go wrong does.

It doesn’t take long for intrigue to light a sinister spark in Hedda’s eye. Her old flame, Ejlert Lovborg (Stephen Barker Turner, left with Augesen), is back in town, and he is what Donna Summer used to call a “bad, bad, bad boy.” Apparently his new lady friend, Mrs. Elvsted (Finnerty Steeves), has helped him put his drinking and carousing days behind him.

Not for long. At least, not if Hedda has anything to say about it. This woman has pistols, and she’s not afraid to use them (or to get other people to use them on themselves).
If you’re going to see a play on Valentine’s Day, that play should be Hedda Gabler, the meanest and bloodiest romance around.

For a while, White’s production bubbles along in Paul Walsh’s recently revised translation. The language is hip, casual and extremely accessible. Maybe too accessible if such a thing is possible. This is, after all, a period drama from the late 19th century. Some formality might help define the rules by which these characters play.

But this Hedda comes across as quite the modern gal. She’s not about to be imprisoned by a loveless marriage, and if she can’t have her bad boy, then nobody can. At first Augesen’s Hedda is cold, contemptuous and sort of fun. But as her tension increases and her manipulations begin to tangle in themselves, Augesen retreats.

By Act 2 she has turned into Jennifer Aniston, all tics, mannerisms and cuteness. There’s no emotional pay-off to this Hedda. It’s not depressing, nor is it even upsetting. It’s nearly 2 1/2 hours of intermittently interesting drama.

Fusco’s Tesman is believably naive, and Sharon Lockwood as a fawning auntie dominates the stage whenever she’s on it.

Jack Willis as a booze-guzzling, lady-loving commissioner hits some resonant notes of corruption, but Turner seems miscast as the stormy Lovborg. He seems more bureaucrat than rake.

Who, ultimately, is the bad guy in Hedda Gabler? Is it a repressive society or is it a bored, petty woman with an inability to think of anyone other than herself? Based on this strangely bloodless production, I’d definitely go with the latter.

For information about ACT and “Hedda Gabler,” visit