Gardley gets a Glickman

Marcus Gardley

Oakland playwright Marcus Gardley (right, photo by Jared Oates) is the winner of the Will Glickman Award for the best new play to have its premiere in the Bay Area in 2014. The play is The House that will not Stand, loosely based on Federico Garcìa Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, which had its premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in February of 2014. Read my review of the show here.

The award, administered by Theatre Bay Area comes with a $4,000 cash award for the writer and a plaque for the producing theater. Gardley told TBA: ““I’m thrilled to be accepting this award. I’m extremely proud of The House that will not Stand’s world premiere at Berkeley Rep and eternally grateful to have participated in The Ground Floor, which provided the creative space and artistic support to develop the play. The play has been enthusiastically received at Yale Rep and Tricycle Theatre in London. But this recognition from the Bay Area theatre community where I have deep roots is truly an honor.”​

House 1

This year’s winner was chosen by a judging panel comprising Bay Area theater critics Robert Hurwitt of the San Francisco Chronicle, Robert Avila of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Karen D’Souza of the San Jose Mercury News, Chad Jones of and Sam Hurwitt of KQED Arts and the Marin Independent Journal. The Glickman Award-winning play is usually published each year in the July/August issue of Theatre Bay Area magazine.

This year’s judges cited three other strong local premieres as runners-up: Hir by Taylor Mac (Magic Theatre); Hundred Days by Abigail Bengson, Shaun Bengson and Kate E. Ryan (Z Space) and The Scion by Brian Copeland (The Marsh).

Gardley and Berkeley Rep will receive their awards at Theatre Bay Area’s Annual Conference on April 13, which happens to be taking place at Berkeley Rep.

Photo above: Petronia Paley (as Marie Josephine) and Harriett D. Foy (as Makeda, background), starred in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of Marcus Gardley’s The House that will not Stand, a comedic drama about free women of color in 1836 New Orleans. Photo courtesy of

Here’s a complete list of Glickman Award winners (the award is made in the year following the show’s premiere):

2014 Ideation, Aaron Loeb (San Francisco Playhouse)
2013 The Hundred Flowers Project, Christopher Chen (Crowded Fire/Playwrights Foundation)
2012 The North Pool, Rajiv Joseph (TheatreWorks)
2011 Oedipus el Rey, Luis Alfaro (Magic)
2010 In the Next Room, Sarah Ruhl (Berkeley Rep)
2009 Beowulf, Jason Craig (Shotgun Players)
2008 Tings Dey Happen, Dan Hoyle (Marsh)
2007 Hunter Gatherers, Peter Sinn Nachtrieb (Killing My Lobster)
2006 The People’s Temple, Leigh Fondakowski et al (Berkeley Rep)
2005 Dog Act, Liz Duffy Adams (Shotgun)
2004 Soul of a Whore, Denis Johnson (Campo Santo)
2003 Five Flights, Adam Bock (Encore)
2002 Dominant Looking Males, Brighde Mullins (Thick Description)
2001 Everything’s Ducky, Bill Russell & Jeffrey Hatcher (TheatreWorks)
2000 The Trail of Her Inner Thigh, Erin Cressida Wilson (Campo Santo)
1999 Combat!, John Fisher (Rhino)
1998 Civil Sex, Brian Freeman (Marsh)
1997 Hurricane/Mauvais Temps, Anne Galjour (Berkeley Rep)
1996 Medea, the Musical, John Fisher (Sassy Mouth)
1995 Rush Limbaugh in Night School, Charlie Varon (Marsh)
1994 Santos & Santos, Octavio Solis (Thick Description)
1993 Heroes and Saints, Cherrie Moraga (Brava)
1992 Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, Tony Kushner (Eureka)
1991 Political Wife, Bill Talen (Life on the Water)
1990 Pick Up Ax, Anthony Clarvoe (Eureka)
1989 Yankee Dawg You Die, Philip Kan Gotanda (Berkeley Rep)
1988 Webster Street Blues, Warren Kubota (Asian American)
1987 Life of the Party, Doug Holsclaw (Rhino)
1986 Deer Rose, Tony Pelligrino (Theatre on the Square)
1985 The Couch, Lynne Kaufman (Magic)
1984 Private Scenes, Joel Homer (Magic)

Michael Gene Sullivan rouses the theatrical rabble

Earlier this week I attended the Theatre Bay Area Annual Conference, and amid much useful information about the state of local and national theater, and in between the networking and general schmoozing, I heard a voice of startling sanity.

Michael Gene Sullivan, a local writer/actor/director, gave the closing inspirational speech, and it was a doozy. Sullivan, in case you don’t know, is the head writer for the San Francisco Mime Troupe (not that kind of mime – they specialize in sharp political satire and sticking it to the man). He’s a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, and his adaptation of George Orwell’s
1984 was directed by Tim Robbins for the Actor’s Gang in Los Angeles.

Sullivan, an old-school San Francisco rabble rouser in the best sense, was fired up from the start of his speech as he pointed out that the $700 billion bail-out does not really compute because there are fewer than 7 billion people on the planet, so that’s about $100 for every man, woman and child on the planet.

Then he let Wall Street have it: “These Wizards of Wall Street – whose genius was not in buying low and selling high, but in keeping the rest of us so hypnotized with hype, so distracted with glitter, so backed into a terrifying corner with their economic shock and awe that Americans failed to do the obvious – which was hunt them down, beat in their doors, drag them naked, screaming and crying into the streets and redistribute their wealth and internal organs all across this great country of ours.”

Then he asked a question: “And who wouldn’t want to do a play about that? Doesn’t it sound better than remounting Wind in the Willows…again? Who wouldn’t want to do a play about the people of this country actually waking up and grabbing these pencil-necked free market pirates by their pitiful comb-overs?…What would Moliere do? Skewer the greedy weasels on a comically hot spit, then slowly roast them over a fire of their own lies!”

Sullivan challenged the theater makers in the room to challenge themselves and their audiences – a difficult thing to do in economically challenging times. “If theater doesn’t … challenge us to be our better selves, our braver selves, teach us about one another – if we as artists and audience don’t leave a show smarter, better, more human people than before, then what we saw was not theater. It was television.”

But here we are in a country that doesn’t value the arts, where the government provides precious little funding for the arts and much of the slack comes from charitable foundations and corporations. Sullivan, of course, warns against becoming corporate shills for the sake of survival, but he warns just as vehemently against entertainment for entertainment’s sake, which he equates with Internet porn.

“Internet porn is not out to change the world, it’s not looking to show the injustice, racism or sexism inherent in our society. It is not a demand for equal rights or even a mild reminder that things could be better. Its sole purpose is to entertain its audience – normally one at a time and probably in a cubicle. Porn, like commercial TV, is not meant to be cutting edge or politically challenging. It is the perfect example of entertainment for the sake of entertainment. And you know what you never hear about with Internet porn? A lack of funding. You never hear about porn producers struggling over a grant application.”

So short of becoming the theatrical equivalent of Internet porn (fluffers included), what’s the answer as we head into the next Great Depression? Sullivan frankly admits he has no idea, but for theater to continue to survive, as it has done since the Ancient Greeks, theater must remain dangerous.

“Each of us has the power and talent to undermine institutional stupidity and crime. We will not only say the Emperor is wearing no clothes, but also that his testicles look a little funny…And that feeling of immediacy, of danger, of theater being not a refuge from the real world but a starker version of my experience of the hope and engagement in a time of injustice – that’s what I want to create, and that is what all of us can give our audience. Hope.”

The conclusion that Sullivan comes to is that theater has to become important to people’s lives.

“We have to stop thinking of ourselves as the `theater community.’ We have to train ourselves and others to think of us as a beloved and necessary part of the larger community – a part that is vital to telling their stories, vital to helping us all understand ourselves better, vital to enunciating and being a part of the fight to make this life fairer, more equitable and just.”

There it is. A rant. A manifesto. A big slice of common sense, which is in short supply these days.

You can read Michael Gene Sullivan’s complete speech here:

And while you’re there, read his other posts. He’s a terrific writer whose sense of humor never obscures his sharp points.

Shameless plugs: `Jersey’ Vegas, SF Int’l Arts Fest

The boys of Jersey Boys in Las Vegas: from left: Erich Bergen, Rick Faugno, Jeremy Kushnier and Jeff Leibow in the production at the Palazzo. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Since leaving my illustrious career as a newspaper theater critic/editor in March, I’ve been doing some freelancing. Now you, gentle reader, get to enjoy the fruits of my labors.

In today’s Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times travel section you’ll find a story I did for them about the Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys at the Palazzo Hotel. In true Bay Area News Group fashion, the first part of the story is missing on the Web. Here’s the link anyway: At the bottom of the story is my list of Top 5 best bets for the Las Vegas theatergoer.

And here’s what’s missing from the top of the story:

Oh, what a night! `Jersey Boys’ hits Vegas’ plush Palazzo
By Chad Jones
Every time you think you know Las Vegas, the city spins the dice in another direction.
First it’s a curious desert getaway. Then it’s the ring-a-ding Rat Pack capital of the world. Then it’s cheap and sleazy. Next thing you know it’s an adult theme park full of swanky hotels, hip clubs and hot restaurants.
Now it’s all of the above plus world-class shopping, aging ’70s superstars and Broadway musicals.
There’s just no place like Vegas (mercifully), and the town just keeps evolving.
The newest resort-casino on the strip is the 50-story Palazzo, which officially opened last January, a sister hotel to the Venetian next door, and its adjunct tower, Venezia. All together, this trio of resorts boasts 7,066 rooms, all suites, making it one of the world’s biggest resorts.
The Palazzo is aiming to be the next level of Vegas accommodation, and with the opening of “Jersey Boys,” the hit musical, earlier this month in the Palazzo’s theater, the hotel is positioning itself as a destination for the discerning Vegas visitor.
Even compared to the Venetian, with its heavy-duty Italian-themed canal boat ride and slavishly re-created St. Mark’s Square at the center of its Grand Canal Shoppes mall, the Palazzo is different.


For Theatre Bay Area magazine, I wrote a feature on the San Francisco International Arts Festival (continuing through June 8). Read it here in its entirety, nothing missing (thanks, TBA!):

And, as ever, thank you for reading. — Chad