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Reporter’s Notebook: Two local theaters launch diverse voices playwriting programs

Sam Woodhouse is the co-founder and artistic director at San Diego Repertory Theatre.
Sam Woodhouse is the co-founder and artistic director at San Diego Repertory Theatre.
(Courtesy photo)

Theater news from San Diego Repertory, San Diego Musical Theatre, Diversionary and more

San Diego Repertory Theatre artistic director Sam Woodhouse has announced a new play commission series called Here U.S. Now. The goal is to expand the diversity of its theatrical offerings by commissioning playwrights who identify as part of marginalized groups previously under-represented in Rep seasons.

The first group of commissioned playwrights are Boni B. Alvarez, Idris Goodwin, Jason Grasl, K. Quinn Marchman, Giovanni Ortega and Kit Yan. Of the five newly commissioned plays, one will be a full-length interactive, choose-your-adventure format for online streaming. The rest will be developed for future seasons.

The new plays include Goodwin and Marchman’s “Beyond the Crossroads,” an online exploration of African-American folklore through the story of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. Ortega’s “The Butterfly of Chula Vista” is about a Mexican-Filipino drag performer. Alvarez’s “Duty Free” is about the immigrant experience for Filipinos entering the U.S. Yan’s “Mr. Transman” follows five trans performers competing in a beauty pageant. Grasl’s “The Normal Force” is about an American Indian genetic researcher trying to protect his tribe’s DNA.

SDMT joins ‘Raise Your Voice’ competition

San Diego Musical Theatre has joined six other Southern California theaters in hosting the new Raise Your Voice 2020 Playwright Competition.

The contest, coordinated by Nicole Pryor Dernersesian and Inclusion Media Group, was developed to amplify BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) and LGBTQ+ voices in the theater community. Each participating theater will assemble a representative panel to choose a winning play or musical from their submissions for a cash price and theatrical reading. Those works will also be considered for production in a future season.

The other participating theaters are 3-D Theatricals, 5-Star Theatricals, High Street Arts Center, McCoy Rigby Entertainment, Musical Theatre West and Skylight Theatre Co. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 7 at filmfreeway.com/RaiseYourVoice-PlaywrightCompetition. Winners will be announced on Sept. 25.

A scene from Todd Blakesley's solo play "Crapshoot"
A scene from Todd Blakesley’s solo play “Crapshoot,” which will make its virtual premiere July 4 at the Reykjavík Fringe Festival in Iceland.
(Courtesy photo)

‘Crapshoot’ makes Icelandic premiere

San Diego actor/playwright Todd Blakesley was set to perform his solo play “Crapshoot! Or Why Al Voted for Trump: A Love Story” next weekend at the Reykjavík Fringe Festival. But Iceland has barred travelers from the U.S. due to this country’s out-of-control coronavirus infection rate.

So instead, Blakesley, under the direction of Rhianna Basore, will appear virtually at the Icelandic festival on July 4 in a performance that was filmed in his home closet. Bashore said the play — which had its world premiere last summer at the San Diego International Fringe Festival in Balboa Park — has been making the fringe circuit rounds ever since. It played at Capital Fringe in Washington, D.C., and at the Boulder Fringe festival in Colorado. It was invited to play in Reykjavík after it won the Icelandic Cultural Exchange Award.

The absurdist comedy features Blakesley as Al Stone, a fortune cookie company shipping clerk. Eager to see a shakeup in America, Stone falls hard for Donald Trump and is elated by his election. But Stone’s tweets and good cheer infuriate co-workers and he’s sent to an anger management class filled with grieving Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders fans who turn on him. Stone loses his job, becomes a professional clown and eventually catches the attention of the newly elected president.

After past festivals, Blakesley hosted post-show Q&A/meet-and-greets where he handed out a personalized fortune to anyone who’s interested in discussing how to improve politics in America. For the Reykjavik fest, Basore said audience members tuned into the July 4 screening can take part in a live online Q&A immediately afterward. There’s also an Instagram page (instagram.com/crapshoot_al) and Twitter page twitter.com/Crapshoot_Al, where Blakesley will be available for virtual chats for the run of the festival through July 12. The film will also be available for viewing through July 12.

To watch Blakesley’s performance of “Crapshoot,” register at crowdcast.io/e/crapshoot/register.

Diversionary Theatre’s world premiere musical “The Boy Who Danced on Air.”
(Simpatika)

‘Boy Who Danced’ returns in video stream

Diversionary Theatre’s 2016 world premiere production of the musical “The Boy Who Danced on Air” is coming back in a filmed performance July 6 through 19. Based on the true story of the dancing boys of Afghanistan, the show earned a Craig Noel Award for Outstanding Score by composer Tim Rosser. A screening link is $35 per household, $15 for students or $50 for a screening link and soundtrack CD. Visit diversionary.org/san-diegos-lgbt-theatre/.

Pam Kragen writes about theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com.


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