Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Making of the Star Wars Holiday Special - Explained! (Sort Of)

Now that people have seen it, the most common question I've been asked this week is "what just happened?!" followed by "Where did you all GET this? It's HILARIOUS!"

I'm originally from St. Louis, Missouri and years ago I got started stage managing at the St. Louis Shakespeare Company. They have an offshoot company under their artistic umbrella called Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre, which started in 2006 with the desire to do Ed Wood's infamous film Plan 9 From Outer Space live on stage. Since then they've done roughly one show a year to hilarious effect. I worked on several productions when I lived in St. Louis and always had terrific fun. A while back I was kicking holiday ideas around with Max and Alika and since they have similarly warped senses of humor I mentioned these shows I'd done. They sounded excited, so I reached out to Donna Northcott, the founder of both St. Louis Shakespeare and Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre, as she is the primary creator of these shows to see if I could get a copy of the It's a Wonderful Life: Live! show we'd done some years ago. She said "Sure, but did you see what we did for our 20th anniversary recently?" And sent me The Making of the Star Wars Holiday Special: Live! script. When Alika realizes she could play Princess Leia the rest was, as they say, history.

We all had a blast putting this insane train wreck together and we all hope that you all enjoy it as much as we did! And if you absolutely MUST see the original... here you go but don't say we didn't warn you. The piece with Ms. Caroll is absolutely as creepy in the original show as it was on the stage.

Monday, November 5, 2018

K2: Concluding the Season of Everything

When Executive Artistic Director Meredith Hagedorn had a rough lineup for the current season, she sent it over to me with all the scripts to get my impressions. This is something we've been doing for years and I really enjoy this part of working with Meredith at Dragon. It's like Christmas in April - new stories! The lineup usually includes ALL of the 2nd Stages pitches so it's always a good sized pile of scripts. I started by reading Insignificance, the first play of the season, which blew me away with its depth and complexity of story. For a "quick palate cleanser" I then grabbed K2 off the pile, and I was amused that two plays in a row had some serious discussion about Albert Einstein. I mean what are the odds really? They are two VERY different plays - Insignificance is a dark comedy that's a hypothetical meeting of major celebrities in a very fictional 1960s setting while K2 is a short drama that's loosely based on a true story and is about a life or death situation and mountain climbing. And it struck me that herein lies the theme for all the shows we presented in 2018. As the daughter of a physics and calculus teacher I was aware that Einstein died while trying to solve his "Theory of Everything" problem. Einstein essentially believed that everything in the universe is all tangled together and despite some very radical differences between large objects like rocks and small objects like atoms, he believed that there  is some yet unknown unifying principle that explains all of the differences and binds it all together. The universe is an incomprehensibly organized chaos, and it's beautiful. Some people take this to mean that everything in the universe is interconnected. We are breathing air molecules and drinking water particles that have been around for tens of thousands of years so we are connected to humanity through space and time. We are all connected under the skin thru DNA and chemistry.
I have always thought that live theatre excels when it takes a story and shows the audience that while this might not be a story of MY life, it's a recognizable story and I can find a very meaningful, personal connection to the story and the people on the stage. And maybe the audience can take an hour or two and BE those new people and UNDERSTAND their perspective, because as people, we have much more in common than we sometimes think we do. This is why I have chosen to work in the theatre for the past eight years. The stories that we tell here at Dragon are stories that fundamentally matter to our community because they seek to connect our common humanity and attempt to provoke some thought and discussion.

John Rutski, as the 2nd Stages producer of K2, has brought us a rarely seen Broadway play from the 1980s - it's his passion project for a reason and his true passion for this story has shown through even step of the way. I think that with the political landscape being what it is in America today, it strikes me today that it was a rather interesting pick. The themes of adversity and friendship are universal - it's just juxtaposed against an epic backdrop for this particular play. As he says in his producer's note "we all have our own K2s, our own figurative mountains that loom large above us like unconquerable peaks; it is how we choose to deal with them that allows us to grow and progress as humans." And that, I think is part of Einstein's universal truth. To borrow a line from Jurassic Park, because hey, I get to quote Jeff Goldblum now,  "life finds a way," but the human experience goes far beyond just mere survival. The most important part of K2, to me, is that NOBODY can climb these mountains alone. It's humanity TOGETHER that conquers K2. And if you happen to have a leg up on the mountain, you put your hand out to help the next climber up the sheer. I'd argue that the thing that entangles us all, more than quarks and strings, is empathy, compassion, and love.

Meredith HagedornI think that K2 is also an excellent way to close out Meredith Hagedorn's final season as the founder and creator of Dragon Productions Theatre Company. For 19 long years she's been climbing her own personal K2, the mountain that is running a non-profit theatre company in a market that is incredibly challenging. She may have started that climb alone in 1999 when she started filing the incredibly tedious papers to incorporate a 501c3 nonprofit, but now in 2018 she's built quite a family of artists, patrons, and arts makers right here in our home in Redwood City. As we begin our climb up that mountain in her footsteps, she's blazed us a terrific trail. I know that I speak for an entire community when I say Meredith, THANK YOU for leaving our piece of the world a little bit better than you found it. THANK YOU for creating nearly 100 great stories in your career. THANK YOU for all the opportunities for countless actors, designers, and people like me who just like to putter in the office creating support systems for all these community residents. And now maybe go jump in a sauna, warm up, and have a nice spiked hot chocolate and enjoy life for while before you move on to your Everest. Or maybe just think about walking a beach. With a margarita. You've more than earned it.

And to those of you that came out this season, THANK YOU for making live, local theatre a part of your life. We all hope that you enjoy K2. 2019 planning is already in progress so we'll be back with some funny, thoughtful, meaningful new stories very soon!

--Kimberly Wadycki
Managing Director, Dragon Productions Theatre

Sunday, November 4, 2018

K2: Loosely based on a true story

"It’s a savage mountain that tries to kill you." - American Climber George Bell

Also known as Chogori or Mount Godwin-Austen, K2 is located in Pakistan near the Chinese border. It is the second tallest mountain in the world and stands at a little more than 28,000 ft. over sea level. In comparison, Mt. Everest stands at about 29,000 ft. over sea level. It is a member of the "eight thousander" club, a grouping of 14 mountains in Asia that all rise more than 8,000 meters above sea level. 

Known as “the savage mountain” because of its extreme difficulty, K2 is less famous and less often climbed because it has racked up the second most fatalities among the "eight thousanders" and K2 has never been climbed in the winter because its terrain and weather is entirely too treacherous. Currently about 1 person dies for every 4 people that attempt the climb, because there's just a perfect storm of treachery on K2. 

In 1978 American climbers Jim Wickwire, a lawyer from Washington State, and his friend Louis Reichardt made the climb up K2. They reached the summit, took some photos, and began the descent back down. Riechart got ahead of Wickwire in the descent and with night rapidly approaching, and without a headlamp, Wickwire decided to spend the night where he was, at around 27,000 ft. Mr. Wickwire had no tent, no sleeping bag, and no water. His oxygen tank ran out in the middle of the night and his gas stove failed at some point too. Wrapped in an insulated sack with only what clothing he had on, the sack began to slowly slide downhill. Forced to get out of the sack to stop his slide he realized he was at risk of sliding into a chasm as he was at the edge of his stoney platform. Up until this point nobody had ever survived a night in these conditions. The temperature that night was estimated to be -35 degrees. The next morning two other climbers found him continuing slowly down the mountain. They assisted him down and Mr. Wickwire was helicoptered by the Pakistani army to a hospital. He lost two toes and underwent emergency lung surgery sure to blood clots on his lungs. He had also developed pneumonia and pleurisy. Several years later Mr. Wickwire was back on the mountains to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska to prep for an attempt at Mt. Everest. 

REI published a fascinating interview with both the climbers that's worth the read here

If you'd like to read more about the history of climbing K2, we can suggest a few links on this fascinating and incredibly dangerous sport: 

The World's Most Difficult Mountain May Soon Be Fully Conquered

Fast Facts About K2

Saturday, November 3, 2018

K2: A note from the director

“…after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” – Nelson Mandela

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Eliot

I have had Sir Edmund Hillary’s words resonating in my mind over the past few months. “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” Isn’t it funny how mountains are always metaphors for the human journey? On its surface, Patrick Meyers’ K2 appears to be a simple story about mountain climbing: two friends summit the second highest mountain in the world. However, at its heart, K2 is much more than that. It is an allegory about the human condition and how we choose to handle the challenges that we encounter in our everyday lives. As the character Harold states, “Mountains are… the purest, simplest metaphors on this whole crazy planet. The higher you go the deeper you get… and when you can’t run away from where the hell you are… then guess what? You have to be there!”

We may not climb literal mountains every day, but we do still face our own mountains or seemingly insurmountable challenges. Personal, professional, local, global, economic, political, social – the list of trials that we encounter daily is endless, and while some of them are entirely unavoidable and out of our control, others are self-imposed. Few of us may ever face as tough a gauntlet as conquering K2, the second highest mountain in the world, but most of us do indeed set obstacles or smaller K2s for ourselves along life’s journey.

And so, dear theatregoer, as you watch this performance, I ask you: what’s your K2? Is it a personal goal that you’ve been yearning to accomplish but have been putting off? Is it a professional benchmark that you’ve been desiring to reach but haven’t done so yet? Is it a cause you’ve been wishing to champion but haven’t found the time? Is it an injustice that you’ve been wanting to right but were afraid to do so?

Remember, we all have our own K2s, our own figurative mountains that loom large above us like unconquerable peaks; it is how we choose to deal with them that allows us to grow and progress as humans. We can choose to settle on the easier trek because it has fewer risks. We can choose to succumb to the avalanche created by our fears and doubts and retreat to safety. Or we can choose to face our K2s head-on and tackle the difficult expedition to the summit, regardless of the sacrifices or rewards. And no matter where your challenges may be, whether they be on a mountain or in real life, ultimately, you will still need to approach them in the same manner that one climbs a mountain - one step at a time.

Enjoy the show!

--Janine Burgner

Friday, November 2, 2018

K2: Meet the Design Team

Janine Burgener (Director) is pleased to be directing her first show at Dragon. In the Bay Area, she has assistant directed Antigone (Broadway West) and Sherlock Holmes and…the Suicide Club (Silicon Valley Shakespeare). Other directing credits: Forever Plaid (Riverfront Theatre); The Whole Shebang and Les Précieuses Ridicules (Nevada Repertory Company). Janine is also a proud member of Actors Equity. In addition to a national tour with Maximum Entertainment, she has performed in the Bay Area with 42nd Street Moon, San Francisco Playhouse, Playwrights Foundation, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, and the Willows Theatre

Larry Barrott (Assistant Director) K2 marks Larry’s first show with Dragon Theatre. A resident artist with Silicon Valley Shakespeare Company, he works as a director, fight choreographer, and actor throughout the South Bay. Larry is excited about this collaboration among such a talented team of artists and designers, bringing this powerful piece to Dragon’s stage. 
John Owens (Lighting Design) is a lighting designer for dance, theater, and live concerts. This is John’s first time working with Dragon Productions as a lighting designer. He has designed lights for the summer drama camp productions of Bring it On and School of Rock for the City of Pleasanton. John also designed lights for a concert for December People at Pleasanton’s Firehouse Arts Center. John has been working behind the scenes in theater professionally for over five years.  
Chrissie Schwanhausser (Stage Manager) is delighted to return to Dragon Productions! Last year she had the pleasure to stage manage multiple shows for Dragon, including The Further Adventures of Hedda GablerThe Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Victory Church, and Dead Accounts. Other past credits include stage managing for The Hood of Sherwood and Sherlock Holmes and the Adventures of the Suicide Club for Silicon Valley Shakespeare and La Cage Aux Folles with Sunnyvale Community Players. She has also spent time as production assistant for Bay Are Children Theatre's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Elephant and Piggie.
Tom Shamrell (Set Designer) Tom is thrilled to be a part of this exciting team and have the opportunity to work with Dragon Productions. Tom didn’t discover his passion for theatre until later in life but has been working hard on making up for lost time in theaters around the bay area as an actor, director, teacher, set designer, property builder and much more. Tom holds a BA in Theatre Arts from San Jose State University and is a graduate of the Foothill Theatre Conservatory. 
Ambera DeLash (Costume Designer) is thrilled to be designing costumes for K2. De Lash received her BA in Theatre Arts and enjoyed making and designing costumes outside of performing on stage. Her credits are: All In The TimingA Murder is AnnouncedRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and I Hate Hamlet, with Broadway West; De Lash worked closely under the direction of Betty Pointdextor developing her skill-set by researching different time periods, creating costume renderings, and building costume pieces at San Jose State University. She also worked as the Wardrobe Supervisor for American Musical Theater on productions; Smokey Joe's Cafe, and Christmas Dreamland. De Lash is an educator during the day, and will continue completing her teaching credential and earning her Masters this year. Enjoy the show!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

K2: Meet the Cast

John Rutski (Producer / Harold) is thrilled to be working on the Dragon stage with his good friend Chuck as well as many of the crew members he has worked with in the past. Favorite roles include Benedick and Don John in Much Ado About Nothing, and Antipholus of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors (Silicon Valley Shakespeare); Marc in Art (Northside Theatre Company); and Gogo in Waiting for Godot (Fully Committed Productions / Santa Clara Players). Directorial credits: Antigone, A Few Good Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Broadway West Theatre Company); and Twelfth Night (Silicon Valley Shakespeare).

Chuck Phelps (Taylor) is thrilled and so very blessed in having the opportunity to debut alongside his old buddy John Rutski on the Dragon Theater stage. Our worlds collided in Waiting for Godot as Didi and Gogo, and a good 10 years later here we are again on K2 as Taylor and Harold. Favorite characters include Randle P. McMurphy in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Colonel Nathan Jessep in A Few Good Men, both of which were performed on the stage of Broadway West…we miss you Broadway West! The most magical show had to be Silicon Valley Shakespeare’s The Imaginary Invalid, where he inhabited the character of Argan, playing opposite Doll Piccotto’s Toinette. Fun, fun, fun! Other Silicon Valley favorites include Witch #3 and The Porter in the Scottish play, a drunk Pedant on stage throughout Taming of the Shrew, and their recent production of Romeo and Juliet where he played the patriarch Capulet. Chuck would also like to thank everyone who supports live theater. Without you, we would literally not be able to do this.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Watson: Meet the Playwright

Madeleine George grew up in Amherst, Massachussets and began writing plays as a high school student at Ameherst Regional High School. She participated in the Young Playwrights Festival at the Playwright’s Horizon and The Public Theatre as a teenager. Ms. George then attended Cornell University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1996. She then obtained an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts. 

Since then, Ms. George’s plays have been produced at Playwrights Horizons, Clubbed Thumb, Shotgun Players, and Perseverance Theater, among other venues. She has been the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship, the Princess Grace Playwriting Award, the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, and the Jane Chambers Award. A resident playwright at New Dramatists, George was also a founding member of the collective 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.), which won an Obie Award. Her play The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2014. She also won the Whiting Award for Drama in 2016 for the same play. 

For seven years, George was the director of the Bard College satellite campus at Bayview Correctional Facility in Manhattan. She is originally from Amherst, Massachusetts, and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Watson: Meet the Crew

Doll Piccotto (Director) Doll is thrilled to be making a return to the Dragon, this time on the other side of the table! Having acted on the Dragon Stage in On the Verge and OR, Doll is now flexing her directing muscles with The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence. She could not have asked for a more enriching experience! Doll's theatrical resume includes directing with The Silicon Valley Shakespeare Company (Pericles, Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night's Dream), playwrighting, and acting throughout the Bay Area, Santa Barbara and at the Shakespeare at Winedale festival in Texas. A dedicated Shakespeare fanatic, some of Doll's previous roles include Beatrice and Claudius with the Silicon Valley Shakespeare Company, Queen Elizabeth I and Caliban with The Pear, and Mary, the intrepid 'Lady Explorer' in On the Verge, here at Dragon. A huge thank you to my amazing cast and crew, who patiently dealt with my non-linear thinking process, to Lucy Littlewood for being my Weyrd Sister and partner in crime, to James for putting up with my absence yet again in pursuit of art, and to Meredith Hagedorn for sending me such an intriguing script and considering me for such a wonderful project. Keep connecting, friends!

Lucy Littlewood (Assistant Director) Lucy is excited to be a part of her first production with Dragon Theatre! Before this journey, she primarily worked as an actor throughout the Bay Area for over 15 years. Some of her favorite past credits include; Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion (Livermore Shakespeare Festival), Alice Ayres in Closer, Rita in Educating Rita (Northside Theatre), Mr. Hyde and others in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (City Lights) for which she received a TBA Awards nomination, Charlotte in The Real Thing, Pearl in House and Garden (Pear Theatre), Sorel Bliss in Hay Fever, Margot Wendice in Dial M For Murder (Broadway West), Harper Pitt in Angels in America (Bus Barn Stage Company), Lucifer in Doctor Faustus (Foothill Theatre) and Lucy Steele in Sense and Sensibility (TheatreWorks). She is a graduate of the Foothill Theatre Conservatory. She sends buckets of love and gratitude to Doll for inviting her on this adventure and to our fantastic cast and crew. For Memow.

John Bernard (Lighting Designer)

Beth Covey-Snedegar (Properties Master) Beth has been involved in theatre from a young age on stage and off.  When she is not searching for life like fish, severed heads or a replica of the first telephone, she is busy running her floral design and event planning business, Sassy Diva Designs and Events.  And when she isn't knee deep in flowers she is chasing her two adventurous boys and keeping them out of danger.  

Kathleen Qiu (Costume Designer) is excited to be returning to Dragon Productions for The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence after Equivocation, Insignificance, and Cirque Exotique du Monde. Previously in the Bay Area, she has designed with Role Players Ensemble (All My Sons), Ferocious Lotus (Two Mile Hollow), Quantum Dragon Theatre (Universal Robots), Foothill College (A Midsummer’s Night Dream), Pear Theatre (Enemy of the People), Custom Made Theatre Co (The House of Yes, How I Learned to Drive), the SF Playhouse (You Mean to Do Me Harm), and Palo Alto Players (The Graduate), among others. Other credits include In the Heights, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pirates of Penzance, Steve Martin’s The Underpants, Dracula, War of the Worlds, and Picture Imperfectwith a variety of theaters in the Bay Area, Tallahassee, and Chicago. She graduated from the University of Chicago with degrees in Chemistry and Psychology and is working on an MFA in Costume Design from the Academy of Art. She would like to thank the production team for this opportunity and her family and friends for their continued support.

Chrissie Schwanhausser(Stage Manager) is delighted to return to Dragon Productions! Last year she had the pleasure to stage manage multiple shows for Dragon, including The Further Adventures of Hedda GablerThe Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Victory Church, and Dead Accounts. Other past credits include stage managing for The Hood of Sherwood and Sherlock Holmes and the Adventures of the Suicide Club for Silicon Valley Shakespeare and La Cage Aux Folles with Sunnyvale Community Players. She has also spent time as production assistant for Bay Are Children Theatre's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Elephant and Piggie.

Ryan Lee Short (Sound Designer) is excited to be back designing at Dragon Productions (his noises having been most recently heard in last year's The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler), as he's been on a short hiatus from noise-making after 10 years of a nearly constant din. By day he's a scenic carpenter and schlepper for Bay Area Children's Theatre, whose scenic output is at once abstract, very colorful, and nearly constant. While not in dark and/or dusty rooms making theatre, he can be found snuggling cats at home or traveling the world with his amazing wife (and fellow theatre kid extraordinaire) Laura. Many thanks to Doll, Chrissie, and the rest of this timelessly brilliant cast and crew!

Emilia Wysocka(Scenic Designer) Emilia has a degree in Film Production and specializes in Production Design/ Art Direction. She has previously worked on short film productions and theatrical productions focusing on set and prop designs. Emilia’s passion are colors and applying them to mise-en-scene. She likes to create palettes that are both aesthetically pleasing and evoke a desired emotional response.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Watson: Meet the Cast

Tasi Alabastro (Watson)-is grateful to return to Dragon Theatre’s stage with this play about technology and human connection! In addition to working onstage, he is an online content creator and photographer whose work focuses on reflecting his community and culture. He has had the honor of being the 2018 Silicon Valley Creates’ Emerging Artist Laureate as well as being published in CONTENT Magazine and Tayo Magazine. He was previously seen on the Dragon stage in Three Days of Rain, The Libation Bearers, and The Woman in Black. Bay Area credits include productions with CenterRep, City Lights Theatre Company, Hillbarn Theatre, and TheatreWork’s New Works Festival. Film/TV includes “Yes We’re Open” and PBS’ “Futurestates.” He is a proud member of the Red Ladder Theatre Company and is currently working with inmates in state prisons as part of the California Art’s Council’s Arts-in-Corrections program: a program which re-engages participants with their creativity and imagination. Join the tribe at

Stephanie Crowely (Eliza)-Stephanie is pleased to return to the Dragon, having appeared here in The Charitable Sisterhood of Second Trinity Victory ChurchNovember, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. She has been seen locally at Pear Theatre (In the Next RoomSuperior DonutsPear Slices 2014, 2015 and 2016), Palo Alto Players (The Farnsworth InventionThe Laramie Project 10 Years Later), Stanford University (Homo Ex Machina), City Lights (Calendar Girls), Silicon Valley Shakespeare (Shakespeare in Hollywood), Los Altos Stage Company (Man of La ManchaFox on the Fairway), Hillbarn Theatre (The Odd CoupleTo Kill a Mockingbird), Santa Clara Players (Four Weddings and an Elvis), and others; as well as on stages in South Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. In her off-stage life, Stephanie works as a yoga instructor and marketing consultant. 

Gary Mosher (Merrick) Gary started acting on stage at the age of five, having performed in numerous productions by age eleven. Beginning in 1989 Gary returned to T.V., film and theatre, appearing in leading roles in Ordinary Madness, Flatout, Jack of Hearts, Forgive Me Father, Maximum Justice, and Otis N Dwayne, premiering at South by Southwest in 2014. Gary appeared in supporting character roles in several Dick Wolf productions. Gary is thrilled to return to The Dragon Theatre, this is his 3rd production at The Dragon Theatre. Previously appearing (2017) in The Columnist and (2018) Insignificance. Gary has appeared at The Pear Theatre in The Quality of Life and August Osage County. Gary also appeared in The Farnsworth Invention (by Aaron Sorkin) at The Palo Alto Players. Gary is a proud 25+ year member of SAG-AFTRA. Although Gary has acted in many films and T.V. shows, theatre continues to be his true passion. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Watson: Meet the Watsons

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator

Dr. John H. Watson - The fictional sidekick of Sherlock Holmes. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Watson most often serves as the narrator of Holmes' adventures. He's smart, a medical doctor who served in the British Army, and a fairly typical Victorian gentleman (unlike Sherlock Holmes who was brilliant but eccentric).

Thomas Augustus Watson - After leaving school at the age of 14, Watson began work in an electrical shop in Boston, where he met Alexander Graham Bell. He worked with Bell on his telephone experiments, and on March 10, 1876, through a receiver connected by wire to a transmitting instrument located in another room, Watson heard Bell’s famous first telephone call, which Watson later recalled as “Mr. Watson—come here—I want you.” Over the next year Watson joined Bell in demonstrating the powers of the new invention in several spectacular and widely reported exhibitions. In 1877, when the Bell Telephone Company was formed, Watson received a share in the business and became its head of research and technical development.
After leaving Bell in 1881, Watson, made independently wealthy by his share of the royalties on the telephone, traveled through Europe, married, started a family, and made an unsuccessful attempt at farming along the Weymouth Fore River in East Braintree, Massachusetts, southeast of Boston. In 1885, having opened a machine shop in a building on his farm property, he started a new business, the Fore River Engine Company, in partnership with his assistant, Frank O. Wellington. The two partners at first constructed marine engines, and then in 1896 they received their first government contract, for two destroyers. During the following eight years, Watson moved the shipyard to nearby Quincy, Massachusetts, changed the growing company’s name to the Fore River Ship & Engine Company, and took on contracts to build lightships, cruisers, battleships, schooners, and other vessels.
Following his retirement from shipbuilding in 1904, Watson led a restless and peripatetic existence. He and his wife studied geology; he acted in a Shakespearean company; and in 1926 he published an autobiography, Exploring Life. On January 25, 1915, he rejoined Bell in making the first transcontinental telephone call, between New York City and San Francisco. Watson died at his winter home in Florida. (from

IBM Watson - Watson is a question-answering computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural languagedeveloped in IBM's DeepQA project by a research team led by principal investigator David Ferrucci. Watson was named after IBM's first CEO, industrialist Thomas J. Watson.
The computer system was initially developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! and, in 2011, the Watson computer system competed on Jeopardy! against legendary champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings winning the first place prize of $1 million.
In February 2013, IBM announced that Watson software system's first commercial application would be for utilization management decisions in lung cancer treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, in conjunction with health insurance company WellPoint. IBM Watson's former business chief, Manoj Saxena, says that 90% of nurses in the field who use Watson now follow its guidance. (info from wikipedia and IBM)

Watson: A Word From the Director

Living as we do in the Silicon Valley, it seems impossible to imagine a time when connecting to another person wasn't as immediate as the smartphone attached to our hands. As technology advances, connecting with other humans has become faster and easier than ever. You can let people know what you're wearing today on Facebook, let people know what you're having for breakfast on Instagram, let people know how you're feeling on Twitter, let people know what you'd look like as a cat on Snapchat, find a date on OKCupid, a hookup on Tinder or Grindr, and purchase nearly anything your heart desires with free two day shipping. We live in a world where connecting with someone is immediate--literally a click away. However, many scientists believe that social anxiety is dangerously on the rise--that as our technological connections become smoother, our actual human connections are becoming more difficult. Seated at a computer screen, it's easy to forget the at the other end of the disparaging comment you're leaving regarding someone's new haircut is a living, breathing person who feels pain. Connecting on a truly human level--face to face and heart to heart--involves a level of risk and bravery that many people find difficult to give. People are inherently awkward, imperfect and uncomfortable, and our relationships are inevitably the same. The idea of giving yourself over to someone who has the power to utterly destroy you emotionally and simply trusting that they won't is a terrifying prospect. It makes us feel weak and small and afraid. But the mere fact that so much of our developing technology IS about connecting people demonstrates our need and desire to challenge that fear and continue to CONNECT. Technology can only help us so far. Once we've swiped left and met at Applebee's -- the rest is up to us. Awkward, imperfect, completely human us. As Watson says "It’s our fate to be bound up with one another, isn’t it? We are all born insufficient, and must look to others to supplement our strength. That is not weakness, it is the first condition of human life.” Is the risk worth the reward?

Doll Piccotto, Director

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Who is King James I?

King James I of England
England's King James I was born in 1566 in Edinburgh Castle in Scotland as the only son of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots and her second husband Henry Stewart. He became king of Scotland at the age of one when his mother was defeated by Scottish rebels and she abdicated the throne to him. His mother was eventually executed by England's Queen Elizabeth in 1587. James was very well educated and married Anne, the daughter of King Frederick II of Denmark in 1589. In 1594 Anne gave birth to the royal couple's first child, Prince Henry.

When England's Queen Elizabeth died after an astonishing 44 year reign without any children to leave the throne to, James was tapped to become the new king. He was welcomed by the public because he was male, which represented a return to the normal order of things, he spoke English (though with a Scottish accent), he had a pretty Danish wife with many children and one on the way, and as the son of Mary Queen of Scots might be more sympathetic to the plight of the Catholics in England.

James' rule was truly notable for three things (aside from the infamous Gunpowder Plot): the Bible that bears his name, his fight against Parliament, and the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh.

In 1604 James ordered a new translation of the Bible into English be written. While not the first ever English translation, it was reputed to be both a better translation and was noted for its flowing language and prose rhythm. English translated Bibles were revolutionary because it broke the Catholic Latin mold and allowed common folk access to a Bible in their own native language. The King James version quickly because the standard for English-speaking Protestants and is still in heavy use today.

As for Parliament, they began to assert themselves more firmly against the royal house and demanded more power to shape policy. This happened in conjunction with Charles and Anne's lavish lifestyles and James' propensity toward granting peerage to his favorites. In four years of peace James very nearly double the debt that Elizabeth left behind. Unfortunately for James, the royal monies were controlled by Parliament and they refused to grant his request for a special fund for the family's extravagances. James retaliated by setting new duties on merchants, and got the courts to proclaim his actions as law. This feud with Parliament carried into his son's, King Charles I, reign and ultimately resulted in the gradual weakening of the monarchy in favor of the Parliament.

As for Sir Walter Raleigh, he had been a great favorite of Queen Elizabeth but quickly fell out of favor when she learned he'd married in secret one of her maids of honor. Raleigh and his wife Bess were briefly imprisoned by the Queen in the Tower of London. Upon his release he declared that he'd find the legendary El Dorado to win back the favor of the Queen. These expeditions greatly angered the Spanish as he was poaching on their colonized lands. Elizabeth died and the angry Spanish complained fiercely to the new King James. Raleigh was charged with treason and was due to be executed but was instead imprisoned in the Tower again. Upon his release and without royal permission he raided and plundered some Spanish territories. James re-arrested him when he returned with nothing to show and reinstated the original charges of treason and Raleigh was executed in 1618.

Sources: and Antonia Fraser and

Monday, July 23, 2018

What is Equivocation and how does Father Garnet connect to it?

equivocate /ɪˈkwɪvəkeɪt/From the Latin word aequivocare which meant "called by the same name."
To equivocate is to use ambiguous language so as to conceal the truth or avoid committing oneself.

Father Henry Garnet
Equivocation was a term that was used quite often as a complaint by the prosecution against Father Henry Garnet in his trial in 1606 for his participation in what's now called The Gunpowder Plot. It was a technique said to be often used by Catholics in Protestant England to obscure their true faith and protect the sanctity of the confessional. Equivocation in this sense was to tread the line between lying and incriminating oneself and others from violation of the law, as Catholicism was more or less illegal in England at the time. It basically boils down to the idea of not telling the WHOLE truth while avoiding telling a lie. For example, if a (Catholic) woman was interrogated for harboring a priest in her house she could say, "No sir, there's not a priest in my house." This could be TECHNICALLY true because a number of prominent Catholics had built what are called priest-holes that were hidden rooms UNDER the house. So technically it's not a lie and it's a cover to likely save lives. Conscience clear. 

This was particularly important for priests because the sanctity of confession was not at all recognized in England (because Catholicism was basically illegal there), so priests needed a way to equivocate to answer more or less honestly while protecting their confessed. 

Father Garnet's involvement to the Gunpowder Plot was a true tragedy, though you wouldn't have known that in 1606. Contrary to what the prosecution alleged during the trial, it's now believed that Garnet was approached by a Father Tesimond, another Jesuit priest in hiding in England, because Father Tesimond was disturbed by a confession he'd recently taken from one of his flock. Robert Catesby, who we now know to be one of the primary conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, confessed to Father Tesimond some of the details around his participation in the brewing Plot. Because both Catesby's discussion with Tesimond and Tesimond's conversation with Garnet both occurred during an official confession, neither priest believed that they could alert the crown to the threat without divulging key information obtained in confession that would put their Catholic members at risk. Garnet actually later claimed that he urged Catesby to NOT continue with the plot and it's said that he'd written to his superiors in Rome warning them of the treachery and asked the Church to officially warn the English government of the plan. 

England, however, believed that Garnet and many Jesuits were involved in the conspiracy, which was sometimes contemporarily referred to as the Spanish Treason. There was a common rumor that the Jesuits, acting with instruction from the Spanish Catholics, were moving to undermine the Protestant rule of King James. Garnet was a particular target of the government because he was said to have written a treatise entitled A Treatise of Equivocation, but it's interesting to note that the treatise was originally titled A Treatise against lying and fraudulent dissimulation. 

In any case, Father Garnet spent weeks in hiding, a number of long days in a very small priest-hole, and was eventually arrested, tried, and executed by hanging, drawing, and quartering. 

Shakespeare's line in Macbeth "who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven" is believed to be an allusion to Father Garnet. 

Equivocation: Meet the Playwright

Playwright Bill Cain
A native New Yorker, Father Bill Cain is a Jesuit priest and writes for the stage and screen. Mr. Cain grew up in Queens during the civil rights era, attended Jesuit schools, and tutored in Bedford- Stuyvesant  as a young man. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. After graduation, Mr. Cain founded the Boston Shakespeare Company where he directed most of Shakespeares’s canon from 1975-1982. Mr. Cain then moved to Lower East Manhattan to teach and write. He landed a contract to be the writer and producer of the ABC series “Nothing Sacred” about a Catholic priest who begins to question his faith. It won the Peabody Award in 1998 and was also boycotted by the Catholic League as blasphemous. Equivocation is Mr. Cain’s second play – it workshopped in Palo Alto at Theatreworks and premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and then opened in New York at the Manhattan Theatre Club. His third play, 9 Circles, premiered at the Marin Theatre Company, and his latest play, How to Write a New Book for the Bible premiered at Berkeley Rep in their 2011-2012 season. For the small screen, Mr. Cain has written an adaptation of “Clover” for the Hallmark channel and HBO, “Nightjohn,” which was named best American film of the year by The New Yorker. He also wrote “Thicker Than Blood” (TNT), which was an adaptation of Stand-up Tragedy, his first play, then “Everything That Rises” (starring Mandy Patinkin), “Papa’s Angels” (starring Scott Bakula, Cynthia Nixon, and Eva Marie Saint), and “Sounder.” Awards include: Steinberg New Play Award (first ever recipient two years in a row), multiple Edgerton grants, Helen Hayes Awards , the Joe A. Callaway Award, a Peabody, the WGA Award for Episodic Drama and a Christopher Award, among others.

Equivocation: Meet the Design Team

Jenny Hollingworth (Director/Producer) – Originally from the U.K., Jenny moved to the Bay Area in 2004. She has worked with several Bay Area theatre companies including San Jose Repertory Theatre, Dragon Theatre Productions, City Lights Theatre Company, The Pear Theatre, Tabard Theatre, Arclight Repertory Theatre and Santa Clara Players, as, variously, director, producer, associate artistic director, writer, dramaturg, acting coach, dialect coach and house manager. A long-time Harold Pinter aficionado, her production of Pinter’s Betrayal was awarded the Silicon Valley Small Theatre Award for Standout Adult Contemporary Drama (2012) and her direction of The Birthday Party led to her nomination for Best Director, Theatre Bay Area Awards (2014). Most recently, she directed George Orwell’s 1984 at Los Altos Stage Company, which was a recommended Theatre Bay Area production.

Jenny has a career in PR and communications for a global business consulting firm. She is also President of the Dragon Theatre Board. As always, she extends much love and thanks to her husband and sons for their unwavering support; additional thanks to Meredith Hagedorn and the Dragon staff, and most of all to her awesome cast and production team for daring to take this ride with her and bring Equivocation to life!

Seafus Chatmon-Smith (Scenic Designer) Seafus is thrilled to work with Dragon Productions and this marvelous cast, amazing design team, and production crew to pull you into the world of Equivocation. After sound designing for Las Positas Collage production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 2008. This will be his second run in with Shag as a designer. As a teaching-artist and sound engineer for Bay Area Children's Theatre, he enjoys sharing his passion for the arts with students in hopes to inspire young dreamers to create new worlds of possibility. From sound designer, music director, lighting designer, as well as humble stage hand and much more. Wearing the scenic designer hat is one of his favorite choices.

Sean Kramer (Lighting Designer) - Recently graduating from Foothill Community College 2017, with honors in Theatre. As a Designer, Lighting, is Sean’s Compulsory, but not his only study. Sean is Always looking for new projects. Very Recently he has also Painted with light 1984 with Los Altos Stage, Bless Me Ultima with Opera Cultura, Boom at City Lights, and Norma with West Bay Opera.  Between designs, you might catch him building and staging the scene, running the show. Special thanks to Rover Spotts. Please enjoy the show. 

Kathleen Qiu (Costume Designer) is excited to be returning to Dragon Productions for Equivocation after working on Cirque Exotique du Monde and Insignificance. Previously in the Bay Area, she has designed with Ferocious Lotus (Two Mile Hollow), Quantum Dragon Theatre (Universal Robots), Foothill College (A Midsummer’s Night Dream), Pear Theatre (Enemy of the People), Custom Made Theatre Co (The House of Yes, How I Learned to Drive), the SF Playhouse (You Mean to Do Me Harm), and Palo Alto Players (The Graduate), among others. Her credits also include In the Heights, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pirates of Penzance, Steve Martin’s The Underpants, Dracula, War of the Worlds, and Picture Imperfect, among others, with a variety of theatres in Tallahassee and Chicago. She graduated from the University of Chicago with degrees in Chemistry and Psychology. She would like to thank the production team for this opportunity and her family and friends for their continued support.

Jonathan Covey (Sound Designer) - Jonathan is an aspiring sound designer and broke musician. A perfect fit for Dragon Theatre! This is the fifth play that Jonathan has made noise for with Dragon, the other four being And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Rich & Famous, Caeneus & Poesidon, and most recently Insignificance. Covey also did sound for Hillbarn Threatre’s production of The Elephant Man. He also worked in the stage crew for the Palo Alto Theatre Company’s productions of Zombie Prom and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, was the assistant director for Crystal Springs Player’s production of The Bible: Abridged, and even tried his hand at acting, playing Detective Sargent Trotter in Crystal Springs’ production of Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap. But in the end, he felt much more comfortable alone in a dark room with a microphone and a guitar then on a lit stage in front of a few too many people.

Beth Covey-Snedegar (Properties Master) - Beth has been involved in theatre from a young age on stage and off.  She is thrilled to be back at Dragon for Equivocation and working with this amazing cast and crewWhen she is not searching for life like fish and severed heads, she is busy running her floral design and event planning business, Sassy Diva Designs and Events. And when she isn't knee deep in flowers she is chasing her two adventurous boys and keeping them out of danger.

Rachel Nin (Stage Manager) - Rachel is excited to return for her second show in a row at Dragon, where she has served as stage manager for Three Days of Rain and rehearsal stage manager for Anna Christie.She has worked as a stage manager and ASM for companies around the Bay, including Opera San Jose, Merola Opera Program, Sunnyvale Community Players, and Western Ballet, and toured children’s shows throughout California as a stage manager with California Theatre Center. She is an alumna of the Professional Training Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where she was stage manager for That High Lonesome Soundin the 39thHumana Festival of New American Plays. She holds a B.A. in Theatre and Creative Writing from Denison University in Granville, OH.

Steaphen Fick (Fight Choreographer) - This is Steaphen Fick’s second show with the Dragon Theater. Steaphen choreographed the theatrical violence for Insignificance. He has also choreographed plays for Milpitas High School as well as performing on "Somebody’s Gotta Do It" with Mike Rowe and Modern Marvels ‘Built by Hand’ in armor. Steaphen also choreographed the action sequences for the Disney band Allstar Weekend’s music video.  Steaphen, also known as Davenriche, owns and operates Davenriche European Martial Artes School,; one of the largest sword fighting schools in the world with chapters in Santa Clara, CA, Midland, TX and Las Vegas NV. With over 100 students learning Medieval, Renaissance and Modern martial arts.  Steaphen has worked on pilots of TV shows called FIGHTCRAFT, DORKCORE and a movie called Terra.  He also performs at middle schools bringing history alive for the students that are studying medieval and renaissance history. He has also done motion capture for EA Sports video game.

Equivocation: Meet the Cast

Max Tachis (Shag) - Max is excited to make his debut performance at Dragon Productions, having participated as both a writer and actor in several Monday Night Play Space events in the past. He has been seen most recently in The Merchant of Venice (Gratiano) at City Lights Theater Company, The SantaLand Diaries (David/Crumpet) at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, and The Crucible (John Proctor) at Los Altos Stage Company.

Brad Satterwhite (Sir Robert Cecil/Nate/Thomas Percy) - This is Brad Satterwhite's first production with Dragon. He has most recently played Ethan in The Full Monty at Hillbarn Theatre, Jedidiah Shultz/Aaron McKinney in The Laramie Project at Palo Alto Players, and Dr. Givings in In the Next Room, or, the Vibrator Play at The Pear. When he is not acting, he writes books under his pen name, Hal Emerson.

Paul Rosenfield (Sharpe/Thomas Wintor/ King James) - Equivocation is Paul’s debut to the Dragon’s stage. Still a rookie, his only previous role was in Bertolt Brecht's Galileo, by the Stanford Repertory Theater. He has taken acting classes through the Berkeley Repertory Theater. He holds a master's degree in statistics from Stanford University, and when he is not acting, he is a data scientist for a fast-growing startup in San Carlos.

Michael Weiland (Armin/Robert Catesby/ Sir Edward Coke) - recently performed as Lewis in Pippin at Los Altos Stage Company. Other credits include Jules in Boom! at Minilights, Geeks vs Zombies at the Pear Theatre, and Rocky in Rocky Horror at City Lights Theater Company. Michael is a company member at Play On Words San Jose, a stage reading company for new works by local authors, playwrights, and poets. See Michael perform next at Los Altos Stage Company in The Legend of Georgia McBride.

Paul Stout (Richard/Father Henry Garnet) - Paul Stout is grateful to return to Dragon Theatre for the first time since 2014 when he appeared in three shows (The Birthday Party, Smash, The Other Place). In his 9 years in the Bay Area, he has performed in productions with over 20 theater companies including San Jose Stage and Marin Shakespeare. Paul is a longtime company member at Custom Made Theatre in San Francisco and will be directing there in the fall. He is a Chico native with a B.A. in Theatre Arts from California State Chico.

Alika U. Spencer-Koknar (Judith)- Alika is thrilled to return to Dragon’s stage with such a killer cast and crew of Equivocation. She last appeared high in the sky at Dragon in Cirque Exotique Du Monde as the trapeze artist, Boshka and the infamous Magda Goebbels. She graduated from the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in 2006. She also teaches theater to youths in the Bay Area and is honored to be stepping into Meredith Hagedorn’s shoes as Artistic Director of Dragon Productions along with her husband, Max “Bora” Koknar. Her past theatrical credits include; Walt Disney in Walt & Hans are Frigid  with Dragon Productions, Pamela in The 39 Steps and Mina in Dracula with California Theater Center,Hannah in the South Bay premier of Collapseand Evelyn in the Shape of Things with Renegade Theater Experiment, Maureen in The Beauty Queen Of Leenane with Northside Theater, Johnna Monevata In August: Osage County with City Lights Theater Company and Alice Bloomfield in Kinan Valdez’s production of Zoot Suit with El Theatro Campesino.