Monday, March 19, 2018

Race: Why It's The Season of Everything

The Dragon season is chosen by the Artistic Director, Meredith Hagedorn. She routinely receives scripts and suggestions from actors and directors and other theatre people like me, and then does a whole lot of reading. When she showed me the season she was planning for 2018 I started to read as I'm the person that needs to come up with the way to describe these shows to there public and to our graphic designer for posters and advertising. And while I was reading the season (out of order) it occurred to me that while there are some very different, seemingly unrelated, stories in this season, there was in fact a common theme, and that struck me while I was reading Insignificance, which deals, in part, with Albert Einstein.

As the daughter of a physics and calculus teacher, I know that Albert Einstein's last big project was to wrestle with what's become known as the Theory of Everything. Basically, Einstein realized that there are two basic theories in physics - the theory of general relativity and quantum field theory. General relativity centers on gravity and explains the behavior of very large things with very large mass, like planets, stars, galaxies and so on. Quantum theory describes non-gravitational forces like electromagnetism to impact very small, very low mass things, like atoms, molecules, sub-atomic particles, and so on. What Einstein realized what that while both things simultaneously exist in the universe - the tiny bits make up the much bigger bits - physics fails to describe HOW this is true, so Einstein believed that there is an overarching theory that unified the two theories into one giant theory.

My more liberal arts-y take on that is that everything in the universe is connected, whether we observe it or not. It occurred to me that the plays this season really illustrate this. There's some science mixed in with some humanities in this season. Einstein, Shakespeare (or as we will call his later this season, Shagsepeare), and Mamet exist at the same time on the Dragon stage this year.  We have a play about racial and sexual politics, a play about government cover ups, a play about mountain climbing, a play about damaged, creative families, a play that imagined celebrities mingling in the 1950s, and a play about artificial intelligence and repetitious Watsons in time. Because while we are all different and have different backgrounds and experiences and prejudices and desires, underneath it all we are all connected. We all live, laugh, cry, dream, and struggle. We are never alone.

As someone who once worked in big tech and now works in small theatre, I've watched the discussions in the Silicon Valley area trying to reconcile tech with art. And I honestly think that the two do go hand in hand. Science may explain HOW things happen, but art can explain the WHY and examine the human impact of technological advances. One without the other results in a stagnant society.

I think that theatre really can unify us because the stories that we tell on stage demand you to have some empathy and examine the world from someone else's perspective. Our actors literally put themselves in someone else's shoes to try to experience someone else's life and they do this boldly and bravely, live, for 16 performances. They ask you, the audience, to suspend reality for two hours to come on this journey with them and share this amazing experience with them. Theatre is actually a participatory event that absolutely includes you, the audience, at every show.

David Mamet's play Race opened a few days ago and already we've received a good deal of feedback from audiences that they're spending lots of time thinking about and discussing the play because it brought up some tricky feelings and thoughts about race, justice, and sexual politics in America. More than a few people have remarked that this is the perfect time to watch and reflect on such a play. Sparking conversation and personal reflection is absolutely the reason why we wanted to help Pat Caulfield get this show produced as a part of our 2nd Stages Series. I couldn't be more thrilled to hear that this little show, with only four actors, is really making people stop and think. Reactions like this are why we do what we do, so THANK YOU for coming out and experiencing this piece of theatre with us.

Like local boy Steve Jobs said, “[it]’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.” We're all in this together!

--Kimberly Wadycki
Managing Director, Dragon Productions Theatre

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Race: Director's Note

“Race” is provocative.

“Race” is uncomfortable.

“Race” is prominent.

However, this play is more than about race. Each of the individual characters plays a key part in the makeup of society and in the themes throughout this production: sexism, morality, sexual misconduct, classism, prejudices, America’s
justice system, and... race.

As an African-American woman who has been both sexually assaulted and discriminated against, I was still able to look at this play from many angles. As I read it, I agreed and disagreed with each character, I believed and distrusted each character, I related to and dissociated with each character. That’s why I knew I had the right project in my hands.
As with many David Mamet plays, great dialogue, thought provoking subjects, and ambiguity are all themes in this production. Having the opportunity to direct a piece of art that causes audiences to think, take journeys with the actors, have self-discoveries, and talk long after the show is over, is not lost on me. That’s what I want to feel when I’m involved in theater as a creator or as patron… and that is my goal with this project.

As members of society, our backgrounds, beliefs and biases make up our perceptions. Our perceptions are our reality. However, as members of the audience, I hope you enter with an open mind and leave with a broad sense of “I don’t know.” Continue the dialogue. Talk about sexism; talk about morals; talk about sexual misconduct; talk about classism, talk about prejudice; talk about the injustice system in this country… Keep the dialogue going.
This play is more than about race.

Kimberly Ridgeway

Monday, March 12, 2018

Race: About the Playwright David Mamet

David Mamet was born in Chicago in 1947. The son of Jewish immigrants who left Europe and arrived in the south side of Chicago where Mamet was raised with his sister, Lynn. His parents divorced, and Mamet moved with his mother to a suburb of Chicago where he grew up with his mother, stepfather, and sister. His sister, Lynn, has described their childhood homelife as generally difficult and credits it for fueling some of the rage that is depicted in a number of his early plays.

Mr. Mamet attended Goddard College in Vermont where he received a bachelor’s degree in English literature in 1969. He eventually landed a teaching job at Marlboro College in Vermont where he produced his first play, Lakeboat, a story based on his service in the merchant marines.

He returned to Chicago in the 1970s and founded the St. Nicholas Theatre Company with William H. Macy. At the St. Nicholas Theatre Company Mamet wrote The Duck Variations, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and American Buffalo, which was Mamet’s debut Broadway play in 1977. American Buffalo won the 1977 New York Drama Critic’s Circle prize for Best American Play.

This notice won Mamet a teaching position at Yale University. In 1984 he mounted a Broadway version of Glengarry Glen Ross, which starred Joe Mantegna, and the play won Mamet the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Race ran on Broadway in 2009 with James Spader, David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington, and Richard Thomas. Mr. Mamet also has a number of notable film and television credits to his name as he’s written and directed the films The Spanish Prisoner, State and Main, Heist, and Redbelt. He wrote the screenplays for The Untouchables, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Ronin, The Verdict (starring Paul Newman and Charlotte Rampling), and Wag the Dog (Starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro). The latter two films were nominated for screenplay Oscars.

Race: Meet the Design Team

Kimberly Ridgeway (Director) has been working professionally in film and theater for over 20 years. Kimberly wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the stage plays Heavy BurdensNo More SecretsProspect Place, and The Gigolo Chronicles, and the short film “The Confession." She has performed in over 60 stage and film projects including Robin’s Hood, #1Single HusbandsThe Kid Thing, N, Hopes IdentityRequiem for a Heavyweight, No Good DeedThe Vagina MonologuesOleannaDoubt, The Piano Lesson, Savannah Sipping Society and The Mountaintop for which she won the 2016 BroadwayWorld San Francisco Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play (Local).  Kim is honored to direct this thought provoking play with this wonderful and supportive cast and crew. 

Jon Gourdine (Lighting Designer) is a former Principal Soloist with Garth Fagan Dance (The Tony Award Winning Choreographer of Lion King). Jon turned to Lighting Design and Set Design/Construction after a career ending injury. Primarily a Lighting Designer, Jon has also designed and executed set designs for theaters in the Bay Area. He has designed lights for numerous theaters and dance companies across the country and has collaborated with many of the Bay Area’s finest artists garnering numerous awards for his lighting designs.

Mercedes McLean (Stage Manager) is excited to do her first show with Dragon Theatre. She has stage managed for five years working with multiple companies in the Bay Area such as Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Altarena Playhouse,Theatre Rhinoceros, California Shakespeare Theatre, Quantum Dragon Theatre and Starchild Enterprise. She received her BA in Theatre at San Jose State University and AA in Dance at Laney College. She is also a choreographer and dancer of many genres, though her favorites are Modern and Lindy Hop.  She would like to give a special thanks to my fiancĂ© Omar Lewis, and two sons Quincy and Rashad for being her joy and comfort throughout this production.

Lana Palmer (Sound Designer) is a Canadian-born, San Francisco-based sound designer and composer. Recent credits include Dracula (Inferno Theatre) and The Laramie Project (SFSU).  Up next, she will directing and designing sound for Red (Bread & Butter Theatre).  As a composer, her music is heard on over 100 TV shows airing nationally and internationally. Lana completed a BFA and BA at the University of Regina, Canada, and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and the Dramatists Guild.

Race: Meet the Cast

Pat Caulfield (Jack Lawson) first “walked the boards” in 2015 at The Shelton Theater as Detective Baylen in Glengarry Glen Ross. In 2017, he returned to The Shelton Theater to co-produce and co-star in Mamet’s two-hander Oleanna. Thanks to The Dragon Theater, his opportunity to produce the weighty (and could not be more timely) Mamet play Race has finally arrived. A fervent Mamet fan, Pat is excited to be making a return to the stage after having solidified a law enforcement persona on camera. TV credits include FBI Agent on Nash Bridges, as well as a Chinese mini-series Human Traffic; SWAT member for Japanese TV; US Marshall, and Police Detective for Discovery TV. Film credits include Police Detective in the indie film Get Money; Police Officer in The Zodiac and Turner Broadcast System’s Murder in the First. As a lifelong learner, Pat has studied an array of artistic and athletic disciplines. As a patron of the arts, he offers special thanks to those who keep live theater alive.

Hannah Mary Keller (Susan) is particularly thrilled to be participating in this production of Race for her first production with Dragon Productions Theatre Company. Hannah’s past credits include Noises Off (Poppy) with Pacific Coast Repatory Theatre, Enemy of the People (Petra) with The Pear Theatre, Romeo y Julieta (Gregorio) with Half Moon Bay Shakespeare, King Lear (Burgundy/Oswald) with Theatre Rhinoceros, and Arcadia (Thomasina) and A Streetcar Named Desire (Negro Woman/Flower Woman/Nurse) with Jewel Theatre Company. She graduated from San Francisco State University in May 2017 with a B.A. in Drama with a performance emphasis. Hannah’s credits at San Francisco State University include Duplicity (Phoenix) , Spell #7 (Lily), Clean House (Matilde), A Photograph: Lovers in Motion (Michael), Arabian Nights (Schaherazade), African Spaghetti (Hatty), and No Exit (Inez Serrano).

Martin Gagen (Charles Strickland). This is Martin’s third performance at the Dragon Theatre, and he is delighted to take on the intense role of Charles in Mamet’s Race! He is an English actor who has been acting since college. His work includes many comedic and dramatic productions, modern and classical. His Bay Area performances include Adrian in Steven Dietz’ Private Eyes, and Jimmy in Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady both at the Dragon TheatreGeorge Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play, and Henry in The Fantasticks, both at the Los Altos Theatre; General Tilney and Mr. Morland in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey at The Pear Theatre, and the Narrator in C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew at The Tabard Theatre Martin gets his Hollywood fix regularly with roles in the MasterTraumaParenthood, Carrier and the bizarre World’s Astonishing News, and numerous “blink and you’ll miss it” walk on parts on TV! His first love is theatre and he trained with American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, the British American Drama Academy at Oxford University where he worked with the founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, John Barton, and gained his Masters in Liberal Arts at Stanford University.

Dorian Lockett (Henry Brown) is absolutely thrilled and honored to be making his second appearance at Dragon Theater! His first came to Dragon during the production of Dumb and Dumber. Dorian was born and raised in Oakland. You might have seen him in Walls with The San Francisco Mime Troupe, The Piano Lesson with Role Players Ensemble, various projects at Piano Fight, The Gospel of Lovingkindness with Ubuntu Theater Project, where he is a company member. He’s an avid anime watcher and a pescatarian. You will see him next in Lower Depths with Ubuntu Theatre Project and he also appears as Coach Patrick in 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. Enjoy the show!!