Thursday, July 11, 2019

The How & the Why: The Playwright

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The How & the Why: Director's Note

“It would help if you didn’t think of science as such a contact sport.”

The How and the Why follows two women meeting for the first time, one well-established in her career, and one on the cusp of entering into professional life. Propelled by coincidence, fate, or a mysterious turn of genetic determinism, they are both evolutionary biologists.

This is no casual meeting, and conversation gravitates to vital questions: Their work, their families, their choices, their bodies. And perhaps most importantly, their dreams - and the sacrifices made to achieve them. 

These are women striving to gain, and keep, a foothold in a highly competitive field. While working on this play, we asked ourselves what it meant to be driven towards achievement and success, and whether these successes are enough to build a fulfilled life.  While Zelda and Rachel are both scientists, I believe these questions are applicable to all of us. In the quote above, ‘science’ could easily be replaced by ‘life’. I hope that this play offers you an entryway to explore your own questions on the great mystery of How and Why we become who we are.

-Lana Palmer, director

The How & the Why: Meet the Designers

Lana Palmer (Producer/Director/Sound Designer/Properties Master/Costume Coordinator) is a Canadian-born, San Francisco-based theatre and filmmaker. Sound Design credits include Race (Dragon Theatre), School Girls (Kansas City Rep/Regional Premiere), The Grapes of Wrath (Los Altos Stage), For Colored Girls (African-American Shakespeare Company), The Revolutionists (Town Hall Theatre Company/Bay Area Premiere), and Dracula (Inferno Theatre), for which she was nominated for a TBA Award for Original Music. Her directing credits include Red and The North Pool (Bread & Butter Theatre), and staged readings of Middletown (Actors Ensemble of Berkeley) and Uncanny Valley (Town Hall Theatre Company). 

Rebekah Lazar (Stage Manager) (Bekah for short) is a university student studying theatre design and production at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Her main focus is on stage management, lighting, and anything else she has the opportunity to learn about. She feels so fortunate to work with and learn from such a passionate and driven team that inspires her to do what she loves to do. Bekah would like to thank everyone who takes a bit of time out of their day to spend a few hours in the world of theatre; after all, a show is nothing without its audience.

Isaac Fine (Scenic Designer) is a second year MFA student at San Francisco State University studying scenic design. His credits include [title of show], Pericles, Prince of Tyre, and The North Pool. He has also worked as a projection designer for Hair: An American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, and How to Pray. Isaac is thrilled to be working on his first production with the Dragon Theatre. 

Bruce Avery (Lighting Designer) is a Bay Area actor and director as well as Professor of Theatre Arts at San Francisco State University. Lighting design credits include Exit the King and Baltimore Waltz (San Francisco State University) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bread & Butter Theatre Co). Directing credits include Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Much Ado About Nothing, and Baltimore Waltz at San Francisco State University, and Midsummer for Bread & Butter. Acting credits include Rothko in Red, Dr. Danielson in The North Pool, and Polonius in Hamlet.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The How & the Why: Meet the Cast

Alicia Piemme Nelson (Rachel Hardeman) is thrilled to be making her Dragon debut in The How and the Why. Regional credits include: WAMTheatre (The Last Wife, The Virgin Trial). She has worked with many Bay Area theatres, most recently: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Berkeley Playhouse, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Crowded Fire, Word for Word, and Ragged Wing Ensemble. She has a BFA in Acting from Boston University and is a Theatre Bay Area award winner.

Kelly Rinehart (Zelda Kahn) is thrilled to be back at Dragon. She was previously seen here in Private Eyes and Miss Reardon Drinks A Little. She has also worked with Altarena, Custom Made Theatre Company, Contra Costa Civic Theatre, Hillbarn, Palo Alto Players, Ragged Wing, San Francisco Olympians Festival, and Those Women Productions, among others. One of her day jobs is as a lecturer and clinical supervisor at a university, where she is grateful that she does not have to do research, because her passion is for the teaching part. She also likes playing outdoors and ice cream. So much to be grateful for…

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Shoggoths on the Veldt: About H. P. Lovecraft and his fictional world

Who is Lovecraft? 

Howard Phillips (H.P.) Lovecraft (1890-1937) was a writer from Rhode Island whose biography is both interesting and controversial, but for our purposes, we will contain ourselves to his writing. A fan of Poe, he was fascinated with the macabre and horror, and made most of his income came from pulp fiction magazines of the day. His writing includes such themes/ideas as: exploration of places man has never been or has not seen since a bygone age, fear of the unknown and with it a fear of knowledge/progress into areas man is not ready to know, madness and/or death at the hands of things the human brain cannot comprehend nor even contend with, the kind of sacrifice required to forestall humanity's end against forces that it has no hope against and prodigious use of words and phrases like “Cyclopean” “Eldritch” and “Non-Euclidean Geometry” to fill in the gap between where the English language could not describe something ended and the readers imagination began. All of this lead to what we now call the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’. 

What is the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’? 

The name is inspired from one of Lovecraft’s best (or at least most famous) work: “The Call of Cthulhu”. As to the ‘Mythos’ part... 

Well, lots of pulp fiction writers of the day corresponded with each other (to both collaborate and commiserate on how hard it was to make a living writing) and Lovecraft ended up with a large circle of correspondents/fans/friends ( called, rather blandly “The Lovecraft Circle”, which included famed writer Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian) and most of them either saw a gap in the market or were truly inspired by his writing to add to it, helping make one of the largest author approved fan fiction groups ever. Writers would take stories, single lines from stories or just an idea and expand them to where today, their writing is considered as canon as Lovecraft’s by most fans. 

Okay, so a bunch of writers made up spooky stories around a hundred years ago. Surely no one talks about it anymore, right? 

That is where you are wrong, you cheeky, hastily conjured straw man! The Mythos is still with us and is a part of popular culture to this day, including, but by no means limited to: 

Evil Dead Series: Both the more recent TV show and the original movies owe much to Lovecraft, especially the Necronomicon (which is featured/mentioned in many Mythos texts). 

Re-Animator: A series of horror movies starring Jeffery Coombs, the original is based wholesale on a Lovecraft story, updated on its era, involving reanimating dead people and the problems it can cause. 

Conan the Barbarian: From the novels to the 80s movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger, many of the supernatural/strange elements bear the mark of its creators love of Lovecraft. 

Ghostbusters: Mentions some tomes and names familiar to Lovecraft fans and the cartoon version (The Real Ghostbusters) had an episode entitled “The Collect Call of Cthulhu” as a wholesale homage. 

John Carpenter: Parts of the film “The Thing” that are not based on the previous version or its original short story are cribbed from Lovecraft’s story “At the Mountains of Madness;” which is even further referenced in style and tone in one of Carpenter's other film “In the Mouth of Madness”. 

Metallica: Has two songs referencing Lovecraft ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’ and “The Call of Ktulu’.

Batman: The Arkham Asylum where most of Batman’s rogues gallery ends up is a reference to a central location in the Cthulhu Mythos, the tiny New England town of Arkham, Massachusetts.

Call of Cthulhu: A Tabletop Role Playing Game that is based entirely on the Mythos, originally published in the 80s, is now in its 7th Edition and still going strong. Famous in its circles for having a sanity mechanic where exposure to the strange and horrifying can leave your character like poor Montcrag. 

Stephen Kinghas a soft spot for Lovecraft, even having his main villain in ”The Stand” claim Nyarlathotep as one of his incarnations.

True Detective: Not a Cthulhu Mythos show per se, but it has some references and its bleak tone is exactly what many Lovecraft stories tend to feel like.

Hellboy: Both the movies and the comics are steeped in Lovecraft and eldritch abominations.
Glossary of Terms: 

Here’s a glossary of potentially tricky terms, entities and ideas in the show in case you’d like to know what they are: 

Shoggoth [Shoe-gauth or SHOW-goth]: A creature created to be a slave race by a species that ruled Earth before the rise of man, they rebelled and now a few of them remain in the dark, hidden places of the world. 15 feet across, they are essentially a cross between a massive ball of living Play-Doh with the bioluminescence and partial consistency of a jellyfish. Able to create/extend tentacle to carry out tasks and can open up multiple mouths across its’ body to speak. As the show points out, also kind of like a ginormous amoeba. First appears in Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness”.

Elder Sign: A symbol with five branches (sometimes depicted as a tree, but also seen as a star, as in the show), that is the fulcrum for many spells in the Cthulhu Mythos, by acting as a beacon to the Great Old Ones (coupled with intent and sacrifice to power it), who actually make the spell work (most spells in the are prayer/pleas to the Great Old Ones and if they respond favorably, they enact the spell you described in your prayer/plea). Speaking of which... 

Great Old Ones: Most of the things that people could call ‘gods” in the Cthulhu Mythos are alien beings, who are so beyond our understanding in terms of powers and existence that we shorthand convert them into gods to avoid having to think about them too hard. Their motives are inscrutable - at best they ignore us and at worst they have plans for us. Most spells or supernatural effects come from them or something that worships them/is aligned with them in some way. A few get a passing reference (Bugg-Shash, Gla’aki, a few others) but any with significant presence in the show will get their own entry.

R’lyehian: The language of the Great Old Ones, first brought to Earth by the denizens of the sunken city of R’lyeh that worship dead Cthulhu. The language cannot be uttered correctly by a human tongue and is only used to attract the attention of a Great Old One when performing a spell/ritual. Most sentences are constructed in a matter of fact, no frills way, as the language has no distinction for parts of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives and such are all interchangeable) and only two tenses (present and not-present, as the Great Old Ones do not experience time as we do). For instance, the R’lyehian phrase: ‘ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’yleh wgah’nagl fhtagn’ is translated into (correctly structured) English as ‘In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu lies dreaming’ but a direct translation would be “Dead, yet dreaming, Cthulhu waits in his palace in R’yleh’. Both the text and the language first appear in Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu.”

Shub-Niggurath [Shoob-Neeg-er-ath]:‘ The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young’ as she is often known, Shub-Niggurath is the closest thing in the Mythos to a fertility goddess, having birthed some of the worst entities in existence and continually spawning monstrosities from her massive form as easily as breathing, many times absorbing them back into herself (if they do not grow quickly enough to escape). As a being of life and supposedly having control over all that is flesh, she has a great many worshippers, among both humans and various other alien species.

Nyarlathotep [N-Yar-Lat-Ho-Tep]: ‘The Crawling Chaos’, ‘The God with a Thousand Masks’ and all the names those Masks possess. Was originally the messenger of the Great Old Ones, once upon a time, but these days is known by the sobriquet Nyarlathotep (which is really just the name of one of the Masks he wore in ancient Egypt, roughly translated as “The Black Pharaoh”) and he delights in causing chaos and suffering wherever he is called (no one knows what his true form is and it is possible he does not have one). Unlike most Great Old Ones, he has a great understanding of what humans are and how they behave, and enjoys giving followers and the unsuspecting alike exactly what they ask for (in the most ironic/horrible way possible). The God of The Bloody Tongue is one of his Masks. 

Azathoth [Az-a-thoth]: As described in the show, The Daemon Sultan is in fact the first being that ever existed. If one imagines the raw, seething power that must have existed in a single point to expand outwards at the Big Bang, that point is Azathoth (albeit with a face not even a mother could love or even look at without devolving into gibbering insanity and the temperament of the worst kind of Child-King imaginable). He dances in his court surrounded by eldritch beings, playing weird instruments, forever playing for his amusement, lest he grow so bored he unmakes all of existence. 

Image result for shoggoth

(big thanks to ASM Austin Barnes for the bulk of this document!) 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Shoggoths on the Veldt: Meet the Cast

Tasi Alabastro (Famed Explorer Welton Mountcrag)returns to the Dragon Stage with an elation that can only be described as seeing Elephants fly while surfing! Or something. Having just visited Scotland by way of Shakespeare, he’s excited to be traversing the globe to Deepest Darkest Africa with this merry crew. 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. The productions of Macbeth, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, Three Days of Rain, and The Libation Bearers are among his recent Dragon Theatre appearances. Other Bay Area credits include productions with CenterRep, City Lights Theatre Company, Pear Theatre, 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. Catch him live three times a week on  

Betsy (The Shoogoth) - Ooodle, oodle oodle oo! Oddle Dragon Theatre, oodle,oo, oodle OODDLE!.

Lisa Burton (Lady Philippa Bickleford-Smith Jones) - is thrilled to be back on the Dragon stage and in the company of such a fun and talented team. She was last seen at Dragon Theatre for that most festive of all shows—The Making of the Star Wars Holiday SpecialLive!—in which she appeared as Han Solo and assorted other characters. Other Dragon performances include a turn as Bea Littleton in The Charitable Sisterhood of the Second Trinity Victory Church and Tsarina/Sarrasine in Cirque Exotique du Monde.  Locally, Lisa has also appeared at the Pear Theatre in The Millionth Production of the Christmas Carol (what is it with these long titles?) and at Santa Clara Players in Exit The Body and Rumors.  Favorite roles from the distant past include Dorine in Tartuffe and both Cecily and Gwendolyn in two different productions of The Important of Being Earnest.  Lisa holds a B.F.A. in theatre from New York University and an M.A. in literature from San Francisco State University.  She is grateful to her wonderful family—Drew, Andrew, Zoe and Bolt—for all their love and support.

Ronald Feichtmeir (Lord Melford Pumbleshire) Ronald has been acting on the peninsula most recently in the Dragon Theatre’s production of The Star Wars Holiday Special: Live! as C3PO and Art Carney. He is a Bay Area native. Recent shows include Waiting for Godotas Estragon, Cirque Exotique Du Monde at the Dragon Theatre and Jim/ Scrooge for A Millionth Production of a Christmas Carol at the Pear Theatre.

Alika U. Spencer-Koknar (Lady Euphonia Riggstone) - has been itching to do a production of Shoggoths on the Veldt ever since she saw the world premiere back in 2015 in Seattle WA. at The Rogues Gallery. She is honored to share this endeavor with such a talented and compassionate group of artists, she couldn’t have pulled this off without every single one of their help. Alika has recently stepped into the role of Co-Artistic Director here at the Dragon along with her director and husband, Max Koknar. Her past credits include; Princess Leia in The Star Wars Holiday Special: Live!, Judith in Equivocation, Boshka/Magda Goebbels in Cirque Exotique Du Monde with Dragon Theatre, with Northside Theater Company as Maureen in The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, with City Lights as 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.

Michael Weiland (Crompit/Steward/The God of the Bloody Tongue/Arnulf) - has previously appeared in Equivocation at the Dragon Theatre. Other appearances include Geeks vs Zombies at the Pear Theater, The Legend of Georgia McBride at Los Altos Stage Company, Boom! at Minilights, andRocky Horror at City Lights Theater Company. Michael is also a company member at Play On Words San Jose, a staged reading company for new works by local authors, playwrights, and poets.

Shoggoths on the Veldt: Meet the Design Team

Bora “Max” Koknar (Director) - Max is a Turkish-born actor, director, writer, educator, producer and the Co-Artistic Director of Dragon Productions. Over a professional career of 15 years, Max has entertained over a half million people as a performer; produced a touring program serving over 100,000 children a year across the west coast; founded an education program designed to increase language fluency and communication skills of at risk youth in partnership with The Ohio State University; created sold-out immersive experiences with Epic Immersive; and collaborated with international tech giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Box, Intuit, Genentech, and Paradox Interactive as performer, executive coach, training facilitator and experience designer.

Samantha Ricci (Assistant Director) - is a performer and teaching artist from the Bay Area.  She began her career with the Missoula Children’s Theatre, directing kids across the US, Canada, and Southeast Asia. Sam first went mad for Shoggoths on the Veldt when she saw its premiere while touring with the California Theatre Center; she is thrilled for the chance to be working on the show herself with this amazing team, reunited with fellow California Theatre Center alums director Max Koknar and actor Alika U. Spencer-Koknar.  Sam’s latest directing projects (Hatikvah and Vichy’s Garden) were part of the 2017 Lights Up festival at City Lights Theatre Company in San Jose. When not onstage or backstage, she can be found facilitating improv-based workshops in California state prisons with the Red Ladder Theatre Company.

Austin Barnes (Assistant Stage Manager) - is terribly pleased to be returning to The Dragon Theater. After helping with the previous year’s Star War Holiday Special: Live! and The Revolutionist at the beginning of this season, he is horribly excited to be a part of bringing Shoggoths to life and also to be assisting Betsy in her big debut on The Dragon stage (she has bright future ahead of her)!

Melinda Marks (Stage Manager) - is a longtime Bay Area actor and director, and the editor and casting director of San Jose-based production company Play on Words. This is her first time Stage Managing at Dragon Productions, but she was the dialect coach on last season's Equivocation and will direct Anne of the Thousand Days here later this year. She was last seen onstage in Shakespeare in Love (Palo Alto Players), and in Theatro Visions' world premiere of Departera.

Mike Fatum (Fight Choreographer) - was trained by Eben Young of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and has been choreographing stage combat for more than a decade. Prior to Shoggoths,his work could be seen in the film Star Wars Uncut, and on stage with The Lamplighters and Pacifica Spindrift Players. He hopes to one day be half as good as Bob Anderson, who you know for choreographing every single sword fight you love. Seriously, Google him.

Nathanael Card (Scenic/Lighting Designer) - Nathanael Card, Wizard of the Theatre Arts, is proud to take the form of lighting designer, scenic designer, and painter for Dragon. His past scenic designs include: The Revolutionists, Three Days of Rain, and Cirque Exotique du Monde at Dragon; Godspell, Carousel, and A Chorus Line, with Youth Musical Theater Company; and Southern Lights, with 3 Girls Theater at Z Below. He designed lights as well for his last three shows at Dragon, and often crews as an electrician with Smuin Ballet and Berkeley Rep.

Jonathan Covey (Sound) - has been making noise with Dragon for a few years now. This is his eighth production with the theatre, the other six being Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Rich & Famous, Caeneus & Poseidon, Insignificance, Three Days Of Rainwith Meredith Hagedorn and this past summer’s Equivocation for Jenny Hollingworth. Covey also did sound for Hillbarn Threatre’s productions of The Elephant Man and Noises Off and even tried his hand at acting, recently playing Malcolm et. al. in Dragon's Macbeth, as well as Detective Sargent Trotter in Crystal Springs Players production of Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap. However, he still enjoys being alone in a dark room with a microphone, a guitar, and maybe some celery.

Kate Martin (Puppet Designer/Properties Master) - is extremely honored to join Dragon Productions for the first time for Shoggoths. She also designs and creates costumes and props, and performs with Epic Immersive and Hubba Hubba Revue, as well as teaches elementary school science and engineering during the week. In her free time she performs immersive comedy with her girlfriend and creates all sorts of strange things.

Kathleen Qiu (Costume Designer) - is a Bay Area costume designer returning to Dragon for her third season. Previously, she designed The (Making of the) Star Wars Holiday Special: Live!, The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence, Equivocation, Insignificance, and Cirque Exotique du Monde. Other selected credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (West Valley College), Honky, All My Sons (Role Players Ensemble), All in the Timing (Tomorrow Youth Repertory), She Kills Monsters, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Foothill College), Two Mile Hollow (Ferocious Lotus), Universal Robots (Quantum Dragon Theatre), The House of Yes, How I Learned to Drive(Custom Made Theatre Co), and You Mean to Do Me Harm (SF Playhouse). She graduated from the University of Chicago with BAs 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.

Jacob Vorperian (Projection and Animation Designer) - is proud to be joining the creative team of Shoggoths on the Veldt as Projection and Animation Designer. He studied computer science at Willamette University before moving on to his current roles as House Technician for Dragon Productions, Head of Technology for Epic Immersive, and Projectionist for Viberation Visuals. Jacob also has over a decade of extensive experience in acting, singing, and dancing, with his most recent role being that of Short John in Epic Immersive's production of The Changeling: a Neverland Story. He would like to thank Marilyn Izdebski for introducing him to the wonderful world of theater and Max and Alika for bringing him to Dragon.

Shoggoths on the Veldt - A Word From the Director

It is not often that one gets to work on their dream project - but that is what the Dragon is all about. Creating opportunities for dreams to come true. But why is this silly little play a dream come true for me?

Well, I thought, when I saw the original production in Seattle, that this was my new dream project because of the script. This beautiful story Cameron McNary weaves for us is not only a hilarious comedy and captivating adventure tale, but also a beautiful romance about embracing who we really are instead behaving in ways required to fit into society. 

But really, the dream has been the incredible team of multi-talented theatre artists who have thrown themselves so wholeheartedly into the process of bringing this silly little play to life with a level of dedication I thought I could not hope for in my wildest dreams. From old friends like Sam, who was with me on the fateful night when I was first introduced to this play, to newer ones like Melinda who will be bringing a dream project of her own (Anne of a Thousand Days) to the Dragon later this year, every single person on this production has gone so far above and beyond the call of duty to bring you this show. They have all taken on responsibilities beyond their titles and put in dozens of hours beyond the usual commitments expected of them. 

All to bring you a wild and wacky, globetrotting adventure, spanning boats and trains and cultist temples. And oh, did we mention the 15 ton amoeboid tentacle monster, Betsy? We hope you enjoy the ride!

 Ooodle oo!
-Max “Bora” Koknar

Friday, April 26, 2019

Shoggoths on the Veldt: Who is H. P. Lovecraft?

You might not know who Howard Phillips Lovecraft is, but you've definitely felt his influences. Born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1890, H.P. Lovecraft was a writer of gothic horror fiction. He was virtually unknown during his lifetime but is now regarded as one of the most significant 20th century American authors due to his impact in the areas of horror and strange fiction. His stories were largely published in pulp magazines and his creation of the Cthulu Mythos made a major impact on the pop culture scene after he died at the age of 46 from cancer and in poverty.

Lovecraft was significantly influenced by Edgar Allen Poe and you can certainly see that influence in his gothic horror stories. Contemporary writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, William S. Burroughs, and Alan Moore have all cited Lovecraft as having a major influence on their writings.  Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges wrote his short story There Are More Things in memory of Lovecraft. Even writer Joyce Carol Oates is a fan - she wrote an introduction for a collection of Lovecraft stories. 

In the realm of film, John Carpenter and Guillermo del Toro have used Lovecraftian images and themes in their films. Surreal visual artist H. R. Geiger, the man who designed the aliens in the James Cameron Alien films, cites Lovecraft as an inspiration for many of his designs. 

While many of us know Arkham from the Batman canon, Arkham is actually a fictional place in Lovecraft's stories. The necronomicon, the book of the dead, is mentioned in a number of sci-fi stories, most notably in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies. It's also a Lovecraft creation. 

Mr. Lovecraft was known to encourage the use of his fictional creatures and places in other works, so I think he'd approve of Cameron McNary's play.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Macbeth: From the Directors

When approaching any new project onstage we find it vital to ask ourselves one question: Why on Earth are we doing this to ourselves?

Long days, late nights, mental strain, a social calendar that becomes non-existent, (sometimes) bodily harm, (often) poor dietary choices, and (never enough) money. What kind of person makes the conscious choice to pursue this art while not under duress? The answer, we found, was "some of the absolute best."

Our ultimate goal for this production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth was two-fold; assemble an ensemble of artists that we admire to build a show together and strip this classic piece down to its core values. In regards to the former, as you'll soon see, we couldn't be more proud. Our names may be on the program but next to "Director" it could just as easily read, "Everyone."There isn't a moment in this show that doesn't have the entire team's fingerprints on it and chances to work on a true ensemble-driven piece of theatre are few and far between.

As for the latter... we keep coming back to Shakespeare, don't we? It's not hard to see why; his poetry is beautiful and his stories are human. With over thirty plays to choose from, one can see oneself in any number of characters, for good or for bad, and that is the inherent reason for the unbelievable longevity of his work. To connect with people and characters from over four centuries ago means we aren't so different from them... which means we certainly aren't so different from each other now. It's a humbling reminder of the importance and truth in art.

The themes in Macbeth are universal and well-known. Ambition, power, corruption, greed; seemingly inevitable aspects of human nature that have been no more resonant than they are in our world right now. But this idea of connectivity through relationships (romantic, familial, brotherhood in combat, etc.) is not, historically, the main focus of this play. For us, however, it was the most important.

The idea that witches, curses, prophesies, and even fate are not actually inevitable is an attractive one, especially when framing it around the complex relationships that truly make the events in the play come to pass. The Macbeths don't start their lives as villains. Everybody is one bad decision away from the life-altering event. Who we surround ourselves with, who we build up, who we let in, and who we connect with can change everything. This is not just a story about what drives us through life; it is also a story about who.

Which brings us back to our primary question: Why on Earth are we doing this? Simply put... connection.

Real connection with the piece, the past, each other... and now you.

-Max Tachis & Roneet Rahamim

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Macbeth: Fight choreography

Something we don't get to talk about too often here at Dragon is fight choreography. Between Macbeth which opens this week, and our next play, Shoggoths On The Veldt, which is ALREADY in fight training a bit earlier than usual, we get to do it a lot this season. They use the word choreography to describe it for a reason - any bit of violence, be it a sword fight, a hanging, or even a simple shove gets choreographed like dance movement. The movements are drilled with your partner over and over and over again. The simple rule of thumb is that for one minute of performance fight time you work NO LESS than TEN HOURS for the fight. That seems extreme but the reason is simple - safety, for both your actors and your audience members. When you have combat happening mere feet away from the audience it's got to be safe. And it's got to look good, which is easier said than done.

This video gives you a general idea of the work that goes into throwing a simple punch.

Two things to keep in mind with this video: 1. they're talking camera angle but it's a bit harder in live theatre, especially with a rounded stage like ours and 2. they have the luxury of adding sound effects in "post production" with foley artists. When you do this in a live theatre, you have to figure out a way to also make the effect of a slap or punch live. There's a technique called knapping that's often used. Knapping goes something like this:

Macbeth has a whole lot of fighting, especially towards the end. So not only do the actors, Tasi and Max have to recite a bunch of Shakseaprea, they also have to do a several minute dance that involves remembering angles, a lot of physical acting, and making murder actually incredibly safe but look brutal. No problem right?

And wait til you see what's coming in for Shoggoths... it's gonna get CRAZY (and it's why we've started combat training a good month early)!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Macbeth: A Word From the Artistic Directors

This season is full of firsts for Dragon Theater; the first season under our new leadership, and the first time Dragon has ever produced a Shakespearean play. In Dragon’s nineteen years as a company, the Bard’s work has never graced its stage. The reason for this absence was mainly due to the contradiction of Shakespeare to our mission: “to produce professional theatre that is uncommon, intimate, and accessible to its audiences, artists, and community,” and there is no shortage of wonderful theater companies that explore the body of Shakespeare’s work. However, when Max Tachis and Roneet Rahamim approached us with their unique proposal to produce Macbeth, we all knew it was time. They proposed a lean, actor-centric production that would bring the play to life in front of our very eyes as the actors created the environments and soundscapes live on stage using musical instruments, foley, and found objects.

As actors ourselves, we were thrilled at the prospect of presenting the tragedy of Macbeth for it holds a special place in both of our theatrical hearts. Beyond being our favorite from Shakespeare’s cannon, this story could not be more timely in dealing with power and gender dynamics in a way which mirrors our world to a disturbing extent. But the thing that tipped us over the edge in selecting this piece more than anything else was the team who proposed it. When this pitch was presented to us with four stalwarts of the Bay Area acting community, Roneet, Max, Tasi, and Maria as the core team around whom the rest of the ensemble would be built, we knew that we had something truly special on our hands. Throw in Dragon veteran, Troy Johnson and newcomers to the Dragon stage Jonathan, Sarah, and Maya and we believe what you get is pure alchemy. We hope you enjoy the magic of our first 2nd Stages show of the year (and our very first Shakespeare production EVER) and we cannot wait to keep sharing more with you.

 -Alika Spencer-Koknar & Max Koknar

Macbeth: Meet the Designers

Dylan Elhai (Lighting Designer) is a Southern California based lighting technician, programmer, and designer. She also works as a stage manager and production manager. Dylan has been working professionally in the industry for 10+ years. She is pleased to be part of her first Dragon production, and is very thankful to her cousins, Roneet and Max, for asking her to be a part of this show. Dylan has a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Marquette University and a degree in Graphic Design from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.   

Rachel Nin (Stage Manager) is so pleased to be returning to Dragon! Her past Dragon credits include Three Days of RainEquivocation and The Making of the Star Wars Holiday Special, Live!. 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, and she holds a B.A. in Theatre and Creative Writing from Denison University in Granville, OH.

Roneet Aliza Rahamim (Directors/Co-Producers/First witch/Sergeant/First Murdered/First Lord/Lady Macduff/First Soldier) is excited to be back at the Dragon (Becky’s New Car, 2013 season). Roneet is a Bay Area native and has worked with companies such as City Lights Theater Company, The Pear Theater, Palo Alto Players, Los Altos Stage Company, Breadbox Theater, Shotgun Players, Golden Thread Productions (resident artist), Swandive Theatre (MN), Mixed Blood Theatre (MN), among others. Roneet’s directing credits include Making God Laugh (Asst., City Lights Theater Company) and will be working on 12 Angry Women at Foothill College later this year. Some favorite performances to date: Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank (Palo Alto Players, Theater Bay Area Award), Constanza in Amadeus (City Lights Theater Company), Elizabeth in Defying Gravity (Swandive Theatre) and Kiss (Shotgun Players).

Max Tachis (Director/Co-Producer/Duncun/Mcduff/3rd Lord) is excited to return to Dragon Productions Theatre Company as a producer and director, having been seen last season in Equivocation (Shag, 2018 TBA Award Finalist). As an actor, he has been onstage most recently in Mothers and Sons (Will) with City Lights Theater Company, The SantaLand Diaries (David/Crumpet) with TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, and Noises Off (Garry/Roger) with Hillbarn Theatre.

Macbeth: Foley Sound Effects

One of the fun things about our upcoming production of Macbeth is the use of a live Foley sound station. Named after sound effects artist Jack Foley, Foley is the use of items to reproduce sounds. The practice started in the early 1920s with radio dramas. The idea is to use props and every day objects to reproduce sounds to create a richer radio, theatrical, or film experience. Footsteps, breaking glass, and the swishing of clothes are among the most common Foley effects. The most widely recognized Foley effect is probably in Monty Python And The Holy Grail when they use coconuts to imitate the sound of a horse.

In our production of Macbeth, a number of Foley effects are being used. There's a drum, some fight noise, and other fun moments that the actors take turns creating live during the show.

Foley effects are widely used in film. Hollywood routinely employs these special artists to provide better quality sounds than can be captured during the shoot of a scene. This video has a pretty cool look at all the little details that go on behind the scenes of a TV or film shoot to make the scene that we see on the screen. It's an impressive amount of work by some unsung heroes.

Enjoy the show and be sure to keep your ears open for more than just the beautiful words of the Bard during our production of Macbeth!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Macbeth: Meet the Cast

Tasi Alabastro (Macbeth) is ├╝ber excited to be returning to the Dragon stage and collaborating with this stinkin’ talented team! 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 in Spending the End of the World on OKCupid(Pear Theatre). The productions of The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, Three Days of Rain, and The Libation Bearers are among his recent Dragon Theatre appearances.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. Catch him live three times a week on

Jonathan Covey (Malcolm/Fourth Lord/Son Mcduff) is not quite sure what he’s doing here. He has only acted once before but, has been a part of the theater in some capacity for years. Typically, he’s in some dark room with a laptop, guitar, carrots, celery and a microphone, making noises for various productions at the Dragon, such as last year’s Equivocation (starring Macbeth’s own Max Tachis as none other than The Bard himself) and most recently, The Making of the Star Wars Holiday Special this past December. But here he is. On stage again for the first time in almost exactly ten years. You see, all the way in the innocent, goodly days of 2009, he played Detective Sgt. Trotter for the Crystal Springs Players’ production of Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap. However, the bug bite didn’t get very deep. He enjoyed the process but stuck with recreating the sound of a neck breaking using the aforementioned carrots and celery instead. Yet now, for whatever reason, he has the itch for baking under those stage lights once again. And perhaps again after that. And maybe again and again.

Maya Greenberg (Banquo/Hecate/Doctor) is an Israeli actress and she is very excited to work with such talented people in her debut with the Dragon Theatre in one of her favorite plays. In her native Hebrew she performed in both Hamlet and Midsummer Night's Dream. Now she’s excited to perform Shakespeare in its origin language. Maya also performed as Phaedra in Phaedra's Love, as well as Clytemnestra in Mythos and toured with the latter at festivals in Europe and the U.S. Having earned a Theatre Arts bachelor’s degree from Tel-Aviv University, Maya worked in the film and television industry as an actress, creator and the host of One-On-One, women’s interviewing show. Nevertheless, her love of the stage, especially the classics, is everlasting: “Any classic role is an acting class, full of challenges and pure joy. It’s something that I can’t resist.”

Sarah Hass (3rd Witch/Ross/Servant/Fleance) is thrilled to be making her debut with the Dragon Productions Theatre Company. Recent credits include Stupid F*cking Bird (Nina) with City Lights Theater Company, Seminar (Kate) at San Jose State University, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Puck) at San Jose State University, The Shape of Things (Evelyn) at San Jose State University, The Great Gatsby (Daisy) at San Jose State University, and Curtains (Ensemble) with South Bay Musical Theater. She graduated with BA in Theatre Arts from San Jose State University and spends her days as a pastry baker. She would like to thank her family and friends for being an overwhelming and constant source of love and support. 

Troy Johnson (2nd Witch/Porter/2nd Murdered/2nd Lord/Soldier)-To be back onstage at Dragon Productions is wonderful, and to be amongst this team of artists working on this project is an absolute delight.  Troy has been acting and directing around the Bay Area for the past 25 years.  Previous acting credits at Dragon Productions include Tesman in last season’s The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, and Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire. Favorite acting credits elsewhere include Tesman in Hedda Gabler, Mr. Daldry in In the Next Room by Sarah Ruhl, Colonel Pickering in Pygmalion, Johann Fasch in Bach at Leipzig, and Frank in Molly Sweeney, all at The Pear Theatre; Jimmy Jack in Brian Friel’s Translations at Stanford Summer Theatre, and Arthur Kipps in The Woman in Black and Lennie in Of Mice and Men at Broadway West. Two fond distant memories are working onstage with both co-Artistic Directors in the world premiere of No Good Deed by Paul Braverman at The Pear Theatre, as well as directing Alika Spencer-Koknar in Steel Magnolias at Broadway West.  Finally, Troy thanks you for continuing to support live local theatre.

Maria Marquis (Lady Macbeth) is happy to be back at the Dragon after working on The Revolutionists earlier this year. She has been acting in the Bay Area since 2008, and is a theatre and voice actor, as well as corporate trainer committed to making work less boring. She most recently appeared at City Lights in The Merchant of Venice and Making God Laugh. You may have also seen her at the Breadbox, The Pear Theatre, Custom Made Theatre, and Impact Theatre. You can learn more about her at You can also find her audiobooks on Love to S.

Roneet Aliza Rahamim (Directors/Co-Producers/First witch/Sergeant/First Murdered/First Lord/Lady Macduff/First Soldier) is excited to be back at the Dragon (Becky’s New Car, 2013 season). Roneet is a Bay Area native and has worked with companies such as City Lights Theater Company, The Pear Theater, Palo Alto Players, Los Altos Stage Company, Breadbox Theater, Shotgun Players, Golden Thread Productions (resident artist), Swandive Theatre (MN), Mixed Blood Theatre (MN), among others. Roneet’s directing credits include Making God Laugh (Asst., City Lights Theater Company) and will be working on 12 Angry Women at Foothill College later this year. Some favorite performances to date: Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank (Palo Alto Players, Theater Bay Area Award), Constanza in Amadeus (City Lights Theater Company), Elizabeth in Defying Gravity (Swandive Theatre) and Kiss (Shotgun Players).

Max Tachis (Director/Co-Producer/Duncun/Mcduff/3rd Lord) is excited to return to Dragon Productions Theatre Company as a producer and director, having been seen last season in Equivocation (Shag, 2018 TBA Award Finalist). As an actor, he has been onstage most recently in Mothers and Sons (Will) with City Lights Theater Company, The SantaLand Diaries (David/Crumpet) with TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, and Noises Off (Garry/Roger) with Hillbarn Theatre.