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Care of Trees

Written by E. Hunter Spreen
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Pak Han

Presented by Shotgun Players
May 18 – June 26, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE “Susannah Martin’s skillful stagings…[and] orchestration of their courtship, growing desire, consummation and deepening bond laces the familiar with smartly comic originality.” – Robert Hurwitt

HUFFINGTON POST “Ms. Martin has done a stunning job of pulling two extraordinary performances from her actors.” – George Heymont

SF WEEKLY “…Director Susannah Martin…delivers a conclusion that’s a total stunner.” – Chris Jensen

Director’s Note
I have fallen in artistic love twice. Both times I have been graced with theatrical collaborators who have allowed me to create work that engages the community in difficult questions about the world. The first collaborator is Elizabeth Spreen. Elizabeth and I met in the late 90’s and for five years, ran a theatre company together. In that five years, I learned more about who I was as an artist and what kind of work I needed to make than I learned in any institution of higher learning. The second is Shotgun Players. Every show I have worked on with this company has pushed me to be better at what I do. To bring these two artistic loves together is an incredible honor and joy. And to do so with a play that asks some tough questions about the nature of love and life in the face of cataclysmic change is a hard-core reminder of why I do theatre.

What is this play about? With it’s collage like structure, where time and space are fluid, several issues are touched upon as we swirl through the memories of one couple: the environment and our responsibility to it; illness and its effect on a relationship; language and its limitations in articulating what we feel (especially when our experience becomes so big that it is beyond words); our very contemporary obsession with cataloguing and generating artifacts (both real and virtual) of our relationships, and what happens to those memories as time passes and things change… In the midst of all of those themes, ultimately, this play asks: what happens when your partner embarks on a journey where you can’t follow? And concurrently: what happens when life forces you to choose a path that may mean the loss of your relationship? Life is about change. It’s about death. It’s about re-birth. This beautiful play demonstrates that process on both the most intimate and the most magical scale. I’m extremely grateful to both Elizabeth for writing it and Shotgun for having the gumption (20 years and counting!) to produce it.

Travis DeKalb / Patrick Russell*
Georgia Swift / Liz Sklar*

*Member of AEA

Founding Artistic Director / Patrick Dooley
Assistant Stage Manager / Eli Wirtschafter
Board Operator / Hannah Birch-Carl
Choreography Consultants / Jennifer Chien + Kimberly Dooley
Costume + Set Design / Nina Ball
Costume Assistant / Ashley Rogers
Graphic Artist / R. Black
Lighting Design / Lucas Krech
Makeup Consultant / Kevin Clarke
Master Electrician / Heather Gallagher
Producers / Les + Sue Polgar
Properties and Set Dressing / Mia Baxter + Seren Helday
Sound + Music / Jake Rodriguez
Stage Manager / Amanda Melton
Technical Director / Anne Kendall
Video Consultant / Torbin Xan Bullock
Video Creation + Design / Ian Winters

The Glass Menagerie

Written by Tennessee Williams
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Jay Yamada

Presented by Town Hall Theatre Company
February 17 – March 19, 2011

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS “What Martin has done with the play is cast it in a slightly surreal world, avoiding playing the story as a late Depression-era slice of life, or anything else that attempts to be completely realistic… And that is what unlocks a fresh look at the old classic, not only giving audiences a new look at the play, but making its meaning considerably more pointed and clear.” – Pat Craig

CONTRA COSTA TIMES “There are no easy answers in Susannah Martin’s enthralling version of Tennessee Williams’ “Glass Menagerie”….Martin takes the playwright’s description of the drama as a memory play to heart, creating a dimly lit, evocative world where Tom’s memories live in their own haunting reality. Through Martin’s superb direction and the interpretations of four skilled actors, this classic play leaves many unanswered questions, allowing the audience to decide for themselves why Tom leaves, whether the poignant scene between his sister Laura and the Gentleman Caller actually happened as he recalls, and how Laura and her mother Amanda fare after his departure.” – Sally Hogarty

ROSSMOOR NEWS “Town Hall’s ‘The Glass Menagerie’ is an emotionally packed production, due in large part to the outstanding actors and Susannah Martin’s directing skills.” – Charlie Jarrett

Director’s Note
I read The Glass Menagerie when I was 11 years old. It was the first play I picked up on my own and simply read for the pleasure of reading a play. I fell in love instantly with the characters, the story, and the beautiful, magical world that Williams created. I identified with every single character even though they lived in a time much removed from my own. I related to Tom’s poetic words, Amanda’s heartfelt recollections of her past, and Laura’s fantasy life created amongst fragile glass. I was also struck, even then, with the theatricality of the play and the way that Tennessee Williams layered images to create a vital and indelible world of memory. It’s a world that captures how both palpable and yet fleeting memory is — and how memory is inexorably linked to longing and loss. Williams makes it clear that memory is simultaneously in the past and hauntingly bound to the present.

As the designers, actors, and I prepared to start rehearsal, we worked to bring that energy and relevance — that immediacy that makes the play feel both like something lost along the way and yet still viscerally alive — to the production. We asked ourselves: what makes a memory stick? What are the details in an event that we remember? What becomes a blur? What do we hold onto? What do we grasp for and, inevitably, lose? Tom, the character so autobiographically close to Tennessee Williams, is the architect of memory in this play. The play chronicles a crucial period in his life and a life-changing decision that he must make. As he looks back and remembers this time, what does he alter? What does he manipulate? What does he forget? What becomes lost to him?

Amanda Wingfield / Heidi Abbott
Tom Wingfield / Aleph Ayin
Laura Wingfield / El Beh
Jim O’Connor / Michael Perez

Artistic Director / Clive Worsley
Assistant Stage Manager / Abra Kent
Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Lighting Design / Stephen Jones
Production Manager / Leah McKibbin
Properties + Set Dressing / Mia Baxter and Seren Helday
Scenic Design / Steven Decker
Scenic Painter / Sarah Spero
Sound Board Operator / Nico Brenni
Sound Design / Theodore J. H. Hulsker
Stage Manager / Jennifer Stukey
Technical Director / Chris Hayes

Fat Pig

Written by Neil LaBute
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Jeff Thomas & Steve Decker

Presented by Sonoma County Repertory Theater
September 22 – October 24, 2010

Director’s Note
America is quite a conundrum when it comes to body image and weight issues. On one level, it feels like we talk about it all the time. Turn on the television and we are inundated with diet pills and fads, the latest surgery to eliminate obesity, and at least half a dozen reality shows that alternately cajole, dance, abuse, and humiliate overweight contestants into losing weight. On another level, we avoid looking at the issues behind why people are overweight and how we, as a society, treat obese people. We shame, blame, tease, and discriminate because obesity is seen as a choice that can be overcome by sheer force of will.

In contrast, Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig pulls no punches. It’s all right there in the title: we cringe when we read it – we blanche if we have to say it out loud. As he often has in both his plays and films, Mr. LaBute delves right to the heart – and gut – of any matter: be it gender, romance, religion, or body image. He has no interest in being politically correct; his characters say the things that, though we may not admit it to ourselves, we are thinking or feeling on some primal level.

This play does not shy away from our secret (or not-so-secret) belief that fat people are slovenly beings who deserve what they get. The writing gets right to the core of the shame that we all carry with us about our bodies – or about the bodies of those that we choose to love. It is a play about that shame and those secrets. But also, the play does not shrink from the fact that these ideas about body and weight, and the shame and secrets we carry because of it, are heaved with quadruple force at women.

You may read this and say, “Not me. I don’t feel/think that way. I don’t act that way. I would never say the things that people say, or do the things people do, in this play.” OK. But ask yourself if you agree – even a tiny bit – with the core philosophy espoused by Carter, the play’s designated “Dr. a**hole”:

“It’s one of the many laws of nature. ‘Run with your own kind.’”

And then, put yourself in Tom’s shoes. We all want to be admirable – to stand up for what we believe in – to put our heart and soul and conviction behind the person we love; in the words of Helen, the designated “fat pig” of the title, we all want to be “good and strong and brave.” Are we? Can we be? With the ridiculous (not to mention unhealthy and unrealistic) expectations and images thrown at us about what we’re supposed to look like, can we fully embrace and love ourselves and others – no shame, no fear, no baggage attached? Can we, as Helen also says, not be afraid, take a blind chance, and not care what people think?

Jeannie / Casi Maggio
Tom / Tim Redmond
Carter / Dan Saki
Helen / Jennifer Stukey

Artistic Director / Scott D. Phillips
Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Production Manager + Properties Design + Lighting Design / April George
Stage Manager / Rachel Huey
Set Design / Steve Decker
Sound Design / Joe Winkler

Get This Go

Created + Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Liz Lisle

Presented by Mugwumpin at the Pacific Heights Inn
June 7, 2010

Press Release
written in collaboration with Christopher W. White
Every day we hear more stories in the news about people forced out of their homes by disasters: volcanoes, oil spills, civil war, hurricanes, floods. Lost within the scale of those stories are people who wait in the neither-here-nor-there, hoping for safety to return, having to make do with only what they could carry with them. In such situations, what would you take with you? What would you leave behind?

Acclaimed San Francisco performance troupe Mugwumpin has created a brand new performance piece for motel rooms, exploring these questions. Get This Go invites small audiences to move freely between three motel rooms at the Pacific Heights Inn in San Francisco, peeking into the lives of the people sheltering in this in-between place.

Created + Performed By
El Beh
Madeline H.D. Brown
George Chan
Joe Estlack
Rod Hipskind
Erin Mei-Ling Stuart
Maryam Rostami
Michelle Talgarow
Christopher W. White

Artistic Director / Christopher W. White
Associate Artistic Director / Liz Hitchcock Lisle
Company Manager / Julia Lynton
Stage Manager / Eli Wirtschafter

The Importance of Being Earnest

Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Jay Yamada

Presented by Town Hall Theatre Company
February 25 – March 27, 2010

CONTRA COSTA TIMES “Under the thoughtful direction of Susannah Martin, the actors have a great deal of fun with Oscar Wilde’s witty satire on society’s foibles. Moving the time to the 1920s adds pizazz enhanced through the colorful costumes (Rebecca Redmond) and lovely set (Nina Ball). The highly stylized production takes full advantage of the wonderful characters Wilde penned.” – Sally Hogarty

ROSSMOOR NEWS “Director Susannah Martin and her production team have sculpted a well crafted production…This play, in the wrong hands, is just another trivial comedic pursuit, but in this production, with its precise execution and attention to detail, you will be rewarded with an entertainment experience that is quite exceptional in local or regional theater.” – Charlie Jarrett

BENICIA HERALD “…director Susannah Martin brings out the best in the entire cast for a fun, lighthearted look at hypocrisy in the social mores of the early 1900s.” – Elizabeth Warnimount

Director’s Note
Why set a classic Victorian comedy in the 1920’s? The Importance of Being Earnest is full of artifice, posing, duality, and the battle between what’s superficial and what’s serious. The hidden depths in the supposedly trivial pursuits that our characters hold dear are the unexpected riches in the play. It was this world of posing, storytelling, and secret lives that compelled me to move the play forward in time. What better age to represent a desperate desire for amusement as a means to blot out the pains of the past and the anxiety of the future than the 1920’s: an era of excess, Jazz, and a booming youth culture. Just as the play reveals concealed complexity in our supposedly superficial characters, the 20‘s had an undercurrent of anger and trauma that drove the almost willful quest for entertainment.

Another theme in the script that drew me to a more modern era was the correlation between the women’s behavior in the play and the shift in women’s roles in the 1920’s. Hemlines changed, hair length changed, the corset went away: youth culture was born. Some women got the vote and the suffragette movement was alive and well. Women were also struggling to re-acclimate to a life that demanded, after WWI, that they go back to their roles as wife and mother. In Earnest, whenever the women are on stage, they control the scene, the space, and ultimately, the outcome. If women had enjoyed a new freedom and then were suddenly expected to re-conform to old ideas, how would they still find a way to control their circumstances? Certainly Gwendolen and Cecily would embrace popular culture as a means of claiming some sort of freedom of expression. But I also think they would speak their minds as openly as they do in the script. The audacity of these two very modern women surprise Algernon and Jack so completely that they speak the truth, claim their identities, and fall in love – truly – for the first time.

Merriman / Kristoffer Barrera
Gwendolyn Fairfax / Sally Clawson
Algernon Moncrieff / Christopher Kristant
Cecily Cardew / Casi Maggio
Jack “Ernest” Worthing / Ryan O’Donnell
Lady Bracknell / Nancy Sale
Miss Prism / Trish Tillman
Lane + Dr. Chasuble / Don Wood

Artistic Director / Clive Worsley
Managing Director / Vangie Long
Assistant Director / Ava Jackson
Assistant Stage Manager / Maggie Manzano
Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Lighting Design / Chris Guptill
Production Manager + Stage Manager / Leah McKibbin
Properties Design / Chris Kristant + Rebecca Pingree
Set Design / Nina Ball
Sound Design / Patrick Kaliski

The Threepenny Opera

Written by Bertolt Brecht with Music by Kurt Weill
Directed by Susannah Martin
Musical Direction by David Möschler

Photos by Jessica Palipoli

Presented by Shotgun Players
December 3, 2009 – January 31, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE “A half-decent ‘Threepenny’ is a gift at any time, and Susannah Martin’s staging of the 1928 Brecht-Weill masterpiece is better than that…Nina Ball’s set is the savaged, wastepaper-covered interior of a once grand bank. Martin makes it work equally well for every aspect of Brecht’s cross-section of capitalism…this ‘Threepenny’ is not to be missed.” – Robert Hurwitt

EAST BAY EXPRESS “In Martin’s version of the play — presented in collaboration with Shotgun Players — she stays true to the original script and concept, but reformats it for a modern audience. With the help of a talented cast and a couple of snide references to the current banking crisis, she manages to pull it off.” – Rachel Swan

SAN FRANCISCO BAY TIMES “Who is the greater criminal? The man who robs a bank, or the man who founds one?” asks the timeless 1928 Brecht/Weill epic-theatre-piece, The Threepenny Opera. And Shotgun Players’ must-see, darkly-brilliant production, staged with raw, seductive power by Susannah Martin, answers the question….Where others shoehorn in concepts based on trend, Martin slyly slides in her chosen time-period and punk aesthetic with a custom fit that’s as flattering as costumer Mark Koss’s period and character-appropriate garments. This production of The Threepenny Opera is worth every cent, and a whole lot more! It’s simply one of the best theatre productions of the year.” – Mike Ward

MY CULTURAL LANDSCAPE “Susannah Martin’s staging kept anger and irony in full force throughout the evening,,, Finding a way to make a show that was edgy in 1928 relevant to an audience in 2009 (especially after 80+ years of societal change and the globalization of financial markets) is a difficult challenge. Martin and her creative team took the bull by the horns and wrestled it to the ground quite nicely.” – George Heymont

Director’s Note
When Patrick Dooley and I began talking about this show a year ago, one of the first questions we asked ourselves was: What does it mean to do this play now? We are 21st Century Americans. Where do we go after decades of grappling with Brecht’s ideas? The catchwords about Brecht and Brechtian acting don’t mean the same thing to us now. Even Brecht’s own theories on certain totemic terms (alienation, gestus, epic theatre) changed throughout his life and were highly influenced by whatever – and whomever – he was working with at the time. How do we fully investigate these ideas and invest in them in a way that is relevant to the culture and the world that we live in now?

How do we tell the story and embrace all that is odd and contradictory about this play’s structure and characters? We all know the music and songs are inventive, catchy, and fun. But the core ideas of the show are contained in these numbers. The plot is all in the script. The story, though, and the ideas that make it tick, are in the songs. It’s easy to get lost in the duality of the play. It’s funny! No, it’s dark and scary! No, it’s about big political ideas! No, it’s a musical about a dapper guy! It’s a play about beggars – about poverty – and yet the ones we meet, under Peachum’s reign, are the wiliest Capitalists. It’s a play about a rapist and a sadist. But he compels us. It’s dark and scary and yet you have to laugh.

The notes that follow are a brief illustration of where I went over the last 6 months as I grappled with these questions.

I think about historicization and Brecht’s credo that we cannot do plays set in our own time. We need the necessary distance of another period in order to understand our own.

I dig into both the cultural upheavals of Brecht’s Berlin in the 20’s and America in the 70’s. I keep going back to this period. The American economy was depressed. People were reacting to similar issues then and now. The revolution of the 60’s felt like a total bust in the 70’s. People were left picking up the pieces and feeling scammed. Lots of good ideas had paved the way to self-indulgence with very little changing for minorities or the poor. The bitterness that people felt about that led the way to a takeover by the right. This scenario is similar to Berlin in the 20’s and 30’s. In reaction to the social upheaval after World War I, Brecht and his contemporaries were interested in taking apart assumed structures and hierarchies in order to question and protest the faulty system that had been left behind. Was there a contemporary movement that did the same thing?

I keep thinking about Punk. Joanie McBrien hands me the book, Panic Attack: Art in the Punk Years. I’m reading Brecht’s theories at the same time as I read the essays in this book.

You have to kill your neighbor to survive/It’s selfishness that keeps a man alive…” – Second THREEPENNY Finale

You’ve got nothing. There is nothing. You’ve got to fight to get out, you’ve got to fight to survive, you’ve got to fight to live.” – Stephen Willats, Every Day and Every Night, 1984

The artists of this era picked up where Brecht left off. The artists of the early punk movement were rebelling against the same failed ideas as the artists of Weimar Germany. Punk was a way of expressing anger and taking back power.

You can’t tell me what to do or who to be.
You can’t tell me
Or how
Or when I can make art.
I take it back,
I take it apart,
And make it MINE.

Punk. The philosophies and motivations behind the movement, not mohawks, biker jackets, and safety pins: not the commodified image that Punk became. Being “punk” is more about recognizing the weaknesses in the rules that were written for you and deciding to rebel against that.

The original Punk artists, writers, musicians, and poets were Brechtian actors. They turned poverty into glorious art and the passion they felt in ripping something to shreds and putting it back together remains infectious and incredibly inspiring. THE THREEPENNY OPERA lives in this meeting place between honoring the form that came before and the desire to take it apart. It is rife with broken expectation, contrast, and contradiction. That disjointedness is at the heart of what Brecht termed the alienation effect but it is also the beating heart that drove the punk movement.

Ensemble / Andy Alabran
Ensemble / El Beh
Ensemble / Madeline H.D. Brown
Ensemble / Daniel Duque-Estrada
Mrs. Peachum / Bekka Fink
Mr. Peachum / Dave Garrett
Ensemble / Casi Maggio
Lucy / Rebecca Pingree
Ensemble / Josh Pollock
Ensemble / Eleanor Mason Reinholdt
Polly / Kelsey Venter*
Ensemble / Christopher W. White
Jenny / Beth Wilmurt
Tiger Brown / Danny Wolohan*
Macheath / Jeff Wood

*Member of AEA

Nick Antipa / trumpet
Dave DiGiacomo / piano, organ
Adrian Gormley / alto sax, clarinet
Eric Marshall / double bass
David Möschler / banjo, guitar, accordion
Josh Pollock / percussion
Sean Seuss / tenor sax, clarinet

Founding Artistic Director / Patrick Dooley
Assistant Director / Ben Prusiner
Assistant Stage Manager / Jen Stukey
Carpenter / Andy Fitts
Choreographer / Erika Chong Shuch
Costume Design / Mark Koss
House Tech / Heather Gallagher
Lighting Design / Allen Willner
Projection Design / Chris Paulina
Properties + Set Dressing / Chris Kristant
Set Design / Nina Ball
Stage Manager / Leah McKibbin
Technical Director / Adam Puglielli

Three Sisters

Written by Anton Chekhov
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Kate Micawber

Presented by Porchlight Theatre Company
June 18 – July 11, 2009

MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL “Leveraging an extremely clever but simple set design by Steve Decker, director Susannah Martin evokes the Russian countryside by using the hillside around the amphitheater. The duel between Tuzenbach and his former friend Solyony takes place in the distance, for example. We feel the effects of the fire in town, even though we don’t see it…Chekov’s “Three Sisters” is a finely wrought, ambitious and daunting undertaking with great appeal for fans of classic theater.” – Barry Willis

BAY AREA CRITIC’S CIRCLE “Director Susannah Martin seems well versed in Chekhov. She pays strict attention to the specific gestures of each character and demonstrates the importance of the unspoken word. Under her capable direction, all of the performances are like vignettes. Martin has put together a moving, funny and thought provoking production of Three Sisters.” – Annette Lust

Director’s Note
When Porchlight core member Jon Burnett asked me whether I could sum up the action of this play in a nutshell, I flippantly said, “Three sisters wait five years for somebody to take them to Moscow.” As blithe as this statement may seem, it does ring true. This family wants a momentous change – what they think will be a life-saving change – to simply “happen” in their lives. A shift that will not only save them from the boredom and atrophy of the small-town life they’re living but one that will also fulfill their dreams of a glorious future. All of their individual – and very different – hopes and dreams are represented in going to Moscow. But instead of taking the action necessary to make that happen, they wait… and talk about it. They stay fixed in one place. Time marches on, and they stay stuck with this dream that they don’t know how to make into a reality. So they don’t.

How do you build a “vision” around this idea? You build a world that progresses around these characters – an organic world that moves forward, lives, laughs, loves, and then ultimately, decays and dies even as the sisters (and their brother Andrey) revolve around the same fixed point. The house they live in changes, ages, and decays. As Natasha, the sister-in-law who knows how to take definitive action, takes over, the space inside the house gets smaller and smaller until ultimately, the sisters spend their last minutes at home outside – wandering – unable to enter the house. Their clothing progresses from that which belongs to a rarified world that smacks of a previous era where the upper classes could lounge around and talk about work into the practical garments of the worker. The music and sound begins in the previous era and with the trappings and accoutrements of those with money and ends with the music of the peasants – and of the military – of the party to come. Things change. Time marches on. The world moves forward even if the sisters do not.

In Chekhov, much as in life, people live, people die. They love, and laugh and flirt, and marry, and fight, and say and do awful things to one another and spout philosophy and meet their best and brightest self alongside their worst demons, all in one winter’s evening or on a fall afternoon. People aren’t polite – they interrupt each other – they don’t listen – they say and do strange things – they’re idiosyncratic and clueless and yet loving and thoughtful within the same breath. In our approach to the text, we needed to allow the rhythm of this reality to live… to travel along the path Chekhov provides without being afraid of the chaos or silences that ensue.

When I first taught a workshop to the core company members back in December of 2006, I discovered that they were a group of very experienced and professional artists but at the same time, they were people who were living their lives. They were asking the questions I was asking: how do you find the balance between living a life – having a family and being a human being – and also be an artist? How do you do art sanely? How do you express your values – your every day life values – in the work that you do? When I met the artists at Porchlight, I knew that I could ask these questions with them and that I could bring the questions into the work. Much like the environment that Porchlight performs in, it’s organic – it’s an intrinsic part of who they are and how they create theatre. And thus, it is an ideal environment for me to work in – and an exemplary place for Chekhov.

Solyony / Michael Barr*
Masha / Tara Blau*
Anfisa / Candace Brown
Andrey / Jon Burnett*
Natasha / Rebecca Castelli*
Irina / Thais Harris
Olga / Julia McNeal*
Chebutykin / John Mercer
Tuzenbach / Craig Neibaur
Kulygin / Ryan O’Donnell
Rohde / Jarrod Quon
Verskinin / Nick Sholley*
Fedotik / Lowell Weller
Ferapont / Don Wood

*Member of AEA

Artistic Director Emeritus / Molly Noble
Assistant Stage Manager / Dave Abrams
Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Production Manager / JP Hitesman
Properties + Set Dressing / Mia Baxter + Seren Helday
Set + Lighting Design / Steve Decker
Sound Design / Susannah Martin, Jarrod Quon, + Lowell Weller
Stage Manager / Jennifer Stukey

Old Times

Written by Harold Pinter
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Greg Crane

Presented by TheatreFIRST
April 1 – 25, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE “A classic Harold Pinter drama… gets a smartly orchestrated revival from director Susannah Martin and a first-rate cast.” – Robert Hurwitt

BERKELEY DAILY PLANET “Susannah Martin—and the designers—do well by Old Times, balancing movement and stasis, the sally and the pose, finding a stylization that’s not the empty, guilty inactivity too many productions of Pinter bottom out in. She’s done well by TheatreFIRST, as have her actors…” – Ken Bullock

SF APPEAL.COM “TheatreFIRST’s production of Old Times…was the sort of blind date you take home and marry a week later…Susannah Martin’s direction kept the show taught, unflinching, and on the mark. See this show if you can because it’s not often you find a keeper.” – Richard Ciccarone

Director’s Note
During the rehearsal process, the actors and I tried to unlock a puzzle that yielded the following clues:

  • Old Times takes place in a converted farmhouse in the English countryside; it is autumn; it is night.
  • Deeley and Kate are married and have been for approximately 20 years.
  • Kate once lived with a woman named Anna, approximately 20 years ago.
  • Anna is coming over for dinner.
  • Throughout the evening, certain memories are repeated.
  • Each time the memories are repeated, they change – slightly.

Did these memories occur? Did these people really know each other? Who’s telling the truth? What really happened? Whatever happened, one thing is clear: in Old Times, memories are weapons.

The past is subjective. Once a moment passes, our perception of it is immediately distorted by the tricky games our memory plays with it. We use memory all the time: to make ourselves look good, to feel better, to get what we want, and to justify the difficult life choices we must make about who we are versus who we were or who we wanted to be. In any story, the truth always lies somewhere in the middle – what “really happened” can never be fully known. We can only deal, in the present, with the consequences of choices we made long ago that we may no longer remember or understand.

You can try to decipher the puzzle, or you can simply let the memories wash over you as you watch these 3 people battle over ownership of the past and the present. Regardless, enjoy Pinter’s use of repetition of words, phrases, images, and memories. Enjoy discovering the differences in all iterations of the memory and deciphering who’s tactically using the past to more effectively lay claim to the present. Know this: whatever version of “what happened” you come away with, it is valid. As Pinter himself said about this play: “I’ll tell you one thing about Old Times. It happens. It all happens.”

Anna / Zehra Berkman
Deeley / L. Peter Callender*
Kate / Julia McNeal*

*Member of AEA

Artistic Director Emeritus / Clive Chafer
Artistic Director / Michael Storm
Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Lighting Design / Dale Altvater
Properties Design / Jacqueline Scott
Set Design / Nina Ball
Sound Design / Chris Houston
Stage Managers / Leah McKibbin + Jennifer Stukey

Rabbit Hole

Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Wendy Yalom

Presented by Town Hall Theatre Company
February 5 – March 7, 2009

CONTRA COSTA TIMES “Susannah Martin’s direction is wonderfully understated and creates remarkable pictures of a family in pain, and a revealing study of an impossible situation.” – Pat Craig

Director’s Note
Directing Rabbit Hole has been a gift that was handed to me generously by the lovely team at Town Hall. They took very good care of the ensemble and me as we rode the rollercoaster of the play – a rollercoaster that was much like any grieving process: anarchic, giddy with laughter, filled with tears, filled with wonder and humility and silence.

A subtle and delicate play, Rabbit Hole explicitly portrays one family’s experience of loss. It beautifully articulates that there is not one way (and certainly no “right” way) to grieve, just as there is not one way – or “right” way – to watch a play. Thus, I don’t want to say much more about the play itself. I want to leave you to have your own experience. Instead, I will impart to you some words that acted as guides for the designers, the actors, and me as we navigated our way through our rehearsal process:

Ever present

Jason / Liam Callister
Nat / Sally Hogarty
Becca / Csilla Horvath-Lewis
Izzy / Emily Morrison
Howie / Ryan O’Donnell

Artistic Director / Clive Worsley
Managing Director / Vangie Long
Assistant Stage Manager / Abby Faber
Costume Designer / Rebecca Redmond
Lighting Designer / Chris Guptill
Properties Designer / Jacqueline Scott
Run Crew / Katy Adcox
Set Designer / Nina Ball
Sound Designer / Sara Huddleston
Sound Operator / Nico Brenni
Stage Manager / Leah McKibbin

Mrs. Warren’s Profession

Written by George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Susannah Martin

Photos by Steve Decker + Howard Gerstein

Presented by Shotgun Players
March 19 – April 27, 2008

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS “…for all of the play’s feminist bite, the triumph of Susannah Martin’s sensitive revival… lies in its incisive personal psychology. Here the emotional stakes of this early work are as high as its ideological battles are fierce…From start to finish, Martin consistently finds the 21st-century immediacy of Shaw’s brutal observations on power, sex and money. Every elegant turn of phrase leads us back to the stinging accusation at the play’s center.” – Karen D’Souza

THEATRE DOGS “Shotgun Players’ production, directed with a firm hand by Susannah Martin, is polished and full of the right kind of energy, which is to say it has sass, playfulness and satiric edge.” – Chad Jones

Director’s Note
Do you think you are guiltless in the matter? Take care… The wages of prostitution are stitched into your button-holes and into your blouse, pasted into your matchboxes and your boxes of pins, stuffed into your mattress, mixed with the paint on your walls and stuck between the joints of your water-pipes… you will not cheat the Recording Angel into putting down your debts to the wrong account.” -George Bernard Shaw

This extraordinary play, Shaw’s third, was first written in 1893 and banned from public performance in England until 1925. The reasons given for the ban were the “filthy” subject matter and the underlying theme of incest, although Shaw believed it was because the play eviscerated most aspects of society for their participation in the commodification of women. It is remarkable how much modern psychology, sexuality, feminism, and sociology seem to apply to a play that was written before Freud published, before women had the vote, before the Labor Party had been formed, and before American capitalism had become dominant.

Despite its daunting history, the play is a deeply emotional investigation of one young woman’s struggle to forge her own identity separate from her parent. Vivie Warren takes the age-old journey of emancipation wherein several possible futures are offered to her. She submits to a five-day crucible that tests her beliefs and ideals in order to answer questions we all ultimately ask: Who am I? Who do I want to be?

As a daughter, I know what it is to judge my mother for her perceived crimes – for the actions I believe she should have taken or that I assume I would have taken. As I get older, though, I begin to see how every choice I make as a woman is possible because of every risk my mother took before me. I stand on her shoulders.

But that’s the rational, measured response to this play after time for reflection. Simply put: each of these characters is so profoundly human: perfectly flawed, right and wrong, vulnerable and hard as nails. Contrary to the belief that Shaw’s characters are mere mouthpieces, they open the door to a variety of responses. My hope is that our production allows you to have your own multifaceted reaction.

Vivie / Emily Jordan
Crofts / John Mercer
Mrs. Warren / Trish Mulholland*
Frank / Joseph O’Malley
Prayed / Nick Sholley*
Reverend Gardner / Rick Williams

*Member of AEA

Founding Artistic Director / Patrick Dooley
Assistant Director / Libby Vega
Costume Design / Rebecca Redmond
Deck Crew / Peter Lang + Maggie Yates
Dialect Coach / Rebecca Castelli
Dramaturg / Aaron Begg
Lighting Design / Allen Willner
Production Manager / Liz Lisle
Props Master / Jacquelyn Scott
Set Design / Steve Decker
Sound Design / Sara Huddleston
Stage Manager / Kate Sassoon
Technical Director / Daniel Gutierrez