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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

11 Bay Area Theater Artists to Watch in 2013

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 7:30 AM

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click to enlarge Playwright J.C. Lee - ADRIAN ANCHONDO
  • Adrian Anchondo
  • Playwright J.C. Lee
Here are some signs that Berkeley-based playwright J.C. Lee is a big deal. In 2010, Sleepwalkers Theatre dedicated its entire season to his This World and After trilogy, one of the most poetic, tender, and witty bodies of work to grace our stages in recent years -- and by a young, and then relatively unknown playwright. Now a graduate of Julliard, he is the playwright-in-residence at Marin Theatre Company, the third writer to be granted that honor. Finally, it was just announced that he's a finalist in the Aurora's Global Age Project, which means that his Luce, about American parents who adopt an African child, will get a staged reading in February. Until then, just try to keep up.
click to enlarge Actress Rami Margron, with Zehra Berkman, in Precious Little at Shotgun Players. - PAK HAN
  • Pak Han
  • Actress Rami Margron, with Zehra Berkman, in Precious Little at Shotgun Players.
If you've been lamenting contemporary theater's penchant for small casts, the actress Rami Margron in and of herself might embody a solution. In Shotgun Players' recent Precious Little, a beautiful new play by Madeleine George, Margron played so many different ensemble roles as to singlehandedly conjure an entire affluent society and many of its failings. Yet her characters were not placeholders in a societal scheme but distinct, fully realized individuals with unique physical repertoires and modes of speaking. In 2013 she moves toward classic work, with Pericles at Berkeley Rep and Lady Windermere's Fan at Cal Shakes.

click to enlarge Director and Actress Susannah Martin - PAK HAN
  • Pak Han
  • Director and Actress Susannah Martin
Everything director Susannah Martin touches turns to, if not gold, then wrenchingly taut drama. At the Boxcar, she mastered the unruly beast that is A Lie of the Mind, Sam Shepard's play about the demise of an American family, making every moment of that sprawling tragedy both gorgeous and chilling. At Shotgun, she made twisted killers into sympathetic everymen with Stephen Sondheim's Assassins. Next up, with her longtime collaborators at Mugwumpin, she's a creator/performer in The Great Big Also, which explores prophets and their movements throughout American history. We'll do some prophesying of our own and predict that Martin's work will continue to make the theatrical waters part.
click to enlarge Actor Wiley Naman Strasser in Invasion! at Crowded Fire - PAK HAN
  • Pak Han
  • Actor Wiley Naman Strasser in Invasion! at Crowded Fire
Whether spewing the partially comprehensible jargon of a postmodern artist making a film about Mao, heckling an Orientalist play-within-a-play as a grade schooler, or wrestling his scene partner as if both were caged feral animals, actor Wiley Naman Strasser exudes commitment and passion. He plunges deep where other actors might take more measured steps, losing himself fully in a part in a way that looks personal and painful. He takes his next step off the edge in Cutting Ball's Risk Is This reading series and then with Martin in The Great Big Also.
click to enlarge Costume Designer Ashley Rogers - PAK HAN
  • Pak Han
  • Costume Designer Ashley Rogers
A recent graduate of S.F. State, where she got an MFA in costume design, Ashley Rogers will have very little trouble making the transition from grad school to the real world because, almost from the start of her program, she's already been in the real world. Working with director Mark Jackson, Shotgun Players, Impact Theatre, Just Theater, and Mugwumpin, Rogers creates costume designs so meticulously crafted, so richly detailed, that a world is created, that characters seem to talk to each other, even before they open their mouths.
click to enlarge Performer Ross Travis - NATHANIEL JUSTINIANO
  • Nathaniel Justiniano
  • Performer Ross Travis
Performer Ross Travis doesn't play many easy parts. Whether he's marching around Angel Island and flying at the top of a mast with the site-specific theater company the We Players or rollicking with Nathaniel Justiniano in Naked Empire Bouffon's latest show, You Killed Hamlet! (which is touring to international Fringe festivals this year), he is undoubtedly getting a rigorous workout. He can contort his face and body into silly, grotesque positions in farcical satire, yet he can also deliver Shakespeare with the crisp clarity and deep sense of character that makes you remember how funny the Bard can be.

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Lily Janiak

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