Monthly Archives: March 2007

Up and Running! Reviews!

So we opened CLOWN BIBLE last weekend. I didn’t realize how much I missed my cast until our brush-up rehearsal last night. Opening weekend was a trip–and we got great reviews:

From our review in the East Bay Express:

“hilarious, haunting, and unexpectedly challenging in the hands of Ten Red Hen. Their no-budget {The 99-cent} Miss Saigon was a hard act to follow, but CLOWN BIBLE is better. The magic of the show lies less in any great spectacle of circus arts than in the way it can turn from funny to devastating in an instant.”

And from the Berkeley Daily Planet:

“The ensemble is due full, heartfelt praise, as is Ten Red Hen founder Maya Gurantz, for a truly collaborative show…contributing to the unique style and flavor of this bravura piece, a veritable tabernacle of prat-fall praise to the greater glories of the Theater of the World (amen)…CLOWN BIBLE is a theatrical event of real magnitude; the show doesn’t degrade scripture, but elevates the quietly sad or manically grinning countenance of the clown, as did the medieval Miracle Plays and strangely humorous decor of cathedrals, where sacred stories seem to get sent up on sacred occasions and in sacred places.”

I am sure I’ll have more to say regarding the process, and what we’re finding, but let this do for now:

This particular production doesn’t feel “finished” in the way that other plays can. How could it? We’re attempting these tricky translations, translating Bible into clown vernacular, and in the process, asking sometimes painful questions about man and faith and culture and ourselves.

It feels like the beginning of something. We need your feedback–please come and see it.

the necessity of entitlement

I don’t know why this is–let’s blame it on the path that led to me directing: years of being a bad ballet dancer, followed by the years of being an insecure actor–but I have never been very good about demanding resources.

I’m demand a lot of my actors, I’m great at demanding a lot of myself, but demanding a stage manager? A real set? Demanding tech? Forget it. There seems to be a part of myself that is so sure that I don’t deserve it, or that refuses to believe that I can insist on it. Plus, I don’t have much talent or training in it, so it feels kind of out of my reach.

Which means that I usually dress the odd spaces I end up in, and have very prop-heavy shows, and do a lot of it myself, or put it on the actors. And I make the excuse, “hey, it’s poor theater.” I’m not so special in this regard–a lot of smaller theaters do this–but I don’t know anyone who feels as unentitled to tech as I feel.

So I want to appreciate this moment. For once, I insisted that we have a real stage manager for this show–and the brilliant Sarah Elovich appeared and took over. I strong armed a friend of Alexis into running tech and then into being production manager. Mike Howard. He is doing such a great job.

My old friend Adrian W. Jones, an outstanding set designer, agreed to come out from New York on his own dime to design CLOWN BIBLE. Through him, we found a lighting designer (Ray Oppenheimer, yo yo!), and a set builder. He pushed for a costume designer, and the talented and lovely Melissa Bertolino appeared, as if sent by an angel.

I don’t have to do everything. It’s fantastic. And it’s surprisingly not costing me that much.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re moving from a 99-cent show to a dollar-fifty show. It’s still minimal, it’s still low budget, and the success or failure of it will still depend entirely on the actors and the beauty of liveness. It requires a lot of very talented people working for way less than they deserve. We’re a week-and-a-half away. I’m wracked with the usual anxiety.

But wow–what a big difference to have these things. It all comes from having a higher set of standards of what we are entitled to. My minimum standards for putting on a show is way way lower than Adrian’s–and it’s too low for me, frankly. Thank God he’s here, with his higher minimum standard.

Excuses, Excuses.

I am so ashamed that I haven’t been blogging–I have been very, very busy. Don’t believe me?

  • This year, I’ve been teaching an Intro Drama class at a high school, the East Oakland School of the Arts (formerly Castlemont) through my employing organization, Opera Piccola. This semester, my class will be doing Week 21 of 365 Days/365 Plays, so I have been generating a syllabus that takes my high schoolers through Suzan Lori Parks’ various works and concerns. This is difficult. Shit, her plays are difficult for most grown adults who go to the theater. I’m accepting any advice on this matter. My after-school classes that I was also teaching didn’t end til late January.
  • I acted in a production of the Tempest, with company Ragged Wing. This is the first time I was onstage in 8 years. I’ll probably write more about this experience later.
  • The second I finished my after-school classes, I went into auditions for a (dare I say, BRECHTIAN??) deconstruction of HAIR that I’m directing with students at Berkeley High–using HAIR as a way for the students to interrogate the legacy of the 1960s.
  • I’m consulting on an amazing project at The Arc of San Francisco, doing a production of Grease with a community of developmentally disabled folks.
  • I have a company to run now. That means many, many, many grant proposals. Many. Plus more proposals for other things that I’ll tell you about if I get ’em. There is actually something quite useful, organizationally, about having to write everything out–pitching the project keeps you really specific about what exactly you’re trying to do, plus keeping on top of the budget and timeline and all that. Doesn’t mean it ain’t tedious as all hell.
  • Other day-jobby free-lancey type things to keep the bills paid.

And most importantly:

  • I’ve been in rehearsal and am three weeks away from opening CLOWN BIBLE with my company. I should have been blogging the process, as it has been a tremendously rich one, but generally I’m working 7am to 10pm and come home and pass out.

Now, look, I know I tend towards hyperbole, but our cast and crew are OUT OF CONTROL with their brilliance. We have a band! We have acrobatics! We have designers! I have the smartest stage manager in the world! Dave Malloy has written a score that will send chills up and down your spine! Buy your tickets, now!

I will have a lot more to say about all this, but let’s let it go for now. Enjoy the new website.

CLOWN BIBLE is coming…

Whole new website redesign to be unveiled in the next few days, with all the information about Ten Red Hen’s next show (and the reason I haven’t been blogging in the past 3 months), CLOWN BIBLE.

Working directly from Biblical text, we have translated the tales, familiar and obscure, into an experimental, live theatrical event – combining a full musical score, acrobatics and dance with the broad comic performance language of clown (think Charlie Chaplin, not Ringling Brothers). It’s marvelous.


March 22-24 (Thurs-Sat),
March 30-31 (Fri-Sat),
April 5-7 (Thurs-Sat),
April 12-14 (Thurs-Sat)
All Shows at 8pm

Willard Middle School Metalshop Theater
2425 Stuart Street, Berkeley, CA (Entrance on Regent St., Behind the School)

Sliding Scale $15-20.
Buy Tickets In Advance at:, or call 1-800-838-3006
No one turned away for lack of funds.