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Two Bits Of Local Theatre News

January 28, 2008

An evening spent haggling over the question of which was the best new play to appear on Bay Area stages in 2007 ended with a happy conclusion a few days ago when the members of the Glickman Award panel voted Dan Hoyle's Tings Dey Happen as the prize winner. The $4,000 prize for the best Bay Area theatrical world premiere is judged annually by a panel of 5 local theatre critics (including yours truly). Other panelists include Robert Hurwitt of The San Francisco Chronicle, Chad Jones of The Oakland Tribune, Karen D'Souza of The San Jose Mercury News and Robert Avila of The San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Hoyle's play about the Nigeria's oil industry was, as far as I'm concerned, the clear front-runner for the powerful writing, the strength of the artistic vision in helping to bring a much-ignored issue to the attention of the public, and Hoyle's alchemic performance. It was the only play featured on every panel member's list at the meeting. And it was the only production that came to me off the top of my head as being a potential candidate for the prize. I had to think harder about what else to include on my shortlist.

I've been feeling a bit down in general about new plays lately. Last year saw many world premieres, but few of them were very inspiring. I had trouble coming up with the necessary shortlist to bring to the Glickman meeting. Interestingly enough, my list of top 5 world premieres of 2007 includes two musicals and three solo shows. Here's the list, in descending order:

1. Dan Hoyle, Tings Dey Happen at The Marsh Theatre
2. Josh Kornbluth, Citizen Josh at Berkeley Repertory Theatre/The Magic Theatre
3. Paul Gordon, Emma at Theatreworks
4. Sean Owens, Naught But Pirates at The Exit Theatre
5. Jay Kuo, Insignificant Others at Zeum (now playing at Theatre 39)

I hope 2008 brings at least a few more inspiring new works for us to haggle over at next year's meeting.

In other news, The Cutting Ball Theatre is moving into a new home. The San Francisco company just announced a residency at The Exit Theatre's space on Taylor Street. The Exit and The Cutting Ball are a natural match. I've seen many of the company's productions in this space. It seems to work well for them. It'll be interesting to see how having a home effects the company after having been nomadic for so many years.

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