Free at last, free at last!
by Richard Dodds
If triple-digit theater prices are no longer shocking, they can still be budget-busters. There are current alternatives that involve only a single zero. As in $0. Production values may be bare, and the material out for a test drive, but by availing yourself of these freebies you may be helping to cultivate theatrical talent.
Free is the cost of admission to The Bandaged Place by Harrison David Rivers, a 2011 GLAAD Media Award winner. It's the final offering in the 2013 edition of Aurora Theatre's annual Global Age Project, and will receive a staged reading on Feb. 25. The play tells the story of a gay man who keeps at a distance those he loves, a mechanism that goes awry when he receives a call from a former lover. Rivers won a GLAAD Award for When Last We Flew, which follows the travails of a gay black student stuck in Kansas. More info at auroratheatre.org.
The sense of isolation is much more severe for the characters in Waafrika, one of the 10 new plays to receive free public readings as part of the Magic Theatre's residency at the ACT Costume Shop. Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko's play is the story of a forbidden love that develops between a white American Peace Corps volunteer and a Kenyan native who is biologically a woman but identifies as a man. The transgendered playwright himself was born in Tanzania, raised in Kenya, and transitioned from female to male during his studies at Columbia University.
Waafrika begins the series of readings at 5 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Mid-Market performance space. The program continues through March 3, and other playwrights represented include Octavio Solis, Naomi Wallace, Lauren Gunderson, Lauren Yee, and Tony Taccone and Geoff Hoyle. There are also several specialty evenings that range from a Multidimensional Musical Experience on Feb. 28 to a Drag Diva Extravaganza on March 1. Go to magictheatre.org for a full schedule.
The Marsh Berkeley's Happy Hour series of free Friday after-work entertainments has a timely presentation for March 1. It's the night before Leonard Cohen begins a two-night stand at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, and the Marsh offering is appropriately titled The Night Before Leonard. It features author Sylvie Simmons reading from I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, her praised biography of the musical icon.
Marsh Berkeley's free
Happy Hour program. Photo: lisakeatingphotography.com
More musical icons provide the underpinnings for Ca C'est L'Amour, a Marsh Happy Hour performance that begins a four-Friday run on March 8. This is a workshop of Kike Adedeji's new cabaret show, with songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Brian Wilson helping tell the love stories of a Nigerian in London, a German in New York, and a Mexican without papers in San Francisco. More info at themarsh.org.
Berkeley Rep is using its dark Mondays for a pair of free in-conversation events. On March 4, Pulitzer Prize-winner Lawrence Wright will not be talking about his upcoming play Fallaci, about investigative journalist Oriana Fallaci, but rather his own investigative bestseller Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Rita Moreno will return to the BRT stage on March 18 for an onstage interview with KQED's Michael Krasny that coincides with the publication of Rita Moreno: A Memoir. Details at berkeleyrep.org.
Pageant the Musical, which has had scores of productions worldwide since its 1991 off-Broadway debut, is rising anew at the Victoria Theatre for a two-week run beginning Feb. 28. The send-up of beauty contests features men in drag as the contestants in the Miss Glamouresse competition, who are put through variations on familiar pageant paces before the audience gets to vote for the winner.
Pageant marks the local directing and producing debut of Robb Huddleston, whose background has included cruise-ship performer, production work in television, and his current job as director of operations for Stern Grove Festival. His cast includes Aaron Brewer, Manny Caneri, Jon Deline, Tim Homlsey, Jim Roderick (aka Daft-Nee Gesuntheit), Maurice Andre San-Chez, and Eddie Bell (aka Cookie Dough). Tickets at brownpapertickets.com.