Aisle Seat

Painters and Playwrights
Bay Area Playwrights Festival is off and running this week with a juicy lineup of readings. This year's batch includes new works by Nilo Cruz, Bonnie Greer, Julie Hebert, Brighde Mullins, Elena Penga, and Erin Cressida Wilson. For the third year, the fest, produced by Bay Package Productions, pairs playwrights with visual artists. The dude in charge of hand-picking artists is BPP co-director David Bransten, who comes from visually astute lineage — his mom is Rena Bransten, of the eponymous gallery. For this round, Bransten the Younger coupled New Yorker Nilo Cruz, author of Night Train to Bolinas, with visual artist Kico Govantes. Bransten put them together for obvious reasons: Both are Cuban, and the play, A Park in Our House, is set in revolutionary Cuba. More specifically, the play centers on a man who designs parks for a living — and it turns out that's just what Govantes' grandfather did in Cuba. “These two guys have just hit it off bigger than life,” says Scott Stohler of BPP. Govantes is currently painting watercolors, one for each scene of the play, to be projected on a screen as the play is read. Govantes, by the way, is a character in Randy Shilts' novel And the Band Played On. Ironically enough, the Cubano was portrayed by Asian-American actor B.D. Wong, one of the loudest voices in the Miss Saigon controversy a few years back. The controversy, you'll remember, was whether a white actor ought to be able to play a Eurasian character, and Wong's vociferous reply was “no.” I hear Govantes has a few opinions on that.

Solo No Go
Solo Mio Festival is making noises about announcing its roster soon, but one of its old standbys, monologuist Josh Kornbluth, won't be part of the lineup. He was expected to perform in Solo Mio, then, as rising actors are wont to do, he began lobbying Berkeley Rep for a slot in its season. Such a move could have created tension between Solo Mio producers and the Rep — especially since the Rep had booked another Solo Mio regular, Anne Galjour — but good will and civility prevailed: Solo producer Tom Ross says the two camps had many pleasant meetings, which resulted in Kornbluth snagging some time on the Berkeley Rep stage during the summer (an unusual move), and following up with an appearance at Solo Mio Festival. Then, after all that wheeling and dealing, Kornbluth decided his show simply wouldn't be ready in time for either run. But all was not for naught: It allowed Climate Theatre to establish an unprecedented relationship with Berkeley Rep, and when the Rep presents Galjour next season, it will be as a co-production with Galjour's homies at Climate.

By Laura Jamison

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