In 2016, Kate E. Ryan set out to write a new play about politics—to explore how we as individuals come to understand our own political views and how we cope with people who present countering opinions. A Good Neighbor is coming to Z Below September 26 through October 6, 2018. Kate recently sat with us to talk about the writing of A Good Neighbor.
WE INVITE OUR DIE-HARD COLUMN READERS* TO SEND THEIR BURNING QUESTIONS TO RESIDENT PLAYWRIGHT PETER SINN NACHTRIEB. FOR SOME REASON, HE RESPONDS.
I’m a runner/playwright. The exercise gets me THINKING and then the stories just FLOW. This morning I ran 7 MILES WHAT UP. Super pumped to sharpen my pencil and get cracking on THE BIG ONE (not the actual title, just what I like to call the play I’m working on LOL). Sometimes I run to get the juices flowing, and boy are they FLOWING right now. Question for you is: how do you keep your energy UP and keep it up? Power snacks? Vitamin water? THANKS MAN.
Your run just gave me energy! YAS! BODY AND MIND! AMIRIGHT! BODY AND MOTHERFUCKING MIND!
Have you ever tried running and writing at the same time? Or writing while you’re on the elliptical glider at the gym? I have and it’s pretty great, except for that one time. Also, depending how VIGOROUS I’m going, it keeps the lines pretty short, which I’ve found most actors appreciate.
I’ve also enjoyed writing while doing yoga, kayaking, whale watching, walking around my apartment, reading, attending a pool party or orgy, pretending to listen, shopping, sitting at Z Space staff meetings and one time I wrote a great monologue in my head while watching someone cry. Essentially anything BUT sitting at my computer is what I like to do to keep my energy up. The more time you can spend away from actual writing, the more energy you’ll have to write!
Now lace up your pencils and jog your mind!
Writing you from El Quisco, Chile! I got a sick grant to write a play about the rich history and culture of this beautiful city. But here’s the thing: I’m totes gringo! Do you think I should tell anyone or just see if they catch on? No idea what they’re saying!!
As Anton Chekov once said, “Ignorance is Truth’s unappreciated ugly cousin.” I’m not entirely sure what that means but somehow I think it relates to your exciting opportunity. As a playwright, I often like to explore questions, mysteries, aspects of life that I don’t understand and am wrestling with. Big questions like “Where did truth go?” or “Where is empathy these days?” Those were hard questions to find the answers for (thank god I found them! #blessed).
It sounds like you’ve got a great question to begin your writing process: “What’s El Quisco?” Embrace your lack of knowledge. Savor the mystery. Celebrate your ignorance. Let it fuel a bold, imaginative, tone-deaf and oblivious work of theater. We are all as ignorant and curious as you are and this is your chance to answer “What’s El Quisco” for everybody. And that is a real privilege. A really white male one.
I guess I’m feeling pretty… down. The rejection letters… and rejection emails… they just keep on piling up... and it makes me feel like….it makes me feel like maybe nobody likes my work? And at some point...I have to ask myself… am I even good at this? So… yeah. I was hoping you could tell me that? Do you think I’m talented… or not? I know you don’t know my work, but if you could think of this as a kind of…. writing sample?…. Can you tell? Do you feel… moved?
I wish I knew how it felt to get all those rejection letters and emails. I can only imagine how disheartening it must feel to be rejected over and over again. It would probably make me want to give up too. #blessed
As far as your writing sample, I am really intrigued by your use of ellipses! I really feel something happening in those. Like, it feels like you’re getting a text message or a phone call or someone posted some clickbait on facebook and you stopped to do something else. And every time you get interrupted you prioritize the interruption over your own writing. Is that what you’re going for? If not, perhaps that indicates that maybe you should...
*Readers currently fabricated by Rose Oser, but I suppose you could send real questions to email@example.com and we will consider them.
We went behind-the-scenes with Weightless, for a sneak peek of the new rock opera by The Kilbanes, in development here at Z Space. Part Concert, Part Play, Part Dream, Weightless weaves together myth with evocative indie rock to tell a story of sisterhood, love, betrayal and rebirth. The show is set to open Feb. 23rd and tickets are on sale now.
From top to bottom: Kate Kilbane and Lila Blue play sisters in Weightless and find creative ways to mirror each other's movements with Hana Kim, Projection Designer. Director Becca Wolff discusses pre-production logistics with technical director Joe Moore. Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses continue their collaborative development of the script.
Word for Word's Lucia Berlin: Stories is featured on Limited Edition, a new, creative collaboration with ODC, the Lab, SFMOMA, Z Space and CounterPulse. Limited Edition explores questions of legacy and lineage through performances, discussions, and gatherings, with commissioned texts appearing regularly online. From now through March, we’ll be sharing updates on this curated “season” of new works.
Find out more below and check out some of the performances and events, taking place all around San Francisco: at SF MOMA's Open Space Limited Edition
Z: Tell us about your journey in starting a radio station for emerging artists.
CA: I joined my college radio station in 1994 when I was a freshman. They told me that they only played underground music and that you couldn’t play anything that has even been heard on commercial radio. So I had to learn all this new music that I never knew about. And it was like that moment, you know that meme where you see the brain exploding? It was like that.
Z: The floodgates are open.
CA: Yeah. I just saw that there was this whole universe of music outside of the mainstream that was broad and deep and unusual and cool. I was in college forever, and the only constant was that I always had a radio show. My radio show was call The Cheea Planet, and then I started playing disco, then I called it Stayin' Alive on the Cheea Planet.
When I decided to move to San Francisco, I was like “I need to start a radio station,” that's the only way I know how to support the scene. Part of the reason why I moved to San Francisco specifically was because the music scene was so cool and there were so many cool bands here. I got invited to a friend’s gathering at The Secret Alley, and they just happened to have a little space that was affordable. I fronted the money to get this going for a couple of months and thought that if at the end of three months we don't have enough interest and involvement, then it was a fun experiment.
It just so happened that it caught the attention of the right people at the right time. We started getting publicity and press and it just kind of took off. We do have specialty shows where people are focused on an area that’s not related to new underground music, but 90% of the shows are. It’s all people that want to have bands on and want to highlight new things. Doing a radio show is the most natural and comfortable way for them to do that.
Z: Everything right now feels like it’s about politics. During moments like this, what do you think the community wants/needs from art right now? What are the main conversations going on in the your scene?
CA: Art is the way that we synthesize everything that’s going on. That’s one reason that art is and will always be extremely important and valuable. Because we are going to need art to place what is happening in context for people, not just now, but forty years from now. Now we are looking back at disco forty years later and discussing “How does this reflect the time period, what can we pull out? What was important to people based on the art that they were making?” Representation is also a big issue. Just in my sphere with radio, and friends I have in the art community, the second Trump was elected, we started getting applications from people who said “I want to do an all-female or all non-binary show,” or “I wanna talk about immigration,” or “I wanna to have a show that reflects my point of view so that there is that representation out there for other people.” I think art is a huge conduit for that, making sure that different views are getting expressed and that people are able to see these different viewpoints through art.
The next extension from representation is understanding. When there is that representation of different viewpoints and you start exposing yourself to other people’s ideas you gain an understanding of where they are coming from. I think the biggest problem we have right now is this sort of us v. them friction. When we were all us, there was no them. There was really nothing to fear. I feel that dovetails with the history of disco. You had all different types of people together coming together around dance music and I think that’s what got people through a really difficult time in American history. I feel like we are inventing our own disco now. We don’t even know what it looks like yet. We will find out in 40 years….
Practice your moves to the Cosmic Amanda disco playlist on Spotify!
BFF.fm – Best Frequencies Forever is a San Francisco-based community radio station run by a volunteer staff of music nerds who love independent music and are hell-bent on delivering awesome radio programming. BFF.fm’s mission is to support emerging and underground artists and bring the Bay Area music scene to the world through the magic of Internet radio.
WE INVITE OUR DIE-HARD COLUMN READERS*
TO SEND THEIR BURNING QUESTIONS TO RESIDENT PLAYWRIGHT PETER SINN NACHTRIEB. FOR SOME REASON, HE RESPONDS.
I received my M.F.A. in Ceramics and now I’d like to write my first full-length play. Do you have any advice for people who are transitioning from one art form to another? I know the world is my clay, but beyond that, I am lost. Please advise.
I totally get where you’re coming from. I know if I had worked for years to get an M.F.A. in Ceramics, I’d never want to touch a piece of clay again either. I applaud your impulsiveness and indecisiveness in what you hope to do with your life. Ceramics? Ick!
Are you in your 20’s? I’m only curious about your age because when you’re in your 20’s, indecisiveness seems like a uniquely 20something kind of feeling. “I’m young! I’m confused!” It’s cute. But then, as you get older, your indecisiveness and doubt that you’re doing the right thing will never actually go away. Lack of clarity turns out to be a condition you’ll be afflicted with your entire life. Of course, with every year you age, you’ll start to carry the weight of choices made after which there is no going back. Like having children, or smoking, or committing a felony. But none of those anchors will actually have any impact on the future difficulty of making any new decisions and whether you are happy or not. You’re cursed! We are all cursed.
Also, maybe look into taking a class, and then, later, teaching.
Okay, so here’s my idea. Hear me out. It’s like a group of millennials and there’s an apocalypse. Think fire and tornadoes and fog and lightning. And they all have cell phones but the technology just isn’t enough, ya know? They have to learn to fight with their fists and bodies, like back to the basics. Man versus nature. But I guess my question is, if I want to write a play that has a lot of special effects like fire (and maybe the whole thing takes place underwater?) do you think it will still be produced? Should I make it simpler? Maybe they are just trapped in a book store?
I love your idea! I think it’s important to know, though, that regardless of whether or not you choose to have some great special effects or set your play somewhere more dull, it will probably not get produced. Most theaters in America are completely uninterested in modern times and your generation, despite all the lip service they may try to give with their “under 30 pricing” (to their revival of The Cherry Orchard). So, I say yes to fire! Yes wind! Water it up! You might as well go big! Cause you’re probably also going home.
I am stuck. So many sleepless nights. I cannot put pen to paper until I determine, once and for all, whether it should be theatre or theater. Who am I? What industry is this? Am I in a building? Am I an American? All of the political pressure makes me sweaty.
*Readers currently fabricated by Rose Oser, but I suppose you could send real questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will consider them.
8 Things from my own bike riding that made it into
The Making of a Great Moment
By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Playwright in Residence
I don’t think Mona and Terry, the characters in The Making of a Great Moment, would be riding bicycles on stage if I hadn’t been training for AIDS/Lifecycle (a 545 mile bike ride down California, raising money to fight HIV) while I was writing the first draft. It was my first time doing serious road cycling and it was intense and amazing! And it felt like the perfect addition to a crazy play about two actors willing to do anything for what they love.
Here are a few of my riding experiences that made it into the show:
The Making of a Great Moment opens with Mona and Terry setting up for their show after a long bike ride and almost killing each other. While I never wanted to kill anybody while riding, there were definitely a few moments where I felt like I was starting to lose my mind. I would have to pull over and chug more water and some form of sugar. Which brings me to…
2) The miracle of eating weird sugar goo!
When your mind is bonking, there is a miracle cure: SUGAR! Gummy bears and jelly beans are rebranded “energy blocs” and “power beans.” And they have these packets of gelatinous sugary goo you can suck down like a baby. And it’s OK! It’s healthy! You’re on a bicycle!
3) Lots of verbal announcing of road hazards and what you are doing on the bicycle.
My fellow riders on the AIDS/Lifecycle are some of the safest and friendliest cyclists on the planet and are always vigilant and sharing potential dangers up and down the line of cyclists. “Car Back!” “Gravel” and “Glass” are some of the most popular things you hear repeated. Somehow these warnings can be heard fairly well despite…
4) The inability to really hear someone else while biking.
When riding single file, it can feel a little lonely and you might want to start a conversation with the person riding in front of or behind you. However, single word warnings aside, it’s quite likely you won’t be able to hear anything they’re going to say. It’s easier to talk when riding by side by side, but when riding on ALC they are very serious about…
5) The dangers of riding two abreast.
Riding two abreast on AIDS/Lifecycle is verboten because there are just too many riders and it makes it hard to pass someone safely (though it’s the best way for biker bros to discuss investment banking, or so I’ve observed while riding in Marin.) This safety rule made its way into the play and it’s dis-obeyal leads to dramatic consequences. Such as getting…
6) Flat tires
Flats are an inevitable part of the experience of a sport where your connection to the road is a nickel-wide piece of rubber with an inflatable tube behind it. I had a lot flats this year while training, including five in one single day. That was a long day. But, I did become expert in changing tires! In the play, Mona and Terry are not experts.
7) Unique body discomfort
In a nutshell, riding all day can do quite a number on your taint. You can wear padded shorts, have a seat with a hole in the middle, and lather yourself up with anti-chaffing cream, but that taint’s still gonna hurt. This is just one of many strained and sore body parts cyclists are willing to endure for their love of riding. Which leads me to
8) Doing something because you are passionate about doing it, even though no-one else seems to understand why you’re doing it.
Cyclists, and AIDS/Lifecyclists are willing to tolerate pain, soreness, a little numbness because they love and care about what they are doing. Riding is an exquisite way to take in the country. AIDS/Lifecycle is a phenomenal way to raise money for an vital cause. It’s worth that pain in the taint.
And that’s what doing theater can be like too, or any creative pursuit. Artists are willing to endure aches and pains and deprivation (and occasionally some humiliation) because they are passionate about what they are doing. For some, they believe it matters. And for others, they just love doing it. And that makes any danger, any soreness or sacrifice absolutely worth it because, well, there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing.
Join us for Bike Night at Z Space Thursday, August 10th in partnership with AIDS/Lifecycle and SF Bike Coalition TICKETS HERE
The Making of a Great Moment runs in Z Below through August 26th. Get tickets here.
Meet the actors behind the characters. Danny Scheie and Aysan Celik play Terry and Mona in Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's The Making of a Great Moment.
Watch a special Behind Z Scenes video with Charlotte Moraga about the Kathak solo.
Art of Kathak
July 21 - 23 at Z Space
Featuring a Kathak solo performance by Charlotte Moraga
in duet with tabla Maestro Swapan Chaudhuri
with an opening performance by the Chitresh Das Youth Company.
Pictured: Belva Davis with Word for Word Artistic Director Susan Harloe
We are so excited to have the iconic, Emmy-award winning journalist Belva Davis join us for our gala on December 1st! Don't miss your chance to see Belva Davis interview Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Edward P. Jones -get your tickets today!
Behind Z Scenes featuring interviews with the LEVYdance performers in ALONE TOGETHER about process and self discovery.
Directed by LEVYdance Executive Artistic Director Garance Marneur ALONE TOGETHER premieres at Z Space Oct. 26 - 30th
Video by Julie Schuchard
Video montage Sylvana Lautier
Music by Fred DeFaye
We went behind the scenes with LEVYdance Executive Artistic Director Garance Marneur about her new piece "Alone Together" coming to Z Space Oct. 26-30. #BehindZScenes
Just one week until The Wholehearted opens at Z Space. We had a chance to talk to Co-creator and performer Suli Holum about what she did to prepare for the role of championship boxer Dee Crosby.
The Wholehearted runs September 7-10th at Z Space | Ticket and information here!
Check out exclusive behind the scene footage of the week long LEVYdance Tech Residency for Alone / Together. Directed by LEVYdance Executive Artistic Director Garance Marneur in collaboration with LEVYdance Company and Guest Artists. Coming to Z Space Oct. 26th-30th. Tickets here
LAST NIGHT AT Z SPACE, AN ECLECTIC GROUP OF 20 GATHERED FOR A SALON WHERE EVERYONE GAVE A REPORT ON A PIECE OF ART (ANY GENRE) THEY WERE STRUCK BY IN THE LAST YEAR.
IT WAS A WILD AND WONDERFUL LIST.
HERE IT IS.
Pace Gallery - Living Digital Space
A View From the Bridge by Arthur Miller, directed by Ivo Von Hove | National Theatre production
Book: A General Theory of Love