By Andrew Saito
Directed by Rob Melrose
NOW EXTENDED to June23!
San Francisco playwright Andrew Saito provides a poetic portrayal of the heart of the city in the spirit of Alan Ginsburg’s Howl, William S. Burroughs” novels, and the plays of Suzan-Lori Parks. At the center of this play about love and longing in the neglected neighborhoods of a fictional city is Scarlett, a woman who takes care of her grandmother by pulling wild animals out of her ears and letting them loose in her backyard menagerie. She makes her living as best she can off of the dreams and desires of married men who are willing to sacrifice everything for her. Drumhead, a lonely morgue worker with a wild imagination, comes across a carnival poster boasting of the wonders of Scarlett and can’t get her out of his head. Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night follows these seeming misfits on their journey to find each other.
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Felicia Benefield (Scarlett) has worked with a number of Bay Area theater companies including Berkeley Repertory Theater, Word for Word, Women’s Will, and the Playwrights Foundation. At Cutting Ball, she has appeared in productions of The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, The Taming of the Shrew, Woyzeck, Blame it on the Dust Commander, 365 plays/365 days, Accents in Alsace and Victims of Duty (Critics Circle Nomination for Best Actress). Felicia began at ACT’s Young Conservatory, studied at University of East Anglia – Norwich, England and interned with the SF Mime Troupe. Past performances include Speak to Me and Hamlet with No Nude Men Theatre and Hen! The Musical with Dark Porch Theatre. She holds a BA in Drama from San Francisco State University and an MSc in Marketing Management from Vlerick Business School. She is an Associate Artist at Cutting Ball.
Wiley Naman Strasser (Drumhead) returns to Cutting Ball after last season’s Tontlawaldand RISK IS THIS… readings of Insect Play, Ubu Roi, Aulis, and Ozma of Oz. Other recent productions include The Great Big Also with Mugwumpin and The 100 Flowers Project andInvasion! with Crowded Fire. Other credits include work with Aurora, Golden Thread, Playwrights Foundation, FoolsFURY, Actors Ensemble of Berkeley, Theatreworks, Cabrillo Stage, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Buffalo Nights, LA Opera, and the Los Angeles Theater Center. Mr. Strasser holds a BA in Theater from UCLA and is an Associate Artist at Cutting Ball.
Marjorie Crump-Shears (Gran Ma Ma) has worked in many houses throughout the greater Bay Area. Her career has spanned several genres of theater ~ musical, drama, comedy, and Shakespeare. Having come to a full-time theater career, later in life than most, the roles she has played, luckily, have been as diverse as the companies she has worked with: Romeo and Juliet with the Napa Valley Shakespeare Co; Raisin In the Sun with College of Marin, Kentfield; The Ride Down Mount Morgan with the SF Playhouse; Vieux Carre with ACT Conservatory; Macbeth with Sebastopol Shakespeare Festival; Hansel & Gretel with Sonoma State University Opera; The Peoples Temple with Napa Valley Rep; Intimate Apparel with 6th Street Playhouse; The African Company presents Richard III with the African-American Shakespeare Co. and Streetcar Named Desire with Marin Theatre Company. She is a is a longtime member of Theater Bay Area.
Mimu Tsujimura (Snowflake) is thrilled to return to The Cutting Ball Theater this season, after appearing as Numbah 3 in Madame Ho as part of the 2011 RISK IS THIS…Festival. Since her opera debut in Berkeley West Edge Opera’s Romeo and Juliet (2007), she has primarily worked with Bay Area opera companies. Local credits include Berkeley West Edge Opera’s L’Elisir d’Amore (2008), L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (2008), The Ballad of Baby Doe(2009), and Vera of Las Vegas (2012), San Francisco Lyric Opera’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann(2007) and Aida (2008), Lamplighters Music Theatre’s The Mikado (2008), Lolanthe (2009), and Patience (2010). Her first non-singing role was Korean 1 in Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven (Crowded Fire Theater/Asian American Theater Company, 2011), for which she was nominated for a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award.
David Sinaiko (Pap Pap) is a Cutting Ball Associate Artist appearing in more than a dozen of their productions including: The Chairs, The Strindberg Cycle, Tenderloin, Lady Grey & other plays, The Tempest, …and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, The Bald Soprano, Endgame, The Taming of the Shrew, and As You Like It. A founding member of Chicago’s New Crime Productions where credits include: Heart of a Dog, The Balcony, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, and Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Other credits: Goodman Theatre, Actor’s Gang, Golden Thread, Crowded Fire, SF Playhouse. Film and television includes The Grifters, Bob Roberts, Carnosaur and The Untouchables. He’s an alumnus of NYU’s ETW and Stella Adler Conservatory.
Drew Wolff (Cast) will graduate from SFSU come May 25th. He has recently appeared as one of the Stage Managers in SFSU’s production of Our Town where the role was split as a couple. Drew has greatly enjoyed working and learning with the cast of Krispy Kritters. This is his first experience with The Cutting Ball Theater.
Maura Halloran (Judge Gristle/Nurse Candy)is delighted to make her Cutting Ball debut with Rob Melrose and this amazing cast. Maura holds a BFA in Acting from UBC Vancouver and performed in several cities accross Western Canada before moving to San Francisco in 2010. Bay Area credits include The Pride (NCTC), Merchants (No Nude Men), 5 lesbians eating a quiche (Tides), Miranda/Ariel in SF Shakes’ touring The Tempest, One Minute Play Festival, Bay One Acts Festival and the debut of her solo show Pussy at SF DIVAfest. A “Teaser Edition” of Pussy recently anchored Berkeley’s “Women in Solodarity” and will play again at Stage Werx “Solo Sundays” in July.
Caleb Cabrera (Cast) feels blessed to be making a debut with Cutting Ball and working with some of the krispiest kompadres in this tender slab of a neighborhood. Past credits include Benito in References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot (SFSU), directed by Roy Conboy, Scoronconcolo in Lorenzaccio (SFSU) directed by Mohammed Kowsar, Exeter in Henry VI(Do It Live), & as Hedone the melodramatic loin cloth wearing lover from Space Over at the SF Mime Troupe. He holds a BA in Drama from SFSU.
FROM THE DIRECTOR
In 2008, I found on my desk in our old office space we shared with Z Space on 10th Street, the first ten pages of Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night. As you can imagine, I get sent lots of plays; most are very conventional and are better served by the many other theaters in the area. Krispy Kritters, however, amazed and delighted me. I couldn’t tell how it could possibly be staged, but I was in love with the audacity of the play’s vision and the play’s imaginativeness.
I invited Andrew to have Krispy Krittersbe a part of our 2011 RISK IS THIS…Festival, admitting to him that I didn’t completely understand the play or know how to stage it, but that I needed to be in the room with him and wanted to get to know his voice. As our workshop progressed, Andrew did more rewrites than any playwright has ever done for RISK IS THIS… He listened hard during rehearsals and went home every night shaping his play and giving it an internal logic that was clear albeit a logic that moved according to its own rules. By the time the week was up, Andrew had condensed his material into a tight little diamond in which there wasn’t a shred of extraneous poetry. I was really excited about how it worked on the stage. At Cutting Ball, we get lots of submissions that are amazing poetically on the page but don’t translate to a compelling experience on the stage. For our reading of Krispy Kritters, our audiences were engaged and laughing.
Perhaps the reason for this is that as surreal as the language and images are, the heart of the play comes from a real place. Andrew deals with the dreams and desires of people on the fringes of society. For our rehearsal process, we did some rehearsals out on the street in the Tenderloin and actors did interviews with sex workers, morgue attendants, nurses, and veterans for insights into their character’s professions. Being in our neighborhood reminds us everyday of the humanity of people from all walks of life. That humanity permeates through Andrew’s play.
Hamlet asks us to hold a mirror up to nature. Andrew’s mirror is more like something you’d find in a fun-house. What is most interesting to me is how Andrew experiments with form. These experiments might remind longtime Cutting Ball audiences of the work of Suzan-Lori Parks, or Eugène Ionesco, or Mac Wellman. At the same time, the form is all Andrew’s own.
Bringing unique voices to our audience is a critical piece of Cutting Ball’s mission. I am very proud to bring Andrew Saito’s wildly imaginative vision to you.
Welcome to Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night! Thank you for stepping through this door. I hope that your eyes are open and your hands are empty. There is plenty to see here and plenty to grab. Prepare to walk away with what you’re missing, and what you never knew you lost.
This world may mystify. It may bewilder. But so does your everyday life. So do you. To quote Judge Gristle, a character in this play, “peel back your oculars” to behold the strangeness, the wonder, and ultimately the love that pulsates through the streets and the air, through your wild mind and the pumping chambers of your heart. While it dances so intimately with death, this play (spoiler!) is really about life. So enjoy it! Enjoy yourself! It’s later than you think.
This show marks several milestones in my life. It is the first fully professional production of a dramatic text of my authorship. It is also the inauguration of my three-year position as Resident Playwright with Cutting Ball. This residency is made possible by the vision and generosity of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with critical support and guidance by the brilliant minds at Emerson College’s Center for the Theater Commons. I could not feel more honored and humbled.
In 2006, the first glimmers of >Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night emerged from murky depths of my creativity unknown to my conscious awareness, in playwriting workshops taught by master scribes and teachers Octavio Solís and Migdalia Cruz, hosted by Intersection for the Arts and Playwrights Foundation, respectively. Honestly, when I first wrote this play, I never imagined that it would be produced. But look… here we are!
During the 2011 RISK IS THIS… Festival workshop, directed by Rob Melrose, I embraced Suzan-Lori Parks’s challenge in her essay “from Elements of Style” to ditch stage directions while writing a dramatic text and instead insert that action into the dialogue, thereby making it active and strange. Krispy Kritters underwent a thorough transformation. This thoroughly revised draft, almost an entirely different play, was the ground Rob, myself, the cast and designers stood on when we embarked on bringing this play to life this past March. Through our in-depth explorations in rehearsals, unforeseen layers of this play have revealed themselves to me over and over again. The successes of this play are due in significant part to the generosity, commitment, and critical insights of my collaborators.
Dramatists such as Parks, Samuel Beckett, Heiner Müller and my dear teachers Cherríe Moraga, Octavio Solís, Migdalia Cruz, Marcus Gardley and Naomi Wallace have left their marks on my aesthetics and writing. However, the greatest artistic influence in my work is unquestionably El Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani, one of the most significant experimental theater collectives in Latin America. I was first exposed to Yuyachkani’s work in October 2002 at the RAT Conference at the USF. Since then, I’ve taken multiple performance workshops with Yuyachkani, taught playwriting to their ensemble of actors, and visited Peru three times. Yuyachkani’s work, which is equally powerful when presented at the Kennedy Center and in remote Andean villages, is infused with a precision of imagery, physical presence and movement that communicate deep levels of meaning across linguistic divides. A theatre that transcends language is one I strive to create. With Yuyachkani’s legacy inhabiting my dreams, I try to craft writing infused with tension, imagery, and the invisible presence of human bodies.
When Cutting Ball brought Teresa Ralli to San Francisco this past March to work intensively with our cast over a week, my two favorite theater companies came together in support of my work. Teresa used her expertise in physical performance, dance and Grotowski’s theories to guide the cast in discovering and creating their distinct characters. This initial exploration infused the entire subsequent rehearsal process. I hope this is the first meeting in a long-term, growing relationship.
– Andrew Saito, Playwright
Andrew Saito’s script notes that the action of Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night takes place in “a forgotten city in a nearly forgotten state.” It is a fitting setting for a play that focuses on the stories of those society rarely chooses to acknowledge – morgue attendants, the extremely poor, and, most of all, sex workers. During the rehearsal period, the cast and production team conducted a number of first-hand interviews with individuals working in these fields. Reflecting on these interviews and documented research, one is struck by how much the general public overlooks their experience, and how damaging this ignorance can be.
There is some legalized prostitution in a few rural counties in Nevada (not however, Las Vegas), but the overwhelming majority of sex workers in the United States operate outside of the law. Unsurprisingly, this illegality makes it difficult to credibly estimate the size and scope of the industry. Scandals surrounding high profile public figures like former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer have brought widespread media attention to the most expensive and exclusive prostitution rings, but the spectrum is as broad as it is expansive. In California alone, over 10,000 people are arrested every year for prostitution or related vice offenses, yet these documented cases do little to provide a clear portrait of an average sex worker. Attitudes towards prostitution within and without the field are extremely varied, since sex worker’s own stories of empowerment or exploitation are stunningly diverse.
In spite of recent health care reform, the rising cost of medical care and prescription drugs, widespread budget cutbacks and hospital closures has placed a greater burden on nurses, morticians, and other medical personnel. Especially in hospitals that rely on public funding and provide care primarily for the urban poor, nurses experience a greater caseload with less time available to devote to each individual patient. The average shift for a nurse has increased sizably in recent years, and, rather than resting in their time off, many nurses need to take alternating shifts multiple hospitals to cover living costs. Available resources for veterans are also regrettably available resources are often insufficient to address the lasting negative effects of combat – both with respect to physician infirmity and psychological trauma.
Fittingly, Andrew’s play neither excuses, condones, romanticizes, or disparages the actions of its various forgotten denizens, nor does it lambast society for the difficulties they experience. Ensconced in its fantasmagoric story is a beautiful, even handed, and subtle exploration of characters whose stories very worth telling.
-Bennett Fisher, Dramaturg
– Rob Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
“If you want a show worth taking a chance on, this is the one that’ll send you home feeling like you really saw something,”
– Adam Brinklow, Edge SF and San Francisco Magazine
“Through the power of Saito”s lanugage, the creepy and “krispy” become downright comely.” – Lily Janiak, SF Weekly
“Surreal…Funny…[playwright Andrew] Saito’s language is lush and lyrical.”
– Jean Schiffman, San Francisco Examiner
“Amazing world you’ve created @CuttingBall in Krispy Kriters in the Scarlett Night! Awesome!”
– Wendy Hanamura, audience member on Twitter @wltanamura
“Saw Krispy Kritters on Saturday: wonderful!!! Words, cast, set, sound, lights, direction…. Go see it!”
– Danielle Sidra Cain, audience member on Facebook
“3 cheers for Krispy Kritters…-after an hour what seems insane appears not so crazy…well, a little crazy”
– Marc Vogel, audience member on Twitter @marcvogl
Photos by Rob Melrose