THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR

By Sharie Renault
Artistic  Director
Mauritius
By Theresa Rebeck
February 2019

Teresa Rebeck writes plays with themes that explore how to behave morally in today’s world. She is one of the ten most produced playwrights in the country. She has written for Hollywood and on Television shows such as ‘Law and Order’ and ‘Smash’, an American musical drama television series which revolves around a group of characters creating new Broadway musicals, where everyone must balance their often-chaotic personal lives.

 

In her play ‘Mauritius’, she builds a world of storytelling around such an isolated, small thing as stamp collecting. The play looks at what feeds the collector’s spirit in a deep, meaningful way. As the story unfolds, we see that the stamps create something desperate in the characters. As the play progresses pathologies, tainted motives and overreaction are exposed and morality and decency are in question. What is of value to us, and what price do we pay for getting what we deem valuable?

See Reviews

Creating Claire
By Joe DiPietro
October 2018

Joe Di Pietro’s play touches on the subjects of parenting an autistic child, the presence (or absence) of a divine creator and marital tensions springing from the intersection of faith and parenting.

 

The playwright has created characters that give us the experience to observe and identify with a baffling problem in a marriage when one changes, growing away from an ideology that they both once shared.

 

Claire has questions that neither science nor her husband Reggie can resolve.

The play has us wondering if Claire's marriage and job can survive her epiphany? Why do her probing questions threaten her strongest relationships so deeply? How do we find comfort and stability in uncertainty?

See Reviews

Clever Little Lies
By Joe DiPietro
May 2018

I was a freshman in college when Marlo Thomas starred in “That Girl” a TV sitcom about a young single woman living and finding her way in NYC. I loved that show and dreamed of being that girl someday!  By the time the show went off the air I had my degree in fine arts , and was living in San Francisco,  applying for teaching jobs. Recently Marlo Thomas stared as Alice, in a Broadway production, “Clever Little Lies”, by Joe Dipietro. I ordered the script and was hooked. It had fun family comedic lines with a bite at the end that forced honesty and truth to the surface. Over the course of just one evening together, every member of Alice’s family is forced to see the value, betrayal and love they have for one another as they grapple with a buried truth.

See Reviews

Goldfish
By John Kolvenbach
February 2018

The script for Goldfish has a rhythm with beats and pauses. It is a lyrical play - like a piece of music- a tableau of duets that tell a story. The play begins in September with Albert looking forward to college career away from home. Leo, his gambler father, depends on Albert and has reservations about him leaving home. The themes of the play address young adults attempting to breakaway from dysfunctional parent-child relationships, and who struggle financially and emotionally to detach and pursue his life. And it is about falling in love for the first time. It is a heart breaking, loving piece of theater.

See Reviews

Doubt
By John Patrick Shanley
October 2017

The Bad Sleep Well Title of a Kurosawa film

 

“In much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” Ecclesiastes 

 

“Everything that is hard to attain is easily assailed by the mob.” Ptolemy

 

These are quotes John Patrick Shanley placed at the beginning of the script, “Doubt a Parable.”  The cast and I have spent many hours in discussion about the meaning behind each scene, each line, each character’s motivation.

 

Shanley asks us to look at Doubt, a feeling that does not give us ease, or a place to rest in the safety of all-knowing certainty. Doubt asks for courage to go into the unknown, to create in the dark and wait for that moment of revelation that comes for an instant and then is gone. Doubt takes us on a journey that is a never-ending process of trust.

 

Creating this piece of theater is that very process. We work in an empty space, with a few props, lights and sound to bring our audience a parable, the leading character is Doubt. The ending is up to you.

See Reviews

Brighton Beach Memoirs
By Neil Simon
May 2017

Neil Simon’s comedy set, in the late l930’s, dramatizes themes that remain relevant to current events. This play is about immigrants. Suitcases, trunks, are scattered about the set as symbols of refugees who have come to the United States from the past to start a new life. Nationalism was on the rise in Hitler’s Germany, and refugees were seeking asylum all over Europe from death camps. It is a past that has been revisited in the present by the atrocities in the streets of Aleppo causing once again the mass fleeing of refugees, this time from Syria. Countries accepting refugees must adapt to influx of foreign born children in schools, families seeking jobs and assistance, pressure on resources, and neighborhoods with changing cultural identities.  The response to the rapidly growing presence of the “other” is often fear, mistrust, and nationalism. The play takes place in Brighton Beach, New York, a resort town, once restricted to Jews.  It is about a family living during hard economic times, and how every member’s contribution is not taken for granted, is counted upon, is crucial to their survival. It is also about how we hold onto prejudice and suspicion of others we do not know or understand until it festers with fear. It is about when faced with crisis that we come to understand what charity is all about-- that we are no different from our neighbor. This play is a cautionary tale and a reminder that what we share in common is greater than our differences.

Handle with Care
By Jason Odell Williams
November 2016

Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. Can this happen? Has this happened to you? 

 

Handle With Care brings four unlikely characters together on Christmas Eve and this theory, is tested.  Is it a miracle? Is it fate? I want to believe that it is a more than a theory or mere coincidence. We are shown miracles everyday, and I believe that we can experience them if our hearts are open.

See Reviews

Black Tie
By A.R. Gurney
April 2016

Amidst the current election hoopla, sometimes echoing a T.V. reality show, I find myself looking more closely at what issues is motivating voters. A.R. Gurney’s play “Black Tie” focuses on Republican values of “once upon a time,” and the emergence of a wave of new voters who are asking, rather than demanding, changes in our government that are more aligned with the recent Michael Moore film, “Where to Invade Next.”

 

Gurney’s characters politely manage to adapt and flow somewhat elegantly in accommodating ideals of the past with the wave of change.  This is aptly stated by the father character who says, “ Even in awkward circumstances, when we’re entertaining people we don’t know, in surroundings we don’t like with music we can’t abide…we can still make it black tie.” Are manners important? Not interrupting, and saying thank you? is this important? Perhaps rules of etiquette can keep a civilized social discourse going long enough for all points of view to be heard.

See Reviews

The Other Place
By Sharr White
January 2016

It has been a blessed experience for all of us, actors, director, house, tech, being able to rehearse and perform The Other Place, at the St Helena Presbyterian Church in Westminster Hall. For over a hundred years this gem of a space has held community gatherings, performances, and rituals. The play is about places. A place in the minds of the characters and how they discern what is true and what is not. And physical places in the past where they have felt love and where they believe love was lost. And finally a place in their hearts where love reaches them across the boundaries of grief all the way to where they are in the present moment in time, and gives them a place of peace and hope.

The Language Archive
By Julia Cho
September 2015

Upon the first reading of The Language Archive I was hooked. I invited several members of our theater company to a reading of the play and everyone agreed that The Language Archive captured the mission of the Calistoga Theater Company —The play reverberated “theater from the heart.” Over the past several months we have pondered, argued, and defended the decisions that motivated George and Mary’s actions or non-actions. We have agonized over the choices these characters make. Julia Cho’s play is not unlike Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream, where the characters vacillate over the right words to say, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and take the actions that they are fated to take, “Oh, what fools these mortals be!”

Last Gas
By John Cariani
March 2015

Directing "Almost Maine" was such a sweet experience for the actors, and our audience, that I was on the look out for more of Cariani's work. Last summer Calistoga Theater Company was gifted his latest work, "Last Gas," in manuscript form. We applied for the license and began rehearsals in December 2014. "Last Gas” is a tale about a family of Red Sox fans who believe being a Yankee’s fan is going over to the dark side. Cariani’s comedic dialogue smacks of profundity. The play is about taking risks. It’s about one character's journey to take a leap of faith for a last chance in life to be happy. It is about standing in the true dark long enough for your eyes to adjust and see the light that is all around you. We have found the light in the dark during our process of creating this work for you, dear audience. It is our hope that you too will see the light long after our bows and stage lights dim to black and the house lights come on.

4000 Miles
By Amy Herzog
October 2014

On a Trip to New York in 2012, I was fortunate to see “4000 Miles,” by Amy Herzog at Lincoln Center. I was so very moved by the play that I dreamed of producing it one day at CAC. I knew that Mary Clay, a seasoned member of the company, could master the complexity of playing the role of Vera, and at auditions in July, I discovered Gabriel Frey and cast him as Leo and Star Stone as Bec. We still needed an Amanda, yet we went ahead with the intention of producing the play in the fall, trusting that we would find the actress to play that role. Danielle Devitt came to us four weeks into rehearsals and breathed life into the role of a quirky, boldly flirtatious 20-year-old Chinese college student.

 

The play is an intimate look at the interaction between a progressive, card-carrying Communist grandmother and her grandson who arrives at her door in the West Village upon completing a cross-country bike trip.  It is an observation of how family and other relationships build and cease to grow.  It is about loving and letting go.  It is about the impulsiveness of the young with their whole lives ahead of them and the wisdom that comes with old age. 

See Reviews

It's a Wonderful Life
By Joe Landry
December 2013

Sometimes it is good to go back in time.  In theater we have that luxury.  This season we are bringing you characters living in the 1940’s in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  So what was going on during the time of this play?  Well, the depression of the 30’s, people out of work, foreclosures on the rise, and the greed of big business on the rampage.  Sound familiar?  What’s so special about “It’s a Wonderful Life?”  It is a play that shows people in a small town of Bedford Falls, like our own Calistoga, pulling together to give support to one who is in need.  It is about having faith that our lives matter and make a difference even in dire times when we feel helpless and lost.  Clarence, the angel, shows us that we are all connected to each other in ways we can’t begin to realize.  His parting words, “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends,” remind us that we can reach out, that we are not alone.  And, who knows; there is a good chance that we do have a guardian angel who watches over us.

Almost, Maine
By John Cariani
March 2013

When I first read aloud the play, “Almost, Maine” I could not stop laughing. The playwright, John Cariani, created characters in situations that we all have experienced. We can identify with each of them, and we come to love and care about them as the play moves through nine scenes on a dark, winter, night in a place called Almost, Maine.  The play exposes with a quirky, delightful, honesty the longing for intimacy we all want in relationships. There are ten in the cast who have given the characters life and breath. It has been a thought-provoking work to direct and much fun.

The Guys
By Anne Nelson
September 2012

Directing this work by Anne Nelson has been an act of reverence. Each word is important. Each movement is as carefully choreographed as the steps of an intricate Tango. She makes it very clear that the focus of the play is to be the firemen and not the images of the events from 9/11. It is about us and how the event transformed our sense of what was once normal into a present, new normal.

 

Working with such talented, thoughtful actors and the support of an attentive stage manager on The Guys has been a touching and deeply moving experience. Coming to rehearsals has given all of us the time and a space to step into the lives of ordinary men who gave their lives to save others on a day we Americans will never forget. I have come to know these men, to know their story, and that has been a gift, which I hope to share with you.

The Dining Room
By A.R. Gurney
March 2012

When I was at Kaiser in the waiting room to be called for a routine test I read this saying posted on the nurse’s desk, “The past is history, the future a mystery, the present a gift, that’s why it is called the present.” The Dining Room brings us into the present.

 

Every scene creates a situation where the characters grapple with values, boundaries, loss, hopes and possibilities. Although we as an audience see the scene move from different time periods in history, they are presented to us as if they exist in the present moment. The complexity of watching the play is letting go of each scene as it is played and moves on to the next. The characters change with every scene as do the situations. The only constant character in the play is the dining room, a symbol that remains on stage, and all who choose to be touched by it, receive a gift.

Sylvia
By A.R. Gurney
October 2011

I longed to produce and direct Sylvia and had to put off the desire for a long time until the space, time, a perfect cast came together before I could invite an audience to share the endless laughter we had experienced rehearsing this funny, poignant play. Many actors in the cast, Mary Jepsen, Cyndie Radford, and Kevin Fitzpatrick, had been fellow choir mates in church. We were already an ensemble of voices so the casting seemed to fall in place, yet we lacked a women to play Sylvia, the dog. After several tries at casting and frustrating disappointments I decided to put the play on hold. My dream of ever realizing producing Sylvia seemed to be just that, a dream. Yet, something kept gnawing, tugging at me to not give up. After mass one morning Anne Scott a follow theater friend who I had not seen for a decade, appeared riding her bike passed the church and I yelled out “:Hey Anne, do you know any actresses who could play a dog?” And my prayers were answered. Christina Julian joined the troupe as our top-notch dog and we were on our way to our first successful production.

  • Wix Facebook page
© 2016 Upstage Napa Valley.
UPSTAGE NAPA VALLEY

Calistoga Theater Company (dba Upstage Napa Valley) is a qualified 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.  Your gift is very much appreciated and tax deductible as a charitable contribution to the fullest extent allowed by law.