In For a Penny: Bum-rush the Show!


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In which I listen to the offensive opinions of others and choose my battles for when to express my own.

San Francisco Theater Pub


“A wise man told me ‘Don’t argue with fools
‘Cause people from a distance can’t tell who is who’ ”
—Jay Z, “The Takeover”, The Blueprint

This past week I went to the Berkeley Rep to catch a preview performance of Jeff Augustin’s Last Tiger in Haiti. The story revolves around a group of “restaveks” (child slaves) and the stories they tell themselves to cope with the horrors of their daily lives. The first act takes place 15 years in the past, the second in present day, with the shadow of the 2010 Haitian earthquake looming large. Incidentally, this show was in production as Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti earlier this month, resulting in a death toll estimated between 1,000-1,300. As such, the curtain call features the actors asking for donations to help with relief efforts.

As I began putting on my coat, an older White man behind me…

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In For a Penny: I Die a little Inside


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In which I try in vain to balance gainful employment with artistic ambition.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Charles Lewis III, waiting to be picked.


“The problem is that those of us who are lucky enough to do work that we love are sometimes cursed with too damn much of it.”
― Terry Gross, All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists

You ever get the feeling that you’re the one kid on the playground not picked to play kickball? Never mind the fact that they actually need you in order to have an even number of players on both teams; or that you’ve been practicing by kicking pinecones and have gotten pretty good at it; or that you’ve run around the yard just to prove you can run bases. No, all that matters is that the self-appointed captains have filled each of their teams with all of their friends. They don’t even pick you last, they just don’t pick you at all.


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In For a Penny: The Numbers Game


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In which I put all the people who irk me into easy-to-remember categories.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Charles Lewis III, ranking it up.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all done it.

It should come as no surprise that as much as I detest reductive labelling in this business we call “play-acting”, I’m not above sharing in some backstage gossip during my off hours. I’m only human. I find it both a great bonding experience with theatre colleagues as well as an incredibly cathartic way for us to air all of our frustrations. And as we snipe and snark in private, away from the sensitive ears of those who’d recoil in terror if we said these things on the record, I also find it a way to learn more about Bay Area talent beyond what I’ve read off of resumes. I hear about rehearsal showmances fizzling out on opening night, actors with poor personal hygiene making backstage a biohazard, and I get to tell about the time I was kicked on stage…

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In For A Penny: Accepting New Membership


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In which I encourage people on BOTH SIDES of the “diversity” debate to think beyond mere tokenism.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Charles Lewis III, on long term goals and short term contributions.


“What is true of creed is no less true of nationality. There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, Address to the Knights of Columbus (1915)

Now that the cat’s outta the bag, I thought about following up Meg, Tonya, & Stuart’s recent entry with my own reminiscence about what the ‘Pub has meant to me and what I think will happen when it’s gone. I’m going to hold off on that for three specific reasons: 1 – with a few more months to go, it hasn’t actually ended yet; 2 – I wrote a good-bye piece the first time the ‘Pub “died”, and the new one I’m thinking of shouldn’t be repetitive (which it won’t – I’ve already started it and it’s a bit heartbreaking); and 3 – I’ve also been thinking…

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In For a Penny: Raise a Broken Glass


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In which I take a moment to toast every bad show that has burned itself onto my soul.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Charles Lewis III, celebrating the mistakes and the mistaken.

Half Baked glass

“Let’s have a toast for the douchebags
Let’s have a toast for the assholes
Let’s have a toast for the scumbags
Every one of them that I know
Let’s have a toast for the jerk-offs
That’ll never take work off”
– Kanye West, “Runaway”

Recently I was watching a review wherein the critic commented on what a colleague had recently said to him, that something “good” can be measured by its lack of anything “bad”. The critic argued – and I’m inclined to agree – that “good” should be measured by “the presence of a defined positive, not the lack of a specific negative”. After all, how many times has each of us eaten a meal, taken a ride, or experienced a piece of art that was by no means bad, per se – there was nothing to make you swear…

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In For A Penny: Oh yeah, THAT thing


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In which I suddenly remember I have an audition, but refuse to lose any sleep over it.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Charles Lewis III, getting his audition on. 

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“Don’t worry about the future… or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum.”
– Baz Luhrmann & Lee Perry, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”

It always sneaks up on you. Between jotting down ideas for personal projects, prepping for this year’s Olympians, doing numerous on-camera jobs, jumping from one job interview to the next, and waiting for rehearsal schedules on a few major projects later in the year, it came as a bit of a surprise to remember I have an audition this Saturday.

When I did recall, it was almost as if I’d been handed someone else’s schedule and I wanted to find them to let them know they have an important appointment coming up. But, sure enough, it’s my appointment and a subtle reminder that I’m not yet high enough…

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In For a Penny: Dead Men tell No Tales


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I’m writing a play about death, so guess what’s been on my mind lately?

ALSO, you’ve got two days to contribute to this year’s Olympians Fest:

San Francisco Theater Pub

Charles Lewis contemplates the Great Beyond.

“Death Found an Author Writing His Life” (1827) by E. Hull “Death Found an Author Writing His Life” (1827) by E. Hull

“I’ve got my own life to live
I’m the one that’s going to have to die
When it’s time for me to die
So let me live my life the way I want to”
– Jimi Hendrix, “If 6 was 9”, Axis: Bold as Love

Funny thing about writing a play about death: it makes you think a lot about dying. Who knew? And if you want to get technical, the play in question isn’t actually about death, but the lack thereof. Let me explain…

I’m writing the Opening Night Party play for this year’s SF Olympians Festival. You may or may not recall that last year I occasionally dedicated this column to exploring the development process of said festival. If so, you may also recall that my final entry, “A Pre-Post-Mortem”, attempted…

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In For a Penny: You Won’t be Namin’ no Buildings after Me


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In which I try to take a break from recent politics to ponder the relationship between US presidents and theatre.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Charles Lewis casts his vote from the front row.

US presidents don't have the best history with theatre. US presidents don’t have the best history with theatre.

“To live means to finesse the processes to which one is subjugated.”
– Bertolt Brecht, On Politics and Society (1941)

I needed a distraction.

It wasn’t just my incessant hunt for a “real people” job, it wasn’t just my putting serious attention towards my Olympians script, it wasn’t just my anger over Alton Sterling and Philando Castile winding up the latest casualties of racist White cops when their only “crime” was being Black in public. It wasn’t just any of those things, it was all of that and more.

I needed something to clear my head yesterday, so my attempt to escape politics lead me to the Playbill site. Incidentally, my eye was caught by a quick mention of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton attending her second performance of the now-Pulitzer-and-Tony-winning musical Hamilton

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In For a Penny: Playground Rules


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In light of a recent theatre exposé, I reflect on why consent and safety should never be regarded as merely “options”.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Charles Lewis III, a perspective on perspective.

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“[W]hat is it that constrains the individual to fear his neighbor, to think and act like a member of a herd, and to have no joy in himself?”
– Friedrich Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

I think it’s safe to say at this point that every theatre person I know took some time out last week to read the Chicago Reader’s exposé on Profiles Theatre. (In the days that followed, Profiles’ AD Darrell Cox released a response statement on the theatre’s official Facebook page, but as of this writing, all of the theatre’s social media channels are shut down. Their official site contains only a statement that the theatre has permanently closed its doors.) If you’re anything like me, the article probably got you thinking. Not just about the stories of the people mentioned in the article, but thinking about your own theatre history.

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In For a Penny: Mid-Year Intermission


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In which I use the mid-year month to ponder getting comped for shows, self-censorship, and bringing shows to those who can’t be in the audience.

San Francisco Theater Pub

Charles Lewis III, keeping it together and taking stock.


“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
– Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

So far this isn’t necessarily my favorite year, but it’s been busy nonetheless. Between a full-length show in which my character had the most dialogue, a stint in ShortLived, acting in two Theater Pub shows, and lots of on-camera work I can’t even remember, I should be relaxing. Instead I’m thinking about this evening’s rehearsal for a show that opens in just over a week. Besides, my way of decompressing at the start of summer is to just let my mind run in a million different directions at once. Like so:

Free Lunch

Over the weekend I took advantage of having some time off to see a great show before it closed. It was a last-minute decision and thankfully there were a few…

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