congratulations to jason

January 20, 2009

Lighting Designer Jason Bieber received a Patte Award for Theatre Excellence tonight for his design in Mo`olelo’s production of Night Sky. Congratulations to Jason!

photo-sio-and-jason
Jason with Night Sky Director Siobhan Sullivan

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survey says…

November 23, 2008

We received the surveys from the students at High Tech High International who participated in Mo`olelo’s Three Part Arts Education Outreach Program for NIGHT SKY. Three Part Arts is Mo`olelo’s unique education program that includes: Part One: a pre-show prep visit by the leading actor to the students’ classroom, followed by Part Two: the students’ fieldtrip to the theater to see the play (they see the exact same play that our general public sees — actors aren’t switched out, there is no dumbing down nor cutting of the script); and Part Three: a post-show workshop. For NIGHT SKY the teachers selected either a theater post-show workshop facilitated by the leading actor of the play, or a science and disability awareness post-show workshop that was developed by Mo`olelo, the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation, Sharp Health Care Rehabilitation Services, and Disability Awareness Network. High Tech High International selected the science and disability awareness post-show workshop. Here are some of their remarks from their surveys:

I liked how real the play was. I think the actors conveyed the emotions and real life situations very well. The workshop also added to this realism and was highly emotional. I enjoyed it very much.

I originally was never interested in theatre, but this play changed my perspective.

I learned that the power of words is huge. Words have a lot more meaning when they come from the heart. I can relate this to my english class because we are working with words and getting our messages passed.

I liked the fact that brain injury survivors came in to let us know about their experiences and teach us that words are important.

I learned a lot. I’ve never been educated on brain injuries and the effects of them. It’s important that people are educated on this topic.

From the play, I loved the emotion that was shown from every character. The workshop was very thorough in helping clarify any questions that I might have had. It made me want to be part of theatre as well as make me want to express myself the same way.

It was engaging even though it was educational! Great job, great program.

the week after

October 1, 2008

The week after we close a show is full of paperwork. The past few days we’ve been:

writing the NIGHT SKY project report…
…writing grant evaluation reports…
…sending sponsor thank yous…
…running post-show workshops at schools….
…drafting the next Newsletter…
… and starting the process all over for the next show…

whew.

1,938

September 22, 2008

Thank you to everyone who saw Night Sky. We’ll be wrapping up all the numbers and totals over this week, but the preliminary report shows that 1,938 people saw the show!

Following the closing performance yesterday, Elaine Hiel presented Mo`olelo with her matching challenge donation and then we loaded out the costumes, props, and set.

Today, we’re all recovering…

pat’s review

September 21, 2008

From the Diva of Drama, Pat Launer:

http://www.dalemorris.net/Curtain%20Calls.htm

SAN DIEGO THEATRE SCENE


“CURTAIN CALLS” #256

By Pat Launer

www.sdtheatrescene.com

09/18/08

 The Night Sky is dark and big:
No Exit for a Good Body – or a Fat Pig.

Star-Struck 

THE SHOW: Night Sky, the 1990 drama by New York playwright/novelist/librettist Susan Yankowitz, whose provocative works, A Knife in the Heart, Phaedra in Delirium ,Terminal  and Foreign Bodies, have been seen in San Diego. This is the first production of the first small theater residence at La Jolla Playhouse; Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company was a wise first choice, as they are masterful at attracting new audiences. In this case, they partnered with the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation, which helped to sell out the run almost before it began.  

THE BACKSTORY: Yankowitz was a long-time collaborator of legendary theatermaker Joseph Chaikin. When Chaikin had a stroke during his third open-heart surgery, he became aphasic, losing his ability to string words together. When I met and interviewed him some years ago (he died in 2003), having worked with many aphasics in my prior career, I was struck by his ability to be profound and articulate even when reduced to single-word utterances. Most folks in that state merely deal with the day-to-day minutia. But Chaikin had an amazing ability to be both philosophical comprehensible. At some point, he asked Yankowitz to write a play about aphasia, with a female astronomer at its centter. Yankowitz obliged, and Chaikin directed the first production. 

THE STORY: Anna is a brilliant, fast-talking, self-absorbed astronomer. After an argument with her pre-teen daughter and another with her boyfriend, an aspiring but as-yet unsuccessful opera singer, she slams out of the house and gets hit by a car. The accident results in aphasia, a loss of speech and language due to brain injury. The mysteries of the mind are juxtaposed with the mysteries of the universe; both are filled with black holes. Anna struggles to regain the most human of all traits: communication. Her extreme frustration is only matched or exceeded by that of her family. Her colleague, who takes over her college courses, represents those who can view the sky, but not the folks down below; he avoids seeing her for a long time after the accident. Sarah is both indomitable and incorrigible. And all she wants to do is present her paper at a major international astronomy conference. 

The play has beautiful language and images; multiple references to stars, skies, understanding and communication foreshadow the disaster to come. Yankowitz paints a deeply felt, realistic portrait of the fears and disappointments inherent in the painfully slow process of regaining speech and language skills. The astronomy information, dispensed as class lectures, is a tad more simplistic, but Yankowitz uses it effectively to make her cosmic points.  

THE PLAYERS/THE PRODUCTION: The production superbly supports the play; like Anna’s speech, it’s stripped down to the bare essentials. David F. Weiner put stairways on the ground and ‘stars’ in the heavens (above the playing space and the audience). A little perilous, but very effective, and skillfully lit by Jason Bieber. Jeannie Galioto’s costumes look fine. And director Siobhan Sullivan brings texture and nuance to the piece. 

Adorable Bibi Valderrama, age 11, is convincing (if a tad young) as Jennifer, a pouty pre-adolescent who’s had it with her mother’s self-involvement even before the accident. Justin Snavely is the other astronomer, giving us rock-bottom basic lectures that provide background and analogues. His awkwardness when he finally does visit Anna is extremely well played. Nicole Gabriella Scipione plays a variety of women, both tough and tender — doctors, therapists and others who help (or hinder) Anna’s relentless quest for perfection (though she’s forced to settle for improvement). Along with Brian Mackey, who portrays a patient with a different type of aphasia (more fluent), they form a kind of Greek chorus, not as much commenting on the action as representing the views and opinions of the community. Mackey’s annoyance with the infantile literature he’s forced to read provides another poignant moment in the drama.  (Pictured: Bibi and Pat – Photo Randy Rovang)

Tom Andrew is marvelous as the loving, faithful but guilty boyfriend, trying to hold onto his hat (and his relationship and sanity) on the emotional rollercoaster ride of this trying journey. But ultimately, the piece belongs to Seema Sueko. Though she’s not wholly credible as the accomplished, hyperverbal astronomer at the outset, her struggles to communicate are gut-wrenching, the contortions of her face and the flailing of her hands painful to watch. It’s a commanding performance, that teaches us a lot, and in the process, breaks our hearts. 

THE LOCATION: The Mandell Weiss Forum Studio Theatre at La Jolla Playhouse, through September 21

alice’s review

September 20, 2008

San Diego Theatre Scene Teen Perspective

by Alice Cash

http://www.dalemorris.net/

9-16-08

With the creation of the new Residency Program at the La Jolla playhouse, Artistic Director Christopher Ashley certainly chose the right company to push the limits on theatre.  Mo’Olelo, created by Seema Sueko will perform two shows in residence this year.  Their first piece, Night Sky, opened this week.

Personally, my favorite style of theatre, experimental, Sueko pushes the barriers of commonplace theatre down, astounding the audience and performers alike.  This experimental touch brings to life shows one would never think of before in new and exciting ways.  Night Sky captures this essence completely creating absolute silence after the show.  Coming to a student matinee of rowdy teenagers, they were completely still after the show, not moving or talking, stunned into silence.  And that’s how I felt too, stunned by this piece of work.

For you AP Psychology students, this is your type of show!  It definitely helped me study for my test later that week.  The story is about a professor of the Stars who gets into a bad car accident.  Her left-brain is no longer functioning, thus all of her language skills from writing to speaking are gone.  The play deals with how society treats her after this accident occurs.  But the fantastic part of this performance isn’t the story, it is the way the story was put together, and how creative the interpretation of this tale was.

With Sueko in the leading role, there was not a doubt that the show would be bad.  This multi-talented woman left your heart feeling wrenched by this gushing piece.  Opposite Sueko was Tom Andrew as her husband, an opera singer with a bit of a temper and the grown up Bibi Valderrama (she was Tiny Tim many years ago) as their middle-school daughter.  Also in the killer ensemble were Nicole Gabriella Scipione, Justin Snavely, and Brian Mackey.  Coming to life at certain points in the story and freezing at other, they were mostly all on stage the whole time.  Going about their work but always totally believable.

David F. Weiner designed the set, rising high up into the sky a layer of stairways, collapsing with open spots to see through them.  Paul Peterson designed the ominous sound with pulsating rhythms like the starlight above with stars and lights hanging all over the theatre plunging the audience into the scene designed by Jason Bieber.  Jeannie Marie Galioto designed costumes. 

Directed by Siobhan Sullivan, Night Sky is sure to stagger you into the different ideals theatre can explore.  Sullivan’s directing is incredible from all the little things she put into it like a balloon exploding showcasing the big bang theory and the stage pictures of the piece, I can’t wait to see what is up next in her career.  If you want to see Night Sky, act fast, because rumor has it that there are only four tickets left for Mo’Oleo’s entire season!  This is a play for teens and adults. I am even insisting that my mother attends this show.  She normally doesn’t come with me, but I will make sure she gets over to this one!  You can go online to www.moolelo.net or call (619) 342-7395 for more information!  It plays through September 21st.

student matinees

September 19, 2008

We just completed our last student matinee of Night Sky today. This year, students from High Tech High International, Montgomery High, Mar Vista High, KIPP Adelante school, and Hoover High participated in our 3-part arts program. Part one was a pre-show prep visit to the classroom by Mo`olelo’s Artistic Director Seema; part two was a fieldtrip for the students to see the play; and part three was either a theater or a science post-show workshop.

It’s always so interesting to see how students respond to our shows. Today’s Hoover audience was crying, laughing and cheering with the on stage action — it was wonderful.

The students often pick up on things that our adult audiences may not. For example, there’s a point in the play when Daniel calls Anna a ‘bitch’ and Anna then calls Daniel a ‘loser.’ The adult audiences respond more strongly to Daniel being called a loser, while the students respond strongly to Anna being called a bitch. It makes me wonder if somewhere between high school and ‘real life’ it somehow has become ok — or less shocking — to call a woman a bitch…. and if that’s the case, it’s so sad.

I always learn so much from the students.

another review

September 16, 2008

San Diego Jewish World
http://jewishsightseeing.com/2008-SDJW-Quarter%204/20080912-jewish-friday220.html#davis

Night Sky audience experiences aphasia                                 

By Carol Davis

LA JOLLA, California—When Susan Yankowitz was 12 she won a writing competition in a weekly Jewish news publication in her hometown of Newark, N.J. The article that talked about prejudice won her a $10.00 note. She still has it pasted in a scrapbook as a reminder. Yankowitz is a well-known playwright, lyricist and novelist who graduated Sarah Lawrence College and Yale School of Drama. As a member of Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre Group she authored Night Sky which was first produced in 1991 and directed by Chaikin. It has been produced all over the world and translated into five languages including Hebrew.  (Lehigh U. Story)

Four years ago Seema Sueko formed Mo’Olelo (it means story) Performing Arts Company. Seema, whose talents embrace acting, directing, producing, writing as well as co founding the company that is now mounting Yankowitz’s play, Night Sky directed by Siobhan Sullivan. It is at the La Jolla Playhouse in the inaugural season of the Playhouses Resident Theatre Company Program in The Studio Theatre (a little black box space in back of the Mandell Weiss Forum) and is one force to be reckoned with.

Seema’s company’s mission is to ‘create new theatrical works based on research within various communities… to broaden the scope of San Diego’s cultural environment by producing professional, socially conscious theatre and innovative arts education programs that provide greater representation of diverse voices, aesthetics and issues on stage…Past productions include A Piece of my Heart and The Adoption Project: Triad

When artistic director, Chris Ashley, of the La Jolla Playhouse launched this new initiative of providing a temporary home to theatre companies without permanent homes, Mo’Olelo’s mission and past productions were a perfect fit for it to be the first company to be chosen for the job. Her company was one of nine applicants from local groups who had applied for this opportunity. It’s a good match and the year’s residency will benefit both theatres.

In many productions, Seema makes her audiences think, feel and get involved. Night Sky is no exception. Dedicated to board member Elaine Hiel’s late husband Joe, who suffered from a stroke in his forties and loved words and the theatre, Night Sky is a perfect vehicle to force audiences to see how fragile the brain is and to understand that just because someone can’t articulate doesn’t mean they are stupid.  

The main character in Yankowitz’s play, Anna, (Seema) also suffered severe brain injuries due to an automobile accident, and became aphasic. She too was very verbal in her own work, spoke with brilliance and clarity and understood to the nth degree the order of the universe.

Yankowitz’s play reaches out not only to adults who suffered from strokes but anyone suffering from damage to the brain from head injuries, complications at birth and especially to the hundreds of young soldiers and their families who have and will be returning home with serious brain injuries.

How we deal with that and exactly what it looks like, is tackled in Night Sky and while scenes and images get tangled, crossed and mix, one has an idea of what Anna’s mind and thought process might be going through at the same time.

No easy task, this, but Night Sky is an important piece that needs to be seen, flaws and all. The play opens with Anna (Sueko) a brilliant astronomy professor who delights in her lectures and is not shy about sharing her knowledge to her college students. There is no question she is revered in her community and by her colleagues. She is preparing an important paper for an upcoming astronomy seminar at which she plans to attend present her thesis.

At home however, things aren’t as rosy. Her long time live in, Daniel, (Tom Andrew) is an opera singer down on his luck and her teenage daughter Jennifer (Bibi Valderrama) is well, a teenager with all the baggage that goes along with being a teenager. When Anna returns home from her regular class session all appears well, happy, lovey-dovey, but the cracks begin to show early on and in a fit of temper, Anna rushes out of the house to escape the discordant (unlike her universe) and noisy atmosphere at home.

Headlights glaring! Darkness! And then we hear the horrific crash (Paul Peterson, sound design and Jason Bieber, lighting)) of an automobile.

Life as Anna and her family knew it would never be the same. When Anna wakes in the hospital and begins her slow recovery, she finds that words, her most precious asset come out of her mouth in a mumbo jumbo disorganized stream of consciousness quite different from the astrological and neat world of her own center. While the words are there, they have trouble organizing into a cohesive collection.

Anna is suffering from damage to the brain clinically referred to as aphasia. (a-pha-sia n the partial or total inability to produce and understand speech as a result of brain damage caused by injury or disease).

Anna’s life and those around her go from order to disorder as fast as a shooting star descends the heavens. In the scenes that follow the audience is taken through all the phases of whatever recovery Anna may make. Those include not only her pain and agony of watching her family come to grips with the fact that the center of their world is now spinning out of control, but struggling to face her own limitations as well. 

It also means that the two most important people, the two whose spheres revolved around her in the past are now her life support. Her window to the outside depends on their recovery and understanding as well.  To say that that puts enormous strain on an already fragile family is an understatement.

Outstanding in his portrayal of Daniel, Anna’s true love, Tom Andrew gives a most compelling performance going from brow beaten loser of a breadwinner to outrage. He finds himself unable to cope with the job of being Anna’s words as well as her cheerleader and healer. While I’m no expert on this subject, Andrew’s role proved to be most telling about the frustrations and agony family members must go through; keeping a stiff upper lip while feeling inadequate in coming to grips with the magnitude of the situation. He does that with a free range of emotions most believable in all situations put to him. 

Bibi Valderrama as Anna’s daughter Jennifer, comes on strong as the spoiled teenager while still showing vulnerability as she copes with both her mother’s disability and her coming of age, first dates and how to act at a school dance she doesn’t really want to attend. She’s too young (11) for the part, but does show signs of that teenage attitude so many of us have lived through without having to deal with aphasia!

As Anna, Seema walks a fine line between coming on as too loud and overbearing She is a powerful woman astronomer, head of household and center of her own universe who clearly doesn’t have enough time in her life to sincerely give a damn about anyone else’s life but her own, to being able to finally agree to getting help from the strength and backbone of her family.

This is something she would never consider in the past and is a monumental breakthrough for everyone. Now she has all the time, after her therapy treatments to actually listen and learn from Daniel and Jennifer in a way she never had before the accident.

It’s a touching revelation that softens Anna (Seema) and makes her more real. As a talented and committed actor Seema slowly discloses the other side of Anna. She also convinces that underneath all the bravado of a brilliant career woman is the vulnerability and strength of a woman who, even though she cannot communicate as she once had, has the willingness and determination to learn all over again. It’s a touching and compelling moment.

Excellent support comes from Nicole Gabriella Scipione as the therapist and other women. It is through her explanations, as a medical expert, to the audience in describing what happens to the injured brain that we learn about aphasia. Brian Makey is another aphasic patient in the learning process of reading again and Justin Snavely is Bill, Anna’s colleague who might know a lot about astronomy but doesn’t get Anna’s illness.

Both the Playhouse and Mo’Olelo are to be congratulated for this joint effort.

Night Sky will continue through Sept. 21st. See you at the theatre.

http://jewishsightseeing.com/2008-SDJW-Quarter%204/20080912-jewish-friday220.html#davis

another review…

September 12, 2008

Check out Jean Lowerison’s review of Night Sky in the Gay and Lesbian Times:

http://www.gaylesbiantimes.com/?id=13037

Of words (too few and too many) and the birth of rock ‘n’ roll
Published Thursday, 11-Sep-2008 in issue 1081
‘Night Sky’
Astronomer and professor Anna (Seema Sueko) lectures about the mysteries of the universe, asking students to consider why planets spin, how many universes there are and the existence of black holes (“If a black hole is truly black, and if it really is a hole, how can we be sure it’s there?”).
Anna’s self-absorbed life is busy, stimulating, even chaotic as she tries to handle her job, the moodiness of teenage daughter Jennifer (Bibi Valderrama) and her relationship with live-in lover and budding opera singer Daniel (Tom Andrew).
One night, communication problems with Jen and an argument with Daniel cause her to storm out of the house; minutes later, a traffic accident leaves her with a brain injury and robs her of her means of livelihood and, indeed, selfhood: words. She is aphasic, “Anna Aphasia” as she comes to call herself, unable to access the words that have made her who she is.
Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company presents Susan Yankowitz’s Night Sky through Sept. 21 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Forum Studio Theatre. Siobhan Sullivan directs on David F. Weiner’s splendid set featuring Anna’s living room flanked by two “stairways to the stars” – multilevel steps and platforms connected by a middle platform, where the various scenes play out. Overhead the stars twinkle.
Sueko anchors the show with a heartbreaking performance as Anna, struggling to break through her silent shell. Frustration, longing, disappointment play over her face as she is forced back to the beginning to learn words and associations. Still, there is humor as she calls a computer a “confuser,” names love “glue” and describes her situation as “elephants on tongue.” And there is actual joy when she gets something right. But the road is long and slow.
Meanwhile, Daniel is forced into dual unfamiliar roles: father, trying to teach the bewildered Jen how to talk to her mother; and caretaker, which demands more of him than he feels able to give, especially when she berates him for acting as interpreter for a journalist who wants to write a story about her. Andrew captures the touchy situation of the caregiver, looking for the line that must not be crossed between enough help and too much.
Valderrama portrays a typical teenager well enough, but needs to slow down: she talks too fast not only for her mother but for this audience member.
Also in Anna’s life are the patient speech therapist (Nicole Gabriella Scipione), another aphasia victim (Brian Mackey) and Anna’s colleague Bill (Justin Snavely).
Scipione and Mackey are convincing in their functional rather than dramatic roles; Snavely’s Bill may induce a few guilt pangs, representing friends who postpone visiting out of fear of not knowing what to say.
Statistics tell us that about one million people in the United States are afflicted with aphasia. Yankowitz wrote Night Sky at the request of director Joseph Chaikin, who has continued to work after a stroke rendered him aphasic in 1984. Chaikin also suggested the central character be an astronomer.
Anyone who has known someone with a long-term problem such as aphasia, dementia or Alzheimer’s will identify with the hopes, fears and frustrations of Yankowitz’s characters. Night Sky reminds us both “what a piece of work is man” and how close we all are to falling into a black hole that could rob us of ourselves.
Mo’olelo scores with this thoughtful piece.
Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company’s production of Night Sky plays through Sept. 21 at the Mandell Weiss Forum Studio Theatre. Shows Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m. For tickets call 619-342-7395 or visit www.moolelo.net.

SOLD OUT!

September 11, 2008

We’ve got good news and bad news! The good news is that the remaining performances of Night Sky are all sold out! The bad news is that the remaining performances of Night Sky are all sold out.

If you missed your chance to purchase an advance ticket, we do welcome stand-bys. In the event that we have a no-show, we’ll do everything we can to get the stand-bys in. Many of the tickets have been bought by groups, and they often do have a few no-shows. So, while we can’t guarantee you a ticket, the chances look good for stand-bys.

To be a stand-by, simply show up at the theater about 60 minutes prior to the performance time and put your name on the stand-by list. Show times are listed on our website www.moolelo.net, click on Tickets, and here are directions to the theater:

***HOT TIP ADDED 9/17/08*** Your best bet this week to get in as a standby is probably Friday, September 19. Show starts at 7:30 PM – standbys should arrive around 6:30 or 6:45 PM.

Directions and Parking for

Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company

at The Mandell Weiss Forum Studio Theatre at

La Jolla Playhouse

 

Please give yourself plenty of time to park and locate the theater. Plan on arriving at least 15 to 20 minutes before the performance.  Ask an usher to point you in the direction of Night Sky at the Mandell Weiss FORUM STUDIO Theatre (not the Mandell Weiss Theater).

 

The main entrance to the Mandell Weiss Forum Studio Theatre is on the Scholar’s Drive South , which is on the north side of the Mandell Weiss Forum Studio building.

PARKING

 

Please park in lots P102 or P103.  Parking is free on the weekends.  Parking is $2 (subject to change), Monday-Friday.

 

  1. Upon arrival to campus, simply park your car in lot P102 or P103.
  2. Note your parking space number.
  3. Purchase your parking permit from one of the automated pay stations located next to the information kiosk.
  4. Enter your parking space number and provide your payment. Pay stations accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express or cash ($1 and $5), and do not give change.
  5. You do not need to return to your car to display your parking receipt. 

 

Cars without permits are subject to ticketing by UCSD Campus Police. If you receive a ticket while at a Playhouse performance, please contact the UCSD Transportation and Parking Services.


Unfortunately, Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company and  La Jolla Playhouse have no connection with the Parking Office and do not have the authority to waive parking tickets. Please be assured that we are always striving for the best possible service for our patrons, and are looking for additional parking solutions in the future.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS

FROM SAN DIEGO DOWNTOWN:

·         Take Interstate 5 North to La Jolla Village Drive exit.

·         At the end of the exit ramp is a traffic light. Make a left turn at that light onto La Jolla Village Drive.

·         Stay on La Jolla Village Drive for 5 lights.

·         The 5th light is Revelle College Drive, the Revelle Entrance of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Make a right turn onto Revelle College Drive, and stay on it for 40 yards. The Box Office, the Administrative Offices and La Jolla Playhouse’s three theaters, the Mandell Weiss Theatre, the Mandell Weiss Forum and the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre are on the right. Parking is on the left (lot P102), parking is also available in lot P103.

FROM NORTH COUNTY/ORANGE COUNTY/LOS ANGELES:

·         Take Interstate 5 South to La Jolla Village Drive exit.

·         At the end of  the exit ramp is a traffic light.  Make a right turn at that light onto La Jolla Village Drive.

·         Stay on La Jolla Village Drive for 4 lights.

·         The 4th light is Revelle College Drive, the Revelle Entrance of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Make a right turn onto Revelle College Drive and stay on it for 40 yards. The Box Office, the Administrative Offices and La Jolla Playhouse’s three theaters, the Mandell Weiss Theatre, the Mandell Weiss Forum and the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre are on the right. Parking is on the left (lot P102), parking is also available in lot P103.

BUS ROUTES
La Jolla Playhouse is conveniently located on MTS Bus Route 30 (weekdays)
and Route 41 (Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays)