Arts & Events

For Shotgun Players, It’s Once Again a ‘Crazy January’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday January 07, 2009 - 06:33:00 PM

After a packed fall season, with their own openings and other companies’ plays at the Ashby Stage—not to mention their free Election Night party and the special New Year’s celebration that followed a performance of Macbeth—the “can-do” Shotgun Players have embarked on a “Crazy January.”  

The company is staging an updated Beowulf (including new songs with party to follow) at the Roda, one night only (tonight); a cabaret version of the same in San Francisco (tomorrow night only); another freebee “with bagels, coffee and mimosas” from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. on Inauguration Day, and an ambitious staged reading of John Barton’s epic Tantalus, which covers the House of Atreus and its backstory “almost to the Greek creation myth,” over three Wednesdays, Jan. 14, 21 and 28, a fundraiser like last year’s reading of Tom Stoppard’s Coast of Utopia. 

Plus, Mark Jackson’s fashion ramp take on The Scottish Play has been selling out; extended twice, the run is now through Feb. 1. 

“Do we really want to have another Crazy January?” Shotgun’s intrepid founder, Patrick Dooley, asked. “Production for the staged reading—and it’s not a ‘cold’ but a hot reading!—is like cramming for an exam. But it gives our audience the opportunity to see what they’d otherwise never have the chance to experience. Tantalus has been done only once before in America, at the Denver Center almost a decade ago.” 

Dooley stressed that Tantalus isn’t a rehash of Aeschylus’ trilogy. “Barton takes a lot of liberties, playing with theatrical conventions, borrowing from other plays, including Troilus and Cressida, interposing lines from one character to another—both trying to make a more sympathetic character of Agamemnon, yet showing just how brutal the male-female relations were, not sanitized, as he seems to think the translators have rendered it.” 

As for it being a staged reading, “It’s not a finished project, but there’s a finish to it,” he said. “The actors aren’t dressed in black, sitting at music stands; they’re in makeup, doing things with scarves. By the third play, there’s dancing, fights—everything you could want in a run!” 

The ticket price of $150 brings tickets to all three plays, a dramaturgical package mailed before, and “champagne, sweets and savories” at every show. 

Banana, Bag and Bodice’s musical Beowulf, A Thousan Years of Baggage was “the runaway hit” of last year. Revised, with new songs by Dave Malloy, the spectacle is on its way to New York—but first, it will be at the Roda Theatre tonight, with an afterparty where the beer and mead will flow. Rush tickets only, at the face price of $30, are available at the door; the wait list will begin when “will call” opens at 7 p.m. for an 8 p.m. show. 

On Friday, there’ll be a cabaret version of Beowulf at San Francisco’s Chez Poulet, aka Chicken John’s, a BYOB joint at 3359 Cesar Chavez (between Mission & South Van Ness), with “all the songs, dancing, full costume—and a kissing booth. But not the academic stuff!” Dave Malloy will accompany. “He has to be there,” commented Shotgun managing director Liz Lisle, “after all, he’s king.”  

Dooley said, “We just said, ‘Let’s have a party!’—and give the show a send-off—and raise more money for the Banana, Bag and Bodice folks while they’re in town.” Tickets are $20.  

The free Inauguration Party was inspired by the success of its Election Night predecessor. “We put a big screen over the Macbeth set,” Dooley recalled, “and it was packed, more people than we’ve ever had in the building. It introduced us to a lot of new people”—and a lot of people to Shotgun’s new full bar. 


For more information, call 841-6500 or see