San Francisco, CA, USA – San Francisco Playhouse continued its series of “Zoomlets” with Katja Rivera, Director of Theatre First, directing a free reading of the short play “Perfect Numbers” by Diana Burbano. This brilliant playlet is a lively metaphorical debate- about which numbers are “the best,” how numbers taste, and and other matters of life- between an unsheltered woman and an octopus who has escaped from the aquarium and come up through a storm drain.
“The prompt was ‘anthropomorphism,’ that is making something human which is not human,” Rivera explained when prompted to give background to the reading. “I love this play. I love Diana’s (Burbano) work.” Especially poignant for this viewer were lines that served to show how an octopus and an unsheltered woman could bond over various aspects of their individual plights:
“Maxine” (the human being) to “Octavia” (the octopus): “Homeless folk are invisible… It’s easier not to see us. If they could see us, we would be harder to do things to us- like spray us with water.”
“Octavia” to “Maxine”: “I can almost get invisible. Watch.” Octavia camouflages herself.
Or— was it the other way around? Rhetorical question, as to this play, that. However, in real life…?
“The dialogue is just superb,” San Francisco Playhouse co-founder and Artistic Director Bill English shared. “It’s funny and the characters are so good. The actors captured the eloquence of the octopus, too.” Per San Francisco Playhouse custom, English chose the play and the director, and then the work of finding the cast fell to the director. Rivera chose for “Maxine,” a character she describes as “fiercely intelligent,” Stacy Ross. “Stacy was the first person who came to my mind,” Rivera shared. “I don’t know if she is smart (referring to the character’s potential savant aspects), but she can act smart,” she quipped. For “Octavia,” Rivera chose Michelle Talgarow. “Michelle has a wonderful kinesthetic approach to theater,” she shared, “and because if we were doing this in a theater, I’d love to see how she brings to life an octopus on stage. I know it would be very, very cool.”
Diana Burbano is a Colombian immigrant, an Equity actor, a playwright and a teaching artist at South Coast Repertory and Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble. Her written work includes: Policarpa, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Brown Swan lab 2017, Drama League Rough Draft series May 2017, Honorable Mention, Jane Chambers Award 2017, Parsnip Ship 2017 Fabulous Monsters, Festival51 2016 winner, about women in Punk Rock, Picture me Rollin’ (featured at the 35th annual William Inge Festival and Inkfest at 2cents.), Silueta (about the Cuban artist Ana Mendieta), with Tom and Chris Shelton, and the TYA Shakespeare mash-up, Caliban’s Island winner 2017Headwaters New Play Festival at Creede Repertory (published by YouthPLAYS). Burbano wrote Libertadoras, Vamping and Linda for the 365 Women a Year project and have been performed around the world, with Linda featured in more that 20 festivals over the last year, including Center Theatre Group’s community library series. Her short play Rounds Per Second is in Smith and Kraus’s 5-minute play anthology. She is currently writing material for Center Theatre Group’s Chisme y Queso series, for Rogue Artists Plummer Park project and for Kaiser Permanente’s Educational touring show.
Burbano has also been a working actor since leaving the Professional Actors Conservatory in 1991. She originated the roles of Ama de Casa in the Spanish version of Menopause the Musical, Thumb in Imagine, and Holo-1 in the Labors of Hercules. She recently played Ana Guerrero in Jose Cruz Gonzales’ Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy Dialogue/Dialogos project at South Coast Repertory. TV includes The People vs OJ Simpson, Cold Case, and Betas. *
Michelle Talgarow’s recent performance credits include The Fit at San Francisco Playhouse, Vietgone, A Good Neighbor, and Two Mile Hollow She is a member of Mugwumpin and Shotgun Players (coordinating Champagne Staged Reading Series). She’s also involved with The Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, Central Works, Impact Theatre, Cutting Ball Theatre, Magic Theatre, and Bindlestiff Studios.
Stacy Ross‘ work includes Leni (Aurora Theater), Much Ado About Nothing (Cal Shakes), Any Given Day (Magic Theatre), Bull in a China Shop (Aurora Theater), They Promised Her the Moon (Palo Alto Community Theater), and more.
“Zoomlets” had been a wonderful way to spend a Monday night “in.” Live readings for Showtime began at 7:00pm Pacfici, with doors open virtually at 6:45pm. The Readings were free to the public, however prior registration was required for access to the livestream.
However, now that the series has been archived, the “Zoomlets” can be accessed on demand- free of charge- via just one click on the San Francisco Playhouse web site. And donations, of course, are gratefully accepted.
As generous “Empathy Gym” San Francisco Playhouse aptly reminds: “Our programming throughout the Coronavirus crisis is only possible because of the incredible support of our community. Since we closed our doors in March (2020), hundreds of patrons have stepped up to ensure that our ghost light remains on. Thanks to people like you, we are able to
-Pay more than a dozen full-time staff members and artists
-Keep 13 playwrights on commission, writing the plays of the future
-Maintain our lease on our theatre and rehearsal spaces
-Prepare for the day that we will welcome you into our theatre again.”
For something decidedly different- and quite wonderful- check here
*Taken from playwright’s web site.
©2021 Michele Caprario – Photos by author, used with permission of San Francisco Playhouse.