Director Susan Myer Silton returns with a new—and funny—endeavor
She’s back. After a year-long sabbatical, revered local theater director Susan Myer Silton is back in the director’s chair, and this time around, she’s ratcheting everything up several notches. And that’s a hard feat, considering that Myer Silton is the co-founder and artistic director of the popular and edgy Pisces Moon theater company that for years has been turning out stellar dramatic work. But with her new play, “Clouds,” produced by Jewel Theatre of San Jose, Myer Silton is indeed upping the ante. This time around, she’s working with an equity company, and staging a play that’s using some equity actors, and in addition, she’ll play only the role of director this time. No longer does she have to write the grants, hire the lighting guy and so on. Her skills are purely focused on one thing—directing “Clouds,” which opens on Sept. 16 at the Broadway Playhouse in Santa Cruz.
For our town, this is a novelty. Besides Shakespeare Santa Cruz, there is no other equity theater company in town. Expect big things out of this production, as “Clouds” will take professional theater to a new level in Santa Cruz, and it also introduces Myer Silton in a new role as a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.
“Equity is a stage actors and stage managers union,” Myer Silton explains of the status of the company she’s working with. “Most actors gain Equity status by accumulating points through working at an Equity theater that offers the Equity Membership Candidate program, which means the actor gains professional experience in a professional setting. … On the other hand, there are brilliant actors of high expertise who never joined Equity, with whom I have had the privilege of working.”
That combination of actors are joining together as her cast in “Clouds,” and they include Yahel Townsend, a non-Equity local actor who has worked extensively with Myer Silton in the past; Jake Vincent, a Bay Area actor who is pursuing Equity membership by way of accumulating points; Julie James, artistic director of Jewel Theatre, who is also a local Equity actor; and Shaun Carroll, an Equity actor who is often on the road, traveling from show to show.
Myer Silton met James, the company’s artistic director, several years ago when Jewel Theatre was renting space for a performance at the Broadway Playhouse. “I always thought to myself, ‘If I was not a social justice theater company (Pisces Moon), I would do what she’s doing,’” Myer Silton says of James’ work. “Jewel has a year-round season, and they offer a full and varied theater repertoire, from familiar plays to original never-performed works, to contemporary plays—they did ‘Doubt’ last season—and musicals.”
James approached Myer Silton to direct “Clouds” this September, and when Myer Silton read the script, she says she loved it. “It was very well written and the dialogue just pops. It’s absolutely truthful to the dynamic between men and women, and has a cast of five, and two people of color in it. I liked how intelligently written it was, and its theme of perception.”
According to Myer Silton, the play is about, “Two English writers, Owen and Mara, who have come to Cuba in 1969 to write about the country and how it has changed in the 10 years since the Revolution. … They discover they are on assignment from rival Sunday newspaper supplements, and that there will be another writer in their sightseeing tour: Ed. … The other characters are Angel, a Cuban diplomat who acts as their tour guide and Hilberto, their Afro-Cuban driver. … It’s a comedy that finds all the satire in government-sponsored trips, and all the absurdity of professional as well as sexual rivalry. … What’s it’s really about, however, is the differing ways we perceive things, which is symbolized throughout the play by clouds: ephemeral shape-shifters upon which we project our subjective impressions.”
For Myer Silton, this is something of new territory to direct a comedy. The last comedic show that she put up was “Psycho Beach Party” in 2004. “Many of the plays I’ve directed with Pisces Moon had social justice themes. ‘Clouds’ just happens to insert social commentary and philosophy into a very funny wrapper, so it’s sneaky that way.”
Jewel Theatre and director Susan Myer Silton will team up for a production of the play, “Clouds,” which runs Sept. 16-26 at the Broadway Playhouse, 626 Broadway, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $22-$27.50. For more information visit jeweltheatre.net or call 454-1143.