Curtain Calls: ‘Steel Magnolias’ coming to Old Town Pittsburg next month

Pittsburg Theatre Company is busy readying Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias” for its September Black Box series. Terry Tracy directs this heartwarming yet bittersweet story. Set in the 1980s, the action takes place in Truvy’s beauty salon, where the ladies of the neighborhood gather for gossip and fun but with the strength to comfort each other when loss strikes.

Juhandryn Dessames plays the wise-cracking Truvy with Rachel McElroy her eager-to-please new assistant. Tina Smith has the role of Ouiser, the town’s curmudgeon, with Sandy Wright as the sports-loving former mayor’s wife, Miss Clairee. Kim Saunders has the pivotal role of M’Lynn, whose daughter Shelby is played by Sophia Amador.

“Steel Magnolias” plays Sept. 16-25 in Steeltown Coffee and Tea at 695 Railroad Ave. in Old Town Pittsburg. Seating is limited. Call 925-439-PLAY or go online to ptcca.org/tickets.

Orinda: California Shakespeare Theater’s closing show of the 2022 season, “Lear,” is also a bittersweet affair. While it marks another creatively innovative production managed by Artistic Director Eric Ting, it also marks Ting’s departure from the company. Ting, who has been with Cal Shakes for seven years, is moving to New York, where his family relocated during the pandemic.

“The real testament to any endeavor is not how much you change a thing but how much you are changed by it,” said Ting. “I leave Cal Shakes reshaped by its artists, staff, board, community and civic partners, patrons and funders, and above all, our audiences who I’ve had the great honor of being in company with these past seven years. I’ve learned what it means to truly serve a community through art.”

Eric Ting, above, California Shakespeare Theater’s artistic director, is leaving Cal Shakes after the closing show of its 2022 season, “Lear,” running Sept. 7 through Oct. 2 in Orinda. (photo courtesy of California Shakespeare Theater) 

Following his departure from Cal Shakes, Ting will concentrate on directing rather than theater administration and has already secured his next directorial assignment — the world premiere of Lloyd Suh’s “The Far County.” The show begins rehearsals in October and will be performed Nov. 17 through Jan. 1 at New York’s Atlantic Theatre.

As to a replacement for Ting, the board has set up a transition committee looking into various possibilities for Cal Shakes. Before he leaves, though, Ting will give Cal Shakes a rousing close to its 2022 season with Marcus Gardley’s adaptation of “King Lear.” Entitled “Lear,” it is co-directed by Ting and Aurora Theater Company Associate Artistic Director Dawn Monique Williams.

The show will run Sept. 7 through Oct. 2 at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda. Set in the Western Addition of San Francisco, the play explores the eminent domain crisis of the 1940s through to the subsequent displacement of the ’60s. For more information and tickets, call 510-548-9666, email boxoffice@calshakes.org or go to calshakes.org.

“For a very long time, this was the most diverse community in San Francisco. It’s made for a very fertile exploration for me and the cast,” said Ting. “This time also recalls the Harlem of the west. From the beginning, Marcus (Gardley) said there must be a jazz band. So we have engaged Marcus Shelby, who will be leading a jazz trio every performance. He’s also composing original music to underscore the action.”

Ashby Stage: Berkeley’s Shotgun Players presents “Man of God,” a funny feminist thriller beginning Sept. 3 on the Ashby Stage at 1901 Ashby Ave. Inspired by a real-life incident at a Christian mission in Southeast Asia, the play delves into the lives of four young women faced with a choice.

“Personally, I love a good revenge narrative,” said playwright Anna Ouyang Moench. “It’s delicious to see a powerful villain brought to their knees by a righteous and wronged heroine.”

Director Michelle Talgarow says Moench’s story appealed to her because it’s one not often seen on American stages.

“Being an Asian American woman, this story spoke to me in ways other plays have not. It wasn’t a story steeped in racism or trauma porn, it wasn’t just about being immigrants or grappling with cultural identity. This story touches on a couple of these issues but it’s still full of comedy, joy and theatrical fantasy all told through the lens of four young Korean American teenage girls,” Talgarow said.

In addition to live performances, “Man of God” will be live-streamed on Sept. 15 and 22 as well as offered through video-on-demand Oct. 5-16. For more information, go to shotgunplayers.org.

Walnut Creek: Aug. 21 is Family Day at the Lesher Center at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., there will be chalk art and family-friendly activities on the Rudney Plaza, free entry to the Bedford Gallery and indoor performances of “Wizard of Oz” by Fantasy Forum Actors Ensemble. For more information, call 925-943-SHOW or go to lesherartscenter.org.

Sally Hogarty can be reached at sallyhogarty@gmail.com. Read more of her reviews online at eastbaytimes.com/author/sally-hogarty.

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Author: Sally Hogarty

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