Friday, June 19, 2015

The Pacifica Spindrift Players

The Pacifica Spindrift Players is a not for profit  theater located on Crespi Drive in Pacifica, California, about twenty-five miles south of San Francisco. It provides high quality theater offering revivals of traditional plays and musicals as well as contemporary theater.

The theater offers opportunities for adults and young people to learn the art of live theater.
I received a phone call from Mr. George Mauro who was the artistic director of the PSP asking me if we could meet and talk about my performing at his theater.

I agreed and a few days later, me met at a charming Cape Cod style seafood restaurant on the waters edge at Princeton Harbor in Half Moon Bay. I asked George as I dined on grilled salmon, baked potato and vegetables and sipped a Cabernet Sauvignon how he heard about me and why he wanted me to perform at PSP.

George said he was a baseball fan and had heard about my show. He explained there was a three week time between shows when the theater is empty while actors rehearse for the upcoming show. He was a strong believer in solo shows giving actors an opportunity to perform their show and provide the theater an opportunity to derive some income during that down time.

He told me what dates he had in mind. I explained my show had twenty-two pieces of music between scenes.  I work with my sound technician Clay Beatty and I will need to discuss this with him and will get back to you. Clay said he could handle the dates and we agreed to meet George at the theater to look over the stage and sound system.

Photo by Clay Beatty
The three of us met at the theater early in June to look over the stage and design the set while Clay, who brought the computer that contained the music
tested the sound system. The music sounded great.

George worked with Clay showing him how to work the lighting system. George asked for a script advising him when the lights could be adjusted, depending on the scene and where I would be on the stage. I brought that a few days later and George and Clay worked that out.

The theater provided us with over 1000 postal cards to place in stores and motels around the city and Clay designed the flyer that went into the windows of many merchants.

George said the theater has a list of attendees and his secretary will send an email notifying their clients about our show.

The two of us went about rehearsing the script that also contained several sound effects. We rehearsed four times a week for two weeks until I was satisfied with my performance and he was comfortable with
his cues to play the music introducingt the following scene. Although we had performed the show many times, I was a perfectionist in so far as timing and knowing my lines and though at times Clay thought I was working him to hard, we also had a lot fun during rehearsals, often walking along the clean sandy beach in Pacifica.   

Clay 21, was young and learning to understand my need for competence and skill that was expected of a professional; that is the key to high quality and efficiency expected of me, and what I expected of him.  He agreed and this understanding would enable us to work together for the next three years and travel around the country.
Cobb painting- in Cobb Museum

We made many visits to Pacifica, introducing myself to merchants, promoting the show, placing flyers in store window. One day, with permission from the local Safeway, we spent a few hours talking up the show and giving away many postal cards.

The entertainment director at the Pacifica Trubune gave me a great write up and placed the story and my photo on the front page.

We rehearsed three times at the theater. George and Clay nailed the lighting system until they were satisfied.
I printed programs for the audience detailing Acts 1 and 2. 

We were confident on opening night the show would go well and it did. The story takes place in a hotel suite in Atlanta, Georgia on a hot humid evening on July 17th, 1961, the evening Mr. Cobb would die. A reporter (not visible to the audience) asks Ty question and takes notes.

The show opens with Dixie, the national anthem of the South, a voice over tells the audience what the show is about; Take me out to the ballgame is played and I enter the stage. It is showtime.  

We had a full house on Friday and Saturday evening with a smaller crowd on Sunday. The show was well received and George and his wife Lennon complimented me on my performance.

Becky Lennon, theater director, said she loved the script and my passion for telling Cobb's story. She suggested to me a private lesson to correct a flaw in my performance. We spent an hour together working on my stage movements suggesting I move when the action calls for it and to sit or stand and tell the story with less stage movement. 

This sounds so basic, so simple but my lack of stage experience and direction was showing. I did not realize I was moving back and forth on the stage for no reason. She said, "watching me move was like watching a tennis match." We both laughed.

Clay recorded the lesson,  I took her advice in all future shows. I owe a lot to Becky for improving my presentation.

In addition to the shows June 27-29, we also performed the following year at PSP April 10-12 as the shows went well and we were invited back. Once again, the sports editor of the local paper wrote a terrific story about the show on the sports page. 

Clay Beatty
Art work by Clay Beatty


Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Marsh Theater-San Francisco

I always did something I was not quiet ready to do. I think that’s how you grow. When there’s that moment of ‘Wow, I’m not really sure I can do this,’ and you push through those moments, that’s when you have a breakthrough. The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief makes it happen. Hard work and dedication helps. If you don't try, you'll never fail. If you try, you just may succeed.

That is how I felt when I turned amateur photographer many years ago and became a professional photographer 1965. I had studied with Internationally famed photographer Lizette Model at the New York School for Social Research in New York who convinced me I had an eye for taking fine photos. She put me in touch with the creative side of myself that I was not aware of. Writing and acting would come many years later.

My first director, Lyn April Statten, who was a Broadway actress and TV star in the early fifties taught me the basics of acting.  I had performed over 70 shows but when I was considered to perform at The Marsh in San Francisco at their Monday Night Show, that was a big breakthrough for me. I was one of five actors to perform that evening, each actor had twenty minutes to perform their act.

Robin Williams
Many actors have performed at the Marsh including Robin Williams. 

The Marsh theater company specializes in developing new performance, specifally one person shows.

It once was located in a small theater in North Beach and during the 1960's; Lenny Bruce and Sarah Vaughan performed there.

I performed twice at The Marsh and was the first actor to perform a solo baseball show. It is expected the performer will bring his or her audience to the theater. The actor is responsible for promoting their show.

Performing at the Marsh was a learning experience for me as I failed to attract an audience that wanted to watch a baseball show. Fortunately, many of my friends from Half Moon Bay attended.

I attemped a multi media show, photos, video and music that did not work as well as I thought it would. It was difficult and expensive to produce so all future shows had music only. Performing is a learning experience and I am still learning what works and doesn't for me.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Irish Cultural Center, San Francisco & Baseball

The Irish Cultural Center is located at the north-end of San Francisco where Irish heritage is celebrated. It provides its members with banquet facilities for social, athletic and cultural activities near the Golden Gate Recreational Area at Ocean Beach.

The Irish Center serves the Irish and Irish-American community in San Francisco. It is located across from the San Francisco Zoo, close to Harding Park Public Golf Course, Golden Gate Park and is located at 2700 45th Avenue

It has also been home to the San Francisco Old Timers Baseball Association where I performed Ty Cobb on August 11th, 2009 in the Saint Patrick Ballroom.

The group consists of over 300 men who played baseball in San Francisco in High School or College; the Pacific Coast League or other Minor Leagues.

The oldest living member is Rugger Ardizoia (1) who played for the New York Yankees in 1947 and at ago 92, is the oldest living Major League player.

Another member was the late Gino Cimoli who had the distinction of being the first player to step to the plate in the first game to be played in San Francisco at Seals Stadium when the ex-New York Giants played their first game as the San Francisco Giants against the ex- Brooklyn Dodgers, now the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants won, 8-0.

On January 1, 1941, the Old Timers Association of San Francisco was formed. The group is still going strong with 325 members and celebrated it 68th anniversary in 2009.

John McCarthy (a), golf tournament producer and editor of the Old Timers newsletter had seen me perform at another venue and referred me to the Association. He made it clear to me the Old Timers are opposed to speakers as it is more.  of a social gathering for drinking, eating and discussing baseball. His persuasiveness convinced the group to hire me.

Clay Beatty, my creative sound and stage director,  John and I visited the Center about 10 days prior to the event and discovered they had no speakers. I was told to use the microphone at the podium. I explained I move around during my performance and swing my bat. We will need a cordless mic. and speakers. We borrowed two speakers, rented the mic. and Clay bought enough wire for the event.

On the evening of the performance, Clay who is a technical wizard hooked up the speakers and we sat down for a dinner of clam chowder soup, prime rib, baked potato, vegetables, chocolate cake and coffee. After dinner, John introduced the police and fire chiefs of San Francisco, then introduced me and it was show time.

Irish Cultural Centerers
There were about 150 men in the audience including Mike Diaz, who graduated from Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, Calif. and was currently the baseball coach at Terra Nova High.

Mike was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 1979 and had  a 4 year career with the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and White Sox from 1983 to 1988. Mike is currently head baseball coach at Centenary College in Shreveport, LA.

In costume
Following the show, I announced the Ty Cobb press conference is open.
People ask Cobb questions such as:
"Did you fight with your teammates or did you sharpen your spikes and spike infielders and catchers?"

"Were you a racist?" they asked. He answered "no."  "What did you think of Babe Ruth?" someone asked." Ruth was a good player, ran fast for a fat man!" Cobb said. This always gets a laugh as Cobb did not like Ruth. This is a fun part of the show as I improvise and answer truthfully with Cobbian wit, as I believe he would have.

Pacifica's resident Ken Mooney took over as president as the organization continues to grow as it approaches its 70th anniversary. Ken was a former San Francisco high school and semi-pro player and has been a member since 1986.
I also interviewed Mr. Len Grilli, long time member, current president  who also provided information.

A long time member of the Association, a graduate of Saint Ignatius High School in San Francisco was Charlie Silvera. Charlie played for the New York Yankees from 1948 to 1956. Charlie is famous for winning 6 World Series rings as Yogi Berra's backup. His last year was with the Chicago Cubs in 1957.

In a recent interview with Mr. Mooney, he told me, "the group meets once a month to reminisce about our playing days and rekindle our friendships. Under the old rules of the club, members had to have baseball experience, such as high school or college or semi-pro to join. That rule has changed so today, you don't need baseball playing experience to join. Just like to socialize, have fun and talk baseball," Ken said.

Posing with Dodgers great Don Newcombe
One of the many myths about Ty Cobb was being Georgia born in 1886, he was a racist.  I am asked this questions at every show I perform. Cobb has been saddled with this myth since he died in 1961.

 Cobb toured the Negro Leagues after he retired in 1928 and saw many great black players such as Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Buck O'Neill and Josh Gibson, to name just a few. They are all members in the Hall of Fame now.

Cobb praised black players like Don Newcombe, Willie Mays,  Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson. He spoke out in favor of integration. "The Negro should be accepted and not grudgingly but wholeheartedly," he said in 1952.

(a) John McCarthy, who passed away June 2, 2015 was a native born-born San Franciscan. He graduated from Lincoln HS in 1955 and attended City College of San Francisco and USF on a baseball scholarship. He created a golf tournament for amateurs and professionals and worked in the golf industry for over 35 years. He was vice president of the Old Timers Baseball Assoc.and wrote their monthly newsletter for many years.                                                                                          

John was a golf enthusiast and baseball fan who followed the San Francisco Giants with passion. 

My heart goes out to his family and friends for without this genial and easygoing gentleman, I would not have had the pleasure to meet and entertain this diverse group of retired baseball players and fans.

(1) It is with sadness that I share the news that " Rugger" Ardizoia, the oldest living Yankee, passed away on July 19, at age 95. My condolences to his family and friends.