Annex Theatre announces upcoming 2016 season!

Hear Annex Theatre’s artistic director Pamala Mijatov discuss our 29th season on the Theatrical Mustang podcast!

American Theatre features Annex in geek theatre article

Annex is featured heavily in a recent article about “geek theatre” in American Theatre:

In 2010, Annex Theatre found itself with a surprise hit on its hands when it produced Alexander Harris’s Alecto: Issue #1, a satirical, Spandex-clad comedy about the hidden, questionable motives of a group of superheroes. In 2012, it revived these characters with Team of Heroes: Behind Closed Doors, the second installment of what would ultimately become known as the “Team of Heroes Trilogy” when it reached its final chapter in 2013’s Team of Heroes: No More Heroes. Annex artistic director Pamala Mijatov describes the central characters of the trilogy as “a corporate-owned conglomeration of genetically enhanced reality stars,” claiming that the ultimate audience appeal lay in the shows’ “larger-than-life but recognizably human power struggles, love affairs, aspirations and betrayals.”

Rachel Jackson, who portrayed the villain Chaos Theory in the last two “Team of Heroes” productions, acknowledges that the superhero narrative appeals to a sense of wish fulfillment. “It’s about being more than you seem to be, which is appealing when you’re feeling undervalued.” She also adds, slyly, “Your comfort thought if you were super-villain-inclined would be, ‘Just you wait!’”

American Theatre chats with Annex

American Theatre recently interviewed Annex communications director Jake Ynzunza about how we survive on the fringe:

Annex Theatre of Seattle is another example of an organization that believes in across-the-board financial equality. The 25-year-old company operates as a democratic collective of theatre artists, and everyone on staff, from the marketing director, to the bar manager, to the artistic director, get equal pay. In the case of Annex, though, that’s $15 a month—hardly enough for a meal, much less to live on. “We all have regular day jobs,” Annex communications director Jake Ynzunza explains, admitting he typically works 45 hours a week for “All the actors and designers get paid $50 for the production of a show.”

How is this different from community theatre, given that the fees are so…paltry? “For one thing, community theatre is often better funded,” says Ynzunza with a chuckle. “But we’re a professional theatre, and our work gets recognized.” (Seattle’s Gregory Awards recently nominated three Annex productions for “Best New Play.”) Ynzunza continues, “People keep working with us because of the quality of our work and the way we treat our artists. We make theatre that is exciting and pushes boundaries—I think that’s why talent and audience keep coming back.”

Interview with a Playwright: Brandon J. Simmons Discusses “The Tale of Jemima Canard”

Playwright of "The Tale of Jemima Canard", Brandon J. Simmons. Photo Credit: Mark Brennan

Playwright, Brandon J. Simmons, is making his debut at Annex Theatre this Friday with his first play “The Tale of Jemima Canard”. This is an interview conducted by Brian Peterson, our Marketing Manager. “Jemima Canard” opens this Friday and runs through May 21st and you can purchase your tickets in advance on Brown Paper Tickets, or at the door.

Brandon J. Simmons, tell us how you became a playwright.

I’ve been writing forever, but I became a playwright 18 months ago when I wrote The Tale of Jemima Canard. I’d been attempting scripts for years, but Jemima was the first character who spoke to me long enough to write down a full-length play.

Do you write in any other forms, besides plays?

I have written a lot of poetry, and some stories. I also had a blog for a couple years while I was living abroad (in England, where I went to acting school). I have not published anything. This is my first and biggest project so far.

Who are the people who have inspired or influenced you as a playwright?

The obvious answer is Beatrix Potter. I find her works to be subtle, weird and complex. And her art is very evocative. I am also hugely inspired by animation, particularly the classic Disney musicals. I’m not as familiar with plays (unless I’ve worked on them as an actor) so few dramatists are a direct inspiration. But I love Tales of the Lost Formicans by Connie Congdon, and I think her language in that play has made an impact. I love the epic scale (the “real life is as big as the Bible” stance) of Angels in America. And Tom Stoppard is quite inspiring. I am also interested in adapting Borges, Lewis Carroll, the Grimms, Angela Carter—and other children’s books, even short one’s for really young children, into plays for adults.

Tell me about ‘finding your voice’ – were you aware of your gift or was it hiding under a surface?

The first time I remember writing something good was when I was nine years old. I wrote a “spring poem” for an assignment in fourth grade at Cherokee Heights Elementary in St. Paul, MN, and it was published in the big daily newspaper. I have been interested in writing since. I think I’ve always had an ear for style and pretty phrases, but only recently (like in the past year or so) have I honed my skill and become more judicious, much more meticulous, though I could use more judiciousness, more care.

What was your inspiration when writing ‘The Tale of Jemima Canard’?

I was captivated by Potter’s story the first time I read it. I was actually reading to children and I thought “should I be reading this to them? This is pretty intense!” Of course in Potter’s story, all the more adult themes are sublimated or supressed, but they leapt out at me: cannibalism, rape, gruesome violence, domestic peril. That’s just the icky stuff. There’s also the art, which is gorgeous, and the prose, which with Potter is always just a little awkward, but has these moments of absolute loveliness (particularly in The Tailor of Gloucester). But I didn’t want to write a rapey, dark, gruesome play. I wanted to write a play in which people dealt with those things by creating beauty. And I wanted to see people prancing around in duck bills.

‘The Tale of Jemima Canard’ is based off a book. What’s different and what’s similar in these two distinct stories?

My story is actually fairly true to the original. I’ve imported a character from one of Potter’s other stories (Tommy Brock, from The Tale of Mr. Tod), and included Potter herself as a character, though in the original there is a “farmer’s wife.” She doesn’t say anything in the original, but I wanted to include her and it made sense to make her Potter. The main difference between my play and Potter’s story is that I throw onstage all of the subtext (as I see it) from Potter’s book. Also, my play is not for children.

What influenced you to submit your play to Annex Theatre?

Annex is the most well-established theater in Seattle that is dedicated to taking serious risks with theater. They produce a lot of new work.

As a playwright, what has been the best part in working with Annex Theatre?

I had the great pleasure of working directly with Bret Fetzer as my dramaturg. Bret is a very experienced theater artist, and a very efficient communicator. Everyone at the theater was supportive of the writing process and we put together three full readings of the play, which was invaluable. The feedback from those sessions (both my meetings with Bret and the readings themselves) was integral to my developing the script into what it is now.

A little Photoshop wizardry

One of the questions I’ve gotten about the bio slides for our current show, When I Come To My Senses, I’m Alive! is, “How did you get the letters to glow like that?”

The process is actually pretty easy, but it’s not necessarily obvious at first glance. The first thing you need is a graphics program which uses layers (which is most of them), and which has some kind of a blur filter. I use Photoshop, so that’s what I’ll talk about. The process would be very similiar in The GIMP, which is a free graphics program with capabilities much like Photoshop.

The concept is that our eye perceives very bright glowing things as white, with a diffuse fringe of color around it, or at least that’s a shorthand that looks good on the screen. So if you want to make something that looks like it’s glowing (for instance) green, you make it in white, then add a green fringe around it.

In Photoshop, you do that like so. Start off with a black background. Add two layers, and insert your glowing object (in this case, some text) in white in the uppermost layer.

In Photoshop, at least the version I have, text stays as editable text, which means that it’s not initially subject to filters (last time I played with the GIMP, text became pixels as soon as you were done with it). You have two choices at this point: you can copy the text to another layer, so you have two copies (one of which would be converted to pixels), or you can select by color on the text. I chose select by color. Go to Select > Color Range… and click on white with the eyedropper cursor. The area to be selected will show up as white on a black background, which means that your view won’t really change. Select by color works on whatever’s visible on the screen as opposed to what layer you have selected, so make sure the only white stuff visible on your screen is what you want selected (ie, click the eye icon next to layers you don’t want to see).

Once you have the text outlined in the crawling ants select border, go to Select > Modify > Expand… and expand it by some amount. The amount you choose will depend a lot on what you’re working with, and how wide you want the color fringe to be. For the smaller text, I was using 3 pixels, for larger text, more like 7. In this example, I’ll choose 3 pixels. The select border should now be the shape of the letters, but standing out a bit.

If you haven’t already, create a new layer that’s above the background and below the text. Select this layer, then go to Edit > Fill… and pick your glow color. This should be a bright but fully saturated color, in this case phosphor green. Fill in the selected area, and you should see this:

The final step is to blur the green, so it appears to fade smoothly away from the white letters. Click on the image with the Marquee tool so that no selection is active (otherwise the blur will only occur within that selection, which won’t look right). Make sure the layer with the green text-outline is highlighted in the layers panel, and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur… I chose a value of 3 pixels as my blur radius for this example, but you’ll definitely want to experiment to see what looks right. If you turn off the white text layer at this point, you’ll see just the green diffuse glow:

And if you have all three layers set as visible, you’ll see the final result:

This same effect can be applied to nearly anything. In the bio slides, I had a series of sponsor logos I wanted to include, so I modified them to be all white, and then applied the same glow-under treatment to make it look like they were glowing on the screen just as the text was:

The same effect works very well to make things like lightsaber blades or blaster bolts from Star Wars, or neon lights, or anything along those lines. It’s a fun and surprisingly simple little trick, but it’s a great one to have in your arsenal.

– Ian J