A Look Back at 2017

We in your Words

With Mother Lear, you told us that you experienced:

“A powerful sense of Love.”
“The universality of the loss of control in the face of aging, death, and grief.”
“A passion in the text that I never knew was there.”
Loss, grief, fear, life, humor, family
“Beautiful, tiny moments of familial love.”
“Immediate and visceral humanity”

And you shared personal discoveries:
“I feel like I could talk about this for 20 hours.”
“It’s not one conversation, you talk about this your whole life.”
“I felt everyone stop and be still like the trees around us.”
“You don’t have to be suffering from Alzheimer’s to be speaking your own language and not be understood.”

Earlier this year, you couldn’t get enough of our very sexy and silly romp in the woods!

You told us that Midsummer of Love made you feel:
          "Amused, intrigued, alive"
                 "Delighted, transported, charmed, enchanted, amused, and amazed"
                                                             "Excited, curious and enthralled"
                           "Grateful for such talented and innovative theater.”
             “Amazed, invigorated.”
                                                 “Reaffirmed my love of my favorite play”

Our collaboration with Rova quartet and ink Boat in BEOWULF inspired lyrical and poetic reactions:

  “Hauntingly well-hewn. Led me... into the chilling folds of my subconscious fears and our collective monstrosities.”  

“At the end of the work I was born from the darkness of the Mead Hall into the crisp night with newfound caution for our times, empathy for our monsters, and a sense of belonging in the ancient cycle of forgetting, fearing, fighting, mourning, and forgetting again.” 

                       “The haunting sounds enveloped my innards at their core, leaving me wanting for more.”

“I felt like we were collectively mourning for our country, mourning for our fallen humanity that has departed from nature, from instinct, from listening.”

                                 “A musical score like none any of us has likely ever heard nor will long forget.”

Thanks for your enthusiastic words and for your support of our work in 2017! Can’t wait to see you in 2018!

We Players lands 8 Theatre Bay Area Awards nominations

The 2017 Theatre Bay Area Awards ceremony arrives on October 30th and We Players is nominated for eight (eight!) awards for our recent productions of Romeo & Juliet, BEOWULF, and Midsummer of Love.

For BEOWULF, Yoshi Asai is nominated for Outstanding Properties Design, Allen Willner for his Outstanding Lighting Design, and Maria Chenut for her Outstanding Costume Design! Congratulations!

Photos: Lauren Matley


The final 2 performances of BEOWULF draw nigh, and Saturday's is sold out!

Photo: Lauren Matley

Photo: Lauren Matley

Join us for this fever-dream of memory and forgetting, a ritual that will both include your participation and leave you suspended in the shadows...

Catch the final performance of BEOWULF this Sunday!

The journey begins at sunset
at the SF Maritime Museum.

Wrestle with humanity and monstrosity under the stunning expanse of the sky and in the warm embrace of our mead hall. 

Into the Cave of Mystery

BEOWULF co-creator Larry Ochs of Rova Saxophone Quartet experienced a magical recording session in a prehistoric cave in France...

It was only upon my return to California, and the subsequent receiving of the live recordings from our just-completed journey to the secret cave, that I was able to stop feeling tragically about this adventure. I thought I had blown the entire mission; that I’d missed “grokking” the cave; missed taking the time to “get with the vibe” of this wild place; set my priorities all wrong and failed to connect with the cave’s untrammeled natural environment. But when I heard the first minute of the raw recording I realized immediately and happily that  “the cave was there with us the whole time”; it made us a part of it immediately.  This wild place had in fact been the third participant - and the main participant - in a three-way music-improvisation that also included Gerald Cleaver on his partial drum-kit, and myself on saxophones.

Larry Ochs - Photo by Lauren Matley

Larry Ochs - Photo by Lauren Matley

It’s only after the fact upon reflection that she begins to understand extraordinary events... I didn’t go into this trip thinking about any of this because as usual I didn’t have time to pause and reflect on what was coming. In my world, it’s almost always about managing the day in front of you and being present for the immediate event. Sure; there is a planning stage where one usually lists the events in order and gets mentally ready to go down that list and nail each situation in its expected order. But, this project was different. So different that there was no anticipating much of it. I had been in caves before. But never in a truly wild cave where few humans per year are even allowed to enter. So even if I’d taken that time to mentally prepare, even if I’d looked more closely at the list of activities and tried to imagine them, I didn’t have the experience to anticipate them. I still regret not having another day there. Just one. But then, that’s after the revelation of the recordings. If that third day in the cave had been allowed, would we have actually listened to the recordings from Day 2 before going back? Would we have actually taken advantage of that extra day “to go deeper?”
New York based drummer Gerald Cleaver and I had arrived in Paris on separate planes on September 28. On the 29th we performed our first duo concert in 3 years at a fantastic privately-owned art gallery on the outskirts of Paris. We were thinking of it as a warm-up for the cave concerts to come. As the music went by, it was startling; improvised music is a wonderful and unsolvable mystery, at least to me. Where is this music coming from? What’s being tapped into between these 2 players (or however many players are involved) that makes this set unique and more importantly, particular to the specific musicians involved as well as to the specific vibe in the specific room full of listeners? Why is it that, if we added another skilled practitioner of improvised music, that the entire character of the music might radically change? So after the set was over, while I felt good about it, I did wonder about how playing together in a cave would effect our music.
On September 30 we flew to Toulouse with producer and confederate Michel Dorbon, who was very involved with us in planning this journey to a cave near Toulouse. We met the instigator of this adventure, Alban Jacques, at Toulouse airport. Alban had read something that I said in an interview about how I loved the challenge of playing music in unusual environments, and had subsequently, in spring of 2014, invited me to record solo in an unnamed wild cave near to Toulouse. I love crazy ideas like this; but I did immediately request a change in the idea; namely: that I had to have a percussionist with me. And then there was the reality of finding the funds to do this. That process took the next 2 years to figure out.

Larry Ochs - Photo by Lauren Matley

Larry Ochs - Photo by Lauren Matley

Day 1 at ‘secret cave’

...was super, and super-intense. There was a distinct sense of losing one's bearings down there. A veritable "fish out of water" situation. There were distinct issues leading to a sense of complete disorientation, however it wasn't totally obvious that this disorientation was happening while we were down in the hole. It’s hard to explain, but let’s say that it wasn’t like we were going to the moon. If you’re going to the moon, then I imagine you “know” that you will be disoriented and that all your senses will need time to adjust. But we were still on earth, and we were still on land, and I had been in caves before. So when we went underground here and became disoriented, my mind didn’t adjust.

Issues: 1. the total darkness everywhere except where one’s own or a confederate’s directional headlamp was pointing / and 2. the general sense that the floors beneath you were completely unstable more than half the time aka loose rocks of a size that made it impossible to stand on them even as you couldn't avoid stepping on them (too numerous to avoid). So one had to point his headlamp down to see the rocks below while at the same time needing to see the often narrowing walls or the lowering ceilings of the way ahead. 3. Then there was the slipperiness of the descents...not all descents but most of them seemed to be somewhat wet, so that the walls' clay-composition was a bit wet or the calcite(?) was smooth while footholds were too infrequent. Both Cleaver and I had the distinct impression that a slip could lead to a serious face-plant into the rock wall - on descents always right in front of your face - with a simultaneously out-of-control slide down the wall, with your chin and nose hitting off rocks all the way down. 
Nice image.
Once we were essentially in there, we still had to deal with similar sensations. Balance seemed to be an ever-present issue. In the first of three proposed chambers or halls we looked at as possible recording rooms, the floor was absurdly unstable. It eliminated the room completely from consideration, even though the acoustics of this first larger space were the best of all the rooms. The sopranino sax, which I hauled in for this purpose, had a beautiful sound in chamber 1. (At times I could not fit down the “hole” and also carry the sopranino, which is extraordinary because the sopranino case is relatively small, but still, it made negotiating the descent too difficult, so we would pass the case down from one person to another.) But not only was the floor unstable, but at the other end of this first chamber from where we entered, maybe 15 to 20 feet across from where I stood (?- pretty hard to gauge distance down there...),  there was also like a 10-foot drop into an equally large chamber that essentially opened out from the first, and acted like a reverb room would in a studio, except that there was nothing artificial about the reverb in this cave. Happily the reverb was also perfect, rather than overwhelming with a long, long time delay; instead it was very rich and with a very slight time-delay on it. So it made the horn sound great. Anyway, that drop into space from chamber 1 into its “reverb room”, combined with that floor's size and instability kind of made all of us want to flee. 
The next potential recording chamber we hit was a lot bigger, but best of all the floor was a sticky-feeling clay, and most all the rocks were embedded in that clay. Thus more stability. This chamber also had a few places to sit that were either dry or big enough to feel comfortable, or both, and stable. The sound was not quite as rich as in chamber 1, but an adjoining large room or two made the sound seem excellent, and again no major or exaggerated echo/reverb.
We did see quite a few of the Paleolithic cave paintings that first day. The ceilings in rooms 2 and 3 were probably about 9 to 15 feet above us. For sure it might have been higher as many of the paintings were above our reach and sometimes even made on an inner wall behind a second or faux wall. These essentially hidden paintings could be looked at with headlamps thru natural spaces / openings between the two walls. There was an especially cool set of deer antlers behind one of these inner walls. Never thought to ask which was there first, the painting or the front / inner wall. 
A human stick-figure painting was said by our guide to be the oldest such prehistoric painting known in the world, about 24 thousand years old. A “classic” large bison was visible on a real wall leading to room 2. A classic horse painting on another… And even if there had been time to make these notes just after being in the space I don't think I would remember much more, or could be more certain of room dimensions. Would have loved to have been able to write impressions before re-entering on Day 2 because right at that moment I would have been hip to what I was missing or not understanding . And then I might have have been sure to note these imprecise recollections and look to get more precise on Day 2. So it goes.

Early BEOWULF rehearsal - photo by Lauren Matley

Early BEOWULF rehearsal - photo by Lauren Matley

Day 2 at the secret cave

First thing to say is that everything about the entry back into the cave was for me a lot easier on Day 2. Distances down seemed shorter; footholds seemed easier to find; the detour to chamber 1 didn't happen again, leading to a much shorter trip into the recording space aka chamber 2. Cleaver in fact thought that we had only just entered chamber 1 and wondered aloud why the engineer had set up in room 1. He then was sure that they were kidding him after the engineer answered that in fact he and I were in room 2. So partly we were better acclimated. But we were definitely not completely acclimated...
The original plan for day 2 had included a further tour of more distant cave  paintings found beyond chamber 3... for the 2 artists prior to recording. To feel the vibe of the place more completely. But we were delayed a bit in getting into the cave, and felt an urgent need to hit (to make music happen) as soon as we got into that chamber where all the recording gear was set up. I was ready before that. Even upstairs in daylight. And I didn't want to expend the best energy of the day on a lot of caving; too risky.  I immediately suggested to the cave owner and guide that we would be happy to see more after the recording. I wasn't sure that would be true, but I wanted him to be happy, or anyway not insulted...  I figured there was no way he would be into the actual music. Very nice gentleman by the way. But there is our reality: that most people, whenever first exposed to improvised music, haven't a clue. And here we were in a Cave... hardly a place where improvised music has much of a foothold. 

So we went at it. Despite this being the best room, everything was a serious challenge. Where I was to get my horns out of their cases in fact consisted of a relatively level area. Hardly level, and hardly smooth or flat, but better than other spots. I had to negotiate how I stood on the floor. Chamber 2 was much better than chamber 1, but my feet and legs were not all that impressed. There were really only two positions that I could place my feet and feel stable. And those positions did feel very good during the 2 hours I stood up. I play standing up always, which was a good thing. No place to sit here. 

The air in this chamber was extraordinary. The best I have ever experienced. Completely fresh but also cool and at the same time humid or clearly having a perfect amount of water in it. Always 55 degrees in the cave. And no breeze at all, no sense of current. I don't know how to describe the feeling. But by the end of the second improvisational piece I noticed that my nasal passages felt completely open and clean. They never ever feel that way.
Cleaver had two drums - snare and 12 inch Tom. Then there’s the 10 inch drum; normally attached to this set’s kick drum, but neither the kick  drum nor the larger tom would fit down the hole from the outside, or anyway at some point were not passable into the recording chamber.  So 10-inch Tom had been ingeniously attached to a mere cymbal stand. There was one cymbal on another stand. He placed a larger cymbal on his drum seat for one piece; I remember that. He had various bells and small percussion. And remember: floor not level, so each piece of the set was at its own unique angle to the floor! Wow; and still he made some great music.
Focus was really good though... All improvised. Standing the whole time, even in breaks between pieces. By the second to last piece, parts of my right arm were cramping, and in a strange way that I chose to ignore, I felt this deep throbbing of the upper arm. Bizarre... Every so often I would while playing look upwards and see in someone’s headlamp the ceiling of the cave. Exhilarating! 

The silence in the cave was profound. As a result of this feeling of the silence – almost physical in nature -  I remember being a bit surprised at the two high-energy pieces we recorded. I had the thought during one of them that this sound-area didn't seem appropriate to the space. But definitely was open to rolling with where the music flowed to, rather than trying to force a pre-conceived concept in. 
The 8 witnesses were absolutely blown away by the music, so I hope that translates to the recorded medium. Getting high on the oxygen in the room might have been a big part of their reaction, or perhaps just being down there as this spontaneous reaction to the cavern took place. We shall see what the mixes tell us.
I am sad not to have had time to be in the cave for an hour or two without responsibility prior to the recording. I feel like that experience might have led to a profounder music. I have this grief, even, that a unique opportunity (…literally unique; the owner said he could never risk this incursion into the cave’s atmosphere again; the thing is that the Paleolithic paintings might be degraded by the change in the air quality what with so much human breath and assorted activity taking place …) that a unique opportunity just got away from me on that level. It was only in the days following, when certain aspects of the experience became clear to me thru brief conversations with the witnesses on the trip, that I felt certain I had, after all, not immersed completely into the cave’s world. But then, it’s very possible that immersion was impossible, or that there was nothing to immerse in to… still it went by way too fast.  

3 weeks of BEOWULF remain


Photo: Lauren Matley

Photo: Lauren Matley

Think for a minute about what it would be like to have no light, only total darkness.
What a candle would mean to you…

We expect this work to challenge... it is unlike any other We Players' production to date. We invite you to journey into strange new territory and to release expectation of the usual.

Immerse yourself in an abstract realm as we explore the story through a fractured lens and express the energies of the saga through movement and intense soundscape. 

It is a fever-dream of memory and forgetting, a ritual that will both include your participation and leave you suspended in the shadows...

BEOWULF has only 3 weeks left.
Join us before it’s too late!

The journey begins at sunset
at the SF Maritime Museum.
Thursday - Sunday, March 11 - April 16. 

Wrestle with humanity and monstrosity under the stunning expanse of the sky and in the warm embrace of our mead hall. 

On a tight budget?
Join the BEOWULF rush ticket mailing list. 

Flame and shadow

Think for a minute about what it would be like to have no light, total darkness
What the candle would mean to you…

In December I went to Iceland, largely in preparation for building BEOWULF.
And I read sagas and Icelandic lore...
I was struck by how many of the winter seasonal stories include mention of the preciousness of giving and receiving candles as gifts at this time of year.
To have your own candle was a big deal.
To have the power to light your own world.

We all have the power the light the world -  through the company we keep and the stories that we share.

Stories and storytelling can be a powerful light in the darkness, which we particularly need when times are... dark.

Our upcoming production of BEOWULF is a play for our times.
When demagogues are trying to define culture and the dominant story, we need to tell our stories ferociously to keep our truths alive.
We’re excited for the BEOWULF-inspired conversations our audiences will be having about heroes and monsters, kindness and cruelty, chaos and order, self and other, after walking out of the chapel, our mead hall.

We expect this work to challenge...it is unlike any other We Players' production to date. We invite you to journey into strange new territory and to release expectation of the usual. Immerse yourself in an abstract realm as we explore the story through a fractured lens and express the energetics of the saga through movement and intense soundscape. It is a fever-dream of memory and forgetting, a ritual that will both include your participation and leave you suspended in the shadows...

This entirely new work is inspired by the poem Beowulf, but not a direct re-telling. It is a truly multi-disciplinary collaboration built alongside the forces of the Rova saxophone quartet and inkBoat physical theatre and dance. 

The journey begins at the Maritime Museum at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. From there, we move along the northern waterfront, stopping at Black Point Battery - with it’s stunning views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, before summiting the hill and entering the historic military chapel at Fort Mason. Once inside, we break bread and toast to our ancestors. Around our great table, we remember the fallen and recount tales of glory and of loss, of our hopes and our fears. We relive the events of the epic, moving in reverse chronology from the time of Beowulf's death. We open a Pandora's box of questions and leave them hanging in the darkness, for each of us to grapple with...

We hope you’ll join us.

It's Alive!

The monster is awake and the heroes are rising!
BEOWULF has opened!

Photo: Loe Matley

Photo: Loe Matley

Hear what our audiences are saying:

"BEOWULF is sensational. I have never experienced anything like it... We Players know how to offer a play experience like no other. Way beyond play... Beyond anything." -David 

"BEOWULF is stunning. Looking forward to seeing it again!" -Kathleen

"I really felt like we were collectively mourning for our country, mourning for our fallen humanity that has departed from nature, from instinct, from listening. The dynamic shifts that broke the meditative, ritualistic rhythms were like waking up from a dream, but into another dream --almost the nightmare of reality." -Adriana 

"I keep thinking of the ending procession image; the final preparation before facing the unknown." -Sabrina

Take the BEOWULF challenge. Join us!

The journey begins at sunset
at the SF Maritime Museum.
Thursday - Sunday, March 11 - April 16. 

Wrestle with humanity and monstrosity under the stunning expanse of the sky and in the warm embrace of our mead hall. 

On a tight budget?
Join the BEOWULF rush ticket mailing list.

BEOWULF Cast Spotlight: Dana Iova-Koga

Dana has been dancing with inkBoat since 2006. She is currently learning a great deal from two masters of improvisation, aka her kids. Dana is honored to be collaborating with the forces of We Players and Rova Saxophone Quartet, who are among her heroes.

Have there been any specific challenges or funny/interesting stories working outside and in the chapel?

Dana: It’s been pretty problematic working outside in the Battery because of all of the beauty of the surroundings. I mean, how is one supposed to concentrate on rehearsal with views like that all around? The Golden Gate, the bay speckled with sail boats, the occasional moonrise paired with sunset, the passing hawk. Very distracting!

Why BEOWULF now?

Dana: As a culture we still seem to be interested in many of the major themes of the poem, namely good vs evil, and grappling with our own mortality. Particularly in the last few months many of us have been wrestling with the construct of duality, the notion of “us” against “them”. In Beowulf, the poem, the lines of distinction are very clear. Now, and in our production, the lines are not so clear.

Can you share a funny or memorable moment, anecdote, or quote from your experiences in creating BEOWULF?

Dana: This isn’t really an anecdote, but rather something I’ve really enjoyed about the process. I’ve so enjoyed witnessing how the musicians work. It’s as if they have their own language. Music is of course its own language, but then there is a whole other layer that is particular to these musicians and their collaborative process. They have have their own sign language system. They talk about “blorks”. I partly wish I knew their language and partly love that it’s magical and mysterious!


Check back to learn more about our other collaborators, and catch Dana live in BEOWULF- join us for this sensational world premiere’s Opening Weekend, Saturday March 18 and Sunday March 19! The journey begins at sunset, at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

Photos: Lauren Matley and Maria Chenut

BEOWULF Cast Spotlight: Steve Adams

We Players fans may remember Steve of Rova Saxophone Quartet from our 2015 production of HEROMONSTER. He's one of five musicians in our current production and we think he's just great! We caught up with Steve and asked him a few questions about the process. 

Check back to learn more about our other collaborators and see Steve live in our upcoming production of BEOWULF March 18-April 16

Photo: Lauren Matley

Photo: Lauren Matley

Describe your experience of  BEOWULF's collaborative process. How is it similar or different from past projects/ experiences?

Steve: Rova's last experience of being part of a theatrical production was for A.C.T.'s 1992 production of Antigone, directed by Carey Perloff and starring Elizabeth Peña and a young Wendell Pierce. The music was composed by David Lang of Bang on a Can. We were placed in black boxes at the two ends of the balcony, completely out of sight of the audience. So the experience was extremely different from Beowulf, where we are fully participating, onstage members of the production and co-creators of the music. This is a much more gratifying way to be part of the process, having (and receiving) creative input on all aspects of the play.

Share a favorite artistic experience: Why/ how did it impact you, affect your life, your work afterwards?

Steve: When I was in high school, my parents took me to several seasons of varied culture events, which included a production of Samuel Beckett's play Krapp's Last Tape. It was so far outside of my experience of, well, anything, that I think it made me aware of the possibilities of art that goes beyond the boundaries of what has come before, and that has been with me ever since then.

You can catch Steve (plus four other saxophone players!) in BEOWULF
Tickets on sale now! http://www.weplayers.org/beowulf-2017

Photo: Lauren Matley

Call for volunteers - Bring your light to BEOWULF


Photo: Lauren Matley

Photo: Lauren Matley

We Players needs a few more hands in the mead-hall for BEOWULF!

Can you lend your light to our production? Volunteers can help us with food prep, and with audience and community wrangling. A good sense of hospitality is a plus!

BEOWULF takes place on the north end of San Francisco at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, with weekend performances at sunset, Thursday through Sunday.
Shows start with preview performances on March 11 and the run lasts through April 16th. 

Volunteer shifts are just two hours long, and our helpers are welcome to stay and enjoy BEOWULF once a shift is done.

Join us in warming the hall for our guests!
Click here to learn more and sign up when you're ready.