August 7, 2013

  • Playwright Happy Hour, Dinner and a Swimming Pig

    Yesterday I remembered that playwright Christine Evans was in town. I quickly sent her a message to find out if we could meet up. She was in San Francisco for a few days breaking up the extra long trip from Australia (where she’s from) to Washington D.C. where she lives and works.

    Turns out I caught her on her final day here in SF and she offered to meet me for Happy Hour in the Richmond District which just happens to be my neighborhood. So we met at The Bitter End, an Irish pub just two blocks from my place.

    How do I know Christine?

    Christine was an early mentor of mine. She came to USF to teach a semester of playwriting during my second year of grad school. Not that my graduate program included playwriting, it doesn’t. Christine was coming to teach an undergraduate course and I–after collaborating with El Teatro Jornalero! for a little over a year–was beginning to wonder just how to go about writing a play.

    So I audited Christine’s course and and set out to write my first play by the end of the semester. It was Christine who recommended I submit my play Braided Sorrow to the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. And it was that festival that put me on course to switch genres.

    Well, it’s been a good while since I’ve seen Christine. So we caught up over a pint.

    And then the person she was planning to have dinner with arrived. Lo and behold it was Ginny Reed. Ginny is a director I know through my dramaturg Nakissa. Ginny and I have been to many dinner parties and gatherings hosted by our friend Nakissa. And since Nakissa has been out of town a lot this year, I haven’t seen much of Ginny for some.

    So drinks turned into a dinner invite and we headed to a Thai restaurant nearby to catch up some more.

    And when Ginny and Christine were talking about the rising sea levels and a potential play that might come out of that topic another related topic arose–mermaids. Or rather, performers pretending to be mermaids. Christine mentioned the ones in Florida and that’s when I brought up Ralph the Swimming Pig.

    Just 30 minutes from my hometown in Texas is another town called San Marcos which is home to Aquarena Springs. It was a sort of water resort park all centered around a fresh water spring. I remember going there as a kid to ride in the glass bottom boats, I remember the spherical sky ride that took people over the park and of course I remember the mermaid/submarine theatre and its star Ralph the Swimming Pig.

    Check out this article in Popular Mechanics about the Mermaid Theater.

    Turns out Aquarena Springs’ heyday was right around the time I went as a kid. A few years back the resort was closed and all the development has been or is in the process of being removed in order to return the fresh water springs to its natural state.

    I know that’s the right thing to do, to preserve this environmental wonder. But I can’t help but look back fondly on my memories of mermaids and a swimming pig called Ralph.

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