Custom Made Theatre Co. presents 

Top Girls

by Caryl Churchill

author of Cloud Nine and A Number

directed by Laura Lundy-Paine

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Top Girls Production Photos by Jay Yamada

Tickets at: www.custommade.org/tickets

Top Girls runs 2 hour and 20 minutes, which includes a 10 minute intermission

Previews March 14-15 8pm, 16 7pm
Opening March 18 8pm
Runs March 20- April 13

$15-$35

Getting to Gough Street Playhouse

Visit our directions page to plan a route via Google Maps.  Save the planet, take public transportation!

Parking

Last minute parking on-the-street is not recommended, but is possible with some planning.

On weekday evenings a good approach is to park at 7:00pm between Bush and Pine on Franklin Street, just when it stops being a tow-away zone. At that time there are plenty of spaces, and plenty of restaurants to grab some dinner pre-show!

There are also plenty of parking lots between Geary/Van Ness and the Theatre.

Tickets at: www.custommade.org/tickets

Top Girls runs 2hrs and 20 minutes, which includes a 10-minute intermission.

“Churchill sees the theater as an open frontier where lives can be burst apart and explored, rather than as a cage that flattens out experience and diminishes it.” – NYTimes

Marlene has just been made president of Top Girls Employment Agency in London, beating out her more established male colleague and taking the agency by storm. She has achieved her dream to become successful and the top executive, but what now? A sumptuous dinner, of course, with wine, gourmet food, and five of the most famous and scandalously adventurous women in history: Adventurer Isabella Bird, Courtesan Lady Nijo, Dull Gret from Brueghel’s masterpiece, Pope Joan, and Patient Griselda from The Canterbury Tales. Shocking and hilarious, these six women take the restaurant by storm with stories of battles and high jinks, masquerading as men, passionate love-making, and beating their oppressors bloody.

Churchill’s gift for rapid-fire exchanges, overlapping dialogue and fearless thrust of her subject matter are as breath-taking now as they when “Top Girls” was presented in the 80’s as a scathing attaching on the individualist nature of Margaret Thatcher’s England. Sadly, not much has changed since then, and not only the 1% should ask: at what price success?

Helming “Top Girls” is Virago Theatre Artistic Director, Laura Lundy-Paine, who says, “I love this play–for its challenges, for its depth and beauty, and for the questions it poses about the meaning of success, and the accompanying isolation and loneliness. And if we take our lives into our own hands, is it work the risk?”

Monica Cappuccini (Pope Joan, Louise) has worked with numerous Bay Area theatre companies, including: Shotgun Players (The Coast Utopia), African American Shakespeare Co. (Cinderella), Busbarn Stage (The Clean House), Hillbarn Theatre (Master Class, Lettice & Lovage)), Impact Theatre (The Play about the Naked Guy), Livermore Shakespeare Festival (Lend Me a Tenor),Palo Alto Players (Dead Man’s Cell Phone), CustomMade Theatre (The Diary of Ann Frank), Pear Avenue Theatre (Three Tall Women), Dragon Productions (A Delicate Balance), City Lights Theatre Co.(Equus), CalShakes (U/S, Romeo & Juliet), and TheatreWorks (New Works Festival). She has studied at Seydways Acting Studio, ACT and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She is delighted to be returning to CustomMade.

Cary Cronholm Rose (Marlene) is thrilled to be making her Custom Made debut. Most recently she was Kayleen in Gruesome Playground Injuries at Tides Theatre.  Before moving back to S.F., her native stomping ground, she resided in Chicago where she graduated from the the School at Steppenwolf, acted with Second City, ImprovOlympic, Collaboraction, Chopin & the Steppenwolf Garage.  In Chicago she was a company member of Collaboraction and Pine Box Theatre. Here in S.F. she is Co-Founder and was the Associate Artistic Director of Tides Theatre for three years.  She lives in Noe Valley with her husband and two children. A proud feminist she believes that women can do it all.  Cary is grateful to her friends and family who inspire her constantly and encourage her to do what she loves. Susu, Trebor, Robby and my love MDR –THANKS! www.carycronholm.com

Carina Lastimosa Salazar (Patient Griselda/Nell/Jeanine) This is Carina’s first time working with Custom Made Theatre Co. Previous credits include A Kind of Sad Love Story (Bindlestiff Studio), You Need To Read Poetry! (Performers Under Stress), All My Sons (Masquers Playhouse), Marat/Sade (Thrillpeddlers), A Hot Day In Ephesus (Actors Ensemble of Berkeley), Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead (Role Players Ensemble), Much Ado About Nothing (Arclight Repertory), A Wonderful Life (Hillbarn Theatre), The Apple Tree (Masquers Playhouse) and as a Performer/Educator for Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Programs. You can see her next in Central Works’ production of The Crazed opening in May 2014.

Cat Luedtke (Isabella Bird, Joyce, Mrs. Kidd) is honored to be portraying Isabella Bird, Mrs. Kidd and Joyce in this, her first show at Custom Made Theatre Co. The opportunity to play these three distinctly different, complex and driven women, alongside this talented team is an absolute dream.  Recent favorite roles include: Rachel, in the US premier of ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ (New Conservatory Theatre), and Floria, in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore’ (Bigger Than a Breadbox Theatre Co.). She has also performed Sketch and Stand up comedy in San Francisco and New York. Cat studied acting at Studio ACT and Seydways Studio, Shakespeare at RADA, and was a finalist for the 2013 TBA ATLAS Actor’s Titan Award. A massive thank you to Laura Lundy-Paine, and all at Custom Made for the chance to appear in Churchill’s seminal play. She hopes you enjoy it.

Megan Putnam (Waitress, Kit, Shona) feels honored to make her Custom Made debut in a Caryl Churchill play! She was most recently seen in Thrillpeddler’s Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma and as Ivy in the world premier of Ivy and Bean the Musical with Bay Area Children’s Theatre. She is happy to be back performing in California after her recent graduation from New York University. Other recent Bay Area credits: Outspoken ( NCTC), Midsummer and King John (MSC). Some favorite roles include: Eve in Children of Eden, Carissa in Familiar Strangers, Marya in A Government Inspector, and Suzy in Da Kink in My Hair. She has loved working with everyone at Custom Made and wants to thank everyone for their hard work and passion for theatre. Love you all! Thanks mom, dad, siblings, friends and Jack for loving me.

Katie Robbins (Dull Get, Angie) is thrilled to make her Custom Made debut in Top Girls! She was most recently seen as Sara Crewe in A Little Princess the Musical (Berkeley Playhouse) and before that as Julie in the world premiere of Brad Erickson’s American Dream (New Conservatory Theatre Center). Other previous roles include Luisa in The Fantasticks and Ilse in Spring Awakening, both at Altarena Playhouse and Jen/Young Sonia in Sonia Flew (Virago Theatre Company). Much thanks to her family and boyfriend for their love and support!

Mimu Tsujimura (Lady Nijo, Win) has been most recently seen as Snowflake in The Cutting Ball Theater’s Krispy Kritters in the Scarlett Night (2013). Since her opera debut in Berkeley West Edge Opera’s Romeo and Juliet (2007), she has primarily worked with Bay Area opera companies. Local credits include Berkeley West Edge Opera’s L’Elisir d’Amore (2008), L’Enfant et les Sortilèges (2008), The Ballad of Baby Doe (2009), and Vera of Las Vegas (2012), San Francisco Lyric Opera’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann (2007) and Aida (2008), Lamplighters Music Theatre’s The Mikado (2008), Iolanthe (2009), and Patience (2010). Her first non-singing role was Korean 1 in Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven (Crowded Fire Theater/Asian American Theater Company, 2011), for which she was nominated for a featured role in San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards.

Laura Lundy-Paine (Director) is the Artistic Director for Virago Theatre Company, where she directed the inaugural production of Threepenny Opera. Other Virago credits include Candide, A Taste of Honey, and Sonia Flew, along with the world premieres of A Bed of My Own, The Afterlife of the Mind, and Beekeeper. Other directing credits include the 20th anniversary Bay Area production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches for Theatre Shark, Sight Unseen for Lunacy Stageworks (Portland, Oregon), the world premiere of Anatomy at The Next Stage, the staged reading of original musical Wink by Maureen Bogues at Theatre Rhinoceros, and Shivaree for Paula Productions (Portland). Laura is also an actor. She performed most recently in Virago’s recent hit production of George Pfirrmann’s AROUSAL and Harold Pinter’s The Lover in San Francisco and in Los Angeles, and is taking the show to The Flea Theatre in New York,  July 2014. Laura received her training at Pomona College and through the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

Kevin Dunning (Production Manager/Scenic Design) moved to the Bay Area from New York in 2007, where he worked in theatrical producing and operations with the Nederlander Producing Co., and in house management at the American Airlines Theatre with The Roundabout Theatre Co., and at the famous Off-Broadway house, The Zipper Theatre.  Kevin is an Events Committee member and the House Manager for West Edge Opera. Kevin holds a BA in Theatre Arts from SUNY New Paltz, and holds certifications in Sound Healing from CIIS and the Vox Mundi School of Sound and the Voice.  Acting credits include The Secret Garden (Uncle Archie), The Mikado (Nanki-Poo), Camelot (Mordred), Brilliant Traces (Henry Harry).

Colin Johnson (Lighting Design) Designing on Top Girls is Colin’s third production with Custom Made after having the privilege of stage managing last season’s The Play About the Baby, by Edward Albee. Colin has had the fortune to design lights for Performers Under Stress, Theatre Rhino, Theatre Robillard, SAFEhouse Productions and Moore Theatre. Colin would like to think Shaina for all her support and patience and Scott, Val and Rick.

Scarlett Kellum (Costume Design) Previous work with CMTC: A Bright Room Called Day, The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The Moon Marigolds, The Underpants, and Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell. Second Wind productions: The Lullaby Tree, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Vigilance, Meadowland, The Women in Black, Ashes to Ashes, The Tender King and The Disappearance of Marry Rosemary. At Arabian Shakespeare Festival: A Message. Dragon Theater: Cat’s Paw, Becky’s New Car, Les Lesions Dangerous, and Wonderful World.  42nd and Moon: Strike Up the Band and Three Sisters. Triple Shot Productions: Just One More Game. Theater Rhinoceros:  To Sleep and Dream, Road Show and the upcoming The Habit of Art. More at www.scarlettkellum.net.

Nicola McCarthy (Scenic Artist) is an Irish Artist who has made San Francisco her home away from home. Paint has always been her playground, creating fantastical scenes both large and small. Exhibiting regularly in galleries around the world she has always had a fascination for reinventing space and taking paint LARGE. Theater offers tremendous opportunity to really push the boundaries of what paint can do, working regularly with Custom Made on a number of shows now, Nicola Loves the thrill of creating backdrops that allow whole worlds of fantasy to collide.

Liz Ryder (Original Composition/Sound Design) is a composer/multi-instrumentalist/sound designer based in San Francisco. She holds a Master’s Degree in Composition and Creative Music Technology from Bangor University, Wales, UK, and is currently resident composer at Custom Made Theatre Co.. Recent CMTC credits include Peter/Wendy, The Book of Liz, Eurydice (full score), The Play about the Baby, The Devil and Billy Markham, Red Light Winter, and upcoming, full score/sound design for The Crucible. Marin Theatre Company credits include full score for Rapunzel, and in January 2015, full score and sound design for Around the World in 80 Days. For The Masquers: full score and sound for Dead Man’s Cell Phone, May 2014.  Liz Ryder has played main stages at folk festivals in the UK and California, has opened for greats such as Richard Thompson and Eric Taylor, and recorded four studio albums and three EPs to date. She performs regularly in the Bay Area, and tours in her native UK when she can. lizrydermusic.com.

Jane Troja (Stage Manager) has stage managed shows at Brava Theater Center, Theater Rhino, and SFSU. She is currently getting her Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theater at San Francisco State University

Brian Katz (Artistic Director) is the co-founder of Custom Made Theatre. For Custom Made he has directed over 25 productions including the SF Bay Critic’s Circle Best Overall Play of 2012, Edward Albee’s The Play About the Baby, A Bright Room Called Day (nominee, Best Director, SFBATCC), Next to Normal, Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell, The Devil and Billy Markham, The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Red Light Winter among many others. Brian has a B.A. in theatre literature and criticism from Clark University and interned in dramaturgy at the Goodman Theatre. He will next direct Candide of California, or Optimism, which he also adapted from Voltaire, for the cell, New York, and will Custom Made’s next season with Slaughterhouse-Five.

Leah S. Abrams (Executive Director) is the co-founder of Custom Made, and is now based in Manhattan, where she oversees the company’s New York projects, and also works as a contract production manager. She has produced over forty plays for Custom Made. Most recently, Leah directed Mark Eisman’s (Studio CMTC 2012, ShoveSightlines at the cell where, last year, she also directed readings of Gino DiIorio’s (Studio CMTC 2012) Sam and Dede, or My Dinner with Andre the Giant, Mark Eisman’s  Death of Fine Dining and Tom Minter’s Groundwork. Custom Made SF directing credits include Sightlines for Studio 2012, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Odd Couple, Dodo for President, Two Rooms, and countless Beckett shorts..

Reviews have begun to come in (updated 3/23):

“In short, this is a complex, weighty and challenging play. It is just the sort of politically charged, intellectually bracing work that is the calling card of Custom Made Theatre Company. Audiences who seek out work with substantial intellectual and political content will be pleased and excited.” – Charles Kruger, TheatreStorm

“Churchill’s writing is slanted, clever and very brave even for audiences of twenty first century. The large female cast under the astute direction of Laura Lundy-Paine gives excellent performances” – Richard Connema, For All Events

You’re a member…

….of a subclass historically discriminated against, in terms of your access to legal rights, work opportunities, education, and protection against aggression.  The work that you do has been defined by others.  Your efforts and the quality of your work do not result in the same compensation as they do for others outside your subclass. Your personal and community needs are understood only to the extent that they can be made palatable to a class with greater entitlements.  The possibilities of your improving your condition reside in your ability to adopt values and an ethos outside your own.

That is, you’re a woman.

Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls begins with the shared stories of historical women who faced obstacles that are barely imaginable to most of us today.  Then, we meet women of England in the 1970s who in their struggle toward both meaning and meaningfulness examined historic oppressions of women and recommended bold alternatives.   And the alternatives brought with them questions that no one could answer:   If women are to gain genuine power—as  individuals and collectively—what should be the models of such power?  The models before them, created by men?  New models?  Models to benefit whom, exactly?  And what are the risks of these models?  More to the point, in Churchill’s play, what are some potentially tragic risks?

Thirty years from the writing of this play, our world sees the complex status of women internationally held up for view.  A higher numbers of women graduate from universities, and lead, as never before, in commerce and governement (although still highly outnumbered).  Despite this, women on every continent continue to defend themselves against traditional barriers, misunderstanding of their needs, sexual objectification, physical abuse, and professional/wage discrimination. To Caryl Churchill, it is not enough to emulate the patriarchal, capitalist model and put it in high heels.  To Churchill, Sheryl Sandberg and Hillary Clinton are likely just one more step backward.

Tragic risks, indeed.

Dennis Chowenhill, Dramaturge 

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