Review Round-up, Week One – Slaughterhouse Five

Reviews have been pouring in, and they have been incredibly positive about this brave, risk-taking show!

Buy tickets today!

Here’s the first batch, as of end of week 1:

“A hit … adroitly and powerfully staged by Brian Katz, one of the Bay Area’s best directors… It is a true ensemble production with each actor adding a quality performance to the whole doing justice to Vonnegut’s most popular work.”  Kedar Adour, For All Events

“Dazzlingly mounted…is a challenging evening of theatre and Brian Katz and company pull this off with a grand style.” -Richard Connema, Talkin’ Broadway

“Collectively, the cast paints a compelling picture that reflects Vonnegut’s creation: a fusion of war story, bizarre science-fiction adventure and a quirky portrait of Americana”  Leo Stutzin, The Huffington Post

“(This) version scores high with fans with the book since it focuses on some points the screen play missed. This is a windy fast play, 90-minute romp without intermission through Vonnegut’s nonlinear narrative. The cast is great … all the moments hit right on. All 3 Pilgrims – and the narrator “Man” make this a moving night of theatre.” -Vince Mediaa, Mediaa Film & Theatre Reviews

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Open Auditions for Grey Gardens

The Custom Made Theatre Co is holding an open call for:
Grey Gardens book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel, lyrics by Michael Korie
Directed by Stuart Bousel; Musical Direction by David Brown

At Gough Street Playhouse, 1620 Gough St (at Bush) SF, on Tuesday, July 22, with 30 minute slots available from 6:30pm-10:30pm and Sunday July 27 from 8:30pm-11:0pm. You must make an appointment (see below.)

Save the Date: Callback will be Tuesday July 29 6:30pm-10:30pm.

You can sign up for an appointment here:

The Characters and Vocal Ranges
Edith Bouvier Beale/”Little” Edie Beale – One multi-faceted actress plays mother Edith in act one and daughter Edie in act two. She should play about 50 years old. Vocal range: legit soprano or mezzo-soprano to F-sharp 5, mix/belt to D5. It is highly recommended that this actress be familiar with the film, as Little Edie is a unique character with many specific traits that we will want to reference in the second act.

“Big” Edie Beale – Primarily appearing in Act two, Big Edie is an eclectic woman who fondly recalls her days of glory entertaining guests at lavish parties in the heyday of Grey Gardens. She should play in her 70s. Vocal range: character alto E3-C5. It is recommended that this actress also be familiar with the documentary film.

Young “Little” Edie Beale/Sister Marla – This 20-something actress will portray young Edie in act one, and participate in the ensemble in act 2, with a major solo as Sister Marla in the church choir scene. Vocal range: mix/belt to D5, soprano to B-flat 6.

Joseph Kennedy, Jr./Jerry – This 20-something actor plays handsome Joseph Kennedy in act one and handyman Jerry in act two. Vocal range:tenor, C3-G4.

Major Bouvier/Norman Vincent Peale – 70-something actor playing the strict, domineering patriarch of the Bouvier family in act one, and the beloved minister and author of “The Power of Positive Thinking” in act two. Vocal range: baritone, C3-E4.

Brooks Sr./Brooks Jr. – This 30-something African-American actor will portray loyal family servant Brooks Sr. in act one, and landscaper Brooks Jr. as well as a member of the ensemble in act two. Vocal range: baritone, C3-E4.

The role of George Gould Strong has been pre-cast.

The following two child roles will NOT be read at these auditions but young actors are invited to submit a HS/Resume to [email protected] for consideration.

Jacqueline Bouvier/Ensemble – This pre-teen actress (plays 13) plays young Jackie in act one – lovely, poised, and well-mannered, although dearly in love with her wacky Aunt Edith and her performances. In the second act she participates in the ensemble. Vocal range: juvenile mix belt, C4-E5

Lee Bouvier/Ensemble – This child actress (plays 10) is young Lee in act one – tomboyish, energetic, and joyful, sharing her sister Jackie’s love of her Aunt Edith. In the second act she participates in the ensemble. Vocal range: juvenile mix belt, C4-E5.

Please prepare one, 1-2 minute contemporary monologue and 16-32 bars of a song with accompaniment (a cappella songs will not be heard).
Rehearsals will begin around April 01. Performances will be Thurs-Sun evenings starting on May 21 2015 running though June 21 with a possible extension through July 05.

$200 base stipend for all roles + $10/each extended performance.

About Grey Gardens
Based on a true story (and feature length documentary), Grey Gardens is a musical exploration of the American dream gone wrong and what it means to become a social pariah. It’s an exploration of women, the relationship between mothers and daughters and how love can turn into dependency. In a society where women’s roles and options are limited, particularly in the aristocratic class, the very things that make one exceptional could ultimately be what damns them to a life in decay and shadows. Featuring an intimate, musical score that borrows as much from Stephen Sondheim as the eras in which it is set, Grey Gardens is the perfect chamber musical that will use the intimacy of Gough Street Playhouse to haunt as well as delight.

Review round up for THE CRUCIBLE!

Review round up for THE CRUCIBLE!

“A standout feature of this production is Bousel’s kaleidescopic staging. By moving through the early scenes at such high speed, he is able to shift the stage picture almost continuously, blurring the line between dramatic staging and dance. His placement of actors is as carefully composed as in a painting and carries a great deal of emotional weight. The capable cast includes many fine performances, with especially good work by Peter Townley as John Proctor and Juliana Lustenader as Abigail Williams…. Arthur Miller fans should be quite pleased.”  Charles Kruger, TheatreStorm 

“Tautly directed by Stuart Bousel, this production benefits from Custom Made’s tiny performance space, which only heightens the overall sense of paranoia, magnifies the delusional behavior, and exposes the instances of religious persecution…. This is a production of worthy of any serious theatregoer’s attention.”  George Heymont, My Cultural Landscape 

“The Crucible is an American classic worth seeing.” – Linda Ayres-Frederick, ForAllEvents

“Custom Made Theatre is to be commended for taking on such a hefty work. Productions of Arthur Miller plays seem about as rare as hen’s teeth now in San Francisco. This is powerful, if uneven, production that the company is presenting. Director Stuart Bousel has put a modern touch on this production”  -Richard Connema, ForAllEvents


First Reviews in for “Top Girls”

First Reviews in for “Top Girls”

Reviews are coming for TOP GIRLS! 

Charles Kruger says “”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.”

Richard Connema says “Cary Cronholm Rose captures excellently the hidden regrets of the go-getting Marlene in the second and third act. Cat Luedtke rages with justified wrath with her sister Joyce in these acts and Katie Robbins is both mystified and touching as the daughter Angie.”

Churchill is risk: from “Mad Forest” to “Top Girls”

Churchill is risk: from “Mad Forest” to “Top Girls”

 The first play Brian ever officially pitched to me was Caryl Churchill’s “Mad Forest.”  It was 1993.  We were in college, and Brian had just passed the torch of our student theatre group’s “creative director” role to me, a position I’d covet for three years, early proof that I was the only one among us crazy enough to prefer the producer hat to all others.  In retrospect, I think I may have been installed as a puppet leader, at least artistically.  We all knew and trusted Brian’s taste in playwrights and scripts, so all I really had to do in my first year was green-light whatever pet project he brought to the table.


 Now, let’s be clear – when Jon Bailey (Custom Made fight choreographer, actor) coined, “Custom Made Theatre – big plays, small spaces,” he had no idea just how far back that truth stretches.  I met Brian at Clark University where, as a junior, he was directing Brecht’s “Galileo.”  Now, I challenge you – go take a look at the size of Clark’s student body and its even smaller theatre department, and you tell me how anyone approved such an undertaking.  Even if he did pull it off and, admittedly, impressively well, it was the kind of risk a cheap like me avoids.

“Mad Forest,” by comparison, was small, but I hesitated none-the-less.  Even at nineteen, working with student council funding that I didn’t exactly have to raise, I was budget-obsessed.  So, my first thought with “Mad Forest” was along the lines of, “A play about Romania?  Apart from a fast-shrinking community of Slavophiles, who would come?”

Brian could have argued that it didn’t matter if 10 people showed up since, after all, the two-dollar tickets only went back into the same student council fund from which they’d come, to be divvied up again the following semester.  But even then, Brian knew better.  It would be only one semester later that I exercised my most sinister producer move, convincing the other student theatre group to co-produce which basically meant doubling my budget while forfeiting no control.

So Brian made an actual case.  He dared me to read the script and not like it.  He guaranteed there was at least one ensemble part for me.  He said I was under-estimating the student body and professors alike he was sure would attend.  And then he pulled out the big gun – “diverse casting.”

OK, let’s pause here to note that, back then, “diverse” could translate to, “sure, a woman can play a role clearly written for a man” or “French accent, eh?  European diversity – that works” or, “Asian?  Well, it’s not east coast Jewish – it’ll do.”  I am pleased to report, two decades later, that our friend who runs the department has done a heck of a job creating the actual diversity we so longed for back in my day.  But the world carried weight for me even under those conditions; my curiosity was piqued.

Armed with the knowledge that Brian would make some interesting casting choices, and that I’d be included in that cast, I set about discovering Caryl Churchill.  It was, not surprisingly, love at first read.  Who composes an entire scene of no dialogue that, in seconds, immerses us entirely in the extreme discomfort of being bugged in our own home?  Who talks about Ceausescu so accessibly and passionately?  Who writes a history of a people by painting a landscape of talking dogs, devils, and Archangels, with the musicality such fantastical worlds conjure?

Someone else's production of "Mad Forest"

Someone else’s production of “Mad Forest”

My embrace of Churchill’s writing was immediate and enduring.  When Brian brought “Top Girls” to the season plan, I felt we’d come full circle somehow.  “Mad Forest,” all those years ago, also marked my first sense of an inner, dormant feminist.  It was a moment of realizing how few female playwrights were on my radar, and how few seemed to be represented in the professional theatre I’d seen.  I recognized that part of my instant love of Caryl Churchill was that she is a woman – that this was a female voice speaking about issues important to me, with a craft that absolutely dazzles.

When people have asked why “Top Girls” and why now, I am rather floored.  Ms. Churchill is, in my mind at least, a pinnacle political voice in the theatre.  We find ourselves, as women, at an odd moment in history.  A generation of women positioned women of my own generation to be so fortunate as to be complacent.  We take, or took, for granted what they fought so hard to earn for us, only to realize we dropped the ball.  We needed to pick up the proverbial torch and continue to push because, when you get lax, is when things start to slip or stall.  The genius of “Top Girls” is its timelessness – we are, whether we care to admit it or not, grappling with the same issues today as when Churchill originally wrote the play.  The questions, the challenges don’t change so much as shift.

Monica Cappuccini and Mimu Tsujimura in Custom Made's "Top Girls"

Monica Cappuccini and Mimu Tsujimura in Custom Made’s “Top Girls”


As a woman in the theatre, I accept that there is a responsibility to ensure we are represented at every creative level.  I find myself in the rare, fortunate position of having an artistic director/theatre mentor who learned well from his feminist mother.  “Top Girls,” he said this time last year, because it is a fiercely political voice and, specifically, a woman’s voice, in a story full of women, to be directed by a woman.  If I lose sight of the conscious decision to promote female voices in the theatre, Brian is always there to remind me.

Finally, above all else, why “Top Girls” and why now?  Because Caryl Churchill is a great writer and, at Custom Made, that is always going to be a top priority.  Without the playwright, there is nothing for us to produce.  And it is truly an honor to produce this show.

Leah Abrams, Executive Director