SFWeekly Featurette

SFWeekly Featurette

nice write-up for Little Brother in the SF Weekly’s Voice Places

Technological Difficulty By : Keith Bowers Marcus is a 17-year-old hacker – er, high school student – living in San Francisco in the near future. And like any smart hacker – uh, teenager – he lives for technological challenges such as bypassing, disabling, and otherwise eluding his school’s surveillance network. Marcus, who may or may not go by the name w1n5t0n, also believes (like any good teenager) that he has the system all figured out, and he knows how to work it.

Read more at:



Thinking about technology

Thinking about technology

Computers, projectors and theatre

Last night I saw the new projector in motion for the first time.  Holy multi-media, batman.  It’s really beautiful and exciting.  It is going to make Little Brother as cool as it needs to be, as it is a show that depends on the audience understanding the technology in the book to get the most out of the story.  This is not fluff, this is as
essential to the play as, let’s say,  the costumes.

That is not always the case.

I looked up to our SM booth and saw three staff members (SM, ASM and video
engineer) clicking away furiously.  Four more laptops were lighting the center
audience.   At one moment there was a serious search for an open outlet. It reminded me of my first few apartments – way too many plugs, no where left to go.

Another flashback – CMTC’s first show in Boston.  At the incredible Boston Center
for the Arts  where we were able to  rent cheap, and use their small, unheated
space.  Our sound was on CDs, I think, but it could have been a tape player. Our
lights were basically their wash.  I directed, and also performed on the light
board.   I totally mean that, performed, as there was no X to Y switch, and I was
spending the 2-hour show desperately trying to hold steady and not twitch too
much when we had to go to the next cue.  Sometimes I would flash a light if I felt
the show needed a little excitement.   It was Stein’s Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights so
it seemed somewhat appropriate.

We’ve come a long way, baby.  I guess.  But on the other hand, at what cost?
Having this much power on stage is incredible, but it is also dangerous.
As I am thinking thru design choices for A Bright Room Called Day, which will
also use video, I am reminded that the storytelling has to come first.  Everything
on the screen is gravy.  People come to the theatre to see themselves in 3-D, in
real life, and because theatre is dangerous.  One of my professors, Ray Munro,
says the only reason people go to the theatre is that someone can die.  I totally
get that.  And this technology, no matter how pretty, is already dead.  It is canned.
It is, in some ways, the opposite of what we do.

Josh Costello, our incredible Little Brother  director and adapter knows this.  I
overheard a discussion where he wondered if one video moment was distracting
from the storytelling.  The tech crew argued against it, first I think because of how
beautiful and cool it was, but then Josh reminded everyone that the actors on stage
have to be the focus.  Always.  That cue may remain in, or they might adjust, but I was
thrilled at the process that was examining THE WHY of all the computer magic we
can  create, in a medium that in its essence is about two live humans, on stage,
bearing their souls for us.

No computer required for that.  Just flesh and blood.


LITTLE BROTHER named Editor’s Pick

LITTLE BROTHER named Editor’s Pick

Little Brother, which opens Jan 17th, was named an editor’s pick in this month’s Theatre Bay Area Magazine.  Caroline Anderson writes 

When I first saw the title “Little Brother,” my first thought was of an endearing little boy in plaid pajamas. My second thought was, like Big Brother? Turns out it’s the second one. Custom Made is not doing a heartwarming story about a freckled young boy, but a terrifying thriller based on the bestselling novel by Cory Doctorow, adapted for the stage by Josh Costello. True to its name, “Little Brother” is a tip of the hat to George Orwell’s classic “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” in which the government becomes an omnipotent police agency. Orwell’s novel introduced the phrase “Big Brother” into the lexicon to describe this type of governmental abuse of power. There is nothing little about this brother, however; Doctorow’s tale of the Department of Homeland Security torturing and interrogating citizens in the name of their safety after a terrorist attack on the Bay Bridge and BART sounds uncomfortably familiar

Read more about the other great shows TBA picked on their website

Little Brother Director’s Note

Little Brother Director’s Note

Here’s the unedited version of the Little Brother director’s note that will appear in the program.  Great thoughts from Josh about the novel and it’s eerie parallel with current events.

I first read Cory Doctorow’s novel Little Brother in 2009. I loved it, and it wasn’t long before I started thinking about turning it into a play. It’s got all kinds of things I like to put on stage: young people fighting back against a corrupt system, a pinch of science fiction, a sweet yet strikingly honest teenage romance. There aren’t many stories that hit so many of my buttons all at once. I emailed Cory Doctorow that June, and he replied twelve minutes later, cc’ing his agent and saying he was open to the idea.

I spent the next several months banging out a first draft, then got the chance to hear it aloud at a couple of staged readings with SF Playhouse. That led to more rewrites, and eventually I brought the script to Brian Katz and he agreed to produce it with Custom Made.

In the year since then, I’ve continued working on the script even as events in the real world caught up with and threatened to move past what happens in the story. Neither the Arab Spring nor Occupy Wall Street are predicted in Little Brother, but it is impossible to look at Little Brother now without thinking about both of them. It has been said that Cory Doctorow predicts the present. When people use technology to come together in solidarity against vastly more powerful forces, and when our president signs a bill legalizing the indefinite detention without trial of American citizens, the kind of present that Cory Doctorow predicts in Little Brother looks more and more like right now.

I don’t know how many Cory Doctorow fans are also small theatre enthusiasts — that Venn Diagram might just be me — but I hope this production will resonate with both the fans and the folks who have never heard of Cory Doctorow. I hope the fans will forgive me for the changes I’ve made to the story. I made some pretty big changes, not because I think I know better than Cory — I’m at least as big a fan as you are — but because a play and a novel are different beasts. Cory clearly believes in remixing and retelling, and that’s exactly what this is.

I love this story. I love that it’s both epic and detailed, both serious and funny, both earnest and subversive. Working with a talented group of people to bring Little Brother to life has been tremendously fulfilling. I can’t think of any story I’d rather tell. Enjoy.

Director Josh Costello


Designer Run / Funder Rehearsal

Designer Run / Funder Rehearsal

Last night we did something new at Custom Made: one of the perks of giving to our recent Indiegogo campaign was to be invited to the designer run.

For those not in the industry, or obsessed with obscure theatrical terminology, the designer run is one of the last chances for the design staff to see the play in action before the technical elements are brought in.  The “audience” is filled with tired, but excited, staff and enough computers, fabrics, gels, pipe, as well as various snack products and coffees to keep an #Occupy camp going for a night.

It was a treat having six of our donors there for this unique experience, and also gave the actors their first opportunity to play in front of a fresh audience.  The result was fantastic!  The play seemed to land very well, laughs happened where they should, and despite this being a play with a massive multi-media component that had has not been loaded in yet (let alone most costumes, props, or a finished set) the audience was engaged, entertained, and said it left them with a lot to think about.

All in all, a remarkable evening, and one I am very proud we were able to acheive.

Here’s two photos from my cell phone.  Sorry for the poor quality:

Daniel Petzold, Cory Censoprano

Daniel Petzold, Marissa Keltie, Cory Censoprano