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Op-Ed: Director speaks of American Playwright's comedy on technology Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Mar 8, 2018 in Entertainment
Ross - The dilemma society deals with regarding technology is something that got a comedic treatment in a debut on stage last week. But no doubt it will continue to be in the spotlight as we progress through the 21st Century and beyond.
"Dead Man's Cell Phone" now playing at the Ross Valley Players in Marin County — just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco — is directed by Chloe Bronzan, who is directing the well-established group for the very first time.
She selected and wanted to direct the play because of its insights into technology's impact upon society. "I have always had a love/hate relationship with technology, she noted. Bronzon is old enough to remember the days of answering machines with a bit of nostalgia. But young enough for the tech boom of the past 20 years to have played "an undeniably crucial role in my everyday life," she says.
Bronzan was just graduating from high school when Windows 95 was introduced. "I would have never imagined (back then) that 20 years later, (to this present day), I would be carrying a much more advanced/smaller version of a computer at all times."
Bronzan continues, "This is rather amazing when we take a step back and really look at how much has changed technologically in a relatively short span of time - when compared to the entire history of human civilization. For all the ways this little machine in our pockets connects us, there are just as many ways it isolates and distracts us form more authentic connections."
Written by American Playwright Sarah Ruhl, "Dead Man's Cell Phone" is essentially about a woman in a cafe who upon becoming annoyed at the constant ringing of the cell phone of the man sitting near her, she answers his phone. What makes the play quirky and unique is that she discovers he is dead. And, then takes it upon herself by way of an outpouring of compassion to let all those who call his phone, that he is dead.
This seems compassionate and perhaps even polite. But inadvertently, the woman gets pulled into the complex drama of the dead man's family. And, to make matters worse, she is entangled in his "real line of work" that is secretive and murky. "Ruhl eloquently examines the cost of technology through her delightfully entertaining and relevant tale." The New York Times in its review of the play when it first debut off-Broadway described it as "poetic fantasy... beguiling."
Bronzan was pleased to take a moment to reflect upon not only the play's profound elements, with this reporter, but her larger goal is to promote plays and productions that aim for what she refers to as "gender balance" in the theatrical world.
Like all aspiring actors, Bronzan was very excited to get her AEA card; (or sometimes called Actor's Equity). That was back in 2008 — a decade ago, but she soon discovered that the gap between men and women (even within AEA) with regards to things like health insurance rates, etc. were quite unreasonable.
Bronzan noted that if the Obama Administration managed to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, "I can see no reason why our theaters and artist unions should not be taking this issue just as seriously."
While she applauded the recent cultural shift that has taken place, (which has used social media with great impact), it emphasizes women be heard; "We are not trying to create an all-female paradigm for our company. It has been important for us to include male actors, playwrights in our projects, and simply desires a more gender-balanced one. Frustrated by the obstacles most women face, she and a few of her fellow female AEA members formed Symmetry Theatre Company.
Bronzan is pleased that so many talented men in theater are sympathetic to the mission of Symmetry Theatre Company. For as she said, "I think the more men we can get on board with the gender-parity movement, the more quickly we will see change. And, Bronzan believes it is important to diminish the "us versus them" attitude.
Technology has made it easier to galvanize and organize, reaching several or a group of people at one time. For especially when trying to reach people quickly, "In some ways," said Bronzon. "Communicating information about jobs, auditions, schedules and publicity has obviously become easier." Receiving a script by email is of course much easier and faster than by regular postage mail. And, when pressed for time with ensuring dress rehearsals are in place and ready to go, technology makes sure everyone has the script. So, no excuse for not having it.
In terms of making production efforts and quality easier, Bronzon said. "The technology for running actual sound and light cues during the show has become much more user friendly. There is a software program called 'Qlab' that many stage managers use, which can be run from a Mac. You just press the space bar and it plays the next, pre-loaded, volume-adjusted sound cue. Such programs make for much smoother sailing in the tech booth every night."
Courtesy of Ross Valley Players
Bronzan made mention that while she was preparing comments to the press, like the main character of Joan in "Dead Man's Cell Phone," she was at a favorite cafe when a patron near her table was talking loudly on a cell phone. "Such as it is in our modern world of today. This is precisely why I love live theatre. I would debate that live theatre is needed now, more than ever before. How appropriate it seems that this particular story is told in the form of a play," she added.
Bronzan considers live theatre a "living, breathing, so-very-human art form." The attendance at the Red Barn for Ross Valley Players production of "Dead Man's Cell Phone" exceeded my expectations. Especially since on that night, this past March 1, rain poured and it was cold. Yet it is because of use of smart phones, an audience can be prepared for any sort of wether or obstacle and plan accordingly - thanks to a wether app. The play is on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays and continues until March 25. For more information visit Ross Valley Players web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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