TheatreWorks casting director
Current show he is directing: "Cowboy Versus Samurai"
By: Michael Golamco, inspired by "Cyrano De Bergerac" by Edmond Rostand
Produced by: Pear Theatre
Directed by: Jeffrey Lo
Featuring: Lorenz Angelo Gonzales as Travis, Chuck Lacson as Chester, Drew Reitz as Del, and Heather Mae Steffen as Veronica Lee
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. March 15 through April 8, 2018
Where: Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida Street, Mountain View
Tickets: $10-$35 (discounts available). visit www.thepear.org or call 650-254-1148.
Jeffrey Lo website: jeffreywritesaplay.com
2014 interview with Jeffrey Lo
about director Jeffrey Lo
directs 'Cowboy Versus Samurai' at The Pear
Jeffrey Lo had already committed to directing "Cowboy Versus Samuri" at the little Pear Theatre in Mountain View when he accepted a new job: Casting director at Theatreworks Silicon Valley, one of this nation's most important theater companies.
He'd already been the assistant casting director, under the guidance of longtime TheatreWorks Casting Director Leslie Martinson, so the job was not totally new to him, but still ...
"It's quite busy, a bit of a shift in other ways, in some ways it's what I expected, in other ways there are surprises," Lo said during a recent phone interview. "I have the benefit of being there for six years. Some surprises, some things that somebody does that nobody knew they were doing. I realized, ‘Oh! I didn't know that!'"
But, Martinson, who left that job to devote more time to directing, is just a call or text away, Lo said. "We're friends."
There's a lot more paperwork with unions than he thought there would be, Lo said, plus he is still doing most of his old job — being "the point of contact for a lot of the unions, making sure contracts get out to folks. We're still in the process of interviewing people to replace people."
Martinson, he pointed out, "Is still part of the fabric of TheatreWorks. She's going to be directing for us. We have a saying at TheatreWorks, that you can never really leave."
Getting used to the new job is just part of Lo's life. Like a lot of theater people, he is busy all the time with various projects, perhaps more than most.
For instance, his 2018 Project: 365 Plays. He is honor-bound to write one play a day, all year.
Now, these are not "King Lear" or "Angels in America."
They are playlets meant to be one to ten minutes each. Some of them don't even have dialogue.
Lo said he'd been stuck in traffic one day, listening to a couple of writers talking about how writing was for them before they got successful and busy. Both had done online columns, writing every day or every other day, and were worried that they had lost a little drive and skill.
"They were likening it to a boxer who has to train every day," Lo said. "I was inspired, and thought to myself, ‘I've got to get busy. You know what, every day, I will force myself to give myself time to just sit down and dedicated time to writing, posting them every day.'"
And that's what he's been doing. The playlets are posted at www.jeffreywritesaplay.com, where a list can also be found of complete plays he has written, and plays he has directed. He's a productive fellow.
And, he is a good director.
He has a particularly good touch with Sarah Ruhl's plays. The "Eurydice" he directed for Palo Alto Players in 2015 was excellent, as was the "Dead Man's Cell Phone" he directed for Los Altos Stage Company that same year.
The "Santa Land Diaries" by David Sedaris he directed for TheatreWorks last year was a blast, and the entire play, including actor Max Tachis, will be back for the holidays this year.
The 2018 writing challenge, he said, "is to keep myself in shape. I am a much better director than a writer, but I wish it was the other way around."
Lo came to direct Michael Golamco's "Cowboy Versus Samurai" thanks to a conversation with Pear Theatre Founder Diane Tasca, not long before she gave up the artistic director job, which went to Betsy Kruse Craig.
"She kind of asked me — we'd had a good time on ‘Uncle Vanya' (which Lo directed at The Pear in 2016) — she wanted to make sure we had something we could work on. I handed Diane a number of ideas. I keep a bucket list of plays in my back pocket."
"Cowboy Versus Samurai" was one such play, and Lo was already familiar with it, having directed a reading of it at Marin Theatre Company.
"It's inspired by one of my favorites, ‘Cyrano de Bergerac,'" Lo said. "It's a four-person play, a tightly knit romantic comedy with a lot of heart. And it also explores fun and interesting subject matters of race, identity and self-worth."
The play is very funny, pitting a very bright teacher of Asian heritage against a not overly bright white gym teacher in competition to win the love of a gorgeous woman of Asian heritage.
The Pear's production of "Cowboy Versus Samurai" features Lorenz Angelo Gonzales as Travis, Chuck Lacson as Chester, Drew Reitz as Del, and Heather Mae Steffen as Veronica Lee.
"Lacson, oh man, he's so funny," said Lo, "he can make you laugh by looking at you."
The playwright, Michael Golamco, "is a local kid," said Lo. "He grew up in Marin. It's a joy to do his show. He is Filipino and Chinese."
Lo said he has reflected on his busy life.
"I was getting tired and feeling a little overwhelmed. And thinking, good artists in theater are supposed to be reflecting the lives we are living. So, the only show I'd be qualified to do was ‘Noises Off' (a hilarious backstage comedy). How could I do a show about other things until I had a life outside the theater? Once I complete ‘Cowboy Versus Samurai,' I'll try to figure it out. I'll read a lot, drink coffee and beer, and spend time with Laura Lorber (his lady friend)."
Why directing, not acting?
"I like directing because I like storytelling," said Lo. "I'm not a good actor. My favorite part is being in rehearsal, figuring out with the actors and designer how the show is going to go. Acting is not my cup of tea. Also, I am really bad at it."
Lo is of Filipino descent, which is a factor in his obsessive drive to work and to get better at his work.
"I was the first of my family to be born here," he said. "I figure I should really go for it, in a business-like sense.
"If you really want to do it fulltime and for a living, there is no success for people who half-ass it."
Email John Orr at email@example.com