In the episode “World Premieres,” Spark talks to John O’Keefe, a San Francisco playwright who’s been on the scene for decades. From the first draft to final rehearsals, from his home in the artist community Project Artaud to the stage at Cinnabar Theater, watch the development of his new play, “Queer Theory,” set to make its world premiere in Petaluma.

“Queer Theory” is the story of the meeting of two women following separate paths that have lead them to the birthplace of the Bront√ęs. One woman, Rebecca, is a ruthless power broker in the academic world; the other, an Iowa farm woman. These seemingly mismatched characters eventually become roommates.

That the farm woman is from Iowa is perhaps a personal touch — O’Keefe himself is a native Iowan. Born in Waterloo, Iowa, in 1940, O’Keefe was drawn first to singing. He attended the University of Iowa on a vocal scholarship. However, O’Keefe switched tracks in college, going on to graduate with a B.A. in philosophy and an M.F.A. in theater arts. He then became involved with the Center for New Performing Arts and the Iowa Theater Lab.

O’Keefe came to San Francisco in the early 1970s, beginning an affiliation with Magic Theater that continues to this day. O’Keefe also co-founded the Blake Street Hawkeyes, a performance-lab ensemble based in Berkeley. In 2000, O’Keefe embarked on a residency with Cinnabar Theater to create a trilogy exploring the ethos and personal traumas of the World War II era. “Queer Theory” is the fourth O’Keefe play to premiere at Cinnabar — the others being “Glamour,” “Times Like These” and “Spook.” The relationship allows O’Keefe to test his new works before producing them in larger venues and cities.

Internationally renowned, his works have toured the country and abroad. O’Keefe has received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including winning the Bay Area Critic’s Award for his play “All Night Long,” a Bessie Award for “Shimmer,” and residencies at the Sundance Film Institute and the University of Iowa. Most recently, O’Keefe has been awarded a Gerbode Foundation grant to write a libretto for the Berkeley Opera for 2004 and a 2002-2003 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for “Times Like These.”

More about Cinnabar Theater
Cinnabar Theater is part of the larger Cinnabar Arts Corporation, established in 1974 by Marvin and Jan Klebe to operate the theater and to provide an umbrella organization under which all the various projects and companies could operate. Cinnabar presents a wide array of performances, from operatic to experimental to little-known classics. The theater’s Young Rep program offers classes in musical theater, voice training, classical and contemporary acting techniques, opera, dance, and technical theater taught by professional singers, actors and directors.

Cinnabar Theater
Where: 3333 Petaluma Blvd., North Petaluma
Phone: (707) 763-8920

John O’Keefe 19 January,2016Spark
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