Utopia Theatre Project Presents NATURAL SHOCKS

Utopia Theatre Project Presents NATURAL SHOCKS

Local actress/artistic director Maryssa Wanlass will perform "tour-de-force" one-woman play based upon 'Hamlet's most famous scene.'

Directed by Laura Jane Bailey* (San Francisco, CA) Utopia Theatre Project will be participating in "Natural Shocks" - a national campaign of theater activism against gun violence. Inspired and sponsored by award-winning playwright, Lauren Gunderson, who is coordinating to have her one-woman play performed by theatre groups in all 50 states. Loyalty and permission fees are waived so that any and all theatre groups throughout the nation can participate and bring about a change on this issue of guns and gun violence.

"I was a junior in high school when Columbine happened in 1999, says Gunderson, and it spurred me into activism instantly." Deeply moved by the horrific shooting at Parkland, Florida. Gunderson wanted to use her script/playwriting skills to make a difference.

"Nineteen years later here we are, said Gunderson, another school shooting, but finally a freshly invigorated and seemingly unstoppable movement brewing. I happened to be working on a new one-woman play based a bit on Hamlet - called Natural Shocks - about a quirky, chatty woman with a dark truth she needs to share. I was just starting to send it out to trusted colleagues when the Parkland school shooting happened."

Gunderson is using Natural Shocks to raise money for Everytown or Mom's Demand Action and is waiving the royalty fees. She wants to start conversations, to build networks of support, to gather people and give them some place to go to congregate and say "enough!'"

Maryssa Wanlass a San Francisco Bay Area stage actor, teaching artist and Artistic Director of Utopia Theater Project is selected to perform this one-woman play. Wanlass explains, "I hope that my reading of Natural Shocks will encourage Bay Area audiences to empathize with people who might have a different relationship to guns and violence than many of us do. I hope that it will get people to have conversations about these issues and do something tangible to make a difference. Just by buying a ticket to this reading, audiences will be supporting Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization which is working to end gun violence in America and build safer communities."

Wanless continues, "I love that Gunderson, who is currently America's Most Produced Playwright, is steeped so thoroughly in Shakespeare's works and words. I have done a lot of Shakespeare acting myself and love the challenge and the rewards that Shakespeare offers. The language is so dense but also perfectly eloquent, balancing rhythms and sounds with reason and rhetoric. His characters are simultaneously thinking and feeling their way through their mortal predicaments, and every intellectual or emotional occurrence is laid bare for the audience to witness."

Wanlass believes Theatre reaches people in a profound way because it deals in story. "Through story we let our guards down and let in the experiences of others," she says.

Based on Hamlet's "To be or not to be", Natural Shocks is a new 65-minute, one-woman tour-de-force play that bursts to life when we meet a woman waiting out an imminent tornado in her basement. She overflows with quirks, stories, and a final secret that puts the reality of guns in America in your very lap. The play is part confessional, part stand up, and part reckoning.

Maryssa Wanlass is the Artistic Director of Utopia Theatre Project, and a Bay Area based actor, director, and teaching artist. Directing highlights include The Seagull (Utopia Theatre) PlayGround SF (The Free Theatre), San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and Shotz. Performance highlights include As You Like (CalShakes), Hamlet, Winter's Tale (San Francisco Shakespeare Festival), Persuasion (San Jose Stage) and Crime and Punishment (San Jose Repertory Theatre). As a teaching artist she can be found empowering young women through the Girls' Leadership Institute, giving maximum security inmates a voice through improv acting workshops with Red Ladder Theatre Company, and helping at-risk young adults in West Oakland discover Shakespeare's stories through SF Shakes' Midnight Shakespeare program.


Laura Jane Bailey* is a Bay Area Equity actor and director. She just directed Insignificance by Terry Johnson at Dragon Theater. Her solo show Mutti: Or How I Stopped Resenting and Learned To Love My Vacuum is being performed around the Bay Area. Most recently Bailey performed with Aurora Theatre in Luna Gale (Cindy) and Mud Blue Sky (Angie), TheatreWorksSV in Crimes of the Heart(Chick), San Francisco Playhouse in Man of LaMancha (Governor), City Lights Theatre Company in Fat Pig (Helen), Crowded Fire in Juan Gelion Dances For The Sun (Abbess), Boxcar Theatre in Equus (Dora/Hester), Arabian Shakespeare in The Message (Lylee), Dragon Theatre in Les Laisions Dangereuses (Merteuil), and Bad Dates (Haley Walker) and Impact Theatre in Crevice (Kathleen) for which she won a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle award. Originally from Chicago, she performed in many theaters including Famous Door's Cider House Rules and with Cobalt Ensemble Theatre's Tattoo Girl, I Am Yours, and Raised in Captivity. Laura Jane studied at Actors' Center Chicago, Second City, Improv Olympic and graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. www.laurajbailey.com

*Member, Actor's Equity Association

Anne Yumi Kobori founded Utopia Theatre Project in 2014 because she believes in artist-produced live theatre as a unique and powerful form of human connection using the theatrical art form to invoke social change through the telling of non-traditional stories. Natural Shocks is the fourth production in Utopia's inaugural season.

Seeds was the third production which played to sold-out audiences almost every night of the three-week run. The original work by emerging Japanese-American playwright, Anne Yumi Kobori explored the contemporary themes of masculinity, sexual assault, the aftermath of PTSD, and the #MeToo movement, all through the lens of World War II.

The first production was Chekhov's The Seagull, directed by Maryssa Wanlass* and Adapted by Anne Yumi Kobori featured a diverse and gender imaginative cast, as well as immersive and intimate staging, Cast members: Dameion Brown as Dorn; Elizabeth Carter* as Trigorin; Christian Haines* as Arkadina; Mary Baird* as Sorin; and Melissa Ortiz* as Masha. The Seagull was performed at the Omni Commons in Oakland from May 6-19, 2017.

The second production was Stories from Silence - an American Dream Play which was a series of original works by Bay Area artists responding to the epidemic of sexual abuse and assault. It was a benefit for MISSSEY, a non-profit based in Oakland with the mission of ending child exploitation. Cast members: Norman Gee*; Maryssa Wanlass*; Willem Long*; and Douglas Giorgis*. Stories from Silence was performed at PianoFight in San Francisco from November 30 - December 9, 2017

A nightlife hub located in the heart of San Francisco's theatre district boasting two stages, a cabaret space, and a popular bar, and restaurant, Attendees are invited to come early for light jazz and dinner in the cabaret space, and stay after the show for excellent cocktails and more musical acts. http://www.pianofight.com

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