The Capulet Ball

Love is in the air at this performance-infused 21 and Over party, an elaborate prelude to upcoming Romeo & Juliet performances at Petaluma Adobe SHP and Villa Montalvo. We Players will transform four stunning venues throughout the greater Bay Area this spring. Don a mask, brush shoulders with Capulet nobility, enjoy fantastic music, food and drink – perhaps even dance with your favorite character!

Click any venue to learn more about its Capulet Ball

Saturday May 7th, 7-10pm
San Francisco ($100)

Party with the Capulets in the dark wood embrace of St. Mary’s 125-year-old church and airy spaciousness of the brick-laid courtyard.

Saturday May 14th, 7:30-10:30pm
San Anselmo ($115)

The Capulet Ball in San Anselmo

This sleek modern villa is a bridge spanning a seasonal creek, with acres of protected lands stretching into the hills beyond. Party en masque in this incredible home and dance with the lovers under the stars.

Saturday June 4th, 8-11pm
Oakland ($75)

The Capulet Ball at Impact Hub Oakland

Our most urban venue for this thrilling masquerade! Hop on BART and jaunt a few blocks up bustling Broadway in vital Uptown Oakland to the spacious dance floor at Impact Hub.

Saturday June 18th, 6:30-11pm
Calistoga ($150)

The Capulet Ball at Castello di Amorosa

Cross the drawbridge to this real Tuscan-inspired castle for an elegant wine reception and a seated dinner. Dance amidst the stunning frescoes of the Great Hall and witness the lovers profess their bliss in the covered loggia.

Four dates. Four distinct venues. Love is in the air this spring!

Learn more- see our Capulet Ball FAQ

Canciones del Mar – 2015

We Players presents
Canciones del Mar: Songs of the Sea
Saturday, July 18th, 2015 at 6pm

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Google Maps link 499 Jefferson Street, San Francisco, CA 94109

Curated by Music Director Charlie Gurke

Our third annual concert aboard the 1886 tall ship Balclutha!
Five highly-acclaimed Bay Area latin musicians share songs about the sea, boats, love, and life, drawn from the folkloric and popular music traditions of Latin America and the Caribbean.

This event also marked the release of our fantastic recording of the 2014 concert!

Diana Gameros – Vocals and Guitar
Jose Roberto Hernandez – Vocals and Guitar
Edgardo Cambon – Vocals and Percussion
Steve Senft-Herrera – Bass
Charlie Gurke – Saxophone

As part of We Players’ five year cooperative agreement with San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, we collaborate with a wide range of artists, creating work from diverse vantage points in a variety of media as an exercise in exploring the many layers of story within the site. We aim to provide multiple points of access and connection to both the park and our practice.

We Players joins inkBoat for 95 Rituals

Dancers’ Group’s ONSITE Series Presents


directed by Shinichi Iova-Koga

Dedicated to Anna Halprin for her 95th birthday

“Anna is the stone, the rock.
This rock drops into the pool and we’re all the little ripples
that move out from the impact of the rock on the surface of the water.”
-Shinichi Iova-Koga


95 Rituals

95 Rituals

Tue-Sat, July 7-11, 2015, 5-8pm*

Hyde Street Pier @ Fisherman’s Wharf,
2905 Hyde Street, San Francisco

*No two showings will be the same; audiences have the option to come and go throughout or stay for the entire event.
All performances are FREE

95 Rituals is a series of free performances by inkBoat, a site-specific performance work honoring visionary dance pioneer Anna Halprin, who celebrates her 95th birthday on July 13, 2015.

At select locations, inkBoat will be joined by invited guests, including Kronos Quartet, ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Oguri, Roxanne Steinberg.
We Players will be a part of July 10th’s performance!

95 Rituals is a project of Dancers’ Group’s ONSITE program, which commissions artists to create large-scale, site-specific dance performances, presented free-of-charge to the public in highly visible locations throughout San Francisco. Learn more about Dancers’ Group and its ONSITE program here.


Pictured: Joshua Kohl, Yuko Kaseki, Shinichi Iova-Koga, Crow Nishimura, Dana Iova-Koga, Heekyung Cho, Suki O’Kane. Photo by Pak Han

A series of free, public events lead up to 95 Rituals’ Hyde Street Pier presentation.

As part of the creation process, a number of preparatory rituals will be shared as public experiments by members of inkBoat and invited guest artists. These events include:

Sunday, May 31, 11:30am
Ritual 8-27: market, a site-specific exploration at the Fort Mason Center Farmers’ Market and Firehouse (co-presented by the San Francisco International Arts Festival).

Sunday, June 21, 5pm
At Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, musical guest performers Kronos Quartet join inkBoat artists for Ritual 50-70: conjunction, presented in association with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Sunday, June 27, 2:30pm
Ritual 71: transient is a performance in and around designer David Szlasa’s mobile art space at Studio 1 at Market and 10th Streets.


A New Deal: Continuing the Legacy of Maritime Art in the Park

We Players presents

A New Deal:
Continuing the Legacy of Maritime Art in the Park

curated by Visual Arts Director Patrick GillespieBuoy

Maritime Museum
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

March 7 – June 17, 2015

Monday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm
900 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA 94109
Free and open to the public

A New Deal has been reviewed by KQED’s Matthew Harrison Tedford.

The Show and the Site

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park’s Maritime Museum has been a site of creative endeavor and community engagement for the past 76 years. A group of artists designed and finished the interior and elements of the original bathhouse building facade as part of a joint project between the City of San Francisco and the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1939. Participating artists in the design and production of the Streamline Moderne building included Hilaire Hiler, Sargent Johnson, Richard Ayer, and Beniamino Bufano, to name just a few.

In the spirit of the Maritime Museum’s history as a site of artistic engagement, We Players has invited eight Bay Area artists to produce site-specific works that engage maritime history, ecology, and the heritage of the museum. Artists Torreya Cummings, Alicia Escott, Matt Gordon, Justin Hurty, Monica Lundy, Raphael Noz, Brandon Walls Olsen and Wafaa Yasin are all displaying works as part of this exhibit.

The museum’s history has inspired artworks that engage themes of ecology, poetry, political zeitgeist of the time, maritime technology, and a universal sense of longing to return. The WPA has had a lasting influence on the past 76 years of US history and this exhibit offers an update to the issues, interests and challenges faced by the original artisans of the museum.

The show opens with a reception event on Saturday March 7th from 12:30-3:00pm; the opening event features a new performance artwork by participating artist Raphael Noz. Raphael’s performance will begin at 1pm.
Reservations are recommended!

 Our Partnership with SF Maritime NHP

As part of We Players’ unprecedented five-year cooperative agreement with San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, we are collaborating with a wide range of artists, creating work from diverse vantage points in a variety of media as an exercise in exploring the many layers of story within the site.

The extended venue of San Francisco Maritime NHP, including the Maritime Museum building, Hyde Street Pier, the historic vessels, Victorian Park, and Aquatic Park and lagoon, serves as a laboratory for We Players experiments in site-integrated programming, 2012-2017. Projects include the generation of new theatre works inspired by classical literature and Greek mythology, music concerts, dance, staged readings, visual art exhibits, conversations, parties, and workshops. In addition, San Francisco Maritime NHP will serve as a “floating classroom” for our growing aesthetic education programming, which serves youth from diverse backgrounds in neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area.

 Artist Panel Discussion

The Presidio Dialogues program is hosting a discussion with We Players, contributing artists, and other key collaborators to discuss the exhibition and project themes. Join us on May 28 at the Presidio Officer’s Club to further explore the histories and personal inspiration for the current exhibit at the Maritime Museum. This is a FREE event.

Please join We Players to celebrate and explore the legacy of the arts at the Maritime Museum and historic Aquatic Park!


2014 Run of Rime of the Ancient Mariner CANCELED

Dear Patron,

We are deeply disappointed, and have had to make a very difficult decision to cancel all performances of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on Alma. All tickets and fees will be refunded this week.

We were saving this for a surprise, but our production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on historic schooner Alma was built on the central image of an aerial performer as the Albatross, flying high above the deck, descending her apparatus in a painfully beautiful dance after being shot by the Mariner’s crossbow, all while sailing the San Francisco Bay.

Unfortunately, due to safety concerns related to the aerial performance that we and our partners at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park were unable to overcome, we are unable to proceed with the project at this time.

Alma's wake - sailing the Bay

Over the past several weeks of rehearsal we’ve made great strides in our development of the poem for performance. We have discovered rhythmic and imagistic gems while plumbing the currents of the text, we’ve written songs, we’ve stocked up on salty lingo, and are prepared to get wet. This has been valuable work, and we intend to make use of our investment. We set our sights on a new horizon and trust that we’ll find the time and the place that will best serve our vision for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

We sincerely apologize for this situation and the disappointment it may cause. We truly value you, our audience, and your support of and participation in our work. We don’t exist without you.

Thank you for your understanding and for staying the course with us.


Ava Roy and Lauren D. Chavez

Charles De Gaulle’s Egg

Alma mast and rigging

I was more than a little pleased to learn during the high summer that the We Players were to bring forth a production of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and deliver the work from the deck and rigging of the scow schooner Alma, an historic ship sailed by crew of San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

This pleasure with the advent of the Ancient Mariner to our park derives from my own private albatross and my own urge to prophesy:

Like Coleridge’s ancient mariner, I attend a good many weddings, often as an uninvited guest, often with words well-woven for unwanting ears.

Usually I stand unnoticed by flurries of wedding-guests passing in hopeful finery up the stairways and onto the breezy verandas of San Francisco’s Aquatic Park Bathhouse.  Occasionally I am noticed.  Occasionally, chance allows me to let fall a yarning of history.

The wedding guests rarely ask about the Bathhouse architecture or the murals.  When a guest hesitates in front of an exhibit or an element of the lobby murals, I sense the opening.  Often, too, there is the wedding guest who asks, “why is this place empty?  What are you planning to do with it?”  I point out that the building, artistically speaking, is far from empty and proceed to offer up a story that starts with a strange recurring dream I have.

In this dream it is September 1939, the year the Aquatic Park Bathhouse opens; the year the European phase of World War Two begins.   The dream is in French.  I am sitting in a dark wood-paneled study, a globe nearby; a green shaded desk lamp cast suffused light across a table-top dressed in leather and vermilion felt.  It must be midnight or nearly so.  I sit across from a young Charles De Gaulle, whom I inwardly dislike but toward whom I am being superficially polite.  He offers me a snifter of Armagnac ; I want something from Jerez in my glass; he has none.  He smokes; I do not.  He sits dressed as a Colonel of the Third Republic; I stand in the rumpled tweeds of a washed-out intellectual.  The meeting is not going well.

De Gaulle stabs his cigarette stub into a brass ashtray mounted on a small Gingham patterned bean bag cushion.  The ashtray is too English to be in the room and I wonder where it came from.  De Gaulle rings a bell, stands, and a valet presents the Colonel with an egg and a needle.  Over a garbage can, the future leader of the Free French de-yolks the egg and sets the now hollow and fragile alabaster-white eggshell on the desk before us.  He signals me and we sit.  De Gaulle leans over to me and says:

“It is hollow, Monsieur, but it is not empty.”

I fail to follow his line of thought and De Gaulle really does not care.  Colonel De Gaulle gets to his point quickly.  “I have a mission for you,” he begins, “you are to change into a tuxedo, take this eggshell, and parachute into Warsaw.  You are to carry this eggshell throughout the capitols of Europe while the war rages taking care that it does not break.  Perhaps find a spot where you can keep the eggshell and its contents safe for posterity.  After the war we will have another drink.  Remember the eggshell is hollow but it is not empty.  I will not wish you luck Monsieur; a man should know what kind of luck he has by your age.”

De Gaulle stands, presents me with the eggshell, a tuxedo, and a parachute.  Then he leaves. Then I leave. I enter some kind of anteroom flooded with harsh light.  I am conscious of a clock on the mantel ledge ticking.  On an impulse I hold the eggshell up to a light and peer into the hole in the bottom; my eyes and senses are dazzled by scales of color harmony and dancing patterns of the French Avant Guarde.  Along the interior surface of the shell are Hilaire Hiler’s Parisian murals; the egg is hollow, but it is not empty.

It sometimes takes the wedding-guest a moment, or perhaps long moments, to grasp the idea; the alabaster-white color of the Streamline Moderne building of the Bathhouse, the hollowness of the interior, the richness of the art that Europe lost but San Francisco preserves, in spite of itself, in the murals and mosaics that adorn the walls: rarely does an Ancient Mariner and a wedding-guest start out seeing things eye-to-eye.  Oftentimes the art and act of an Ancient Mariner is to turn apparent reality inside out, and unlock deeper meanings and histories.  In the story I related in the dream of De Gaulle’s Egg, I set the narrative in a past most listeners would understand, the Second World War, and used the metaphor of an egg that was hollow but not empty to demonstrate the value of an often overlooked piece of art and architecture.

“The mark of a civilization is the care and thought it devotes to the next generation.  I have a strong instinct to save ships for people I will never meet.” (Karl Kortum,1987).

We Players’ Rime of the Ancient Mariner begins October 31st and runs Fridays and weekends through November 16th.


Vessels for Improvisation aboard the ferryboat Eureka

When I was approached about programming concerts at SF Maritime as part of We Players’ cooperative agreement with the park, it didn’t take long to figure out what I wanted to do. 

One approach was to explore themes of the sea in latin american music, which we’ve been doing in our Canciones del Mar concerts.

The other approach that came to me was at the other end of the musical spectrum, so to speak. A more ‘pure’ exploration of sound in space, the basic idea was to let improvisers loose in the park to react and respond to the sounds of the pier. The bigger idea is that working with other artists in the familiar site of SF Maritime will help We Players company staff see the Park in new and inspiring ways.

ROVA and Vessels for Improvisation

A longtime fan of the ROVA sax quartet, they were the first ensemble I thought of approaching for this project. For an astounding 35 years, ROVA has been developing an improvisational rapport, making them an ideal group to step into almost any situation with open ears.  Larry and John came to scope out the pier and decided that the ferryboat Eureka was best suited to this endeavor, with ample space for both audience and performers to move freely during the concert.

I had initially conceived of Vessels for Improvisation as a solely musical event, but ROVA expressed interest in collaborating with dancer Shinichi Iova-Koga, which made perfect sense, as movement (of performers and audience alike) would be a major part of Vessels.  Now in it’s second year, I’m very much looking forward to what Vessels will reveal, featuring an expanded ensemble with the addition of John Bischoff on electronics, and Dana Iova-Koga and Dohee Lee from inkBoat joining ROVA and Shinichi.

– Charlie Gurke, Music Director

King Fool and Night Walk this Friday!

We Players invites our community to join us in a Night Walk through the Mission in advance of our final San Francisco showing of King Fool, this Friday.
(Our 9/26 event – including performance, conversation and festive closing reception, will begin at 8pm, in a private warehouse just south of Mission Bay. The address will be revealed upon placing your reservation)

One of the things that has come up in our post-performance conversations is the truth that we cannot know when we will die.

Many of us hope that we will be blessed with a full life and well cared for by those we most love as we age and approach death. In our adaptation, Lear is blessed in this way, and yet his story is still heartbreaking.

It is a far greater tragedy for young people to die from violent crime.

The faith communities in the Mission – with whom we shared our opening performance of King Fool, have been making a positive impact in their neighborhood by being present and peaceful.

Our creative team is inspired to connect the timeless themes of death and relationship with current realities and join these communities for this Friday’s Night Walk.

We welcome your participation.

More info below.

For over a year now, several faith communities have been regularly walking some of the more violent streets of the Mission with a simple three-fold message:

  •  We care
  •  Stop the violence
  •  What do you need?

At this next Nightwalk we will also celebrate the re-emergence of an important street-intervention organization in our neighborhood. This organization, called CALLES (meaning “Streets”), has been one of the Mission’s most effective organizations reaching high-risk youth. It has been dormant for the last few years, but makes its comeback as part of our next Nightwalk.

When: Friday, September 26, 6-7:30pm

Where: Starting with a short ceremony at Instituto Familiar De La Raza (IFR) // 2919 Mission St, SF, CA 94110 and walking to Centro del Pueblo // 474 Valencia St

Gold from King Fool post-performance conversations

Our King Fool project is an experiment on many levels.

I’ve been kicking off our post-performance conversations with a brief summary of We Players’ mission: connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre and using our art to provoke thought and stimulate conversation on the shared themes of play and place.

We are sharing King Fool in a variety of locations, which does two things:

1) stretches our site-integrated practice to make the piece seem to emerge from and be at home in the place, without a lot of scouting and on-site rehearsal time; and

2) reinforces that the core theme of death, and supporting one another as we approach death, is not unique to any one place.


Our post-performance conversations have largely flowed without much effort on my part as a facilitator. Ava and John’s acting, the narrative of father-child relationship and Shakespeare’s rich language plucks at our heartstrings. Nature, in her constantly shifting vibrancy, holds us in the present moment. A respondent shares what struck them in witnessing the piece, and offers some insight garnered through encountering death and loss in their daily work. There are so many directions to go!

We’re halfway through the run and I’m looking forward to attending all the remaining performances! No live theatre event is ever the same. Performing outdoors, We Players really embraces and celebrates that truth in all of our work… but since the audience is different each time ‘round, our conversations take the concept of experiencing something “fresh and new” to another level.

I’m heartened that our mission appears to be working. Most people are yearning to talk about death and loss, and theatre is forging the container for an informative and inspiring conversation between folks from very different backgrounds. Below are short summary bios for two of our respondents, demonstrating the very different directions our discussion might take.

Join us for one of the remaining King Fool performance and add your voice!

Friday, September 19 – Cara Rose DeFabio

Cara Rose DeFabio lives in San Francisco and makes experimental performance that examines how technology mediates human experience. Her solo work After the Tone examines how digital debris has transformed the mourning process and how the technological capacity for memory may be shaping our ability to forget. Weaving together newspaper headlines, tweets, forgotten choreography and audience contributions via their cell phones, the show uses multiple platforms to weave together the story of our new digital afterlife. Her latest work, DARKNET explores the deep web, anonymity online, the expectation of privacy and how we behave when we think no one is watching.

Sunday, September 28 – Lois Williams

I am a hospice chaplain in the East Bay. I am also an Episcopal priest, and have at times been considered to be a little mystic. I work with both dying patients and their family or friends helping them come to terms with their terminal illness. I do this from a background of psychology, philosophy and theology. I will assess their spiritual needs, and journey with them as someone who holds hope in a future – whatever that looks like, while allowing them to find and share their own meaning of life with their family and/or myself.

I respect everyone’s faith tradition, or spiritual concepts; we are too complex, and the universe is too amazing for there to be only one way to be. My God is a loving one who does not reject anyone, and I desire to walk in love as Jesus did, as Buddha did, as Martin Luther King has, along with many others, and I do this one conversation at a time.

King Fool site notes – San Anselmo

KF Event 4

While our gracious site hosts don’t know much about the history of their land specifically, here is some interesting information they shared about the land now known as Sleepy Hollow:

The first recorded history of the Hollow is from 1839. A Mexican land grant was given to Domingo Sais, a soldier at the Presidio is San Francisco. His land consisted of 6,659 acres, including part of San Anselmo, Fairfax, and Sleepy Hollow. Domingo Sais died in 1853 leaving his land to his widow and six children. Sleepy Hollow went to his oldest son Pedro.  

Anson P. Hotaling bought the land in 1887. A wealthy San Franciscan, his son Richard developed a beautiful estate and called it Sleepy Hollow. He built a mansion at the end of Butterfield Road, which reflected his love for the theater. The living room had a stage complete with a Romeo and Juliet balcony. Many plays and Bohemian parties were held there.

It wasn’t always parties in the Hollow, however, in 1939 the golf course closed due to lack of water. For a time during World War II, the U.S. Army occupied part of the Hollow as a secret ammunition storage depot.  Barracks housed 30 men. There were two batteries composed of four-inch antiaircraft cannon manned by five soldiers on a 24 hour basis. One battery was on Stuyvesant Drive and the other on Oak Springs Hill. At war’s end, the Army departed.

Our land was undeveloped before we built our home.  The hills had been used as ranch land, but now lie open with oaks, coyote brush and wild flowers running up to Open Space maintained by Marin County.  The paths around the property were set by the deer.  The coyotes keep our deer population in check.  The turkey vultures clean up the remains.  Leaving us the stage upon which We Players sets King Fool.

The Trio Happening

Along Aquatic Park beach goers encountered the Graeae, a mythological trio of women from Ancient Greece, respectively called Dread, Horror and Alarm.

……….The Trio: Caroline Parsons, Maria Leigh and Julie Douglas………e

……………………Location: Aquatic Park, San Francisco
…………………….Date: July 26th, 2014

Encountering the Trio

Saturday July 26, 2014
at THREE o’clock
on the beach at Aquatic Park
(directly in front of the Maritime Museum building)

You’re invited! To the first public sharing of The Trio’s practice. The women who wielded elemental powers as the Weyard Sisters in We Players recent Macbeth at Fort Point, continue their exploration of other mythical trios. Join us for a picnic on the beach at Aquatic Park and encounter The Trio between the sand and the sea.


WHERE: Find the Maritime Museum building. Find the clock on the museum facade. Face the water. The Trio is somewhere on the the beach. Meet at the red We Players flag in the sand. They’ll come to you when it’s time.

The Maritime Museum is located at the far end of Beach Street, next to Ghiradelli Square in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood of San Francisco.

WHEN: 3-5pm, Saturday July 26, 2014

This event is free! But please do:
– Bring a picnic! We’ll have some snacks to share, please bring your own as well.
– Bring a beach towel or blanket, sunscreen and warm layers.
– Prepare to kick your shoes off! This party is in a sandbox.

The sharing will be immediately followed by a conversation with The Trio. We are eagerly seeking your experience! Your responses will directly inform the next iteration of our work.

Soy Tu Mar (I Am Your Sea)

Canciones del Mar: Songs of the Sea

I have played all sorts of concerts in all kinds of venues but “Canciones del Mar; Songs of the Sea” (curated by Charlie Gurke from We Players) is a very unique and fun concert because our performance will happen aboard a beautiful historic ship, the Balclutha, in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

For an hour and a half Jose Roberto Hernandez (guitar, vocals), Charlie Gurke (saxophone), David Pinto (bass) and Edgardo Cambón (percussion, vocals) and I will take you to a world of sea and love with stories and song.

I’m particularly excited about this year’s performance as I will be sharing one of my original songs, “Soy Tu Mar” (I Am Your Sea), a song that speaks about the sea, or better said, the sea speaks about itself, about its memories, about its joys and fear…through me.

I am very honored to be playing with such broad and talented musicians. We all come from different musical backgrounds so I will be playing and singing songs that, at times, may take me out of my comfort zone which I find to be very exciting as playing and singing styles of music different from mine takes my musicianship to another level. Really looking forward to this beautiful collaboration!

— Diana Gameros, Vocals & Guitar
Canciones del Mar

Meet the Musicians of Canciones del Mar

Read below to learn about the incredibly talented ensemble of musicians who will present
Canciones del Mar: Songs of the Sea
on Saturday, July 19th at 6pm aboard the tall ship, Balclutha.


I think of the musicians of Canciones as an all-star ensemble, but when putting this group together, I wasn’t looking for the flashy, virtuoso kind of ‘all-star’. Each member of this ensemble is a virtuoso musician and composer in their own right, but I chose each one more for their interpretive sensitivity than their ‘chops’. I wanted to be sure that the themes we’re expressing, the variety of metaphor that the sea provokes, would be artfully expressed.

I’ve had the pleasure of performing with Edgardo Cambon’s large and small ensembles, Candela and Latido, for the past several years. Originally from Montevideo, Uruguay, Edgardo is a master percussionist and vocalist with a breadth of knowledge and experience performing the music of Latin America, from Argentinian tango to the salsa of El Barrio. Edgardo is especially fluent in the popular and folkloric music of Cuba, and opens each Canciones performance with a chant to Yemaya, the Afro-Cuban deity of the sea.

Originally from Juarez, Mexico, Diana Gameros is known to most of her fans for her original songs of ‘love, longing, and hope’, performed in a diverse style that blends elements of latin music with rock, world music, and jazz. I knew Diana would be a perfect fit for the Canciones ensemble when I heard her perform solo, playing very original and personal arrangements of classic boleros and rancheros from the latin american tradition.

I came to know Jose Roberto Hernandez when we spent the better part of a year bringing the music of Latin America to elementary school kids across San Francisco through a program with the SF Symphony. Jose Roberto is not only a master guitarist and vocalist with a wealth of knowledge of the bolero and nueva trova traditions, but is also skilled in folk instruments from around Latin America, including his native Tabasco, Mexico.

David Pinto is one of the many musical treasures we are lucky to have here in the Bay Area. A native of Peru, David is best known for his work as music director, arranger, and bassist for Susana Baca. In addition to his particular expertise in Afro-Peruvian music, David performs with the bay’s best salsa, folkloric, and latin jazz ensembles.

— Charlie Gurke
We Players Music Director

For more information and tickets to Canciones del MarCLICK HERE.

Gala 2014

An evening to remember…

Thank you all who attended our April 5th dinner theater fundraiser!

Thank you for joining us in celebrating and supporting We Players’ mission of connecting people with place through site-integrated theatre.

We’ve heard from many of you longtime friends that our 5th Annual Gala was the best yet. The food was delicious, the flow of the evening seamless, our table captains blended challenge with humor, and Hermes took our breath away descending from the heavens.

Mark & Tracy captured some of the nights revels in our costume photo booth!

We both had a lot of fun, too!

You can continue to help We Players by spreading the word and encouraging your friends to join you at Macbeth at Fort Point this June.

Thanks again for a truly magical evening!
–Lauren D. Chavez and Ava Roy

Vessels for Improvisation

ROVA saxophone quartet and dancer Shinichi Iova-Koga of inkBoat explore the resonant space of the historic ferryboat Eureka at Hyde St. Pier.

Curated by Music Director Charlie Gurke


ROVA Saxophone Quartet (Larry Ochs, Jon Raskin, Bruce Ackley and Steve Adams) with dancer Shinichi Iova-Koga.

……….Location: The historic ferryboat Eureka at Hyde Street Pier
……….Date: November 2nd, 2013

Travels with A Masked Man



Written and performed by John Hadden
ONE NIGHT ONLY – Friday, October 12 @ 8pm
Location – Passenger Deck of the Eureka
This event is by-invitation only. If you would like to be our guest, please Email Us

Haunted by unanswered questions about his childhood overseas, a man confronts his father—an ex-CIA officer who ruminates darkly on the American Empire, the human animal, and himself. Hadden, who plays both characters, evolved the play from many hours of conversations he taped with his father eight years ago. Alternately poignant and hilarious, the play evokes memories and responses about parents and children and growing up during the Cold War.

John Hadden is a longtime director and actor. He was a founding member of Shakespeare & Co in Lenox, MA and is currently the Artistic Director of The Theater Company at Hubbard Hall, Cambridge, NY.

Following the one-hour performance, desserts and tea accompany a discussion conducted by We Players’s managing director Lauren Chavez, with artistic director Ava Roy and John Hadden.

History’s Mortar: Ambition

“History’s Mortar: Ambition” is a site-specific exhibition of visual art at Fort Point. Four Bay Area artists were invited to explore Fort Point’s history, architecture and landscape, and compose the Fort’s historic narratives into contemporary modes of visual art.

These site-specific works bring the collective experience of the US History to bear, reveal how a contemporary public narrates historic space and examines humanity’s relationship to nature.

“History’s Mortar: Ambition” asks the audience to consider the cyclical nature of human history, marking that it often repeats itself, and presents ideas as to how society copes with it’s legacy of ideologies, ontological positions, and cultural practices.

Curated by Visual Arts Director Patrick Gillespie

Participating Artists:

Monica Lundy
Matthew Gordon
Torreya Cummings
Brandon Walls Olsen

……….Location: Fort Point, San Francisco
……….Dates: September 5 – November 2, 2013

“History’s Mortar: Ambition” was part of We Players 2013 site-integrated project, Macbeth at Fort Point.

HISTORY’S MORTAR:  AMBITION — Curatorial Statement by Patrick Gillespie

Fort Point is an impressive display of technology and military architecture.  Walking through the compound archways and the extraordinary symmetry rendered by compass, right triangle, rule and hand creates an experience of awe.

The backdrop to Fort Point is an equally extraordinary feat of engineering, the Golden Gate Bridge.  It towers above sea level, humming with traffic, stoic against the weight of human bodies and the endless winds of the Pacific.

But before there was the bridge and before there was Fort Point, there was humanity and it’s inability to cope with it’s own folly, particularly an individual’s rise to power.  That particular thread of seemingly endless human ingenuity never fundamentally changes; only the spectacle and the tools utilized to bring about a dismal end evolves.

The site specific artworks created for Fort Point echo the folly of human history, our symbolic projection of power, and the natural forces that seemingly thrash ambition into submission.

The artwork by Matt Gordon responds to Fort Point with the refrain from “The Lament for the Markaris,” by William Dunbar, commenting on the ever comforting and contemplative aspect of death.  Monica Lundy’s Portait of Confederate Commander James Waddell reminds us of our particular vantage point on history, rendering a leader of men as a weed because of his allegiance to the wrong side of the war.  Torreya Cummings simulates mankind’s belief that nature can be captured and put inside a box, controlling it in theory, but ever failing in practice.  And Brandon Olsen reminds us that the spoils of war bring about a kind of transformation we rarely deal with or speak to publicly, surrender.

Fort Point is brilliant in it’s architecture, prowess and stoicism.  Yet for all of the effort and technology used to bring it into existence, it’s design was never coupled with its purpose.  Having never witnessed battle, Fort Point has lasted these hundred years to remind us of fear reconciled with power and security, and the inevitable purposelessness of creation out of fear.


Canciones Del Mar

Three of the Bay Area’s most exciting vocalists perform an intimate concert, singing songs about the sea, boats, love, and life, drawn from the folkloric and popular music traditions of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Curated by Music Director Charlie Gurke

Diana Gameros – Vocals and Guitar
Jose Roberto Hernandez – Vocals and Guitar
Edgardo Cambon – Vocals and Percussion
Sam Bevan – Bass
Charlie Gurke – Saxophone

……….Location: Aboard the tall ship Balclutha at Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco
……….Date: Saturday, July 13th, 2013


Herman’s House Screening

Thanks to all who joined We Players on Alcatraz Island on May 19, 2013, to view and discuss this new documentary film about the relationship between a prisoner and an artist, and the dream home of a man who has spent 40 years in solitary.

Learn about current realities and consider getting involved with the issue of solitary confinement in California prisons –

Herman’s House Screening on Alcatraz

Join We Players to view and discuss this new documentary film about the relationship between a prisoner and an artist, and the dream home of a man who has spent 40 years in solitary.

Sunday, May 19 – Alcatraz Island, 5:30-10pm

Screening, panel discussion with director Angad Singh Bhalla (a past player with WE!) and other special guests, walking tour, and viewing of a current art exhibit in the New Industries Building.

For more information on the film, visit



Sea Stories Circle – Myths of the Mariner and the Muse

Hyde Street Pier, aboard historic ferryboat Eureka 

Sundays, 2-4pm: April 14, May 19, June 16th * 2013 


Join We Players for one or all of these reading events, which will be a crucial part in our process of collecting and sharing stories about the sea as we gradually develop a new show for San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Bring stories, poems, songs, or just come willing to read from the selections that we bring.

These are free events and complimentary beverages and cookies will be provided.

Gala 2013

Uncharted Formations

ANGEL-ISLAND-EXHIBITION-UNCHARTED-463x600Throughout 2012, We Players’ explored themes found throughout the history of Angel Island, namely journeying, war, homecoming and refuge, and presented a series of art, education and community engagement programs to stimulate discussion around these themes.

Graduate student final projects
California College of the Arts – Engage program
Angel Island and the Gate Keeping Nation
Autumn 2012 course taught by Aaron Gach and Patrick Gillespie

Exhibiting Artists:
Regina Acebo
Ebun Alugbin
Julie Feldman
Susan L. Lin
Robert Gome
Neil Rivas (clavo)

EXHIBITION EXTENDED through spring 2013

This graduate class marks an unprecedented collaboration between We Players (an arts non-profit), California College for the Arts (a for-profit institute for higher education), and a California State Parks site.

The class explored “island-ness” in relation to historical narratives, works of fiction, current politics, and contemporary artworks. Angel Island served both as a physical and a theoretical site of investigation for the seminar. Additionally, seminar discussions engaged a range of island discourses through readings, screenings, and presentations by community members and guest artists.

Students were granted unique access to Angel Island for conducting their own research and site investigations. The class culminated in a closing exhibition comprised of student projects that respond directly to Angel Island as a historical site, and/or to “islandness” as a concept with multiple trends through culture, literature, art, and history.

Announcing WE’s Collaboration with playwright Daniel Heath

Daniel Heath

We are excited to collaborate with local playwright Daniel Heath, in the creation of a NEW work, designed and built specifically for this site! (premiere date TBD) 

Through historical research, ensemble based practices, interviews with people living in close relationship to the sea, and of course – intimate engagement with the site, We Players produces thought-provoking, site-integrated theatre productions on the dynamic floating stages at Hyde Street Pier and along the local waterfront.

Our connection to the past can be felt in the wood planks of the ships, heard in the clang of the buoy bells, visualized in the lines twisted into coils on the docks. We spin yarns alongside the boat shop, while present day shipwrights employ traditional techniques. Nearby, fishing boats line up to deliver their catch and ferries await their passengers, still traveling the waters of the bay. Because of our deep commitment to partnership and strong working relationship with the park site stewards, our performances not only utilize the spectacular site, but also highlight the rich history and current programming of the park.

Myths of the Mariner and the Muse


We Players’ MYTHS of the MARINER and the MUSE is an ongoing project taking a variety of performance forms on the historic ships located at Hyde Street Pier, the lagoon, and the surrounding environs of Aquatic Park.  We Players is proud to partner with San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in the first cooperative agreement of it’s kind between an arts non-profit and a National Park Service site.  This five year agreement officially began in August 2012 and will continue through 2017.

To date, projects at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park include a sailing production of The Odyssey (inspired by Homer’s ancient epic), aboard the scow schooner Alma (2011); Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, while cavorting along the pier and aboard both the full-rigged ship Balclutha and the steam-powered ferry boat Eureka (2012); and intimate sea-inspired story sharing aboard Eureka (2012).

In 2013 we will produce a series of music concerts, under the music direction of Charlie Gurke.

We Players Partners with SF Maritime National Historical Park


We Players is proud to partner with San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in the first cooperative agreement of it’s kind between an arts non-profit and a National Park Service site.  This five year agreement officially began in August 2012 and will continue through 2017.  Our MYTHS of the MARINER and the MUSE will continue in a variety of performance forms on the historic ships located at Hyde Street Pier, the lagoon, and the surrounding environs of Aquatic Park. 

To date, projects at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park include a sailing production of The Odyssey (inspired by Homer’s ancient epic), aboard the scow schooner Alma (2011); Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, while cavorting along the pier and aboard both the full-rigged ship Balclutha and the steam-powered ferry boat Eureka (2012); and intimate sea-inspired story sharing aboard Eureka (2012).

About the site – San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

About San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, located on the edge of San Francisco Bay near Fisherman’s Wharf, is open year-round. Visitors can view exhibits at the Park’s Visitor Center (415-447-5000) at the corner of Jefferson Street and Hyde, and may walk onto the pier to visit the park’s collection of floating historic ships and for breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Tours, videos and demonstrations are offered daily, including a below-decks tour of the Eureka and a demonstration of setting Balclutha’s staysail. The wooden-hulled Eureka, built in Tiburon in 1890, ferried trains and later automobiles and passengers around San Francisco Bay until 1957. Visitors to Eureka today can see examples of the cars she ferried on her lower deck from 1923 to 1957, her four-story-tall walking beam steam engine, and the upper decks where up to 2300 passengers could travel during each crossing. The Eureka began her service before the Golden Gate Bridge was built, at a time when San Francisco’s Ferry Building was second only to London’s Charing Cross Railway Station as the busiest passenger terminal in the world. Moored across Hyde Street Pier from the Eureka, the Balclutha is a three-masted, steel-hulled, square-rigged ship built to carry a variety of cargo all over the world. Launched in 1886 near Glasgow, Scotland, the ship carried goods around Cape Horn (tip of South America) 17 times. It took a crew of about 26 men to handle the ship at sea with her complex rigging and 25 sails. Balclutha also had a brief career as a movie star in Mutiny on the Bounty, alongside Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, and narrowly escaped World War II scrap metal drives before being purchased by the San Francisco Maritime Museum in 1954.

How We Leave and Return:  Intersections of Art and History

How We Leave and Return: a site-specific exhibition of visual art on Angel Island.

Seven Bay Area artists were invited to explore Angel Island’s history, architecture, and landscape, and compose the island’s historic narratives into contemporary modes of visual art.  Some of the works brought the collective experience of island to bear, while others revealed how a contemporary public commodifies historic space, examining the narrative position of the human in relationship to nature, and commenting on current trending of the past through re-imagined utilitarian and ritual practices.  The exhibit asked the audience to consider the cyclical nature of mythic and human history, marking that it often repeats itself, and presents ideas as to how a society copes with it’s legacy of ideologies, ontological positions, and cultural practices.

Curated by Visual Arts Director Patrick Gillespie

Exhibiting Artists:

James Bradley
Torreya Cummings
Lauren Dietrech-Chavez
Julia Goodman
Matt Gordon
Justin Hurty
Brandon Olsen
Imin Yeh

……….Location: Angel Island State Park
……….Dates: April 28 – July 1, 2012

How We Leave and Return was part of the We Players Visual Arts Program during it’s 2012 residency on Angel Island.

Gala 2012

Alcatraz Symposium

justic_freedom 13

thank you for joining WE on The Rock this past weekend.

The Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom was a fitting closure to We Players’ three year residency in partnership with the National Park Service.

I witnessed inspiring creativity, deep emotion, meaningful conversation, cross-pollination of communities, and the forging of new relationships.

Please share your stories from the weekend here!

Alcatraz Cell House Dance Theatre

This evening program allowed audiences to explore the cell house and witness movement metaphors representative of the history of Alcatraz and current prison realities; moving through emotion and grief with participatory music and dance; and feeling cleansing, purification, and transformation as we viewed bright-burning coals dance in the open air with the San Francisco skyline as our back drop.

Curated by Lauren D. Chavez

Cell House Dance Theatre Collaborators:

Laurel Butler
Lauren D. Chavez
Amie Dowling
Ava Roy


Ajayi Jackson
Paris King
Paul Rucker
Josh Tower
and other guest musicians

Coals Dance: The Tea Dancers, Natta Haotzima and Mayra Enriquez

……….Location: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
……….Dates: October 23rd, 2011

Alcatraz Cell House Dance Theatre was part of We Players 2011 Alcatraz Series during the company’s three year residency on Alcatraz Island.

Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom

Thursday – Sunday, October 20-23, 2011

In programmatic partnership with the National Park Service, We Players created site-specific arts events addressing the themes of incarceration, isolation, justice and redemption on Alcatraz Island from 2009-11. The company concluded this historic three-year artistic residency with a four day symposium exploring justice and freedom through diverse media. Symposium events occurred throughout the island and included: performance art, music, dance, visual art exhibitions, ritual, and panel discussions with formerly incarcerated artists as well as victim awareness activists.


Dance Theatre Evening Program in the Cell House, Hospital and Parade Ground

The evening program is a three part event, where the audience will: explore the cell house and witness movement metaphors representative of the history of Alcatraz and current prison realities; move through emotion and grief with participatory music and dance; and feel cleansing, purification, and transformation as we view bright-burning coals dancing in the open air with the San Francisco skyline as our back drop.

Evening Program Curator: Lauren D. Chavez
Cell House Dance Theatre Collaborators: Laurel Butler, Lauren D. Chavez, Amie Dowling, Ava Roy
Musicians: Ajayi Jackson, Paris King, Paul Rucker, Josh Tower and other guests
Coals Dance: The Tea Dancers, Natta Haotzima and Mayra Enriquez

Poetic Justice Project’s “Women Behind The Walls” in the Hospital

Women Behind the Walls was written from improvisations with the women of Chowchilla prison, the largest women’s prison in the world. A multiracial cast of five women in a unique and gripping play that moves audiences from laughter to tears as they confront the women behind the walls. This play has been produced in many multi-cultural theaters throughout the US.

Visual Art and live cello performances in the New Industries Building

Seth Armstrong

I was recently arrested for “strong armed robbery” while protecting my own personal property in Oakland, CA.  These three paintings help tell the story.  They are as follows:  “A View Of the Jail From the Courtroom Lobby”, “The Interior Of the Cell” (painted from memory), and “The Douchebag That Put Me There” (based on the so called “victim’s” Facebook profile picture).

Evan Bissell

Meditation on Hunger Strikes and Public Fasts

The site specific installation by artist Evan Bissell looks at the uses, gains and spiritual grounding of people who have engaged in hunger strikes and public fasts for self-determination and freedom throughout history.  Created with salt, water and military issue dishware from Alcatraz, the interactive piece is a meditation on impermanence, interconnectedness and sacrifice – the belief that one’s life, and how it is lived contributes to a greater body that will continue past the death of one of its parts.

The Knotted Line (in-process)

The Knotted Line is a participatory, internet-based project investigating the history of incarceration and its relationship to education and labor in the United States from 1495-2025.  The Knotted Line weaves together a dynamic, narrative painting of over 75 historical moments with an evolving online interface to create an interactive historical laboratory and container for the sharing of visitors’ personal experiences as related to incarceration.  When completed in Spring of 2012, The Knotted Line will also include a book version and free curricula for high school classes and community organizations.  Shown on Alcatraz will be over 30 miniature paintings of key historical moments.

Monica Lundy

In 1895, 19 Hopi men were imprisoned on Alcatraz Island for refusing to accept the American government’s program of forced education and assimilation. With an interest in social histories, Monica Lundy’s most recent project focuses on the 19th century imprisonment of Native Americans on Alcatraz Island, long before the infamous prison we currently know as Alcatraz Prison was built. This series of site-specific paintings reference Alcatraz’s history while simultaneously incorporating existing elements of the deteriorating architecture into the artwork itself, resulting in a direct collaboration between the history of the site and the artist.

Paul Rucker


Art can tell stories. For years I would talk about injustice by reciting numbers and statistics. When you say, “We have over 2.3 million people in prison,” it’s a large number to comprehend. I did research at a prison issues-themed residency at the Blue Mountain Center in New York, and found some maps that I felt could help tell the story. The project is an animated mapping – using different colors to indicate prison construction in different eras, showing the proliferation of the US prison system from a celestial point of view.  The viewer can clearly see the astonishing growth of this system over time.

Live Cello Performances

Spaces contains residue from the past.  You can feel this on Alcatraz.  The New Industries/ Laundry is simultaneously a site of privilege (it was a privilege for prisoners to work) and exploitation (prison labor is not  regulated under the same laws as free labor). All my work is inspired by that which moves me. Every object has a sound. I enjoy performing in galleries and creating live, improvised sonic interpretations of artwork. The music I create on cello involves extended technique, prepared cello and electronics.

I thought I’ve seen humans… Interactive performance in the Hospital

Mabel Negrete/ Counter Narrative Society (CNS)

CNS is presenting a new para-fictional multimedia participatory performance at the former hospital of the Alcatraz Federal Prison which unpacks the immaterial qualities of Negrete’s new proposition: “I thought I’ve seen humans.” As part of her long-term project, “When the Invisible Punishing Machine is Everywhere, The Weight I Carry with Me”, she has designed an immersive performance for audiences to witness the rigid architecture of the hospital which upholds nightmarish notions about safety and eugenic technologies, and synergistically to witness the transformation of some intangible stories she carries as a wounded witness.

Guided viewing of “Images from the Inside” exhibition in the Band Practice Room

Join gallery curators Patrick Gillespie (We Players) and Carol Newborg (William James Association) for discussion on the inmate-produced fine art works in We Players final visual art installation of the 2011 gallery series.  On Sunday, several previously incarcerated artists (whose work is displayed) will also join for this gallery viewing, prior to the panel discussion with ex-inmate artists, moderated by Larry Brewster.

Panel Discussion – Restorative Justice and Victim Awareness in the Dining Room

Moderated by: Patrick Gillespie
Panelists: Reggie Daniels, Rose Elizondo, Richard Kamler and Sonya Shah

“Process Orientation of the Creative Arts and Healing; Product Orientation of our Current Prison System”

A panel of Restorative Justice practitioners, artists, and performers will discuss the theories and methods of Restorative Justice and Victim Awareness.  The discussion will explore how the creative arts intersect with these practices to facilitate healing and transformation, and raise awareness for both the general public and the prison population.  In addition, the panel will explore the differences and overlap of Social Justice and artistic practices.

Community Grief Ritual on the Parade Ground

Part of We Players intention for the culminating symposium, is holding space for an energetic acknowledgement and release of the great pain we notice embedded in the rocks of Alcatraz, and weaving through society as a result of historical injustices and the current prison system.  This community grieving ritual engaged our bodies, hearts, minds and spirit to experience and move through our grief, transforming the energy and freeing ourselves and society to move forward with enhanced openness and creativity.

Panel Discussion – Ex-Inmate Artists in the Dining Room

Moderated by: Prof. Larry Brewster
Panelists: Willie Bermudez, Larry Calderon, Ronnie Goodman, Mickey Magic

“Arts in Corrections: From the Inside”

A panel of artists, craftspeople and performers will discuss how arts in corrections helped them turn their lives around and keep them out of prison. Moderated by Dr. Larry Brewster of USF who has studied California’s Arts-in-Corrections program for over 25 years.



Seth Armstrong (visual art presenter) Seth Armstrong was born and raised in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles, Ca.  After studying painting in northern Holland, he received a BFA from the California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco.  Seth has exhibited his work extensively in the Bay Area, as well as in London and the Netherlands.  He now lives and works in Los Angeles.

Claire Braz-Valentine (playwright, Women Behind the Walls) Claire is a widely published poet, a freelance writer of both children’s and adult fiction and nonfiction, and an award winning playwright. Her poems have been featured in many anthologies. Her plays have been produced in New York, Los Angeles and across the United States, and in Finland, Greece, and Canada. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, on CNN Television, and broadcast on BBC radio. She has worked for years with youth at risk and incarcerated adults, as part of the California Arts in Corrections Program, creating plays, monologues, and poetry anthologies and installation art with convicted felons.

Evan Bissell (visual & interactive art presenter)Artist Evan Bissell designs and facilitates sites of collaborative dialogue that support self-determination and visions of community and society based in love. Through processes that incorporate radical pedagogy, participatory research, ethnography and meditation, the results include collaboratively designed, larger-than-life paintings, multi-media participatory exhibitions, public installations, workshops, and free publications.

Larry Brewster (previously incarcerated artist panel moderator)Larry Brewster served as dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of San Francisco (1999-2007) and served for two years as acting dean of the School of Education (2002-2004). Before joining USF, he was academic dean at Menlo College, and has served as dean at Golden Gate University and professor of Political Science in the California State University system.

Dr. Brewster regularly consults in public policy and organizational development and has industry experience as former Director of Market Research for BT Tymnet, an international data and telecommunications company. He recently coauthored California Politics, 2nd ed., Wadsworth & Co., 2004, and The Public Agenda: Issues in American Politics, 5th ed., Wadsworth & Co., 2004. He earned his doctorate at the University of Southern California and currently is Professor of Public Administration in the School of Management.

Dr. Brewster first evaluated the California Arts-in-Corrections in 1983 when he conducted a cost-benefit study of the program. He found that the program’s quantitative and qualitative benefits exceeded program costs. In the past three years, Professor Brewster has interviewed formerly incarcerated men and women who had participated in the Arts-in-Corrections program to learn what impact the program had on their lives while inside and since their release from prison. Several themes have emerged through these interviews, including self-discovery, discipline, confidence and self-esteem while “doing their time” meaningfully through the artistic process; learning the value of hard work and completing projects; reconnecting with family through their art; giving back to society; and finding a safe haven in the art program where men of different races and background work side by side as artists.

Laurel Butler (choreographer)Laurel Butler is the Youth Arts Manager and Education/Engagement Specialist at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Before moving to the Bay Area earlier this year, Laurel served as the Artistic Director of The Actor Inside Program, facilitating theater and dance workshops with inmates and juvenile offenders in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She directed the theatre program for Comienzos, Inc. exploring principles of non-violent communication and conflict resolution through theatre with adults at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center. The production of “Lucid Dreaming/Sonando Lucido”, an original work collaboratively written by the Comienzos participants, debuted as part of the Revolutions International Theatre Festival this January.  As a member of the Keshet Dance Company outreach faculty, Laurel taught dance classes inside the New Mexico Youth Diagnostic and Development Center post-adjudicated youth facility. She also managed the ScOutreach Juvenile Diversion Program, collaborating with the State of New Mexico Child Youth and Families Division to incorporate principles of restorative justice and community healing into after-school programming for repeating youth offenders. She has served as an educator for the National Hispanic Cultural Center, as executive director of Theater-in-the-Making, and as founder/director of the Albuquerque Street Theatre Brigade. Laurel has an M.A. in theater education and community outreach from the University of New Mexico, where she was the instructor of Theater for Education and Social Change, and a B.A. in performance pedagogy and community cultural development from Hampshire College.  Her newest dance project, Make/Shift/Performance, will debut its first work at CounterPULSE this November.

Amie Dowling (choreographer)Amie Dowling is a full-time faculty member in the Performing Arts and Social Justice Department at the University of San Francisco, where she serves as the Coordinator of the Dance Program, and an Artist in Residence at the San Francisco Jails. Her choreography has been presented by the American Dance Festival, the Kennedy Center, Painted Bride, Jacob’s Pillow, and Ponderosa Dance Festival, as well as numerous colleges and universities.  Prior to moving to California, Dowling was a guest artist in the Five College Dance Department and taught at Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges.  From 1986 to 1993, Dowling toured with the Liz Lerman/Dance Exchange and subsequently went to Chiang Mai, Thailand to assist in the creation a Performing Arts Department at Payap University and work with NGOs that assisted women who were leaving the sex-trade industry. In 2001, Ms. Dowling co-founded The Performance Project, which develops original works of movement and theater through a collaboration of professional artists and incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women.

Natta Haotzima (coals dancer)Mexican-born dancer/poetess. She transmits simplicity, harmony and peaceful community living through her varied art expressions.

From an early age, Natta has been interested in healing and she studied the Holographic Repatterning System, which identifies unconscious patterns and energy restrictions, and is established by renown Scientist Chloe Wordsworth.  Later on in life, Natta studied other healing therapies such Sound Frequency Therapy, Education Kinesiology, Reiki, Healing Movements and Yin Shin Acupressure Points. Natta Haotzima studied at the Choreography School of UNAM, the National University of Mexico, as well as at  the James Carte’s Ecole de Danse in Toulouse, France, and the D’Jonibas Center in New York City. Her dance credits include dancing with the “Street Theater and Circus Production” in Mexico, the National School of Quebec (who are the co-founders of the Cirque du Soleil), with “Aerial Dance & Precarious Balance,” with Humanicorp Dance Company, at the National Institute of Arts (Bellas Artes), and with the Circus School of Barcelona, Spain. Locally, Natta has studied with Project Bandaloop and the Vertical Dance Workshops.  She has performed with Lulacruza, Elizabeth Mendana Productions, and Diana Suarez. In term of multimedia art, she has exhibited in different museums in Morelos, Mexico such as The Museum of the City of Cuernavaca, “Jardines del Sol” in Ocotitlan, Ex-convento de Tepoztlan and Auditorio Ilhucalli; in Chiapas at the Auditorio de Tuxtla Gutierrez; in San Francisco at The Mission Cultural Center, at De Young Museum and in Oakland at The Mills College Theater. Natta once confessed that her favorite magic place to dance is on any nation’s street. At this moment, Natta is teaching aerial dance in conjunction with Studio 12 in Berkeley, and following Buddhism at Hua Zang Si Temple in San Francisco.

Mayra Hua Qiao (coals dancer)Mayra is a multifaceted dancer. Her first incursions in dance were with fire dancing and street performing in Mexico City. And it was here that she decided to begin formal dance training in West African Dance which she passionately pursued for more than ten years while working and teaching. As part of this commitment,  she traveled to Guinea, in West Africa to deepen her studies and techniques of traditional Guinean dances. She was able to enrich her repertoire as a folklorist of African descent expressions with a variety of dances such as Afro Cuban, Sabar, Congolese, Mexican Folklore, and Afro Brazilian. Later, after an encounter with Modern Dance, style was transformed to a purely alternative concept. her Parallel to studies in dance, she also has a strong fitness-training background. She studied various forms of body awareness in Mexico City and San Francisco. In this quest, she was captivated by Yoga and Pilates techniques, and become a certified instructor in both. Today she has four certifications and five years of teaching experience and practice. Mayra has conducted many  dance workshops and Master classes in different places such as Nativa and Epicentro dance schools, ITESO and UNISON Universities in Mexico City. She has danced with dance groups such as Bakan, Gaia Ceiba and Raiz Negra from Mexico.  At this moment, she is dancing with the Liberation Dance Theater Company with Jacinta Blanch, Opera Muerta by John J. Leanos and building the project “The Tea Dancers / El Ballet de la Compasión” with Natta Haotzima in The Bay Area.

Monica Lundy (visual art presenter)Born in Portland, Oregon in 1974, Monica Lundy spent her childhood between the United States and Saudi Arabia.  Her extensive childhood travels culminated in diverse experiences with different cultures and their traditions. These experiences began shaping her awareness of, and curiosity about, divisions in cultural perceptions.  She went on to receive a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996.  In 2001 she spent a year in Florence, Italy, where she was invited to study painting under the mentorship of a local artist.  She received a MFA from Mills College in 2010 and was a recipient of the 2010 Jay DeFeo Award.  Among other publications, her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Visual Art Source and the San Francisco Chronicle.  She currently lives and works in Oakland, California.

Mabel Negrete (multi-media & performance art presenter)Mabel was born in Chile and about 20 years ago she made the USA her home (in the Bay area of San Francisco). In 2007, she founded the Counter Narrative Society (CNS) , a research unit that works to initiate counter narratives about bio-power, urbanism, culture and technology. In 2009, she joined the MIT program in Art, Culture and Technology and under the CNS started to ask the question, what is mass punishment?

From this major question, presently she is developing a multifaceted long-term dialogical and performative fieldwork called …when the invisible punishing machine is everywhere…The Weight I Carry with Me. It consists of organizing and creating para-fictional actions and nomadic encounters to interrogate intimately how punishment, alienation and  social-urban control in the terrain of the  USA has affected her  family,  her friends, herself and the community at large who have suffered the invisible effects of state control, incarceration and inequality.

Mabel is also a recipient of several recognitions including MIT Presidential Award 2009-2010 and MIT Architecture Department Fellowship 2009-2011, Zellerbach Family Foundation & W.A. Gerbode Foundation 2006, and Osher Memorial Merit Scholarship – San Francisco Art Institute 2003-2006.

Paul Rucker (multi-media presenter & cellist)Paul Rucker has received numerous grants for the creation of visual art and music from 4Culture, Seattle Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, South Carolina Arts Commission, Washington State Arts Commission, King County Site Specific, Photo Center NW, and Artist Trust. Rucker has created public artwork for the Museum of Flight in Seattle, 4Culture, and the City of Tacoma.

He has also been awarded residencies to Blue Mountain Center, Ucross Foundation, Art OMI, Banff Centre, Pilchuck Glass School, and the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center in Bellagio, Italy. As a musician and director Rucker plays in various situations from solo cellist to leading his LARGE ENSEMBLE of twenty-two musicians. Rucker was named Best Emerging Artist of 2004 from Earshot, 2005 Jazz Artist of the Year from the Seattle Music Awards, and Outside Jazz Ensemble of the Year in 2008. In 2007, he was invited by legendary filmmaker David Lynch to perform for the opening of Lynch’s film, Inland Empire.

Molly Williams Stuckey (director, Women Behind the Walls)Molly Williams Stuckey is proud to be directing the original piece Women Behind the Wallswith Poetic Justice Project. She holds a BA in theater from Union University and a MA in theology of the Arts from Fuller. Molly is a SAG eligible actress from Los Angeles and was one of the founding members of the The Fuller Company. As a director, Molly’s two biggest accomplishments were assistant directing the world premier of Serenade, the new musical from the Tony Winning author Rachel Sheinkin. Molly also directed the documentary The Answer Myth. Her goal is to one day have a theater company that raises money for social justice issues around the world, combining her love of the arts and humanity. A complete list of Molly’s work can be found at

Symposium Schedule

Dance Theatre Program:
Cell house dance theatre by Laurel Butler, Lauren Chavez, Amie Dowling and Ava Roy
Blues jam with Ajayi Jackson, Paris King, Paul Rucker, Josh Tower and other guests
Coals dance by The Tea Dancers

FRIDAY 2:10-5:50pm
Poetic Justice Project: Women Behind the Walls
Dinner and conversation with Women Behind the Walls director Molly Williams Stuckey and actors

SATURDAY 9:50am-5:50pm
Opening Ceremony
Guided tours of visual artworks by Seth Armstrong, Evan Bissel, Monica Lundy
Proliferation screenings and live cello performances by Paul Rucker
Interactive Art Installations by Mabel Negrete
Walking tour and conversation with We Players artistic director, Ava Roy
Panel discussion – victim awareness & restorative justice

SUNDAY 11:50am-5:50pm
Guided tours of visual artworks by Evan Bissel and Monica Lundy
Proliferation screenings and live cello performances by Paul Rucker
Interactive Art Installations by Mabel Negrete
Walking tour and conversation with We Players artistic director, Ava Roy
Guided viewing of We Players current exhibition – Images from the Inside
Panel discussion – previously incarcerated artists, moderated by Larry Brewster Closing Ceremony

The Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom was Produced by We Players
Lauren Dietrich Chavez, Managing Director
Patrick Gillespie, Visual Arts Director
Ava Roy, Artistic Director

Images from the Inside

The final exhibit in We Players’ 2011 Alcatraz series, is the most comprehensive gathering of inmate-produced visual artwork in the Bay Area in over 30 years. The National Park Service and We Players invited the Prison Arts Project, which sponsors on-going art classes at San Quentin through the William James Association, to exhibit outstanding examples of its work in our Alcatraz cell house gallery space. The exhibit also included work from the former California Arts-in-Corrections program – now collected by UCLA Library’s Prison Arts Archiving Project and WJA.

Images from the Inside was installed in the Cell House Gallery, Alcatraz, August 27 – November 11, 2011.

The successful collaboration of the public and the inmate population is one of the foundations of Arts-in-Corrections, which existed from 1980-2010 in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. That model was started in 1977 by the initial Prison Arts Project, which used professional artists, writers, and performers as teachers and role models of discipline, skill and commitment to growth and hard work. Participation in Arts-in-Corrections correlates to a lower recidivism rate, thus significantly reducing costs for the state and helping people to stay out of prison upon their release. A university study found that participants in the AIC program had a 27% lower recidivism rate than the general prison population. Ninety percent of inmates will return to life outside the prison walls, and arts and educational programming helps address the challenges of re-entry through public collaboration and creative growth. (click here for links to study)

The exhibition-opening event on August 27th included a panel discussion representing a significant gathering of minds in prison arts programming in the Bay Area.

Panelists included:

Larry Brewster, Professor, USF
Laurie Brooks, Executive Director, William James Association
Steve Emerick, former Arts-in-Corrections Artist/Facilitator; recipient of Dalai Lama’s Compassion Award
Patrick Maloney, San Quentin art teacher for 23 years
Katya McCulloch, San Quentin art teacher for 6 years
Carol Newborg, Exhibit Organizer for WJA, former AIC teacher
Panel was moderated by: Patrick Gillespie, We Players Gallery Curator

Another panel, moderated by Larry Brewster, and comprised of ex-inmate artists, followed a tour of the Images from the Inside exhibit during We Players’ Alcatraz Symposium on Justice & Freedom.


In Visible Categories: Invisible People

This exhibition explores the Alcatraz themes through the lens of identity, specifically looking at how the prison system frames the identity of prisoners, and influences personal identity for prisoners, their families, and others who have not had a direct relationship with incarceration. Visual arts and the prison system both produce symbolic representations of individuals. Correctional symbolism can be viewed as a form of disciplinary action, reducing the color, depth and personality of an individual’s identity to an anonymous number. Visual art has its own use of symbolism that allows identities and personal experience to become legible, and move into public concern.

On Display in the Alcatraz Cell House Gallery, April 9-June 4, 2011
– Select portraits from Monica Lundy’s Women of San Quentin series
– Select portraits from Evan Bissell’s What Cannot be Taken Away: Families and Prisons Project
– Interactive reflection station

Read more about the events We Players held associated with this exhibit.

Participating Artists

Monica Lundy PaintingMonica Lundy’s paintings reveal the evolution of mug shots within the California prison system.  She is a frequent visitor to the Sacramento archives and researches how the correctional system files and categorizes a civilian into the prison population.  Her displayed artwork, excerpts from her Women of San Quentin series, shows the evolving efficiency of mug shots – a penalty that reduces personal history to a number, date, and a crime.

Monica is interested in the immense social history that catalogues those who have passed through institutional systems and out of memory.  She presents this interest through a method of painting that is a kind of entropy; she allows the image to build itself through the natural movement of mediums, alluding to decay and the degrading walls of old institutions.  She frames a unique moment of transformation through her paintings of fresh prisoners, first introduced into the system, and subsequently passed out of memory.

Evan Bissell Painting

Evan Bissell engages in collaborative art making, utilizing creativity to access unseen realities and generating creative expressions of personal and community truths.  His contributions to this exhibition, a portion of the larger project What Cannot Be Taken Away, were created in partnership with multiple programs of Community Works West.

Evan worked collaboratively with a group of prisoners and an unrelated group of youth who have parents in prison, facilitating dialogue between the two groups on the impact of incarceration on families, and developing large-scale self-portraits of each of the eight participant. Over a five month period, through writing, art making, audio conversation and meditation, each participant began to clarify the impact of the prison system on their identity and sketch out ideas for their final portraits, ultimately painted by Evan. The symbols and compositions, designed by the participants and Evan, represent reflections on transformation.  The collaborative act of creating these portraits revealed a deep understanding of how prison affected the individual’s concept of self and what it means to change, for each individual involved with the project

Associated Events

On April 9, 2011, We Players and the National Park Service presented a guided tour, gallery viewing, and panel discussion (in the historic Alcatraz Hospital) on transformation of identity, restorative justice, and the methodology of state produced inmate portraiture.

On June 4, 2011, We Players and the National Park Service presented a closing workshop for In Visible Categories: Invisible People.

The event included: a guided walk and informal conversation with We Players on Alcatraz 2011 collaborators; gallery viewing (final opportunity before deinstall!); a workshop on relational identity with artist Evan Bissell; discussion; and exhibition-closing remarks.

More details on the workshop with Evan Bissell
Using oranges, mirrored paper, pens and memory, visitors will engage in the opening exercise of the 5 month collaborative process of What Cannot Be Taken Away: Families and Prisons Project. The one and a half hour workshop will combine elements of meditation, drawing and writing to reflect on the complex legacies, experiences and circumstances that have created our present day lives. The workshop culminates with participants writing a letter to an ancestor they have never met.


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Thank you wonderful people for such a fantastic day on Saturday, April 9th at We Players’ second gallery opening event on Alcatraz.

Huge applause for artists Evan Bissell and Monica Lundy, your work is fantastic. Regular park visitors are filling the Band Practice Room to absorb your art. Very powerful to drop in these images, these ideas just before they exit through the gift shop…
Thank you Patrick Gillespie for your great work curating this exhibit and moderating Saturday’s panel discussion.
Thank you Sujatha Baliga for your insights and for bringing your heart and deep knowledge to the conversation.
Jim Breeden, thank you for your ongoing commitment to skillful, comprehensive interpretation on Alcatraz.
Thank YOU all for joining WE and sharing in this charged conversation.
More soon…
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