As theaters begin to reopen around the Bay Area after lengthy COVID shutdowns, two notable shows have deep roots in what is often referred to as geek culture.
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley returns to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts with “Lizard Boy,” Justin Huertas’ indie folk-rock musical heavily inspired by superhero comics. Meanwhile, the City Lights Theater in San Jose has just reopened with its long-delayed world premiere of “Coded,” Kirsten Brandt’s play about female video game developers who resist harassment, threats and abuse online.
“I grew up with comic book superheroes and Saturday morning cartoons, watching X-Men and Spider-Man and Power Rangers,” said Huertas, ‘Lizard Boy’ star writer-songwriter. “I didn’t grow up as a very religious person, but it was that sort of thing for me. I would just watch hero stories and learn how to be a better human. And then growing up I started to think about how I didn’t really have Filipinos, browns, people of color to admire who were heroes. The heroes I had on TV growing up who loved and admired were all white.
Bringing together the original cast, director and design team from its 2015 world premiere at the Seattle Rep, “Lizard Boy” on October 9 opens the much-delayed 51st season of TheatreWorks and its return to the theater in person. (The show premieres October 6-8 and will also be available to stream online.)
Involving a hero’s journey steeped in mythology and a dating app, “Lizard Boy” was Huertas’ first musical, which began as a commission from the late Seattle Artistic Director Rep, Jerry Manning.
“When he found out that I was an actor playing the cello, he wanted me to write a show myself. And there was no requirement as to what that show should be,” Huertas recalls. . “I thought, I want to present myself as a superhero, because I’ve never had that before. It felt like an arbitrary decision at the time to give him a green lizard skin and make one.” part of her trauma and her struggle. I really didn’t know until maybe a year after the start of the process I was writing about being brown in white space.
City Lights was only at the second premiere of the world premiere of Kirsten Brandt’s play “Coded” when all theaters had to close in March of last year, and now it’s “Coded” that finally reopened the theater in mid-September. With a playful structure that blurs the lines between virtual reality and the real world, the black comedy is largely inspired by the “Gamergate” campaign of online harassment against female video game developers, gamers and media critics that began. in 2014.
When City Lights Executive Artistic Director Lisa Mallette approached her about commissioning a play, Brandt said, “Back then my daughter was playing a lot and said she wanted to be. engage in game design. And she had actually taken a class where she was the only girl in the class. And so I started to research what kind of career path it is, and there you have it, all of this stuff about what it means to be a woman in video games popped up. I had followed Gamergate a bit, but hadn’t really realized the extent.
The process of writing the play involved a lot of research into game design, the culture of the gaming industry and technology, and the harassment that women in the industry have experienced.
“I spoke to a bunch of creative women. The first question one of them asked me was, “Are you afraid to do this?” I mean, aren’t you afraid of the backlash you’re going to have for writing a play about this? ‘ And I’m like, ‘Well, no. Are you saying you think I might get doxed or something? And they’re like, ‘You never know.’ But I personally did not receive any nastygram, and I am grateful for it.
As the game shows, making more room at the table doesn’t mean pushing anyone aside.
There is plenty of room for everyone, ”says Brandt. “Nobody is trying to take anything from anyone. I wrote a new line: ‘You can have your’ Grand Theft Auto ‘and all the bouncing boobies you want. We just want games for us too.
Contact Sam Hurwitt at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter.com/shurwitt.
By Justin Huertas, presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
When: October 6-31
Or: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.
Tickets: $ 30 to $ 100 ($ 25 for streaming); 650-463-1960, www.theatreworks.org
By Kirsten Brandt, presented by City Lights Theater Company
Through: 17 october
Or: City Lights Theater, 529 S. Second St., San José
Tickets: $ 25 to $ 52; 408-295-4200, www.cltc.org