The next stage: On the Verge Summer Festival promises six new plays, new locations, new ideas

Andy Cowell as Mark Bronson and Riley Berris as Caylee James in "Caylee's First Big Show!!!" Kate Bergstrom and Andy Cowell
Andy Cowell as Mark Bronson and Riley Berris as Caylee James in “Caylee’s First Big Show!!!”
Kate Bergstrom and Andy Cowell

Kate Bergstrom, theater director and the brains behind the On the Verge Summer Festival, has taken on a task that many theater directors across the country are trying to solve. How can the theater world attract a younger demographic, 18-30 years old, to the performing arts? With Netflix streaming and the world in their pockets, they are notoriously hard to get out of the house.

“If they’re seeing theater at all it’s at small, hole- in-the-wall productions,” she says. “And even then the main reason they’re going is that they know somebody in the production.”

Being a theater kid in high school doesn’t necessary lead to a life in theater either, she says, as most are understandably aiming for film and television.

So Ms. Bergstrom, who has directed shows for pop-up company Elements Theatre Collective, has created the two week-long festival of six plays in two different locations that plan to bend the boundaries of theater, making them interactive and more like events. “Reimagined theater pieces for reimagined audiences,” is how she’s putting it. She wants to foster a dialog about how theater can evolve and adapt, “so it doesn’t just become this archaic platform,” she says.

For this first season, Ms. Bergstrom is showcasing a “devised collaboration, a full-length play, a one-act ethnographic installation, a double-feature of 2 one-act plays, and a staged reading,” according to the event’s website. The majority of the directors, crew and actors are from Santa Barbara and the Central Coast area. So are the writers, with these all being new works, either premieres or new to our city, and Ms. Bergstrom knows them personally from various walks of life.

Like Elements Theatre Collective, the plays will be performed in non-traditional spaces, including The Narrative Loft on Caesar Chavez, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and The 208 Gallery on Canon Perdido St. For many of the events there will be food trucks on site. A majority of the shows play several times during their respective weekends, and all are free with suggested donations of $5 to $10 at the door.


The festival kicks off with “Caylee’s First Big Show!!!” which sets the tone for the fest. Riley Berris stars as Caylee, an amateur singer-songwriter who is questioning her identity in the middle of heartbreak. Staged as a pop concert, Caylee begins to share her feelings in song and between as she leans on the audience for support. The play is written by up-and-coming playwright Roxie Perkins, whose “Sweet Child” follows – a tale of teen siblings abandoned by their mother who worship the memory of their dead father, believed to have died in war. Things change with the arrival of a mysterious soldier. July 16-18, 7 p.m. at The Narrative Loft, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, #240

“Ladyoke” a play on the karaoke, is an interactive evening, combining karaoke, live music, song and dance, as well as a tribute to famous sirens and songstresses. It was conceived in collaboration with Riley Berris, Jessica Hambright and Kate Bergstrom and features alternative performers, including drag queens and audience volunteers. (This show follows the above two shows on the same night.) July 16-18, 9 p.m. at The Narrative Loft

“Monsters of Paris” is a staged reading of Gregory Dodds’ new play, based on the true story of Joseph and Henriette Martel. In pre-World War II France, a husband refuses to defend his wife’s honor, and so she takes matters into her own hands. This reading is directed by Josh Jenkins and Josiah Davis. July 18, 4 p.m. at The Narrative Loft

Not a performance, but the Fest is also offering the Devised Theatre Workshop, aimed at both students and professionals to learn new ways to devise and produce theater under time and budget restraints. Free, but limited to 30 seats. July 18, 11-1 p.m. at The Narrative Loft


“Footprints at Laetoli” is based on the archeologist Mary Leakey, her husband Louis, and her discovery of the fossilized tracks of a bipedal creature, the missing link between humans and apes. Darlene Craviotto’s play had a reading at PCPA in 2010, and in 2011 was a semi­-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Conference in Connecticut. July 22-24, 8 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum.

Finally, “This Is Not a Love Song” presents a humorous take on dating. Subtitled “A Virtual Ethnology on Asian Dating Websites,” the one-act play features an ethnographer who presents a study of a failed online dating experience, only to have the two subjects appear and take control of the narrative. Writer Hee-Won Kim is a graduate student at UCSB’s Theater and Dance department. July 25, 4 and 6 p.m. at The 208 Gallery.

On the Verge Summer Festival
When: July 16-25, various times
Where: The Narrative Loft, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, #240;
Santa Barbara Historical Museum, 136 E De La Guerra St.;
The 208 Gallery, 208 W. Canon Perdido St.
Cost: Free (suggested donations $5 – $10)
Information: (805) 455-5598,

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