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Six Degrees of Coastal Rep

Six Degrees of Coastal Repertory Theater

By Tom Poeschl


Six degrees of separation is the theory that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. I once worked for someone who was sued by Adolf Hitler for copyright infringement, look at my connection to Hitler and beyond. I acted in high school with someone who has appeared in 140 films and television shows, as well as on in a television commercial, telling us that we’re “in good hands with Allstate.” Using both of these examples, if you’ve met me, how closely are you connected to various folks in Hollywood and world history? Everyone who reads this would probably provide similar paths for me to people of note.


I am regularly tickled by the degrees of separation among our actors at CRT, both within our theater and amongst other community theaters on the Peninsula. There are dozens of community theater organizations in the bay area, and CRT attracts talent from all theater corners. As soon as a production is cast, the actors begin discovering who in the cast has overlapped with other actors with whom they have performed over the years. These connections span decades and cover countless theater experiences in the Bay Area. I asked members of the CRT family to share some details of their “Six Degrees of CRT”. The stories were fun to hear and made me long to hear more.

Here is a sampling of “Six Degree” stories from a few members of the CRT Family. They are a bit rambling by design, as that is the nature of Six Degrees of Separation. I’ll let you contemplate the degrees of separation for the following, while you enjoy listening to: “I’m my own Grandpa”.


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I have had the pleasure of being a part of the CRT family for just 5 short years. During this time, an actor who played my next-door neighbor in my first show at CRT, later played my bus passenger in another show, followed by his being a member of my congregation in a third show, and we are now in rehearsal together, where he will play my client’s son. How many other actors has he performed with on the Peninsula, and where will those degrees of separation take me? An actress played my love interest in one play, and we were then apparently able to formalize that relationship by her playing my wife, Virginia in a subsequent show. I mention the character’s name, because learned from reading the biographies in the program for my most recent show that a fellow actress who plays the clerk of the court during the Salem witch trials, had also once played the part of my wife, Virginia in at another Peninsula theater. Finally, my wife in my most recent show was tried and hanged as a witch in Massachusetts in 1692. Unfortunately, we apparently never met, because the playwright chose to never have us on stage at the same time. Fortunately, her husband from a play set in New England in the late 1970’s appears in an upcoming production with me. Although he and I are at times on stage together in this play, our characters live in different towns in North Carolina in the 1920’s and 1940’s and appear to have never met. By the way, the 1692 Salem characters are loosely based on real people, so it prompts the question as to how our degrees of separation might extend to 1692 Salem.


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Another CRT regular shared the following: An actress who plays his future daughter-in-law in his current show is the girlfriend of an actor who he played the boss of in a Hillbarn production, until her boyfriend broke his leg during the run – and his mid-run stand-in became the real-life long-term partner of the actor who was playing his on-stage long-term partner. And, the actress who played his wife in that production became his director in the very next production. But wait, there’s more . . . In his current production, an actor who plays his son has been a director of his kids for years. A few years ago, he was Assistant Director of only the second show he joined after a 20-year hiatus. The son and future daughter-in-law in the current show played love interests in a prior CRT production. By the way, I was there also and probably officiated at their wedding.


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A very oft-seen CRT actor reports that an actor who played his real-life wife’s husband at Pacific Spindrift Players (PSP), then played his colleague also at PSP, and eventually became his Father-In-Law in his last CRT show. An actress whose first CRT show was a musical about family, became his employer at PSP (he was her chauffeur and dance partner). She later haunted his employee in in a CRT show. She is his real-life wife. A director at CRT who had him delivering mail and fixing teeth had earlier acted as a delinquent student at a school that employed him as janitor at Breech Once More Theatre Group. Finally, a fellow teacher in a play at PSP, played a knight while he played an “enchanter” at Woodside Musical Theater.



· I have this report from an actress who played a member of my congregation at CRT. An actor who played her husband's aunt in her first show at CRT is in rehearsal with her to play her mother in an upcoming show with the Half Moon Bay Shakespeare Company (HMBSC). Another actor who played her servant at CRT will be in the same upcoming show as one of her suitors. The actor to whom she refers was once tormented by me and my sidekick at HMBSC, before later becoming my bus passenger at CRT, as well one of the Salem judges who condemned my wife in Salem.


· An actress who is new to CRT is dancing it up with me, as well as is another actor in the current CRT production, after they shared the stage together in Pacifica at the School of Rock. She also worked with an actress at PSP who once played my next-door neighbor in a production at CRT.


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Weeks into a recent production an actor was chatting with someone else involved in the production, when upon mention of a third person's name, they both realized that they had been in a show together at CRT 22 years ago (far enough back that CRT was still “This Side of the Hill Players”). All through the new production the other person thought that his face was familiar but couldn't place it, and he was thinking the same about their name. He reminds us, “It goes to show that no matter how hard actors train their memories, they don't always work!”


I hope you explore and ponder the depths of the relationships in your own world and your own “Six Degrees of Separation”.


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