Description of brunch and a staged reading of a new play by Joseph Rodota – The Jeane Dixon Effect – at the B Street Theatre at the Sofia.
Upstairs at the B – New Play Brunch
A friend and I recently attended brunch and a reading of The Jeane Dixon Effect at the B Street Theatre at the Sofia. The brunch and reading ($12) were held in Upstairs at the B, an intimate venue on the second floor.
This was the first time either of us had attended an event in Upstairs at the B, so we arrived a bit early as we were unsure of the setup. In front of the stage, tables for four were set up and on both sides of the room chairs were arranged in rows.
We secured a table and then made our way towards the brunch setup to check it out. Waffles (regular or chocolate chip) and fresh fruit (strawberries and blueberries) were on the menu, as were various beverages. We both opted for the bottomless mimosas. The waffles were delicious, and we both commented on the perfectly ripe strawberries and blueberries.
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Just prior to the start of the reading at noon I looked around the small room and I was pleased to see it was a full house.
The Jeane Dixon Effect – The Play
The new play staged reading of The Jeane Dixon Effect had caught my eye as I had previously attended and greatly enjoyed Chessman, also penned by Joseph Rodota.
See related blog posts: Chessman – The Story Behind The Play (Part 1 of 2) and Chessman – The Play (Part 2 of 2)
The one-woman play featured Elisabeth Nunziato as Jeane Dixon. Nunziato is a B Street Theatre at the Sofia regular, and an audience favorite. Handling stage directions was Lyndsay Burch, who directed the staged reading. This was the first public reading of the play – after all of 10 hours over two days of rehearsal!
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Jeane Dixon (1904-1997) was one of the best-known American “self-proclaimed” psychics and astrologers of the 20th Century. Her celebrity status was aided by her syndicated newsletter astrology column, select well-publicized predictions, and a series of books including a best-selling biography.
The term ‘the Jeane Dixon effect’, was coined by a mathematician at Temple University referring to a tendency to promote a few correct predictions while ignoring a larger number of incorrect predictions.
The play covers her career as a psychic in California and Washington D.C., and her interactions with movers and shakers – including more than one U.S. President and J. Edgar Hoover.
The play ends years after her death when her possessions, including a crystal ball Dixon claimed was given to her while growing up in California by a “gypsy”, were sold at auction in 2009.
While the playwright noted the Jeane was not intentionally funny, the work can best be described as a black comedy.
A Work in Progress (How Sausage is Made)
After the reading of approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, we were treated to a Q&A with Joseph Rodota, Elisabeth Nunziato and Lyndsay Burch. Members of the audience were invited to ask questions of all three – and took the opportunity to do so.
Rodota explained that he spent a year or so collecting data for the play from multiple sources. He had originally envisioned a play featuring three actors – but in the end it evolved into a one-person play.
He chose to write a play about Dixon as she was an interesting person (“famous for being famous”), had one foot in Hollywood and one in Washington, D.C., and had interactions with a number important people of the day.
During the ten hours of rehearsal prior to the first reading, multiple changes had been made to the script – and more were still to be made. At one point during the reading after Elisabeth stumbled a bit over her lines she flashed the script she was working from – covered with yellow post-it-notes, lines crossed out and scribbled additions to show her dilemma.
During the reading Rodota had been both watching and listening to Elizabeth and Lyndsay (who was explaining, as needed, the context of the action), as well as watching the reaction of the audience. He was watching and listening to determine if changes needed to be made to the flow of the dialogue and action and to see if the audience was fidgeting, etc. during a scene.
After additional edits the play will be run through a workshop, and a final polishing before being subjected to a second reading.
Elisabeth and Lyndsay added detail as to what is involved in putting a new play through its paces – including the inevitable mishaps and missteps.
All in all, the Upstairs at the B New Play Brunch and Reading of The Jeane Dixon Effect was several hours well spent – and I certainly look forward to seeing the work in its final form.
B Street Theatre at the Sofia Snapshot:
- 2700 Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95816
- (916) 443-5300
- Box Office Hours: Monday – Saturday (10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.); Sunday (10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)
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