Sue Trigg Takes Over Altarena Playhouse

A longtime Alamedan with plenty of Altarena cred becomes the stalwart theater’s artistic director.


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New artistic director Sue Trigg is a familiar and respected face at Altarena Playhouse.

Photo by Carl Posey

Sue Trigg had her work cut out for her in planning Altarena Playhouse’s upcoming season. Not only would the plays she selected be her debut as the new artistic director, but they would also mark the 80th season of the venerable Alameda community theater. No pressure.

Fortunately, the British actor and director knows this theater and its community intimately. A longtime Alameda resident of more than 30 years, Trigg has been acting in many shows at Altarena since The Anniversary in 1986 and directing plays there since Nuts in 2004. Her late husband Chris Chapman was also an actor there.

“I enjoy the space so much. My heart is there,” Trigg said. “I performed some of the biggies there—like I did Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Most of my directing has been at Altarena, then I started enjoying directing even more than acting. I was artistic director of Role Players for two years, out in Danville, and my late husband got cancer, so that kind of put the kibosh on that one. Actually, his photos are in the lobby at Altarena, so I get to connect to him in a lovely way when I’m there.”

Taking over mid-season after erstwhile artistic director Clay David resigned over disagreements with the board, Trigg now has to focus on the last two shows of the 2017 season that she inherited: the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Oklahoma!, running through Nov. 5, and jukebox musical Honky Tonk Angels, opening Nov. 24.

Trigg said she’s returning to a five-show season, doing away with the summer series of two small-scale world premieres by Alameda playwrights that the theater has done for the last couple years. “We tried to jam too many shows in last year,” Trigg said, “and so we compromised rehearsals for the next show, because we don’t have alternative rehearsal space.” Replacing that will be a First Look series of staged readings by local playwrights.

The 80th season kicks off in January with Christopher Durang’s Tony Award-winning comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which played Berkeley Rep right after closing on Broadway in 2013. It also includes another play recently seen at Berkeley Rep, Richard Bean’s madcap West End and Broadway hit One Man, Two Guvnors, an update of Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century comedy Servant of Two Masters set in swinging ’60s London.

Along with these newer works, Trigg’s season also includes its share of old favorites. There’s The Miracle Worker, William Gibson’s 1959 drama about Helen Keller. Musical offerings include the boisterous 1950 Frank Loesser classic Guys and Dolls and Stephen Sondheim’s sinister 1979 masterpiece Sweeney Todd.

“I’m going to be a little jealous because of Lovett,” Trigg said of Sweeney. “I’ve played Mrs. Lovett in the past.”

For now, though, she has to stay off the stage and focus on the big picture. “I gave the board a promise that I wouldn’t act or direct for two years while we build our base,” she said. “I really want to get the age demographic down, and I want to get diversity on that stage and in the audience.”

Learn more at www.Altarena.org.

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