Stage veteran offers unique short-story interpretations

Bay Area thespian Joel Mullennix is directing “More Stories by Tobias Wolff,” running Friday through Oct. 5 at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco. The show is a production by Word for Word, a theater troupe that presents short stories exactly as they are written.

What types of works lend themselves to Word for Word’s distinctive style? The short-story form really has incredible language going for it, particularly when you choose a writer you admire greatly.

What are the challenges of such a process? Trying to bring to the stage a long, descriptive passage about the environment can be challenging — to the point where we ask, for example, “How do we make a scene under water?”

How do you solve staging problems that arise? I storyboard and a lot of ideas come up in rehearsal. Also, there’s care we take in determining what to approach literally versus what kind of creative leap we can expect from the audience.

What it is about Tobias Wolff’s stories that make them ideal Word for Word productions? He writes about people adopting personas that lead to a lot of big questions. The audience really feels for them.

You’re an actor as well as director. Do you have a preference? I really like them both.

How would you describe the Bay Area theater scene? It’s vibrant, creative, multidimensional. There’s a wide range of work here.

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