Theaters around the country traditionally go “dark” one night a week: Monday. While San Jose Stage Company (aka the Stage) normally takes the sacred theater day of rest, once a year they throw the most uproarious weeknight party in town, Monday Night Live!
Cathleen King, the Stage’s executive director, produces the annual event.
“It’s a satirical fundraiser that features comedy sketches created and performed by the Stage’s artists alongside local elected oﬃcials, celebrities and civic leaders that let their hair down and have some ridiculous fun,” she says.
The show is known for its unique combination of rapid-fire comedy with the familiarity of local characters. King calls it a “fast and furious ride through the world of politics and pop culture, specifically targeting San Jose.”
This year’s Monday Night Live! has an especially exciting element: the Stage is celebrating its 40th anniversary. When the theater company was founded in 1983, its leaders dedicated themselves to innovation. King explains that their fundamental goal was “to produce works by new playwrights that were considered too risky for other theatres.”
These bold shows across the decades—over 200 of them, including 20 world premieres and 50 new works, not to mention one truly stunning production of August Osage County—have played a role in San Jose’s unexpected yet undeniable stature as a powerhouse of regional theater.
But, behind the scenes, none of the creative work could happen without donors and loyal patrons.
“We’re pulling out all the stops to honor the incredible supporters who have contributed to the Stage’s immense success over the last four decades,” King says, adding that some folks in particular helped make the Stage what it is today.
“We’ll be paying tribute to amazing individuals like former Senator Jim Beall, whose instrumental role in securing funding for our venue was pivotal during our establishment in SoFA,” King says.
But what actually happens at Monday Night Live? Part of the fun is in the unpredictable answer to that question.
“Just like the famous SNL, we have a tight deadline to create the show, which heightens the element of surprise and spontaneity—we really never know what will and will not happen.”
She does, however, offer some alluring hints. The host of this year’s proceedings is none other than Mercury News columnist Sal Pizarro. Known for his effusive wit, Pizarro, King says, is “a natural.”
“Sal has been a true champion of our community and the arts for years. He’s collaborated with us as a writer for Monday Night Live! for the last decade, so it was about time he stepped into the spotlight and showed oﬀ his hosting chops!”
Under Pizarro’s watch, the show will be a South Bay-style mash-up of glamor and humor, starting with “a fabulous pre-show cocktail party where everyone comes to see and be seen,” in King’s words. The show itself features sketches “with a San Jose spin.” While talented actors and musicians carry the night, the highlight is surely the (affectionate) roasting and acting of local “celebrities.”
“Local elected oﬃcials featured in Monday Night Live! over the years have given performances that we’ll never let them forget,” King says.
Since 1992, board member and fundraising chair Jerry Strangis has been the force behind the yearly event. Under his stewardship for the last three decades, the company has raised over $2 million.
“Jerry is the Stage’s real MVP,” King says.
As this storied company celebrates its past, it also anticipates its future. Many of this year’s honorees helped the Stage secure the property for a new 20,000-square-foot space in the SoFA district, whose groundbreaking is set for 2024.
“We hope the Stage will keep pushing boundaries in our brand-new, state-of-the-art theater facility, [and continue] to provide innovative performances to our community,” King says.
Given the notoriously grueling time commitment in theater, it’s a testament to the Stage that they light up this “dark” Monday night for a show. According to King, it’s the perfect day.
“It’s the last Monday in June, the Stage’s theatrical season is wrapping up and the City Council prepares for some well-deserved relaxation after approving the budget,” she says. “It’s the perfect moment for everyone to let loose and celebrate.”
Monday Night Live!
The Stage 40th Anniversary
Mon, 6pm, $150
Blanco Urban Venue, San Jose