A year on the city's wilder side, and looking ahead to more fine times
End-of-the-year roundups are all well and good, allowing us the opportunity to celebrate one last time the innovations of the past. But I’ve always preferred to look ahead into the future, so in that spirit here’s a shortlist of some of my fave Performant coverage from 2011 of ongoing and perennial events that you can still look forward to checking out in 2012—and beyond!
Going balls out for Berlin-style ping-pongwith American Tripps
The only thing lacking is a haze of cigarette smoke curling over the lone ping-pong table bogarting the cosy dance floor of Project One. A polite jostle of players, perhaps 25 strong, rings the table, shoulder to shoulder. Each one clutches a paddle in one hand, and, more than a few, a drink in the other. The game is “Berlin-style” ping-pong (also known as rundlauf)—a participatory style of play in which every participant gets a turn serving or receiving as the circle shuffles one spot at a time, counter-clockwise around the crowded table.
YEAR IN THEATER With a grateful nod to former colleague Brad Rosenstein, we re-inaugurate a system of accolades and nah-ccolades celebrating some memorable highs and lows of the rapidly closing year in theater and performance.
Golden Girls, Kung Pao Kosher, Merry Forking Christmas ... the holidays are coming whether you like it or not.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the holidays just keep on coming around. And unless you plan on hibernating the entire month of December away, sooner or later someone is going to force you into an ugly sweater and drag you to some seasonal entertainment designed to fill you with goodwill towards all humankind -- or some such optimistic twaddle. Even so, there’s certainly no reason you have to subject yourself to endless renditions of Tchaikovsky’s famous suite or stale Bing Crosby carols in order to fulfill your holiday spirit quota. Alternatives abound here in Babylon-by-the-Bay, and you’re sure to stumble across a few that speak to your own imitable tastes.
Bryan Boyce and Negativwobblyland pump up the culture jams at L@te
Nighttime at the Berkeley Art Museum. An undercurrent of glee emanating from the patrons, as with a roomful of children up past their bedtimes. Enhancing the playground vibe, a giant orange mountain of rippling wooden waves designed by Thom Faulders, squats in the middle of the room, serving as seating for the assembled crowd, as well as pre-show entertainment as we scramble up its sides.
The upside to living in a city as notoriously pricey as San Francisco is that despite the myriad opportunities to blow too much cash on a mediocre time out, there are plenty of options for cheaper entertainments, keeping the broke-ass among us from being eternally housebound. This weekend in particular, a couple of low-budge music showcases offered those too skint to make it to Iggy Pop a way to afford more beer by charging less cover, and one even threw in the pizza! Sure, rocking out with the godfather of punk would have been quite a bang for its buck, but at least Bottom of the Hill and Café du Nord offered economical alternatives to hanging out in a drafty San Francisco flat Google-stalking Mike Watt. Not that I’d know anything about that. Read more »
Try to ignore it as we might, the end of another year draws near, accompanied by all its attendant solstice-cycle celebrations -- last ditch attempts to keep warm perhaps. Well, spike the eggnog with everclear and pass the bacon-wrapped latkes, in my book a little conviviality goes a long way in making bearable the quickly darkening days, the applejack-crisp night air. Sure, shaking off the hibernation vibe can be hard to do, but a good compromise between comatose and cabin crazy is to cuddle up to nightlife’s cozier side: intimate venues, good company, low lights, warm interiors. The Lost Church provides all of the above with its lushly-appointed “parlor performance” space and a tight-knit crew of regulars who call the venue their artistic home, plus homegrown music, a multi-media nod to vaudevillian theatre, and quiet cheer.
There’s certainly no shortage of live comedy in the Bay Area, but you have to hand it to Club Chuckles for keeping it weird. Avoiding line-ups packed with middle-aged men whining about their therapy bills, or cosmonaut princesses with pubic hair obsessions, Club Chuckles can often be found lurking in the rock-saturated shadows of the Hemlock Tavern’s back room performance space, infused with the kind of punk rock vibes you’ll never pick up at the buttoned-down, two-drink minimum comedy clubs. The sold out, eight-year anniversary show at the considerably swankier digs of the Verdi Club might have been better lit, but the rowdy element still prevailed, as an entire line-up devoted to the comedy of the awkward braved the hecklers to bring the laffs.
“More Human Than Human” and “Two Clowns” explore the in/human condition
If our frail human lives begin, as the fundies would have it, at the moment of conception, at what point are we defined as being possessed of humanity? Is it simply a matter of our genetic makeup? Is it possible for a fully “human” consciousness to develop in non-human entities, and is it such consciousness that defines us at all? At what point, if ever, do we abdicate our rights to lay claim to our humanity? These questions may not be new, but they never seem to go entirely out of fashion, and this weekend you can catch two very different pieces of theatre tackling these persistent conundrums: “More Human than Human,” at The Dark Room, and “Two Clowns” at the Boxcar Theatre Studios on Hyde Steet.