All Ashland’s a stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
It’s 100 degrees in Ashland, Oregon, which makes the prospect of sitting in an air-conditioned theater an appealing one, even if it weren’t at the justifiably renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. An Ashland institution since 1935, the OSF has grown from a humble weekend-long affair to a nine-month-long theatrical juggernaut, and although it's mid-week in August, all three venues are packed with festival-goers.Read more »
While the Performant is off hugging trees in Oregon, please enjoy this series of interviews with the curators of three innovative performance spaces
There’s nothing about the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in North Berkeley that particularly speaks of abstract performance, but that element of the unexpected is possibly what makes it the perfect venue for Karen Penley’s fledgling performance series, Retard. Inhabited by out-of-the-box, outré performers such as Dan Carbone, Edna Barron, Herb Heinz, and Catherine Debon, Retard is a low-key, all-inclusive, no-judgment sort of event where the weird get a chance to shine, and everybody gets to eat cake. After an evening spent nibbling clafoutis and ducking clowns, I caught up with Karen via the magic of the Interwebs to pick her brain about her brave new experimental showcase. Read more »
While the Performant is off hugging trees in Oregon, please enjoy this series of interviews with the curators of three innovative performance spaces.
After five years of making the address 975 Howard synonymous with emergent dance, queer, and fringe artists, Joe Landini has packed up The Garage and relocated it further down SOMA way. Now tucked in an industrial zone next to an automotive repair shop, The Garage’s new location at 715 Bryant might lack the allure of being a hidden gem on ramshackle Howard Street, but has the distinct advantage of having fewer neighbors to annoy, a consideration no low-budget performance space can afford to completely ignore. Particularly one as active and prolific as The Garage—which has hosted over 1000 performances for some 50,000 people during its five-year tenure.
“We are awful neighbors!” Landini admits when I swing by to check out the new digs.
Thirty seconds after we walk into Bindlestiff Studio, S. is sold on kInDeRdEuTsCh pRoJeKtS’ production of “Arctic Hysteria.” He instantly recognizes their preshow music as being a Neue Deutsche Welle song he’s currently enamored with, “Eisbaer” by Grauzone, in which the author expresses a deep desire to be a polar bear. “Alles waer so klar!”
“This is the song I was just talking about,” he exclaims with satisfaction (it’s true) as we settle into our seats to gaze at the Community Thrift meets Matthew Barney set (designed by Sue Rees): corrugated white pressboard walls, an easy chair and matching ottoman covered in leopard print, an uncomfortable-looking brocade couch, a static-filled television set in the corner, a silver decanter and goblets on a roller tray. An innocuous enough setting for a play named for a contested form of madness particular to the arctic, supposedly characterized by uncontrolled outbursts, mimicry, echolalia, and coprophagia; keywords which might also be used to describe a typical Saturday night out in San Francisco.
Three playful performances by women offered vastly different perspectives.
Where’re the ladies at? Same place they’ve always been, really. Dancing backward in high heels. Getting on with the business of living while all around the world threatens to crash down around their feet. Politics. Murders. Institutionalized systems of oppression. Climate change. Is optimism overplayed? Or is hope all we have to keep us moving forward? This past weekend, three playful pieces gave stage time to the notion of moving forward in a world gone mad, each created and performed by a contingent of strong female figures, each bucking, in their own way, conventional wisdom on femininity and the future, with striking results.
How fortunate for lovers of patriotic display, that just as the last of the illegal Fourth of July fireworks have been shot off, the 14th should roll around, giving us all another excuse to celebrate liberty, equality and fraternity en français. Of course Bastille Day, France’s Fête Nationale, is much less the spectacle in Californi-ay than along the Champs Elysees, but you’ll still find the Francophones of (don’t-call-it) Frisco decked out in their own brand of red-white-and-blue sipping Bordeaux and nibbling on quiche, if not rioting in the streets.
Pianofight takes on Tchaikovsky -- and the death of theatre -- and Boxcar's Hedwig has us humming in the shower.
Zombies are so over. The next monster movie massacre sensations are totally going to be murderous waterfowl, so props to PianoFight and Mission CTRL for jumping on that bandwagon before it even rolled out of the studios with their ensemble-created, ballet-horror-comedy, Duck Lake. When Raymond Hobbs as theatre director Barry Canteloupe (sic) boasts “no one has ever done what we are about to do,” while tweaking his own nipples, you get the feeling he’s talking about more than the production he is supposedly directing -- a musical theatre adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”
Wild brass and shaking floors at the Kafana Balkan party.
Hi-ho, the gypsy life. While the reality of living as a member of a marginalized, nomadic population is really not quite the Technicolor dream romance conjured by 19th century poets and Hollywood producers, the music created by the roaming “Romani” is as lushly romantic as it gets. Combining exuberance with melancholy, abandonment with abandon, musical traditions as far-flung as Spanish Flamenco, Romanian Manele, Gypsy jazz, and even the youthful strains of modern-day Gypsy punk, have a way of getting under the skin right on down to the toes—which will almost assuredly be tapping. Label it folk music if you must, but don’t expect a lot of polite purists holding forth while holding back. Gypsy music is party music, and Zeljko Petkovic aka DJ Zeljko’s (in)famous Kafana Balkan evenings are always one of the consistently best parties in town.
KC Turner’s House Concert series gets up close and personal
When did the home become a fortress? It’s as if each city block were comprised of hundreds of tiny sovereign states squeezed in next to each other, doors locked and shades drawn, the notion of running next door for a cup of sugar all but lost. Who even uses sugar anymore, let alone pesters their neighbors for an emergency ration of it? It must be this entrenched reclusiveness that makes the idea of a house concert especially appealing. When just the act of opening your home to a group of strangers feels subversive, the act of accepting the invitation can feel downright revolutionary—a banner waved against the forces of encroaching isolationism.
THEATER We've come a long way, baby, but why does it feel like women's equality is a legal concept that still troubles the status quo? This past year has proven that the erosion of women's rights remains a powerful political agenda across the country, with state bans on certain forms of abortion, the redefinition of rape, and the blocking of the Paycheck Fairness Act.Read more »