Robert Avila

Hearts on fire

Studium Teatralne makes its Bay Area debut with a heroic Holocaust tale

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Grown up stuff: themes of rejection and reclamation at Portland's TBA Festival

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Now in its 11th year, Portland, Ore.'s Time-Based Art Festival is fall's major performance festival to the north (almost simultaneous with REDCAT's Radar LA, the major festival to the south). Mounted annually by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), TBA has become something of a pilgrimage site for Bay Area artists and audiences, judging by the number of familiar faces onstage and off both this year and last.

PICA's artistic director, Angela Mattox, has something to do with this. As the former performing arts programmer at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Mattox (now in her second year at PICA) retains strong ties to Bay Area artists. Other likely factors include the relative proximity and general cultural appeal of Portland (an increasing refuge to artists and others pushed out of San Francisco by gentrification), not to mention the scandalous lack of any Bay Area performance festival of comparable scope.

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Self service

SF Fringe Festival tells it like it is with random tales from the service sector and beyond

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THEATER Sitting in the Exit Café with a can of Guinness and the San Francisco Fringe Festival program is one of life's modest but absorbing pleasures. For those without much inside knowledge on the lineup (currently encompassing 36 companies and 158 performances), it's a little like taking a vacation by pitching darts at a wall map. There were several immediate sub-themes to choose from for 2013. I could have picked shows with bananas in the title, for instance. Read more »

Self service: SF Fringe Festival tells it like it is

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Note: this is an extended version of an article that appears in this week's print version.

Sitting in the Exit Café with a can of Guinness and the San Francisco Fringe Festival program is one of life's modest but absorbing pleasures. For those without much inside knowledge on the lineup (currently encompassing 36 companies and 158 performances), it's a little like taking a vacation by pitching darts at a wall map. There were several immediate sub-themes to choose from for 2013. I could have picked shows with bananas in the title, for instance. But for whatever reason, I dived into the service and servitude sector.

Of course, the Fringe, now in its 22nd year, is a lottery-based operation, so it is fate's fingers that pluck these patterns from the cultural whirl. At the same time, you don't need the I Ching to know that serving the rich is about all that's left of the economy for most of us, making it hardly surprising to find so many stories of bartenders, wait staff, sex workers, and mermaids-who-are-also-sex-workers floating in the pool.

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Mass. transit

Class and solidarity are a makeshift matter in David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Marin Theatre Company's season opener, David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People, tackles issues of class and solidarity in the context of a small circle of South Boston peers. It's an issue the play explores with some subtlety, if not always with the full weight of a historical moment as dire as any when it comes to the stratification of income, power, privilege, and status.Read more »

Fall forward

FALL ARTS: THEATER Onstage highlights of the coming season

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arts@sfbg.com

FALL ARTS Kings and queens, Brits and brats, music and mayhem, puppets and oppressors—the stage brims with them this fall. Talk about holding a mirror up to nature.Read more »

Sublime nonsense: extended interview with Wet the Hippo's John Gilkey

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Note: this is an extended version of an interview that appears in this week's paper.
 
The sets are gone, and the costumes, and that giant blue-and-yellow tent. Master clown and performance maker John Gilkey has ended his fourth stint with Cirque du Soleil since 1996. But if the wiry, often wild-haired Gilkey and his Muppet-like mug are no strangers to the big time, they move just as ferociously through a bare stage in a small venue wearing not much more than, these days, a bushy beard.
 
It’s been three years since Gilkey last performed in San Francisco — flanked by comedians Alec Jones-Trujillo and Donny Divanian, the deadpan naïfs of his avant-comedy trio, We Are Nudes. Just as the very funny yet vaguely unnerving, off-center style of Nudes occupied some indeterminate territory between sketch comedy and Dadaist destruction, Gilkey’s latest venture — the Los Angeles–based eight-member improvisational ensemble known as Wet the Hippo — takes its audience beyond the usual endpoints of improv.

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Sublime nonsense

With Wet the Hippo, big-top veteran John Gilkey and associates explore the big bottom

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER The sets are gone, and the costumes, and that giant blue-and-yellow tent. Master clown and performance maker John Gilkey has ended his fourth stint with Cirque du Soleil since 1996. But if the wiry, often wild-haired Gilkey is no stranger to the big time, he moves just as ferociously through a bare stage in a small venue wearing not much more than, these days, a bushy beard.Read more »

Elaborating tradition

CounterPULSE's Performing Diaspora explores the state (and states) of ethnic dance in the Bay Area

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THEATER The idea of traditional dance as somehow frozen in time or resistant to modernity is a canard that received a thorough going-over at last weekend's Performing Diaspora Symposium, which kicks off the Performing Diaspora series at CounterPULSE.Read more »

Baring all: Red Hots Burlesque presents “Burlesque and WHY”

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Red Hots Burlesque — the longest running queer burlesque show in the country, according to founder and producer Dottie Lux — moves out of the bars and into the theater with Burlesque and WHY (The Naked Truth), a show-and-tell built around the biographies and personalities of its performers, an eclectic group of burlesque artists comprised of Dottie Lux, the Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins, Magnoliah Black, Lay-Si Luna, Alexa Von Kickinface, and Burlesque Hall of Famer Ellion Ness. It runs through Sun/4 at StageWerx.

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