Performance

The Performant: The Stiltwalkers Union

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In an iconic sequence from Winsor McCay’s eccentrically beautiful Little Nemo in Slumberland, Nemo’s bed sprouts elongated legs and strolls through the city as Nemo and his cantankerous friend Flip cling to the bedsheets and try not to fall out. Whenever I see performers on stilts, the exaggerated limbs of that unexpectedly animated furniture are one of the first things that spring to my mind, their death-defying acrobatics furthering the resemblance to an unnerving dream sequence.

Tapping into both the whimsical and the deeply unsettling nature of stiltwalking as art form, San Francisco’s Carpetbag Brigade and Nemcatacoa Teatro from Colombia performed their unique brand of physical theater in tandem over the weekend, along with Tucson, AZ’s VerboBala and Hojarasca Andina from Colombia, as part of their transcontinental “Bi-Cultural Road Show."

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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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The Performant: Parts is Parts

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FoolsFURY’s Factory Parts Builds a Future for Ensemble Works

Ever ambitious, the process-oriented foolsFURY theater ensemble has added yet another performance series to its production calendar: "Factory Parts," focusing on works-in-development from fellow ensemble companies from both coasts.

Structured like a lower-key version of its biennial festival of ensemble theater, "The FURY Factory," "Factory Parts" brings together ten companies to present segments of unfinished works before an audience (and each other) to gain perspective on how to shape them for the future. Broken up into three separate programs each showing three times over the course of ten days, Factory Parts offers artists and audiences alike to get in on the ground floor of a production’s existence and offer insight and feedback to the companies involved, turning what would normally be behind-the-scenes workshopping into a form of participatory theatergoing.

I caught up with foolsFURY’s associate artistic director Debórah Eliezer to get the inside scoop on the series, which opens tonight.

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Independence/Movement: extended interview with Oakland's SALTA dance collective

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Note: this is an extended version of an article in this week's Guardian.

The crowd outside the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library in Oakland was hopping. Fidgeting, really. Almost imperceptibly at first, while above it a bulging moon hung in the temperate June sky, just itching to go super as it would the following night. But soon enough bodies were bouncing and flailing, until finally the scrum of dancers packed shoulder-to-front-to-back on the sidewalk morphed their collective way through the front door.

We followed the dancers (choreographed by Abby Crain) inside, swept along by their momentum, and were deposited around the perimeter of the main reading room like dust mice by a strong breeze. On that same floor, a few hours later, choreographer Ronja Ver would be sending her supine audience into dreamland with a couple of Finnish lullabies. Before that, a bowl of liquid nitrogen would send a delicate fog creeping over its wooden surface as the spectators (temporarily wrapped in reflective emergency blankets) braced themselves for a performance by Daniel Stadulis that was part science experiment, part detailed meditation on the fragility of the body.

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The Performant: People are Strange

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Ape faces and hocus-pocuses

She was a medical marvel in an age where such marvels were not entirely uncommon. Forced into sideshows or the superficially more genteel lecture circuit, these Victorian-era human wonders were often exploited by their handlers and employers, but in an age where there were already limited possibilities for earning one’s keep, the ability to transform a physical disability into a money-making attribute was at least a more attractive proposition than starving.

For Julia Pastrana, the so-called “Nondescript,” her unusual condition — a form of hypertrichosis which covered her body in thick black hair and deformed her face — touring the world was better than staying in her home state of Sinaloa, Mexico, where she was a marginalized house servant. By all accounts, many of which are recited verbatim onstage in May van Oskan’s The Ape Woman, which played at the EXIT Theatre last weekend, she was an intellectually curious woman who spoke three languages, had a beautiful singing voice and a gracious manner, and even believed in romantic love, even though to outsiders her own marriage had the appearance of an exploitative measure on the part of her husband, Theodore Lent, who also happened to be her “manager”.

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The Performant: A Declaration of Independence

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Taking the road less traveled with the Independent Eye

In a cozy living room in Cole Valley, a small but attentive oddience gathers to watch a trio of short theatrical vignettes performed by maverick theater-makers the Independent Eye.

Entitled Gifts, the three pieces have been performed over the years in previous incarnations, but never together, and the subtle commonalities that bind them are elegant and startling in equal measure. Focused primarily on human relationships, the complexity of desire, and the precarious yet universal nature of a journey into the unknown, Gifts follows three couples on their respective paths as they encounter all the unexpected complications and mysterious rewards that life throws at them along the way.

For Conrad Bishop and Elizabeth Fuller, who have been both the creative partnership behind the Independent Eye and also life partners for over 50 years, revisiting these pieces with a deepened perspective honed by the implications of entering their final decades has been a process as revelatory to them as when they were created the first time.

“Everything resonates differently,” points out Fuller, with a gracious smile. Read more »

The Performant: Dare to DIVA

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A yearly performance fest supports XX creatives

Spring is in the air, and so is DIVAfest, the EXIT Theatre’s annual celebration of female artists and theater-makers. Founded in 2002 by Christina Augello to give female creators a secure space to showcase their craft, DIVAfest has hosted an estimated 500 participants have come through in the last 11 years, from visual artists (Sophie Kadow, Kathy Jo Lafreniere, Michelle Talgarow) to playwrights (Kerry Reid, Lee Kiszonas, Margery Fairchild) to music-makers (Beth Wilmurt, Shannon Day, Carrie Baum Love), to burlesque dancers (Odessa Lil, Red Velvet, If-N-Whendy). This year, the fest hits the stage May 9-June 2.  Read more »

The comeback klown: John Leguizamo's 'Ghetto Klown' returns

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It's been three years since hyperkinetic funnyman John Leguizamo last played the Bay Area, when he workshopped his newest solo show, then called Klass Klown, at the Berkeley Rep. Following the confessional tone established by his previous solo shows, such as Freak, which in which he recreated moments from his stormy adolescence, and Sexaholix...a Love Story, which tackled both his playa heyday and his rehabilitated foray into fatherhood and married life, his renamed, award-winning Ghetto Klown focuses on his career trajectory in a format that's part documentary, part tell-all exposé.

Now returning for a brief victory lap at the Orpheum Theatre, Leguizamo is looking forward to reconnecting with his West Coast fans. I managed to catch up with him over the telephone and got him to dish on the evolution of his show, his newfound love of touring, and the key to his boundless energy.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Why did you decided to tackle this particular narrative?

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Neighborhood sounds: MAPP takes over the Mission

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Photos by Bowerbird Photography

It's fun to imagine what it would be like to have lived during the Beatnik era, an era full of art salons and improvised performance. An evening walking around the for the Mission Arts and Performance Project (MAPP) with friends seems like close fit to those artistic days, because you never really know what you'll see when you roll up to one of the many venues along the MAPP's guide to the Mission. Read more »

Words, words, words permeate a couple of unconventional theater options this weekend

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The scattered letters piled on the floor are alternately a lover, a tormentor, a terrible reminder, a set of mysterious directives, and a bed for restless dreaming for Ophelia — or rather, one of her three incarnations — as French company Carte Blanche presents its roaming, site-specific riff on Shakespeare’s sad heroine, with inspiration drawn from Arthur Rimbaud’s famous elegy.
 
But despite all those missives from a certain gloomy prince, the piece makes much use of silence too, as the audience mills around the Firehouse at Fort Mason Center, watching the agitated actions of three young heroines in various rooms before being led outside for a journey to other environs.

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