The Performant

The Performant: Hamburger helpers

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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.

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The Performant: Humanesque

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“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.

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The Performant: Revenge of the nerds

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Gaiman and Palmer, the Bay Area Science Festival, and a live game of Frogger

Nerd might still be a four-letter word in high school locker rooms (assuming these are still high school locker rooms to be found), but there’s really never been a better time in history to be an adult nerd. No matter if your inclinations lie in language, linux, or the laws of thermodynamics, a nerdish life lived well is truly the best revenge for all those real or imagined slings and arrows of awkward youth.

Epitomizing this truism, geek-elite power couple Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer launched a joint mini-tour across the West Coast entitled simply “An Evening with Neil Gaimna and Amanda Palmer,” which turned out to be exactly that, no more and no less.

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The Performant: Baring all

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The Trial of Lucullus at CounterPULSE and Shazia Mirza at the Punchline

Open rehearsals are a hot topic in the theatre world, with compelling arguments on both sides of the debate about how much of the “process” in the creation of theatre should be public? On the one hand, the argument goes, the demystification of the process can only help audiences to understand a piece better, and connect more deeply with the finished production. On the other hand, the counter-argument proposes, so much is subject to change during rehearsal, that judging the potential merits of a future work based on an unfinished version may not be in the best interests of either audience or company.

My feeling is that transparency in art, as in life, enhances our experiences—and open rehearsals, like staged readings, can afford an audience a rare look at a work stripped down, naked, unencumbered by the dazzle of tech design and polish. To this end, during a special edition of the Shaping San Francisco Public Talk series at CounterPULSE, a group of San Francisco Sate University students performed an open rehearsal of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Trial of Lucullus,” which opens on the 27th for a weekend-long run.

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The Peformant: Neither bloody nor bowed

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Bullfighting Cali-style

If you want to go to a bullfight in California, you have to do a little preliminary sleuthing. Just why you would decide to go in the first place can’t be easily explained. But it helps to note that unlike more traditional forms of bullfighting, California bullfighting is billed as “bloodless.” That is to say, no bulls are killed in the ring.Read more »

The Performant: They Might be Giants

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Stagewerx and SF Olympians Festival go big

It’s been a turbulent year for independent theatre and its venues. In truth, every year is. But there have been some notable successes too. Boxcar Theatre’s addition of a new studio space on Hyde Street. Bindlestiff Theatre’s move into a new permanent space. Pianofight’s acquisition of the old Original Joe’s in order to create a hybrid performance space-kitchen-bar right on the cutting edge of the downtown theatre district. 

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The Performant: Cinéma contradictoire

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While I spent a good deal of time out of doors last weekend taking in, among other things, an obligatory pilgrimage to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a jaunt on the historic schooner Alma with the WE Players, the 30-year anniversary of the Sea Chantey Sing, and Chicken John’s book release party, it was the introspective medium of the cinema that captured my attentions most of all. From the Star of Tyche at ATA, to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at Lost Weekend’s “Offline In-Store” Film Festival, I devoured a sumptuous visual feast the satiating effects of which still linger days after. Read more »

The Performant: Weekend in Wonderland

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ALICE and Folsom Street Fair fall down different holes

From North Beach to South of Market, clowning to carousing, the weekend offered up a veritable smorgasbord of sensory overload and playful edge. First off, a debut performance of a quirky bit of deconstruction in new kid venue on the North Beach block, The Emerald Tablet. Written and conceptualized by two spirited performers (Edna Miroslava Barrón and Karen Anne Light), “ALICE: Down the Rwong Wrabbit Whole” offered a welcome introduction to both the space and the still-fresh faces of the presenting duo.

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The Performant: The mundane sublime

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Park(ing) and Fold {Live} were far from humdrum

It’s the little things. The things we do over and over again—the automatic, the routine, the de rigueur, the rote—that we need to find ways to celebrate above all, because every moment past could be a moment wasted, or a moment redeemed. But as with conceptual artist Kate Pocrass’ long-running Mundane Journeys project, sometimes the moment needs to be curated in order to be illuminated. That principle got some play over the past weekend with Park(ing) Day and Surabhi Suraf’s “Fold {Live}” installation, two very different projects which nonetheless served to turn the most banal of routines into conscious acts.

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The Performant: Dumpster Dive

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“Elite Waste” dumpster home makes its San Francisco Fringe Festival debut

There aren’t usually too many compelling reasons to hang out on the first block of Eddy Street, unless the exquisite aroma of urine, pigeon shit, corner store fried chicken, and tour bus exhaust appeals. But during the San Francisco Fringe Festival, now in its 20th year, there’s always a bit of a horde milling around the entrance of the EXIT Theatre-plex: patrons waiting to see shows, performers handing out postcards to the undecided or hauling heavy trunks of props up the sidewalk. 

This year the crowds have been larger than ever, thanks to the public unveiling of a unique, experiential performance-space: a customized luxury living dumpster home parked outside the front door of the theatre for all to enjoy. Read more »