What are the barest fundamentals of theatre once you remove it from “the” theatre? This is one of the questions site-specific performances are always confronted with, and the answer is not immediately clear. Does “theatre” require a script? (Then what is improv?) Does it require actors? (Then what is Spalding Gray?) Does it require a moral? (Then what is Ubu Roi?) Perhaps, like obscenity, it is immediately known when seen, but otherwise elusively indefinable. What does seem to be certain, particularly in light of the latest wave of productions set in non-traditional venues, is that performing in an actual theatre space is definitely not a requirement for creating an actual theatre piece.
Is it just me, or do you also catch yourself wondering on occasion, “I wonder what the sound of young America is today?” Where is it lurking, and how will I recognize it when I find it? Well one pretty obvious solution is to just Google “the sound of young America” -- the first hit will be Bay Area native Jesse Thorn’s podcast/radio show webpage on Maximum Fun. Delightful, irreverent, not unintelligible, and better yet, not unintelligent, "The Sound of Young America" is both talk show and time capsule. I mean, podcasts? How 2007!
Exploring personal myth with EmSpace Dance and Porchlight
Descending the wooden staircase into the basement performance space at Viracocha, one leaves the surface world behind and enters a parallel underworld of theatricality and allusion. Warm hardwood panels and golden lights, a distinct contrast to the concrete and glass-filled streets above, soothe the spirit -- and unintentionally convey the crux of one Blanche DuBois’ obsession with creating a more beautiful reality from the one she’s been sentenced to. Prone to artifice and artfulness, Ms. DuBois is the central catalyst of the action in Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire and its ultimate sacrifice. In EmSpace Dance’s adaptation (A Hand in Desire) however, the focus is spread more evenly among the five-person cast, both their stage personae and their “real” selves.
Let it be resolved, improv-based speed-playwriting competitions involving queer performance artists, cake, fabulous spandex, atrocious wigs, adult diapers, bare bums, wind-up hamsters, and flasks of whiskey should always be bestowed a title which sounds like an uncouth bodily function. Because at the very least it leads to the humorous speculation of what particular bodily function that might be. Though hopefully your attention will mostly be on the crazed mish-mash unfolding onstage, because queer performance artists armed with cake, fabulous spandex, and all the rest, put on quite a show.
Renewing ourselves with Right Brian Performancelab and Ween cover band Golden Eel
I spent my New Year’s Eve basically riding around in circles from shut-down party to shut-down party. (Let’s hear it for that War on Fun!) But I’m a big believer in the symbolic do-over that the first week of the year offers up as a recompense for the things left undone over the last one. Looking back and yet forward, Right Brian Performancelab’s one night reprise of September’s “The Elephant in the Room” served as a good example of how to straddle the line between past accomplishments and future ambitions. After a four-year parenting hiatus, Performancelab’s John Baumann and Jennifer Gwirtz’ reentry into the hybrid arts scene combined movement, text, shadow, and song into a piece both playful and poignant.
Aggro Yuletide fun with Will Franken and Satan’s finest
It’s a common misperception that the sensory-overload of the holiday season is an even greater irritant to the committed misanthrope than the ennui of the everyday, but I beg to differ. Actually the holidays are when misanthropes tend to shine: while everybody else is getting their longjohns in a bunch because of the line at the post office, the ever-increasing price of java logs, or Christmas carol earworms, misanthropes, accustomed to weathering the seas of perpetual annoyance, seem comparatively serene. Also, because everyone around them is suddenly on edge, their caustic observations and one-liners are more relevant to and therefore more appreciated by their usually more-sanguine acquaintances.
Taking size of the One-Minute Play Festival and Monsters of Accordion
I’m a sucker for miniaturization. Sushi erasers, super-strong magnets, marzipan fruit baskets, teeny-weeny screwdrivers; anything you can pack into a matchbox or stuff into a watch-pocket makes my spirits soar. So I was naturally keen to take in the One-Minute Play Festival at Thick House. Sixty-three 60-second plays performed in a quicksilver stream of actors, action, and scene. A good example of where miniature does not automatically equate “cute” or “precious” but rather “succinct” or “direct,” the one-minute play is an exercise in brevity and restraint.
The Mission gets a lot of ink these days for being a nexus of youthful, responsibility-free hipsterdom -- but despite the skinny jeans and thick mustaches, the neighborhood still retains a surprisingly family-friendly vibe. For one, it's still rife with community arts spaces, so it's a good place for kids to get involved creatively: from Loco Bloco percussion classes, to brass band and capoeira courses at the Mission Cultural Center and Precita Eyes' lessons in mural installation.
Thanks in large part to the winter holidays, December is a great time to explore the youth arts scene as next wave performers strengthen their stage chops and strut their stuff and this last weekend played host to some of the best and brightest of these stage openings. Read more »
Decking the halls with "The Oddman Family Christwanzaakah Spectacular" and "Balls to Balzac"
How many more ways are there to teach the true meaning of Christmas-Solstice-Chanukah-Kwanzaa now that Jim Carrey has been both the Grinch and Scrooge, dreidels come in rainbow colors, and Kwanzaa candles are available in soy wax? Well, you could start by teaching your children that everyday is like a holiday, and that the spirit of giving can permeate the entire year. That’s what the Oddmans do. And look at how multi-talented their precious little tykes are turning out. They sing, they dance, they play music, they translate the songs in ASL -- some without the average number of limbs usually sported by working musicians (besides Rick Allen, that is). All the Oddman family wants is to spread a little multi-cultural holiday cheer around. In Hollywood. Right now. SHOW ME THE MONEY.
Melting the masters with Oddball Films and Keith Hennessey
In a scene from the hilariously boffo short film Pull My Daisy an unruly gang of beatniks (Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso) grill their pal’s invited guest, “The Bishop” (Richard Bellamy) about the relative holiness of the world around them, from baseball to cockroaches to the male organ. Is this-and-that holy, is such-and-such holy? they slur via Jack Kerouac’s partially-improvised narration. Their good-natured interrogation is doubtlessly modeled on Ginsberg’s “Footnote to Howl”—that affirmative litany asserting the holiness of cocks, typewriters, and “the bop apocalypse”. Throughout, their commitment to proving the divine in the human gives their tactless party-crashing a metaphysical justification and an almost wide-eyed innocence.