The Performant

The Performant: Poetry in motion

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"You Need to Read Poetry" and "Ragged Wing" take flight

Against the back curtain of the stage, empty save a couple of small platforms, a mysterious tree, represented by a rainbow of colored scarves, stretched its silken boughs. Cut to the “great before,” when humans were still a figment of the future, and Mol’-luk (Liz Wand), a brooding, powerful condor, sat perched on a rock, little suspecting that the “mountain” is pregnant with his peregrine falcon son, Wek Wek (Juliana Lustenader), whose dramatic birth by fire was further facilitated by a chorus of rattlesnakes (select members of the oddience armed with noisemakers).

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The Performant: Talk Lobster

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Killing My Lobster sends up San Francisco

“Funny can mean different things to different people.” Perhaps no tagline better describes the fluctuations of sketch comedy than that of veteran gagsters Killing My Lobster. And they should know, since they’ve been dishing up their irreverent brand of short-attention span comedy since 1997. Even if, as a performance format, sketch comedy isn’t really your thing, the variables built into its basic equation -- rotating writers and cast members, wacky themes, and the unique juxtaposition of the ludicrous with the everyday -- ensure that, like the weather, if you don’t like something, just wait 10 minutes, and you will probably be rewarded with something you do.

The blink-and-you-missed-it one-night run on Saturday of “Killing My Lobster Takes it to the Streets,” at Stagewerx naturally included the weather in their microhood-specific roundup of familiar, Bay Area moments.

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The Performant: Game theory

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Play is a powerful tool in almost every human society. The dynamics of play are found in most forms of human interaction as well as in the foundations of problem-solving and analysis. Play provides a learning-by-doing environment that is difficult to replicate in a classroom. Plus, high-minded assertions aside, play provides something even harder to quantify but no less vital to our development — a vehicle for joy. 

Since 2006, the Come Out & Play Festival crew has been throwing festivals of interactive games, from New York to Amsterdam to San Francisco, providing a space for players of all ages to gather and game. Read more »

The Performant: Strindberg sans helium

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A singular marathon

Preparing for a marathon of theatre is similar to preparing for any other kind. Of paramount importance: lots of rest, good hydration, comfortable layers.

This year’s test of my theatre-going tenacity, clocking in at 11.5 hours, came courtesy of the ever-ambitious Cutting Ball Theater, who, with translator Paul Walsh, have been preparing for this event for years: the production of a five-play cycle of August Strindberg’s “chamber plays,” written in the last years of his life. After a year-long series of staged readings, and creation of an archival website, the Strindberg cycle debuted in repertory on October 12, including four all-day marathons of the entire cycle of which I attended the first (the last will play this Sunday, November 18). 

Here's the play-by-play:

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The Performant: Paris is learning

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Adventures in 'pataphysics

Well, pschitt! Although Alfred Jarry -- schoolboy playwright, raconteur, and progenitor of 'pataphysics, “the science of imaginary solutions” -- died 105 years ago of decidedly prosaic malady tuberculosis, his outré influence lives on. Adopted and championed by generations of outsider artists, avant-garde writers, and revolutionary thinkers, the self-styled “Pere Ubu” gave artistic anarchy a nexus during his lifetime, an iconic figurehead after.

Last weekend, the four-day Carnivàle Pataphysique, part commemoration and part investigation, gave amateur pataphysicians, situationists, and conceptual artists a free zone to mingle, to expound, and to congeal, over lectures, concerts, puppet shows, and other unique performative opportunities in and around the practically imaginary stronghold of “North Beach,” a land where strip clubs and surrealists collide.

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The Performant: Sometimes a great notion

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TAP Light Production’s “The Ballad of Michele Myers” goes for the jugular

The genre of the spoof slasher storyline is one always ripe for mining come Halloween season, and this year in the absence of The Primitive Screwheads annual offering, Raya Light and Todd Pickering stepped up to fill the void with their collaborative “The Ballad of Michele Myers.” A cheeky blend of high camp and low blows mixed into a frothy, bloody cocktail of makeovers and machetes, “Ballad” satiates that unique craving for slutty Nancy Reagan costumes, updated Aretha Franklin covers, and buckets of stage blood. Plus it gives trans-folk a misunderstood serial killer to call their very own. You’ve come a long way, baby!

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The Performant: Pretend that we're dead

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Zombie Vixens From Hell and Love in the Time of Zombies offer food for thought and brains for dinner

The living dead are kind of obnoxious. They’re dead, but unlike dead people you might actually want to hang out with for awhile if they happened to be around (Josephine Baker, Hunter S. Thompson) the only truly remarkable thing about them is their inability to lie down and stay put like respectable dead people do. Read more »

The Performant: Boxed in at Boxwars

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Putting the glad into Gladiator

You are a warrior. Sheathed in armor of the finest corrugated paper pulp and armed with the righteousness of a hundred possible causes (pick one, any one), you grab your war hammer, fashioned perhaps from a couple of paper towel tubes and an empty case of 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die, and hie thyself to Dolores Park for the grand melee.

The last-gasp October sun beats down hot on the sloping hills of the park, which are covered in defiantly bared flesh and picnic supplies, while blimps slowly drift across the impossible blue of the afternoon sky. A gladiatorial spirit vibrates through the giddy ether, doubtlessly carried over from the Giants and 49ers games being played just a couple of miles away. It’s a good day to do battle. It’s a good day for Boxwars.

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The Performant: Surrealistic mellow

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Doing the Lobster Quadrille at The Mad Hatter’s Ball

A singular bit of whimsy, Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland may be one of the only childhood fantasias to be embraced equally by linguists, logicians, and users of psychedelic drugs. The setting of an unlikely hero’s quest undertaken by a pedantically logic-bound child, Wonderland’s curiously ordered chaos seems designed specifically to undermine any rote adherence to convention, even to those of storytelling.

In fact, one of the defining qualities of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass is that exactly none of the characters, including the protagonist, are particularly sympathetic, and Wonderland itself, unlike Oz, say, doesn’t have a lot to recommend it as a vacation spot save the prevalence of the aforementioned psychedelics. But as a cultural touchstone, Wonderland has proven to have some serious staying power, and continues to baffle and inspire children and adults who remember what it is to be a child, alike.

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The Performant: Drink up, Brunhilde

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Oktoberfest by the Bay pours it on

In vino veritas, aber in bier auch etwas.

Every year when Oktoberfestzeit rolls around, my thoughts turn nostalgic for liter-sized beers, chewy brezeln, and oompah bands playing “Country Roads.” And that this year’s Berlin and Beyond Film Festival fell smack in the middle of Oktoberfest’s traditional 16-day season only exacerbated the quasi-homesickness that feeds my Teutonic obsessions. Having lived for some time in Munich, and hoisted many a Maßkrug on the Wiesn, I’ve purposefully avoided its San Francisco counterpart, Oktoberfest by the Bay, for years. After all, Munich’s Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world, boasting more than six million visitors a year, an adrenaline-pumping array of roller-coasters, and mountains of Bavarian food to soak up the rivers of beer. Any other city’s regional edition will naturally far short of this admittedly high mark.

But when it comes to beer fests, is it really the size that matters, or just the beers? I figured I owed it to myself to find out.

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