Theater

Way out East

A dose of American Realness amid the NYC festival season

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THEATER The shows have been as varied and changeable as the weather this January in New York City, where the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) acts as catalyst for, by now, no less than four new-work festivals in the realms of theater, dance, and contemporary performance.

Near the beginning of the month, it got cold enough at night to make your nose hairs chime like little Christmas tree bells. "Every time you sneeze," a friend explained to me, "a whole shitload of angels get their wings."Read more »

Live Shots: New Fire at Brava Theatre

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Stirring together a mix of contemporary theater and actual traditional ceremonies, New Fire (which opened last night and runs through Jan. 29) is a play that gives its audience insight into the beautiful world of Indigenous American culture. Read more »

The Performant: The Great Leap Forward

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A year on the city's wilder side, and looking ahead to more fine times

End-of-the-year roundups are all well and good, allowing us the opportunity to celebrate one last time the innovations of the past. But I’ve always preferred to look ahead into the future, so in that spirit here’s a shortlist of some of my fave Performant coverage from 2011 of ongoing and perennial events that you can still look forward to checking out in 2012—and beyond!

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The Performant: Tradition! Tradition!

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Golden Girls, Kung Pao Kosher, Merry Forking Christmas ... the holidays are coming whether you like it or not.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the holidays just keep on coming around. And unless you plan on hibernating the entire month of December away, sooner or later someone is going to force you into an ugly sweater and drag you to some seasonal entertainment designed to fill you with goodwill towards all humankind -- or some such optimistic twaddle. Even so, there’s certainly no reason you have to subject yourself to endless renditions of Tchaikovsky’s famous suite or stale Bing Crosby carols in order to fulfill your holiday spirit quota. Alternatives abound here in Babylon-by-the-Bay, and you’re sure to stumble across a few that speak to your own imitable tastes.

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All will be revealed!

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The art of storytelling took a hit the day Johannes Gutenberg began fucking around with moveable type (on or around Tuesday, 1450), but stoking a good story by firelight or halogen lamp hangs on as a cultural desideratum in places like Ireland or San Francisco. Arline Klatte and Beth Lisick figured that out a long time ago, of course, with their Porchlight series (nine years running and going strong). But "Previously Secret Information" has lately proved there is plenty more storytelling worth accommodating in this chatty town.
 
Produced by stalwart stand-up comic Joe Klocek and impresarios Bruce Pachtman and Ty Mckenzie, "PSI" slants toward the comic and happens on the odd Sunday at Stage Werx Theatre — including this Sun/11, oddly enough. The new installment features well-known pop music critic Joel Selvin, with consummate insider dish about Bill Graham back in the day; the Dursts (political satirist Will and partner in comedy Debi), recounting an understandably bizarre White House wedding they attended (I’m guessing probably not in the Bush years); and Sammy Obeid, a former UC Berkeley honor roll student turned stand-up comic (it must have been one of those funny majors), relating the story of how a teetotaler gets a DUI.

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The (theater)-sporting life: BATS Improv turns 25!

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It was 1986, the year of Top Gun, Dallas, "Hands Across America," and "Papa Don't Preach." In San Francisco, a comedy troupe called Fratelli Bologna joined forces with Seattle Theatresports' Rebecca Stockley, and the rest was history. Bay Area Theatresports, now known as BATS Improv, marks its 25th anniversary this year with a special show Sat/12 — a one-off celebration smack-dab in the company's already-packed calendar of weekly shows. How does an arts organization stay so energetic after 25 years? Could a certain flair for improv have something to do with it? I spoke with BATS artistic director Kasey Klemm to get the scoop.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: What's your history with the company?

Kasey Klemm: I started taking classes at BATS when I was 17, back in 1997. I've been with the organization ever since. I just became artistic director in April of this year. I'm just at the beginning of my three-year term.

SFBG: Is that an elected position?

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"Cat Lady" unites pick-up artists and elastic waistband pants

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“Women my age are disappearing. My Facebook friends are no longer my friends, their toddlers are my friends.”

This sulk comes courtesy of a Kristina Wong character: a single, child-free woman in her late 20s, the titular Cat Lady in Wong's show (performed last weekend at ODC Theater). With a glint in her eye, Wong tells the story of adopting Oliver the cat from a cat lady, who emerged from her cat lady-ness by getting married and having children. Wong, in a red blouse dress, kneepads, and white sneakers, maintains that as a solo theater artist her plays are her children, and she is doing important work ending suicide, depression, and racism with theater, the subject matter of these shows.

With a direct and devious style, Wong immediately has the audience in stitches during an opening monologue, in which she rocks a baby doll and fantasizes about the string connecting her to her soul mate that gets shorter and shorter until they are so close. She’s not the only lonely one. Feline costar Oliver, played by the grand Miss Barbie-Q in a black crushed velvet jumpsuit, also aches for affection, having been abandoned by his previous owner. Sequences of Wong chasing a laser pointer light, along with theater improvisation games and dance interludes, keep the talk of loneliness light and surreal, with a fugue here and a quartet of dancing elastic waistband pants there. Read more »

Homemade shaman

Dutch performance-maker Robert Steijn debuts in the Bay Area
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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER A rare event for rare times: Robert Steijn comes to San Francisco. The visit — which included a workshop Oct. 31-Nov. 2, and comes courtesy of THEOFFCENTER, Zero Performance, and Jorge Rodolfo De Hoyos — marks the first Bay Area show by this somewhat unexpected but internationally acclaimed figure in contemporary dance-performance.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: 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 »