THEATER/DANCE The crowd outside the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library in Oakland was hopping. Fidgeting, really — imperceptibly at first, but soon enough bodies were bouncing and flailing, until the scrum of dancers packed shoulder-to-front-to-back on the sidewalk morphed their collective way through the front door.Read more »
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”.
THEATER Emerald green rooftops and gold domes enliven the skyline of Omsk, a provincial city and former Soviet industrial hub of roughly one million people, located at the intersection of two Siberian rivers: the wide, island-populated Irtysh and the smaller, swifter Om. The latter gave its name to the town, which grew from a fort established at the meeting point of the rivers in 1716, back when this was the disputed frontier of the expanding Russian empire.Read more »
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 »
We’re already halfway through Pride Month, but there’s no end in sight for the mad whirl of activities you could be availing yourself of. Proud or not, there’s no excuse for a blank social calendar at this time of year. Hate the club scene? Don’t overlook the très gay possibilities of a night in the theatre (Truman Capote wouldn’t). For starters, you might check out one of the ongoing shows over at the venerable New Conservatory Theatre Center, or one by queer theatre stalwarts Theatre Rhinoceros, but for campier fun, The Performant has a few favorites of her own to recommend (being gay not required).
Reminiscent of Mission parlor-art space The Red Poppy Art House, Subterranean Arthouse in Berkeley, upon entrance, is a lot like entering the living room of an artsy friend. Comfortably mismatched chairs and a few scattered cushions, a kitchenette behind the stage curtains, inviting visitors to endless cups of tea, hardwood floors gleaming below a strand of primitive lighting instruments.
Just four years old as a venue, the Arthouse nonetheless gives off the vibe of a place that’s been around forever, lurking just below the radar, if not actually under the ground (unlike La Val’s Subterranean, it’s actually located at street level). In short, it’s about time I got around to attending an event there.
The piece, “Infinite Closeness” is a solo offering of Hungarian performer Csaba Hernadi, an entirely mimed evocation of the poetess Mari Lukacs, whose life spanned the horrors of the Holocaust, the communist regime, and the usual traumas and blessings of a life lived for poetry.
DANCE Liz Tenuto and Justin Morrison — two dancer-choreographers who've made up for their limited time in the Bay Area by being highly, polymorphously productive — share a bill at CounterPULSE this weekend. Tenuto will show a work for three dancers in two parts, the first of which premiered at ODC Theater last December under the title The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn (featuring the trio of Esmeralda Kundanis-Grow, Elizabeth McSurdy, and Rebecca Siegel). Morrison performs in the debut of his new solo work, entitled Weapon.Read more »