Theater

The Performant: Playing in the Sandbox

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SF Playhouse’s Sandbox Series puts play back into playwriting

It’s getting harder each year to determine when exactly the “off-season” is in terms of things to do in the City, considering that this past, random weekend in February alone saw collisions of three major festivals -- SF Sketchfest, SF Indie Fest, and SF Beer Week -- on top of all the usual openings and closings and goings on. In fact, it’s been so hectic (albeit muy divertido) that the Performant is going to break protocol and look ahead to an event lingering just on the horizon, to ensure it doesn’t get lost in the onslaught of events to come.

Founded in 2010, SF Playhouse’s Sandbox Series is a play series (beginning Feb. 27) that inhabits a region somewhere between staged reading and full production -- offering new plays a full run and technical support, without breaking the bank on design and promotion.

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Missing person

'Se Llama Cristina' offers a sentimental story beneath a gritty exterior

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER A filthy, forlorn world emerges in surreal half-light at the outset of Magic Theater's premiere of Se Llama Cristina, the new play by celebrated San Francisco–based playwright Octavio Solis. But almost as quickly, its initially intriguing outlines begin to look artificial, becoming the bloated lines of caricature more than a poetical evocation of real life, as the sentiment at the heart of this sometimes forceful but finally thin and frustrating play steadily takes over.Read more »

The shape of stage to come, part two

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Training with foolsFURY for the stage and for life

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a round-up of some of the theatre companies in the Bay Area who offer classes and actor trainings for professionals and non-professionals alike, but since there are far more companies than I had word count with which to cover them, I could only feature a representative few, and therefore focused mainly on smaller, more underground companies specializing in one or two specific disciplines or techniques.

One company I regretted not having space for was foolsFURY, whose devotion to training their own actors has given rise to an extensive schedule of workshops open to the public since 2006. I finally caught up with associate artistic director Debórah Eliezer to get the details.

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Festival of festivals

Some highlights from New York's APAP-pourri

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER The chill air had no snow in it. Instead, a particularly nasty outbreak of influenza whipped through the city, leaving a fine coating of mucus on the ground. Still, New York City looked beautiful as the various performing arts festivals that cluster around the annual meeting of APAP (the Association of Performing Arts Presenters) all revved up for a fat two weeks of shows this January.Read more »

SF Sketchfest founders reminisce (and look ahead) on the eve of their 12th event

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The first SF Sketchfest, in 2002, was a good excuse to find a stage and some quality time for its organizers’ own sketch comedy troupe, Totally False People, but it has since become an annual comedy conclave of the first order. SF Sketchfest founders David Owen, Cole Stratton, and Janet Varney talk about the growth and philosophy of their annual comedy extravaganza and the humble beginnings that gave it rise.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Is SF Sketchfest a full time job by now?

David Owen Yeah, I think it is. It definitely gets more intense a few months out, but we’re always working on it, we’re always percolating ideas, as well as trying to do events throughout the year. We had a presence at Outside Lands this past year. We’re always trying to do stuff. But this time of year especially, from fall on, is beyond full-time for us.

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Harmon's way

Dan Harmon charts his own course through the comedy universe

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arts@sfbg.com

THEATER Dan Harmon, performing at this year's SF Sketchfest, is on the phone, talking about therapy. He's explaining his belief that a person can find a mental illness for anything they can name, with some fetishistic examples. "There are people out there who like to be walked on," the creator and former show runner of NBC's Community says. "There's people who like to eat human fecal matter. There's people who want to have sex with kites."Read more »

The Performant: Manic pixies

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'Manic Pixie Dream Girl' and 'The Witch House' roil with fantastickal energies

It was only a matter of time before the familiar genre of the comic book movie migrated to the stage. But don’t expect any muscle-bound jocks in colorful spandex roaming the aisles of A.C.T.’s intimate mid-Market venue, The Costume Shop. Not only is the titular “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” of their current production not a superhero with mutant powers bestowed upon her by a quirk of DNA or gamma rays, but in a twist, the comic book involved actually originates from the play -- not the other way around.

The play centers mainly around a youthfully shiftless, struggling painter Tallman (Joshua Roberts), whose dire straits and afternoon drinking habits lead to a chance encounter with one of cinematic fiction’s most enduring tropes, the Nathan Rabin-dubbed MPDG Lilly (Lyndsy Kail), a woman who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventure.”

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The Performant: One for the road

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Baxtalo Drom's happy trails -- and the Performant's faves of 2012

With 2012 finally behind us, apocalypse thwarted, we have to get back to the business of preparing for a future we were told not to expect. Stretched out before us, a ribbon of Alfred Noyes moonlight looping the landscape of possibility, the road of the future beckons us onward, final destination unknown. What lies ahead, nobody knows for sure. But at least we know that for the moment there *is* an ahead.

During both the best and worst of times, the heady mystique of the open road is always in fashion, imbued with an undeniable glamour that monthly “gypsy punk cabaret” Baxtalo Drom is all too happy to exploit. Baxtalo Drom translates to “Lucky Road” -- happy trails, if you like -- and it plays out very much like a quick-and-dirty variety show performed by a high-spirited caravan-load of traveling players. A showcase for pretty girls, hobo bands, and eclectic DJ’s, Baxtalo Drom’s shabby chic and Balkan streak make it a perfect fit for Amnesia’s convivial ramshackle allure, its dark corners and hardwood floors.

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The Performant: How Grinches save Christmas

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Jeff Garrett and Will Franken overcome holiday saccharine.

Is that a collective sigh of relief in the air as another frenzied holiday season winds down to its usual end and whatever apocalypse was scheduled to go down seems to have spared at least our physical reality?

As we drift back into the routines of our regularly scheduled lives, the brief illumination of whatever lessons we were meant to be learning on the eve of our potential destruction and the supposed birthday of our salvation, flickers out without so much as a whimper. It’s a bit of a stretch anyhow, to weight a single stretch of calendar with so much cosmic significance, yet we do it year after year, grasping superstitiously at the shimmering notion of redemption, the hidden catalyst underlying our frantic excess.

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Stage might

Upstage/Downstage Awards: theater's best and worst of 2012

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arts@sfbg.com

YEAR IN THEATER In addition to Christmas lights, the seasonal landscape would not be the same without a thick, shiny coating of awards. We reflect on some highs (and a few lows) from the year in theater with a nod of appreciation here, a nod of respect there, or just a nod, short and involuntary, before the house lights jolt us awake again.Read more »