While it could be argued that every day represents a new year, with each date falling exactly one year after the last, like unconscious clockwork, there’s something comforting in the ritual of observing the change in calendar year en masse. A time to take accounts, and make new goals. A time of psychic housekeeping: ridding oneself of the spiritual and mental detritus of the past, in order to make space for a future as yet undefined.
All of which is on my mind as I prepare to bang out my last Performant, at least for the time being. During the last three-and-a-half years I’ve witnessed hundreds of performances, featuring thousands of performers, in venues large and small, each one a brief, incandescent flame feeding into a bonfire of epic creativity. House concerts, punk shows, spoken word, street festivals, performance art meditations, live comedy, high drag camp, amateur wrestling competitions, robot soccer, battle rap, obscure cinema, alternative dance, home theater, and circus arts have all found a place in the Performant, proving, I hope, that just as borders geographical and psychological can be transcended, so too can artistic ones.
Welcome to the Starship Dental Prize. A vessel so intrepid it dares to probe the darkest, dankest folds of outer space, not to mention the incandescent snarls of surrealistic whimsy. Fish. Squonk. Celine Dion. Her stalwart crew includes a sassy computer powered by illogic (Becky Hirschfeld), a vodka-swilling ensign Anton Anton (Bryce Byerley), psychic science officer Mentoo Fractosa (Chandler White), and a pelvic-thrust obsessed captain Oliver Clozoffe (Jody Frandle). Her mission, undetermined. Her story, as yet unwritten.
Smuin Ballet's The Christmas Ballet, which the late choreographer Michael Smuin premiered in 1995, has earned its spot among the myriad of Bay Area holiday entertainments. This year's opening night at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts — performances run through Dec. 28 — was packed with a casually dressed yet festive crowd of all ages, including grandparents with their elementary school age charges. (Gratefully absent were the toddlers that flood ballet performances). It was probably the most diverse and receptive audience an evening of ballet can muster these days.
Upon reaching the fifth floor of the California Institute of Integral Studies, a wall of makeshift web diagrams asks arriving oddience members to detail what the longest amount of time they went without sleep was, and what do they tell themselves to get through stress. The average appears to be around 36 hours — which is about as long as I can boast — but no responders quite match the Guinness Book record of 449 hours held by Maureen Weston, nor even to the 60 hours that Mugwumpin, creators of performative “occurrences,” intend to stay awake in this, its last presentation of the year, Asomnia.
Dudes! Nerds! Pedro-voters! SF Sketchfest 2014 posted its complete schedule today, unveiling over 200 shows to be held in 20 venues from Jan. 23-Feb. 9. Over the past 13 years, the fest has exploded from humble local offering to one of the most popular comedy events in the country, luring the biggest names in the biz — as well as cult comedy heroes — to town.
Tickets go on sale Sun/15 at 10am, and since SF Sketchfest is P.O.P.U.L.A.R., you won't want to delay if something in the line-up catches your eye. (Pro-tip: though the festival does contain sketch shows, it also has music, film screenings, live recordings of pod casts, panel discussions, lots of tributes, and more.) You want guidance? Highlights? Best bets and sleeper hits? Read on!
Breathe easy, halfling: the middle installment in Peter Jackson's Hobbittrilogy is a huge improvement over the first film. Also new this week: Emma Thompson turns in a cranky-yet-lovable performance as the woman who wrote Mary Poppins in Saving Mr. Banks (with Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney); Liev Schreiber battles oddly familiar space monsters in The Last Days on Mars; and Tyler Perry celebrates the holidays as only he can, with A Madea Christmas. Read on for reviews and trailers.
For as long as I can remember, my family has spent New Year's Day at my aunt and uncle’s house in Campbell. As we had our fill of sushi and kamaboko, watched football, and, in more recent years, entertained my little cousins, my Uncle Hiro would walk around the house with his video camera, getting everyone on tape. He would focus in on my brother and me, narrating in Japanese so I could only catch our names and how old we were that year. It was just a thing Uncle Hiro did on New Years Day. I never thought of it as recording history.
But that’s exactly what home movies are – a largely untapped source of our histories from an intimate and personal perspective. Recognizing this, the Center for Asian American Media has developed Memories to Light, an initiative that collects, digitizes, and shares the home movies of Asian American families. Advances in digital media and discussions between CAAM executive director Stephen Gong and archivist and filmmaker Rick Prelinger gave way to the project, which has now gained over a dozen family collections and somewhere between 30 and 50 hours of footage.
Valencia Street art space struggles to retain its physical and spiritual existence
Sometimes you stumble across places that just feel like home the instant you step across the threshold. Maybe not the kind of home where you lounge around in sweatpants binging on Dynamo Donuts and Netflix, but a home that offers comfort for the spirit, where creativity and intention reign. Curiosity shop, design showcase, and artist enclave, Viracocha at 998 Valencia Street has been one such home for many, from the poets who helped build its pallet-wood walls, to the neighborhood literati who donated to and borrowed from Ourshelves, the private lending library that until very recently occupied the back of the building, to the acoustic musicians and spoken-word artists who gathered in the basement to perform and to connect, to the visual artists whose work was treated as décor first and merchandise almost as an afterthought.
This week, we feature a pair of excellent documentaries: Frederick Wiseman's At Berkeley (review here) and The Punk Singer, about riot grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna (review and interview here). Read on for short takes on this week's new releases!