Pixel Vision

The Performant: People are Strange

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Ape faces and hocus-pocuses

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”.

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Buddy cops, a one-man army, a boozy doc, and more: new movies!

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This week: two music docs, a buddy-cop movie starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, and America's Sweetmeat Channing Tatum saves the White House and, ergo, the world. Plus, more! Read on for takes from our critics.

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Secret handsome gentlemen meet-up spot: Pride in Style

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Many of you know me as that ditzy drag queen in a trash bag stumbling down your block at 4am. But I am also, on occasion, a snappy dresser -- in my mind. Or at least I know how to hit on snappy dressers (talk about bow ties).

I also know when. And for the cutest, scruffiest ones get to the annual Sui Generis afternoon Pride in Style party, this year on Sat/29.

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Pride on fire: This year's must-do events

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Strap on that rainbow jetpack -- there's a heckuva lot of stuff going down at Pride. Here are our pinkiest, proudest picks. 

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The Performant: A Declaration of Independence

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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 »

Embarcadero Center Cinema closing (temporarily) for renovations

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Don't panic, art-house fans: you can still get your subtitle fix at Landmark's other San Francisco theaters (the Clay, the Opera Plaza) or at any of the chain's East Bay outposts (the Shattuck has the most screens, and it shows mainstream Hollywood stuff, too).

The 18-year-old Embarcadero is one of Landmark's busiest and most-profitable theaters, according to the chain. It will close starting June 28, with a targeted return of "early November" — so it'll be dark during much of the summer movie craze, but ready to receive any and all Oscar-type movies in the fall.

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Welcome to the Bubbleverse

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As I attempt to explain Bubbleverse -- "a cosmic portal into your childhood imagination" in SoMa, "offering a rare glimpse of this majestic hydrophysical phenomenon" -- please keep in mind that I was not on any drugs.

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It's Frameline time! Plus Brad Pitt vs. zombies, robbin' Paris Hilton, and more in new movies

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Frameline37 is underway! Check out our coverage of the country's biggest, oldest LGBT film festival: Dennis Harvey's rundown of five docs about great gay men (including Gore Vidal and Divine); my interview with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge star/"scream queen" Mark Patton; and a host of short takes by Harvey and Lynn Rapoport.

This weekend, Hollywood would ask you to choose between zombies vs. Brad Pitt, and spoiled teens who live by the mantra "I wanna rob!" (also, if you have younger kids, there's a new Pixar joint, too). Reviews for all after the jump, with special shout-outs to the very cool, very strange Berberian Sound Studio (essential viewing for fans of 1970s Italian horror films), and the tense Danish thriller A Hijacking.

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The Performant 150: We are the 99% (gay)

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Celebrating Pride Month in the the-ah-tah

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).

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The Performant: (Somewhat) lost in translation

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"Infinite Closeness" was a little ways off

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.

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