PREVIEW What lengths will you go to for your art? If you're a castrato it's probably a sore point. For Mexico's internationally renowned experimental theater company, Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes (Certain Inhabitants Theatre), it's the beginning of a lush and lively investigation into the complexities and contradictions of cultural power and refinement. Read more »
PREVIEW Leslie Seiters entered college as a visual artist and left it as a choreographer. Or at least that's what her MFA diploma from Ohio State University says. Seiters prefers to call herself a director. "I am allergic to 'choreography,'<0x2009>" she says from her home in San Diego. "When something looks 'choreographed,' it turns me off."
Seiters, who lived and worked in the Bay Area between 2002 and 2007, has nothing against the craft of choreography, of course. In fact, her own works are exquisitely crafted. Read more »
REVIEW In the late 1990s, Mary Alice Fry, artistic director of the now defunct Venue 9, found a hole. She has been filling them ever since.
The January performance calendars at her theater and many other local small venues, she noticed, were empty. At the same time her curatorial experience had shown that women artists still had a harder time getting noticed than their male counterparts. Read more »
REVIEW So I used to live, for a couple of years, around the corner from the Atlas Café in the Mission District. You may know the place. It's nice. I probably went there more than I should have. I certainly don't want to think how much money I sank there. The beetloaf sandwich is excellent. The point is, one day I saw Peter Sinn Nachtrieb there. He's the local playwright with the budding national reputation ever since his very sharp and funny Hunter Gatherers took off a couple of years ago. Very nice guy, too. Read more »
PREVIEW Last year's audacious staged reading of the complete Tom Stoppard trilogy The Coast of Utopia saw the Shotgun Players expanding their already broad horizons to encompass a rarely performed heavyweight piece exploring the roots of Russian radicalism. Read more »
PREVIEW One of the most exciting and unusual theatrical events of 2008 came from a small San Franciscospawned, now Brooklyn-based company: the curiously named Banana Bag and Bodice. It almost sounds unexpected, but in fact BBB, which retains close ties to the Bay Area, has been doing shrewd, highly imaginative, often startlingly designed songplays their preferred term with practically no budget for about a decade. Read more »
REVIEW Standup comic W. Kamau Bell has reopened his frank, funny, and genuinely thoughtful one-man show at SF Playhouse, and it's worth catching if you haven't yet (I took in a recent performance at the Climate).
Subtitled "Ending Racism in About an Hour," Bell's reflections on the recent election and Proposition 8, among other race-inflected personal and political matters still closer to home, are topical, to say the least, and run considerably deeper than the usual one-liners or simplistic oppositions of much race-based comedy. Read more »
Barack Obama wasn't the only lanky senator from Illinois to have a triumph on the stage, political or otherwise, this year. Abraham Lincoln took a couple of bows himself. Of course, many have noted the weighty coincidence of the country's first African American president following Lincoln's senatorial trail to the White House. But who could match Thick Description's revival of Suzan-Lori Parks' The America Play focusing on an African American protagonist whose calling involves dressing up in Lincoln drag for political prescience? Read more »
REVIEW Long before Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prizewinning Topdog/Underdog (2002) was bedazzling them on Broadway, an earlier and related work called The America Play (1990-93) was wowing Bay Area audiences in a small but vital production staged by Thick Description. Read more »
REVIEW Going to Smuin Ballet's The Christmas Ballet feels like going to a big party. You're glad to see some guests while others make you want to head for the door. Currently touring the Bay Area, the 15-year-old holiday extravaganza finishes its annual run at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Dec. 17 to 28.
It's easy to see why this two-part concoction of 30 numbers, divided into The Classical Christmas and The Cool Christmas, has become a holiday staple. If the late Michael Smuin was anything, he was an entertainer. Read more »