Nicole Gluckstern

The Performant: Our selves

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The body does not lie -- Anne Sexton

So often in the arts it seems like we spend an inordinate amount of time focused on how art engages our minds as opposed to our bodies, as if body were a mere vessel whose primary function was to shelter and nourish the brain. In fairness, this is how we treat our bodies in a non-artistic settings too, at best a cumbersome weight which anchors us to the physical world, at worst, a burden we long someday to be free of. Read more »

The Performant: Whose story?

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Sifting through the past at The SF History Expo

If history is a tale written by the victors, one wonders who San Francisco’s victors are. A chimeral concept as much as a destination, represented by a Phoenix rising from its own destruction, San Francisco has been lauded as a land of opportunity and “the city that knows how,” and detracted as “ingrown (and) self-obsessed,” a “golden handcuff,” and a “Babylon-by-the-Bay” ever since it surfaced in the national consciousness. A city where eccentrics are celebrated, “family values” extend beyond heteronormativity, and the very real threat of natural disaster colors the mundane with an idealized wash of importance. Read more »

The Performant: An expedition report from the All Worlds Fair

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A visitor to the inter-dimensional, pan-galactic celebration known as the All Worlds Fair has to be prepared to fulfill the bureaucratic requirements, which are, by Earth standards, unusually rigid. In order to enter this portal into a unique realm which contains all possible and alternate realities under one roof, travelers must fill out both a visa application and an immigration form and additionally agree to adhere to the more-or-less strictly enforced dress code (black-and-white) and no-digital device accord.

Ushered first into a tented holding area of the sort that will seem familiar to seasoned travelers waiting to embark on a voyage across international waters, travelers are urged to fill out an additional form, as a bevy of extraterrestrial functionaries in matching red-and-black dresses and pillbox hats topped with twitching antennae, scuttle to-and-fro, monitoring progress.

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I'm your fan

When Leonard Cohen comes around, an orgy of admiration follows

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arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC Like most love affairs, there was little indication on our first encounter that it would turn into a lifelong infatuation. I was 17, methodically singing my way through a book of folk tunes, one of which was his first real hit, "Suzanne". Though I admired it for its lyrical content, it weighed heavy on my range, and I soon moved on to other songs.Read more »

Christmas in February: The Residents come home

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Bimbo's was packed to the rafters Sunday night for the triumphal homecoming show of music-and-neo-surrealism group the Residents, which was celebrating 40 years of relative obscurity with a blowout tour.

The stage was set with a whimsically unseasonal Christmas theme — huge inflatable candy canes, Santa, and Frosty the Snowman — draped with a hand-lettered banner emblazoned simply with the band name. 

The days of elaborate sets and 16-piece ensembles are over for the Residents, and their current incarnation — a stripped-down trio of masked musicians known simply as “Randy,” “Chuck,” and “Bob” — relies mostly on electronic sampling and assorted effects to create the unsettling soundscapes and dissonant jangles they’ve been (un)known for since their very first public release in 1972 — the “Santa Dog” single.

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The Performant: Love bites

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Celebrating romance with power ballads, Spandex leggings, fancy panties

Although there are about 364 days of the year when I can do without it—one day of the year seems custom-made to celebrate the ignoble rise of hair metal and its greatest contribution to the musical landscape -- the power ballad. From “Love Bites” to “Is This Love,” “(I Can’t Live Without) Your Love and Affection,” to “The Power of Love” -- all the saccharine sentiment of brooding, pouty millionaires in ripped jeans, tight leather, and all those glorious manes -- power ballads can and probably should form the soundtrack to Saint Valentine’s Day now and forever. They so perfectly tap into both the cynicism of the single person facing “the dread VD” alone, as well as offering a soaring guitar-solo boost to the cuddly nostalgia of the happily coupled.

While innamorati for hundreds of years have used February 14 as a date to shower their beloved in flowers and cards, Jeff Ross and the SF IndieFest team have used it as another excuse to party, with an annual Power Ballad Sing-along at the Roxie Theatre. Just three years after its San Francisco debut (a similar party tears it up each year in Brooklyn), PBS pours its sugar and motors through the packed house, screening subtitled MTV videos turned up to 11 of all the best bands you’d love to forget to a theatre full of eager inebriates, cutting loose in a veritable bacchanalia of communal song.

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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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Beer Week rolls out the barrel

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With much fanfare, the San Francisco Brewers Guild annual SF Beer Week popped its cork at the Concourse last Friday night, and the Bay Area has been awash in a tsunami of beer ever since.

Unable to attend the grand gala opening celebration, I got the lowdown from beer-tasting buddy Cee Jay, who took a few for the team in his quest for the perfect snifter of suds and got him to wax eloquent on Sierra Nevada’s new line of barrel-aged beers (“The barrel-aged Bigfoot is the tastiest brew I’ve had in a long time,” he gushed) and weigh in on the collaboratively-brewed Brewers Guild malt liquor Green Death -- a brew apparently inspired by one of my secret nostalgic faves Rainer ale, a dubious beverage I have fond albeit very fuzzy memories of. One this subject Cee Jay vacillated between calling it “well-balanced” yet possessed of a “split personality,” code words for “he don’t like it” (decide for yourself at the “Meet the Brewers” event at Speakeasy on February 13).

As I peruse the schedule for the week ahead, all I can say is “thank goodness beer week lasts 10 days”. Because otherwise I don’t know how I’d fit in all the beers that sound too good to pass up.

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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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West Memphis blues

'West of Memphis' asks some long-overdue questions of a notorious case

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM At this point, it's hard to imagine a present-day murder trial more painstakingly documented than that of the so-called West Memphis Three. The subject of four documentaries, with a feature film in the works (starring Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon, no less), and inspiring at least as many books, websites, and countless articles, the story of the three teenagers convicted of the brutal killings of three small boys has never quite dropped from public attention.Read more »