Nicole Gluckstern

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 »

The Performant: Poetry in motion

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"You Need to Read Poetry" and "Ragged Wing" take flight

Against the back curtain of the stage, empty save a couple of small platforms, a mysterious tree, represented by a rainbow of colored scarves, stretched its silken boughs. Cut to the “great before,” when humans were still a figment of the future, and Mol’-luk (Liz Wand), a brooding, powerful condor, sat perched on a rock, little suspecting that the “mountain” is pregnant with his peregrine falcon son, Wek Wek (Juliana Lustenader), whose dramatic birth by fire was further facilitated by a chorus of rattlesnakes (select members of the oddience armed with noisemakers).

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The Performant: Talk Lobster

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Killing My Lobster sends up San Francisco

“Funny can mean different things to different people.” Perhaps no tagline better describes the fluctuations of sketch comedy than that of veteran gagsters Killing My Lobster. And they should know, since they’ve been dishing up their irreverent brand of short-attention span comedy since 1997. Even if, as a performance format, sketch comedy isn’t really your thing, the variables built into its basic equation -- rotating writers and cast members, wacky themes, and the unique juxtaposition of the ludicrous with the everyday -- ensure that, like the weather, if you don’t like something, just wait 10 minutes, and you will probably be rewarded with something you do.

The blink-and-you-missed-it one-night run on Saturday of “Killing My Lobster Takes it to the Streets,” at Stagewerx naturally included the weather in their microhood-specific roundup of familiar, Bay Area moments.

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Art school confidential

David Byrne's 'How Music Works' edifies and entertains

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arts@sfbg.com

LIT If you're seeking the perfect present for the music obsessive in your life, consider picking up a copy of David Byrne's How Music Works (McSweeney's, 332 pp., $32). A thorough exploration of the many facets of music-making, including music industry contracts, philosophical musings on the art of creation, and the scientific principles of tonality, Byrne's book can be read like a field guide by aspiring musicians, and as an armchair adventure for those whose knowledge of music begins and ends with Pandora.Read more »

The Performant: Game theory

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Play is a powerful tool in almost every human society. The dynamics of play are found in most forms of human interaction as well as in the foundations of problem-solving and analysis. Play provides a learning-by-doing environment that is difficult to replicate in a classroom. Plus, high-minded assertions aside, play provides something even harder to quantify but no less vital to our development — a vehicle for joy. 

Since 2006, the Come Out & Play Festival crew has been throwing festivals of interactive games, from New York to Amsterdam to San Francisco, providing a space for players of all ages to gather and game. Read more »

The Performant: Strindberg sans helium

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A singular marathon

Preparing for a marathon of theatre is similar to preparing for any other kind. Of paramount importance: lots of rest, good hydration, comfortable layers.

This year’s test of my theatre-going tenacity, clocking in at 11.5 hours, came courtesy of the ever-ambitious Cutting Ball Theater, who, with translator Paul Walsh, have been preparing for this event for years: the production of a five-play cycle of August Strindberg’s “chamber plays,” written in the last years of his life. After a year-long series of staged readings, and creation of an archival website, the Strindberg cycle debuted in repertory on October 12, including four all-day marathons of the entire cycle of which I attended the first (the last will play this Sunday, November 18). 

Here's the play-by-play:

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GOLDIES 2012: Anna Ishida

A a chameleon-like quality and versatile vocals that make her so compelling to watch on stage.

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GOLDIES One of the very first things you'll notice about Anna Ishida, onstage and off, is an aura of self-possession that simultaneously grounds her and yet sets her ever-so-subtly apart in a crowd. But she also has a chameleon-like quality, a way of blending seamlessly into her surroundings, whether it's a 49-seat black box theater on Natoma Street, or the hip buzz of Farley's East in Oakland, where we meet over coffee and sandwiches.Read more »

The Performant: Paris is learning

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Adventures in 'pataphysics

Well, pschitt! Although Alfred Jarry -- schoolboy playwright, raconteur, and progenitor of 'pataphysics, “the science of imaginary solutions” -- died 105 years ago of decidedly prosaic malady tuberculosis, his outré influence lives on. Adopted and championed by generations of outsider artists, avant-garde writers, and revolutionary thinkers, the self-styled “Pere Ubu” gave artistic anarchy a nexus during his lifetime, an iconic figurehead after.

Last weekend, the four-day Carnivàle Pataphysique, part commemoration and part investigation, gave amateur pataphysicians, situationists, and conceptual artists a free zone to mingle, to expound, and to congeal, over lectures, concerts, puppet shows, and other unique performative opportunities in and around the practically imaginary stronghold of “North Beach,” a land where strip clubs and surrealists collide.

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The Performant: Sometimes a great notion

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TAP Light Production’s “The Ballad of Michele Myers” goes for the jugular

The genre of the spoof slasher storyline is one always ripe for mining come Halloween season, and this year in the absence of The Primitive Screwheads annual offering, Raya Light and Todd Pickering stepped up to fill the void with their collaborative “The Ballad of Michele Myers.” A cheeky blend of high camp and low blows mixed into a frothy, bloody cocktail of makeovers and machetes, “Ballad” satiates that unique craving for slutty Nancy Reagan costumes, updated Aretha Franklin covers, and buckets of stage blood. Plus it gives trans-folk a misunderstood serial killer to call their very own. You’ve come a long way, baby!

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West Memphis free

Damien Echols' powerful new memoir 'Life After Death'

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