The Performant

The Performant: Here be pirates

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Joining the saltwater chorus at the monthly Chantey Sing at Fisherman's Wharf

Landlubbers arise. San Franciscans of the not long-distant past were a sea-faring folk, and you don’t have to scratch the surface very far to dig up old salt. Sailboats, houseboats, fishing boats, and ferries all still have their place in the bay, churning in the wake of container ships and visiting cruise lines, and the waterfront pubs are still prime locations to be regaled by gusty tall (ship) tales by grizzled old-school longshoremen and maritime amateurs alike.

One of the most unexpected legacies of our boating heritage is the monthly Chantey Sing aboard The Balclutha, a historic square rig docked at the end of the Hyde Street Pier. Six months shy of its 30-year anniversary, the Chantey Sing is one of those wonderfully hidden-in-plain-view pockets of locals-only camaraderie that you could spend years of urban assimilation hoping to stumble upon. Read more »

The Performant: Stupid is in the eye of the beholder

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St. Stupid and Karen Finely ride again

For anyone who could count that high, Friday’s St. Stupid’s Day parade marked its 33rd anniversary -- a year that was also auspicious, it should be noted, for that famous first martyr, Jesus Christ Superstar. Will St. Stupid, revered patron of the First Church of the Last Laugh, succumb to a similar fate as JC? 

Methinks not. The Romans have yet to suss out the threat St. Stupid’s low-maintenance doctrine poses to their empire building, and the Stupids are not about to let them in on that little secret. After all, on the surface it seems pretty benign, a bit of only-in-San-Francisco color for the die-hards to cherish and the tourists to gawk at. But beneath the greasepaint, dirty balloon animals, and silly sloganeering (“Dum is Sexy,” “I Can’t Afford an Actual Sign,” “Serfs Up!”), there’s still a feverish drop of pure dada shivering in the mix. Read more »

The Performant: The Empire has no clothes

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Adventures in Naked Empire's bouffonery

An evening spent in the presence of the Naked Empire Bouffon Company is always an unsettling experience. It can be difficult sometimes to assess who is actually performing for whom, as bouffons are wickedly adept at reading individuals and pulling them however briefly into the spotlight not as props, but as human beings with something to hide. Read more »

The Performant: Any way you want it

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Bad hair days gone wild at Rock of Ages
 
That distance makes the heart grow fonder does go a long way in explaining the recent resurgence of hair metal. Somehow despite all better judgment, a spangled veil of wistful nostalgia has fluttered over that particular genre of music you probably loathed when you had to listen to it blaring non-stop from every corporate rock station in the nation [or while guys in eyeliner and leopard tights were beating you up in high school for being a flannel-wearing, Smiths-loving faggot -ED.].

But nowadays stone-washed denim is the new sepia-tone, and don’t think the canny producers of the touring, glam-rock “jukebox musical” Rock of Ages don’t know it. Any show where scantily-clad beauties hand out custom-made lighters at the door (ok, little flashlights) to hold up at the appropriate moments, that is to say every five minutes, is staged quite emphatically to push your most embarrassingly sentimental buttons. But it’s such an eagerly goofy emphasis that you can’t really resent the blatant manipulation. You’ll probably even wind up singing along.

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The Performant: Life is a BOA

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Bay One Acts festival turns 10

“Life is like a Boa,” the random stranger at the bus station (Nicole Hammersla) announces to the sweetly bemused young man (Ray Hobbs) she has marked as her test subject. Cleverly referencing both the reptile and the Bay One Acts festival -- through March 26 at Boxcar Theater -- in which she is performing, Hammersla goes on to demonstrate the action of being constricted by a giant snake, first on herself, and then on Hobbs. It’s a reference that perhaps doesn’t stand up to close examination, but for a moment at least you go with it. Life is like a snake sometimes, and sometimes a play. Sometimes coiled around you, smothering, dangerous, and sometimes unfolding swiftly before you, like a message pulled from an unexpected bottle washed to shore. 

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The Performant: Lady in Red

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Cirque Noveau and Carletta Sue Kay blaze and seduce 

Even though nothing I saw over the weekend had anything remotely to do with Mardi Gras (Sunday’s Motown Parade in the Fillmore, was on the radar, but I melt in the rain), subtle little visuals kept it very much on my mind. In fact, as I type this, it nags me that I’m missing out on another Rosenmontag, Rose Monday, which is being celebrated all across Germany, a blowout which rivals the best Carnival celebrations from around the world, packed with parades, costumed revelry, and oceans of bier. I’m trying to compensate with a Rammstein CD and a 21st Amendment IPA, but really, it isn’t the same. Let “next year in Cologne” be the rallying cry! There are so many ways to dream.

Despite there not being any roses in my Montag, rose red colored my weekend. First found swirling in the startling tsunami of stage blood spilled by Impact Theatre in their Russian-mafia-meets-Romeo-and-Juliet adaptation, it also glowed wickedly, stretched across the muscled torsos of the performers of Cirque Noveau, in a production that closed last weekend entitled Devil Fish

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The Performant: Pop up the jam

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Appear and disappear at Noise Pop with Nobunny and Battlehooch

There’s a pop-up explosion going on out there, and it’s insidiously cornering the market on all our fun. It’s become well nigh impossible to stumble down the street without coming across a pop-up "gallery boutique ramen restaurant poodle salon performance space" and even more impossible to not want to avail oneself immediately of its fleeting charms. It’s the precarious ephemerality of pop-up ventures that makes them so enticing—the knowledge that at any moment the ability to tap into this particular experience will be gone forever. Granted, if you examine any particular moment in time closely, you’ll come to a similar conclusion, but sometimes it’s best to just go with the spontaneous flow, even if it’s a little bit manufactured.

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The Performant: Neat stuff

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TechShop San Francisco gets busy, Writers With Drinks gets drunk

Just when it felt like San Francisco could not possibly Do It Itself more than it already has, Jim Newton’s TechShop moved to town. Now it will be almost impossible not to succumb to the temptation of learning welding, soldering, molding, screen-printing, and quilting -- not to mention CAD (computer aided design), CAM (computer aided machining), 3D modeling, laser-cutting and etching, and so much more. Whee!

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The Performant: Enter the Platypus

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French “Art” and Fringe wins at the EXIT Theatre

Of all the theatre companies in the Bay Area currently operating, the most specifically focused may well be our premiere (or rather only) amateur Francophone company Le Theatre Platypus. Though the Goethe-Institut sometimes hosts touring productions, such as Bridge Marklund’s “Faust in the Box” which will play in the Institut auditorium March 3 and The Mission Cultural Center hosts occasional Spanish-language plays such as Dolores Prida’s “Coser y Cantar” (playing March 17-19), dedicated multi-lingual local troupes are unfortunately scarce. This makes going to see a Platypus play more than just a night out, but a bona-fide cultural immersion experience.

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The Performant: Of eggs and robots

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Thomas John’s “The Lady on the Wall,” and the Slave Robots of Carl Pisaturo

A few years ago, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I saw Dov Weinstein’s imitable Tiny Ninja Theatre enact “Macbeth” on a dollhouse-sized stage, which one viewed through cheap plastic binoculars from a distance of about ten feet. It will always remain one of my favorite versions of that particular play. Weinstein’s ability to perform as a literal cast of hundreds and run his own tech without fumbling his lines nor cues put many much larger (and taller!) companies to shame, and though the intention was quite obviously to amuse, Weinstein and his tiny plastic ninja cast still managed to convey the nuances of a more  serious artistry. Thomas John’s puppet noir “The Lady on the Wall,” which played at the Garage last weekend, displayed the same perfect balance of dorky and deliberate, featuring an unlikely cast of, not ninjas, but eggs.

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