The Performant

The Performant: Love is (not) a battlefield

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Our Genocides and “Combat Paper” speak out for peace.

Along with playing host to all of the fun and fabulous festivals occurring this past weekend (hopefully you managed to make it out to at least one), San Francisco also played host to a more sobering event—the sixteenth play in a cycle of seventeen on the topic of genocide. Penned by Eric Ehn, all seventeen are being prepared and presented in various corners of the country before coming together at La MaMa in New York in November for a complete run entitled "Soulographie: Our Genocides." Last May, the tenth play in the cycle, “Cordelia,” a Noh-inflected reimagining of King Lear was presented by Theatre of Yugen, and this weekend “Dogsbody”, directed by Rebecca Novick, turned the Mission Street headquarters for Intersection of the Arts into a Ugandan battlefield. 

Humming and singing, the three-person cast enters the room, clad respectively in the garb of a jungle soldier, the mismatched scraps of a peasant child, a flowing white garment and incongruous leggings.

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The Performant: 13 reasons why

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Placas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo explores the numerology of loyalty

“What’s in a number,” asks the man onstage, a former gang elder undergoing a laser tattoo-removal procedure. He is middle-aged, weary-looking, and sports a huge number one emblazoned down one forearm. Americans believe in being number one. A three down the other, reference to the holy trinity. Taken together, the number thirteen—a denotation of his gang affiliation. Numerous other tattoos covering his arms, chest, back, even his neck. Read more »

The Performant: Further

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You’re either on the bus, or you're off the bus at Popcorn Anti-Theater’s Fringe Festival revival

As lovers of art, adventure, and reckless shenanigans might recall, the monthly Popcorn Anti-Theater bus shows last rolled about eight years ago, and while plenty of other groups have used buses as vehicles to drive a performance since, none have managed it with the same regularity and broadness of scope.

The aggressively anything-goes vibe of Popcorn events of yore combined theatrics, live music, dance, poetry, gibberish, urban exploration, and plenty of oddience participation into a series of unpredictable occurrences. Since the shows were pulled together by different collaborators each month, it wasn’t always necessarily “good” art (a specious qualifier at best), but it was almost always good fun, so when I hear that Popcorn is making a rare appearance at the San Francisco Fringe Festival, I immediately resolve to check it out.

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The Performant: PortlanD.I.Y.

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The Performant puts a bird on it

There’re a lot of ways to while away 72 hours in Portland, Oregon, so I shrewdly place myself in the hands of a capable buddy who knows the ropes and we embark on a whirlwind bicycling tour of the five quadrants, from Sellwood to St Johns (yes, there are five quadrants, not four, go figure). We don’t really have a focus, and you could easily spend 72 hours just crawling from coffeeshop to bookstore to food cart to brewpub. While there’s plenty of all of the above on our itinerary, the theme that soon reveals itself during our pedal-powered perambulations is Portland’s obvious fervor for the DIY life, extending even to their entertainment options. Here’re a few of my favorite examples.

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The Performant: A late summer night’s dream

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All Ashland’s a stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

It’s 100 degrees in Ashland, Oregon, which makes the prospect of sitting in an air-conditioned theater an appealing one, even if it weren’t at the justifiably renowned Oregon Shakespe are Festival. An Ashland institution since 1935, the OSF has grown from a humble weekend-long affair to a nine-month-long theatrical juggernaut, and although it's mid-week in August, all three venues are packed with festival-goers.Read more »

The Performant: Left Coasters

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Right Brain Performancelab stakes a claim Out West. (Ed Note: While the Performant is off hugging trees in Oregon, please enjoy a series of interviews with the curators of three innovative performance spaces.)

Since 1998, Jennifer Gwirtz and John Baumann of Right Brain Performancelab (performing August 24 and 25) have been haunting black box theatres and dance studios with their quirkily cerebral brand of performance art. After staging a variety show in their Richmond District living room as part of Philip Huang’s International Home Theater Festival, they decided to keep running with the concept—and the Due West Salon was born.

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The Performant: Howard's End

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While the Performant is off hugging trees in Oregon, please enjoy this series of interviews with the curators of three innovative performance spaces.

After five years of making the address 975 Howard synonymous with emergent dance, queer, and fringe artists, Joe Landini has packed up The Garage and relocated it further down SOMA way. Now tucked in an industrial zone next to an automotive repair shop, The Garage’s new location at 715 Bryant might lack the allure of being a hidden gem on ramshackle Howard Street, but has the distinct advantage of having fewer neighbors to annoy, a consideration no low-budget performance space can afford to completely ignore. Particularly one as active and prolific as The Garage—which has hosted over 1000 performances for some 50,000 people during its five-year tenure.

“We are awful neighbors!” Landini admits when I swing by to check out the new digs.

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The Performant: Arctic mysteria

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Cold trippin', direct from Berlin

Thirty seconds after we walk into Bindlestiff Studio, S. is sold on kInDeRdEuTsCh pRoJeKtS’ production of “Arctic Hysteria.” He instantly recognizes their preshow music as being a Neue Deutsche Welle song he’s currently enamored with, “Eisbaer” by Grauzone, in which the author expresses a deep desire to be a polar bear. “Alles waer so klar!”

“This is the song I was just talking about,” he exclaims with satisfaction (it’s true) as we settle into our seats to gaze at the Community Thrift meets Matthew Barney set (designed by Sue Rees): corrugated white pressboard walls, an easy chair and matching ottoman covered in leopard print, an uncomfortable-looking brocade couch, a static-filled television set in the corner, a silver decanter and goblets on a roller tray. An innocuous enough setting for a play named for a contested form of madness particular to the arctic, supposedly characterized by uncontrolled outbursts, mimicry, echolalia, and coprophagia; keywords which might also be used to describe a typical Saturday night out in San Francisco.

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The Performant: Viva la woman

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Three playful performances by women offered vastly different perspectives. 

Where’re the ladies at? Same place they’ve always been, really. Dancing backward in high heels. Getting on with the business of living while all around the world threatens to crash down around their feet. Politics. Murders. Institutionalized systems of oppression. Climate change. Is optimism overplayed? Or is hope all we have to keep us moving forward? This past weekend, three playful pieces gave stage time to the notion of moving forward in a world gone mad, each created and performed by a contingent of strong female figures, each bucking, in their own way, conventional wisdom on femininity and the future, with striking results.

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The Performant: Why a duck?

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Pianofight takes on Tchaikovsky -- and the death of theatre -- and Boxcar's Hedwig has us humming in the shower.

Zombies are so over. The next monster movie massacre sensations are totally going to be murderous waterfowl, so props to PianoFight and Mission CTRL for jumping on that bandwagon before it even rolled out of the studios with their ensemble-created, ballet-horror-comedy, Duck Lake. When Raymond Hobbs as theatre director Barry Canteloupe (sic) boasts “no one has ever done what we are about to do,” while tweaking his own nipples, you get the feeling he’s talking about more than the production he is supposedly directing -- a musical theatre adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

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