Drama Talk & Drinks: The People’s History of Next – “about everything and nothing”

I recently ran into an old friend who told me about TheatreFIRST, a theatre company in Berkeley that is “an art-as-activism organization investigating new models of equitable representation through our development-based new works process”. I think it’s so important that theater be more inclusive to people of color, women and the LGBTQ community and it’s great that they are approaching that in a really intentional way. I was excited to check out their original play The People’s History of Next which was developed with “Bay Area high schools, colleges, and community centers through listening circles, writing workshops, and media foraging”. I wanted to see this with someone who also values diversity and youth voices. So Nisa, an arts nonprofit colleague of mine, and myself headed to Berkeley for some Drama Talk and Drinks.

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Nisa: This show had a Black Mirror, meets Farenheit 451, meets Sense 8 sorta feel. They touched on some important topics like school shootings and racism and sprinkled in a little dystopia. I think there were interesting things done with movement, which was really cool, and they explored trauma in an interesting way. Then there was also a Matrix oracle type character, and discussions about the past, present and future. It was a lot to digest. The young actors did a great job with the words they were given. I don’t know how this was developed with high school students and how their words came into play but it did feel very much like an adult took young people’s words and kind of manipulated it. Maybe manipulated is a harsh word, but It felt like a touch of youth and a lot of adult. And I didn’t believe the words coming out of the youth’s mouths sometimes. Also I find it weird that the Jewish White girl gets the majority of the spotlight and there was this whole thing with her background and Jewish traditions that just didn’t quite make sense. The premise of this play really could be the start of a joke like a black boy, an Indian girl and a Jewish girl walk into a theater, you know. Anyway, I feel like there is something there. There are messages clearly there, and there’s artistry there too. Felt very much like performance art.

Katie: Totally, and performance art often doesn’t inspire or move me. I didn’t feel like this show invited me in. It felt like it was a story that only the people involved in creating it got something out of. There was just a lot of yelling and talking at us. It was the moments when the characters were talking to each other that were the most intriguing. The art direction and visual elements were really cool. My issues were not with the actors performance, the set or the projections. It was the story, which was very disconnected most of the time, and when I feel disconnected it’s hard for me to be moved.

N: Yeah, and I think what added to that feeling of disconnection was the sound effects. They were used to shock us into feeling a certain way. The story is what should have carried us to feel that certain way.  Also, the use of technology was forced. They mimed having a phone in the beginning and then in the end they had a real phone.

K: Right! One of my biggest pet peeves is when miming is inconsistent. A world was created that didn’t make sense for them all to be miming having a cell phone.

N: Honestly, I don’t understand what my takeaway was supposed to be and the whole time I was like “where is this going to go?”. And yeah, I know all the shit that’s happening right now, and these are important issues but it felt like these issues were thrown in a blender and I couldn’t understand what the main message was. The show was so focused on being deep, that they missed it.

K: To use words from the play, it was about everything and nothing.

The Verdict: Intriguing idea and approach, but a confusing end product. Definitely check out TheatreFIRST, but maybe wait until the next show.

The Drinks: We saw a matinee and bars weren’t open yet near the theater. So we went for a delicious Mexican mocha at Fertile Grounds Cafe.

 The People’s History of Next plays through December 22nd at Live Oak Theater in Berkeley. Tickets are $10-$30 sliding scale and be purchased on their website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Men On Boats – “It looked so cool when they were going over waterfalls!”

I knew when I heard about Men On Boats, a play described as “Spinning historical, theatrical, and gender conventions on their heads, this subversive tale of 10 men, four boats, and two rivers contains none of the above”, I needed to go with one of my awesome lady friends. So I brought my friend Kim, lawyer by day, and theater goer by night, to A.C.T’s Strand Theater for a night of drama talk and drinks.

John Wesley Powell (Liz Sklar, standing center) leads a brawny and eclectic band of explorers on an expedition through the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers | Photo: Kevin Berne

John Wesley Powell (Liz Sklar, standing center) leads a brawny and eclectic band of explorers on an expedition through the canyons of the Green and Colorado Rivers | Photo: Kevin Berne

 

Kim: If I read this play in script form I would be convinced I would hate seeing it put on stage but actually I was surprisingly pleased, and it was a lot of fun.

Katie: I was very entertained, I really didn’t think I would like this show as much as I did. I mean, we just saw a group of women play narcissistic white men from the 19th century. That sounds annoying to me and yet I really cared about the characters.

Kim: That’s definitely part of the theme that’s going on there. If they had actually been all white men, it would have been impossible to swallow. This all female cast really nailed it, their comic timing was really good. It was very charactery, campy acting throughout, which worked in the context of this play.

Katie: On top of the cast being so strong I was very impressed by the set, lighting, and sound design. You really believed they were in boats on a river to the Grand Canyon. It looked so cool when they were going over waterfalls!

The Verdict: Very well done new approach to an old narrative. This is storytelling at its finest. Go!

The Drama Talk: The ups and downs of the plot, interesting character development, cool set, and strong all female cast, created a tight and entertaining 90 minute adventure. The story and style of this play creates multiple layers in this show that different people will enjoy. For those who want an entertaining show that will make you laugh, you can come and watch this play and have fun. For those looking to question the patriarchy, manifest destiny, and the power structures in America you this play does not disappoint.

The Drinks: The Strand was serving drinks after this opening night performance, but assuming that doesn’t happen every performance we recommend going around the corner to Mr. Smiths.

Men On Boats plays through December 16th at A.C.T’s Strand Theater. Tickets range from $30-$100 and can be purchased on the ACT website. Right now there are discounted tickets available on Goldstar.

  

500 Club sign, the pin

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PSA Press with another winner!

We were so honored to design and manufacture a pin for 500 Club, one of the best bars (with one of the best neon marquees) in all of San Francisco. Get one from the bar before they are gone!

★★★★★, gang!

Some interesting commentary regarding what SF bars to go to

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On the bathroom wall at the Page, of all places.

[via @punkgirls]

Drama Talk & Drinks: Reel to Reel – “I was even a little heartbroken at the end”

It’s been quite a while since we’ve made the trek to Fort Mason to see a show at Magic Theatre. When we got notice about the world premiere of John Kolvenbach’s new play Reel to Reel “the story of a fifty-five-year marriage as told through the mundane sentiments of recorded conversations, arguments, and household noises” we were intrigued, so we headed to the Marina for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Andrew Pastides as Walter and Zoë Winters as Maggie. Photo by Julie Haber

Andrew Pastides as Walter and Zoë Winters as Maggie. Photo by Julie Haber

K: I really loved it. I don’t know if it’s partially because I’m about to get married, so this look at what happens when two people build a life together felt particularly poignant, but it definitely struck a chord. Both in the way it explored the idea of how no one can truly understand someone else’s relationship, but also in touching on the scary idea of what happens when you lose the person with whom you’ve built your life.

B: It was a really heartwarming show. In the final monologue the older Walter (Will Marchetti) talks about these mundane moments which are what made their life together so beautiful, and that’s really what this play is about. These precious innocuous details of everyday life that make up a relationship.

K: They did a beautiful job developing the relationship between the two characters.  I felt very invested. I was almost on the edge of my seat, which is weird since in so many ways it’s a very simple show. It speaks to how well it was written and acted. I was just intrigued.

B: I feel exactly the same way.  If you told me what this play was about – we get to watch the lives of two people with a relatively normal life grow in their relationship over a fifty five year period – I would think it is going to be a fairly dull play. But it wasn’t at all.

K: The humanness of story was so interesting. It was also really well cast. The younger and older version of each character looked like they could be the same person. They also did a good job having consistent physicality and mannerisms. Everyone created such deep characters that they were able to make simple interactions complex. It was interesting, endearing, sad and funny. I was even a little heartbroken at the end.

B: I got teary eyed too. I also appreciated that they did a lot of interesting technical things for such a simple play. The way they used recordings and did live foley effects on stage while playing multiple characters was innovative without being in your face.  Getting to see all those tiny pieces of their life together, and the way they amplified them by amplifying the various sounds of their relationship, made it a really rich story.

The Verdict: Go see it! It would be a perfect Valentine’s date if you’re into kind of thing. Either way it’s generally a very well acted and heartwarming show about love and relationships.

The Drama Talk: It’s always fun when theater pushes you to take particular notice of a sense. John Kolvenbach’s Reel to Reel asks audiences to reflect on simple sounds, and in doing so creates a rich auditory experience that pulls viewers into a more intimate understanding of the life and relationship of Walter and Maggie. Each character is played by two actors who help the story jump around fifty five years of moments in their relationship. While the love story itself isn’t remarkable, it’s the simplicity of the story and the sounds in it that makes this play so poignant.  The cast does a great job creating detailed and intimate characters that draw you into the scene. This combined with the creative use of recordings, live foley effects, and a quick script make for a light and refreshing night at the theatre.

The Drinks: After the show we headed to one of our favorite bars in the city, that also just happens to be at Fort Mason, The Interval to chat about the show. We ordered drinks that were both classic and complex (Brittany got the Improved Calvados Cocktail and Katie got the Hacker Club – we can recommend both) and we toasted to love, sound, and a fun night of drama talk and drinks.

Reel to Reel runs through February 25th at the Magic Theater on Tuesday – Sunday nights. Tickets available through Magic’s website range from $30-$75. There are also some tickets available at the moment through Goldstar starting at $20.

Lots more 20th Street Block Party details

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Noise Pop this week announced all the non-musical stuff booked for this year’s 20th Street Block Party. First there’s the food:

  • Alicia’s Tamales Los Mayas
  • Bonito Poke
  • El Pipila
  • Farmhouse Kitchen Thai
  • FK Frozen Custard Bars
  • Flour + Water
  • Humphry Slocombe
  • Kahnfections
  • Rollin’ Deep (Little Star Pizza)
  • Media Noche
  • Mission Language and Vocational School
  • Rookies
  • Savourie Streets
  • Seoul of Taipei
  • The Pop Nation
  • Universal Cafe
  • WesBurger N’ More

And then there’s the nonprofits and businesses that will have booths or whatever:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco-Mission
  • 826 Valencia
  • Notes for Notes
  • Alternative Cure
  • Workshop SF
  • ArtSpan
  • Mission Community Music

And a few other bits and pieces:

Block Party guests can also stop by Mutiny Radio on 21st and Florida to watch the live broadcast with a full day of comedy, interviews, and performances from the volunteer-run organization. Visit the Rocket Dog Adoption Zoo to check out dogs of all ages in need of a loving home, play with these pups and maybe even take one home! The San Francisco LowRider Council will bring choice classic and modern cars to display on 19th Street and Bryant. Harken Chardonnay will have a special boardwalk installation featuring Live DJs from the Magnificent 7, a pop-up record shop by Amoeba, vintage VW photo booth by Das Bus, wine tasting, and so much more!

And of course, in case you forgot, the music:

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Let’s listen to the Tambo Rays again:

RSVP and invite your neighbors!

[Photo by Paige K Parsons]

American Tripps (the “Berlin-style” ping pong party) returns for one night only!

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“Born in the back rooms of dive bars in Berlin and perfected in the secret semi-legal art spaces of the Mission, American Tripps is a brand of ping pong built for happy hours and late nights,” goes the official blurb. American Tripps has been on hiatus since last Halloween, but they’re finally back for quick party to help kick off your summer vacation!

Come for the ping pong, stay for special guest DJs Wam Bam Ashleyanne (KALW, NPR, Phonographic Memory), DJ Emily (KDVS), and DJ Trigger Cut (This Place Is Fucked). Expect nothing but upbeat jams ideal for running around a ping pong table to.

Plus resident DJs Beauregard & Nutzeffekt, hostess w/tha mostess Jess Kelso, and bartender u luv Nicky the Bartender. Don’t miss!

Check out the rest of this week’s entertainment line up at Pops Bar:

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Phèdre – “where the hell did she come from!”

We’ve been loving Cutting Ball Theater recently and their “radical re-visionings of classic works”. When we found out they had a new production of Phèdre, the classic Greek tragedy about the perils of unrequited love for your stepson, opening we knew it was time for a night of drama talk and drinks.

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Brittany: Cutting Ball is very good at making classic plays approachable. These actors did a great job tackling dense language and making it, at least for me, very understandable. I kinda know Greek mythology but certainly don’t remember it well, and I appreciate how clear they made a very complicated story.

Katie: I struggle with Greek plays. Theseus, Hippolytus, Hercules… all the names and the intersecting myths and back stories. It’s so confusing, and as you said the language is dense. I think Phèdre (Courtney Walsh) did the best job at normalizing the language. She was SO good. But I still found it hard. I’ve seen other shows at Cutting Ball that I’ve liked better. This just didn’t feel as inventive as usual. The only thing that looked fresh were the costumes, and even then I didn’t understand they were from the 50’s.

B: Yeah, they didn’t really do anything with that time period.

K: Yeah, so why even make their outfits 50’s? Why not make it nondescript. So I wasn’t a fan of the 50’s theme, it didn’t work for me. There wasn’t much to the sound or lighting design. The set was clean, and simple and I liked the sky projected thing over the center of the stage. But It just wasn’t as interesting as other Cutting Ball shows I’ve seen.

B: I’m kinda in the same place, mostly because I don’t always love Greek tragedies. The setting it in the 50s for no reason got to me too. But, Phèdre was just amazing, incredibly talented. You should see the show just to see her performance, it’s fantastic.

K: Right! I was like where the hell did she come from!

B: For a play that could be really deadly, corny pun intended, the actors made it come to life.

K: I just feel that for the non theater goer/lover this show didn’t have as much of a cool factor as the other shows we’ve seen them do.

B: I agree with that, I think if you want to see Phèdre, or you like Greek tragedies then you should totally go see this. If you are someone who is not a theater goer…

K: This would be rough.

B: It is a hard play, and although a very solid production, it may not be what everyone wants to see.

The Verdict: Do you like Greek tragedies? Go! Like theater enough to wade through some dense language with a powerful female actor? Go! Otherwise this may be one you want to skip.

The Drama Talk: Cutting Ball reliably delivers fresh takes on classic theater. Their season is full of powerful, perhaps misunderstood, female characters who are chafing at the confines of society. In Phèdre, Courtney Walsh presents a compelling portrayal of a women grasping for the things she wants in the only ways she knows how, to tragic results. It’s a very heavy play, both because of the weighty language and impending doom. While Cutting Ball has a bright set and fun 50s costumes to lighten things up a bit, it’s not really clear why it’s set in that era and the staging isn’t as inventive as we’ve seen in Cutting Ball productions in the past. Greek tragedies are not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a strong cast, and worth a watch if you’re a theater lover.

The Drinks: We have noticed that hotel bars are really making a comeback. After this show we headed a block up Taylor to the 6 week old Douglas Room, which is part of the Tilden hotel. It had a really chill atmosphere and sassy strong cocktails, which was a good combo after the intense Greek tragedy.

Phèdre runs through May 21st at the The EXIT on Taylor. Tickets are $15-$45 and can be purchased on the Cutting Ball website.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Fun Home – “The real mixed in with the magical.”

If you follow theater in San Francisco you probably heard about the grand-reopening of the Curran Theater last week, following two years of extensive renovations (creating both more bars and more bathrooms – win!).  Our Drama Talk & Drinks crew was on the scene to see what all the fuss was about. As Jan Whal, KRON 4’s theater critic said “all the best people” were there.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom kicked off the night honoring Carole Shorenstein Hays, the owner of the Curran who spearheaded the effort to revitalize this important arts hub in San Francisco. Noting in his remarks “In San Francisco we celebrate diversity, not just tolerate it” Gavin laid out one of the themes for the evening; San Francisco and its arts community are sanctuaries for all. It was a fitting introduction to the show of the night, Fun Home, a Tony award winning musical based on the graphic memoir (by the same name) written by lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel.

Fun Home Program Cover - by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home Program Cover – by Alison Bechdel

Brittany: That was a very cool experience. It’s neat to be out tonight celebrating theater, celebrating a play about being queer, celebrating freedom of expression. It feels more important now. It’s also a great story.

Katie: I liked it too. I was actually pleasantly surprised. I’ve listened to the soundtrack and wasn’t that into it, but now I know why. The songs really depend on the strong story, which you don’t really get listening to the CD.

B: It also helps that this production had great actors with great voices.

K: True! I also really appreciated how simple and stripped down the show was. It didn’t rely on big flashy Broadway ballads, but just simple, truthful songs. It was nice. The scene when Alison’s character is in college (played by Abby Corrigan) and has her first sexual experience with a girl was my favorite. It was charming, simple and full of discoveries. Just her, in her underwear, and her date asleep in the bed. It was refreshing to see such a human moment in a Broadway musical.

B: College aged Allison was just so perfectly awkward and innocent. My favorite song was the one with older Alison in the car with her Dad (Robert Petkoff). I loved it. You could just feel the tension between them, and so much love, and confusion, and pain, and excitement too. I thought that was a really great moment for both of them.

K: It was really nice to see a simple, edgy but relatable family story as a mainstream musical finally.  I really think we are there. I don’t need anymore huge generic Broadway spectacles. I want the real mixed in with the magical. That’s when I’m really moved. This show moved me.

The Verdict: The renovated Curran is beautiful, and Fun Home is the perfect play to welcome back this San Francisco artistic hub. Go check it out!

The Drama Talk: The cover of the program (above) has an audience member leaving Fun Home saying “That was exactly like my family! But totally different!” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. By showing an ordinary, yet still extraordinary, life on stage Fun Home helps all of us recognize the value in simple moments. During the pre-show red carpet we got a chance to ask Alison Bechdel what she wanted the audience to take away from the evening. She replied “I’m trying so hard to not be completely despairing right now. We are here, celebrating this thing, while the world is going to fucking hell. It’s very strange. What I would say is that it’s important for us all to keep doing our work. To keep doing the things we love and that are important to us. We have to keep doing that. It might seem trivial but it’s not.”  Theater illuminates, it heals, it helps us empathize, all things we’re going to need a lot of these next few years. Fortunately San Francisco has the Curran back in action ready to be a sanctuary for all.

The Drinks: A big part of the Curran’s renovation is the addition of three new bars  on each level of the audience. In honor of opening night bars stayed open after the show, pouring California wines, and giving the audience the opportunity to snoop around the new space. Fortunately for you, the Curran website says that this isn’t just a one-night thing. They plan to make a practice of keeping the doors open for post-show drinks. So no need to venture far for your drama talk and drinks.

Fun Home runs through February 19th at the Curran Theater. Tickets are available through the Curran website and range from $49-185 depending on where you sit. If you buy a ticket to Fun Home or Eclipsed, the next production slated for the Curran, you automatically become a Curran Club member. A Curran Club membership gives you special access to VIP events, ticket discounts and supposedly other dope deals, so one more reason to catch this show before it’s gone.

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Drama Talk & Drinks: The Golden Girls – “yay, for mindless television”

It’s holiday time again, which means it’s time for Golden Girls the Christmas Episodes! Since this was our 3rd year attending (we saw the 2013 and 2015 shows and loved them too) we thought it would be fun to bring some friends who hadn’t seen it. We were excited to experience this show with fresh eyes, so out we went for a night of drama talk and drinks.

Golden Girls Live 05 sm photo by Mr Pam

Rachel: I thought it was great, very entertaining. Dorothy and Blanche were amazing, but as a Golden Girls fan, Sophia and Rose fell short for me. I wanted their delivery to be a little more like the originals. Overall though, really fun and recommend seeing it.

Garrett: Love this show! Best SF drag show I’ve ever seen!

Sam: It was a fun show. It’s all novel to me, I’ve never watched the TV show. They have a lot of rapport. They all seem to like each other. I don’t know the characters they’re trying to embody, so for me it was fun to just watch some good drag performances. I have no idea how true it is to the original. At first thought it was fan fiction, but I guess these are real episodes?

Brittany: Yep, real episodes. I do think it’s interesting, because Rachel comes from knowing the show so well, and she didn’t like Sophia or Rose as well, but you said Sophia was your favorite.

S: Yeah, she was the funniest, she had the best timing.

B: It’s a fun night. If you really like the TV show, you’ll enjoy seeing these fun characters larger than life on stage. If you don’t know the show well, it’s still a funny show with a lot of talent.

S: You don’t need to know anything to enjoy it for sure. It’s got beautiful and talented drag performers, great costumes, a really detailed set, everything you need.  Loved that they went around selling Fireball shots! I would definitely say yes to Fireball again.

Katie: It was fun to see it again, this show is so consistent. You can count on a good time, it just makes you smile. It definitely takes my mind off of the horrifying things that are happening in the world.

B: Yay, for mindless television.

The Verdict: Need to take your mind off of the terrible things happening in the world? Then get to this show ASAP. If you know and love the Golden Girls show from the 80’s or not, this is fun, mindless holiday themed entertainment for all.

The Drama Talk: This is our 3rd year of seeing Golden Girls and it hasn’t disappointed yet. It has been consistently well produced, with extremely talented drag queens year after year. We do advise to get there at least 30 minutes before the show to ensure a decent seat and grab a drink at the bar before the line gets too long. Better yet, get a cocktail nearby before the show (we recommend Bond Bar) and then just get a beer since the cocktails are the theater are expensive and not very good.

The Drinks: We headed up to Valencia street to a bar we had been wanting to try called Holy Mountain. It’s above the thai hipster restaurant Hawker Fare so we didn’t know what to expect. It ended up being a pretty open room with plenty of booths and tables. It was a great place to get a fancy cocktail, sit and talk about the show.

The Golden Girls runs through December 23rd at The Victoria Theatre. Tickets are $30 and available at online at www.goldengirlssf.com.

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