Drama Talk & Drinks: The Habit of Art

Brittany & Katie went to a show at Z-Below, and they seemed to have appreciated it, though not quite to the point of actual enjoyment . . .

Pictured left to right: Tamar Cohn as Kay, Craig Souza as Carpenter, Donald Currie as Auden, Justin Lucas as Stuart, Kathryn Wood as George, and John Fisher as Britten in The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett, directed by John Fisher, a Theatre Rhinoceros production at Z Below
Photo by Kent Taylor.

Theater Rhinoceros, the (self-proclaimed) oldest queer theater in America, has a mission to “produce works of theatre that enlighten, enrich, and explore both the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of our queer community.” Although the description of Allen Bennett’s play The Habit of Art about British poet, W. H. Auden, and British composer Benjamin Britten, didn’t have us rushing to the box office, we were intrigued to see if the playwright who brought us The History Boys had an equally witty and enlightening take on what could be a very dry topic. So we returned to one of our favorite mission theater venues, Z-Below, to see what Theater Rhino had in store.

Brittany: It was very arty. The whole play within a play thing was interesting, but despite some strong actors, I don’t think they made the play within a play thing work. Some of my favorite moments were when they pulled back to the focus on the rehearsal, so I enjoyed it as a device, but they didn’t real nail it for me.

Katie: I really struggled through the first act, especially when they were acting like actors that didn’t know their lines and standing up there with scripts. I think the actors did the best with what they were given, but sometimes they would go in and out of their English accents and that was a little distracting to me. Jumping in and out of the play to the “rehearsal” gave me whiplash.

B: I think the other thing that’s hard is that the play they were rehearsing wasn’t a very good play, at least in my opinion. I really liked the woman who played the stage manager though (Tamar Cohn), she was great and her monologue at the end was really touching.

K: I wouldn’t say it was a bad production, I just feel that this show is for a theater person. If I sent my non-theater-going friends to this show they would never trust me again.

B: Yeah, some of the most charming jokes or scenes were the ones that were so specific that non-theater people wouldn’t get them. Definitely not a show for everyone.

 

The Verdict: If you’re a theater person, you’ll probably find the play within a play element of this show intriguing, and you’ll get all the rehearsal related jokes. If you’re familiar with W.H. Auden or Benjamin Britten, you’ll probably find this insight into their relationship, and their personal lives, interesting. Otherwise, skip it, this probably is not the show for you.

The Drama Talk: The play within the play is full of poetry, music and theatricality. An interesting story about two aging artists, no longer in their prime, and the young men who helped feed their artistic temperament (AKA male prostitutes and pre-pubescent choir boys). Jumping between the story found in the play, and the rehearsal of that play, made the emotional through line fall short (as Katie said, whiplash inducing). The rehearsal elements of the show, however, are some of the most endearing and are definitely where the humor is found. Despite some strong actors, and a well designed set that makes the sometimes cramped theater feel much bigger, this piece falls into the category of only-for-the-artsy-types.

The Drinks: We went to nearby Benders for their free afternoon Sunday BBQ. Brittany got a dirty martini (since they were drinking martinis during the show) and Katie got her usual rum and coke. What better way to unpack an highbrow play than with some lowbrow BBQ.

Tickets can be purchased here.

Fayes introduces a Google Glass antidote

Fayes Video (where I worked for a bunch of years around the turn of the millennium) has thrown down the Google Glass gauntlet with a new pint glass that they’ll be selling in the shop. The glasses will be $9.20+tax, so you can buy two of them, hold them up to your eyes and order $1,480 worth of Fayes coffee, knowing you’ve saved a buck or two not buying Google Glass! What a swell way to support a local business!

Thanks, Mike!

Dear Rich People

SFist took a look today at @TechHateCrimes, which documents aggression towards “techies” in various forms, though nobody seems to be able to tell if it’s earnest or a parody. Meanwhile, we were alerted to this bit of analog social media conversation responding to the rich people of the city and the “Gentrifuckation”.

Beau tweets “Found on my way to the Women’s Building last night. Class tension on the rise in SF.” This, like some MM comment threads, could just be one person with a couple of different pens, or a legitimate call and response. No way to tell. Either way it’s graffiti and it’s a crime. I don’t condone crime. I also have problems with the way that this city caters to the rich and has not done enough to reach out to support the residents with less financial means, and is not reacting quickly enough to address the problems that arise when the income gap inflates as quickly as it is right now. People with a lot of money are able to commit crimes that have large scale repercussions and get away with them. The city is reacting swiftly to graffiti vandals, however, by moving to make sure they pay for the damages if caught. Which makes sense, sure. But is graffiti one of the big issues that we, all of us, are dealing with right now? It’s a big issue for property owners, that I understand completely.

I find it understandable that some people can feel like San Francisco doesn’t care about them, that they are not spoken for, not represented, and not cared for by their city. These feelings can leave some people with little hope and little trust that they will be able to truly advocate for themselves by playing by the rules. Unfortunately this drives some people to feel as though they need to write on a utility box to be heard. I wish that wasn’t the case.

Fajita Falafel Burrito

Even Danny Bowien isn’t sure that this hybrid can work. Remember when mashups were just songs that played together?

In related news, is anyone else psyched about the possibility of a long distance drone airlifting this Mission Cantina burrito back to the Mission??

Drama Talk & Drinks: Hundred Days

Here’s the newest dispatch from our vigilant theatre goers, Brittany & Katie. I really love musicals, but I just wasn’t able to join them for this one. That sounds sarcastic when you read it in your head. It’s not supposed to be sarcastic, I really do love musicals. Seriously. Anyway, here’s their report:

We love seeing and supporting new theatre. Especially new works premiering in the Bay Area. One performance space that’s full of innovation is Z Space, a beautiful hub for artists and audiences on Florida Street in the Mission. We were pumped to see their latest world premiere, Hundred Days, “A Folk Rock Odyssey about Love, Life, and Loss”. We were excited for a rockin’ evening of Drama Talk & Drinks.

Katie: The music was amazing, but but the story was lacking! But dammit they were talented musicians and amazing singers.

Brittany: I would totally buy the CD to that musical.

K: Definitely.

B: Really cool music, it reminded me of Mumford and Sons or The Decemberists.

K: Yeah, or the Lumineers.

B: And it’s very different from almost any play I’ve seen. I guess it’s most similar to Tommy by the Who. Or maybe Tom Waits’ musical adaptation of Woyzeck. It’s got songs that you could hear on the radio, and not know that they’re part of a musical, and still enjoy them. The music definitely doesn’t have that “musical” sound to it, which is great. It’s very accessible, it breaks the mold of what you think a musical can be.

K: That’s why I was so excited about it. I love the idea of a musical that I can bring my non-musical theatre friends to.

B: Maybe I’m just a traditionalist though, but I liked that the second act was more like a traditional musical and not like a concert. I didn’t like the first act. They tried to make it like a concert, and that didn’t work for me. I think I get what they were going for, maybe you can bring in a new audience if it doesn’t feel like a play, but the story got lost for me in the first act. I loved the second act. Really cool staging, you got to see the couple living out their life together in 100 days, and you really got to see their beautiful story unfold.

K: Yeah, the first act was rocky. They were acting like they were in a band, and just performing a concert, and very artificially tying in their own story to the play. But It didn’t have the spontaneity of a concert, and all of the banter came off as very scripted and forced. The lead singer was even looking at her script! I loved some of the songs in the first act, but I didn’t care about the in-between commentary or even the acting. I didn’t think they were very believable.

B: It’s strange, because that was actually true. They really are married, and they really are in a band, but for some reason that felt so much more false than when they were just performing the play. I don’t understand why they felt it was necessary to shoehorn in the conceit of an artificial concert. It was so much stronger when they were just telling us the story and letting the play evolve. They were great performers, but maybe not the strongest actors.

K: I don’t know why they had to try to tie their real-life story into the story of the play either. I don’t think it added anything, and it made it feel fake. If this play goes on to be performed elsewhere, by other groups, that’s not going to translate.

B: If the second act had continued to be staged as a concert, I would not tell people to go, but the second act was strong enough, to make it totally worth going. The lighting was amazing, the sands of time design element was really neat, and there was something very sad and sweet about the story they developed in the second act.

K: Agreed. It’s worth it just to see the band. That lead woman’s voice (Abigail Bengson) was RIDICULOUS. I would go to their concert in a second. In the first act the story was lost, and that made it not as strong a play, but still very well done and entertaining.

B: It’s a new play too, and an interesting concept, so I’m sure it will evolve. I had a great time, but there are just some kinks. Their voices were insane, the songs were cool, the staging was cool, but it could still be better. Maybe they’ll take the concert thing further and stage it properly like a concert, or they’ll make the first act fit more stylistically with the second act which was beautiful.

K: I enjoyed myself, it just needs some more development. I liked that it moved, and it left me wanting more. This could be such an amazing piece with just a few changes.

The Verdict: Go see it! The Bengson’s, the band and couple behind this play, are incredibly talented musicians. It’s a fun night of very good music, with some really beautiful lighting and staging to go along with it. Tickets range from $100 for a seat front and center on the couch, to $15 for a seat further back. It’s a loud and visually vibrant performance, so no matter where you sit you’ll have a good time.

The Drama Talk: Hundred Days is unlike most musicals. It feels like a cross between the most epic story time ever and a concert. Although some of the more concert-like elements felt forced, the engaging performances, and a strong second act made this show worth it. The songs could stand alone, and the voices of all the performers made the soulful music come alive. The story is sad, and simple, and sweet, and beautifully told by this talented cast.

The Drinks: They have a great bar at Z Space, and it’s fun to look around their gallery, so since it was a school night we got lazy and just had drinks at the venue. Brittany got a Gin and Tonic, and Katie got Champagne in a can, because that’s the kind of girl she is.

Hundred Days runs through April 6, Wednesdays and Sundays at 7pm, and Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm. Right now there are tickets available on Goldstar for $10 but if those sell out, you can always get tickets through the Z Space website.

 

La Ultima Noche

Esta Noche’s last night has come. I lived across the street from the queer Latino bar for a number of years, in the same building of my good friend Marco. We had some fun times there together, but he had many more without me. I asked him to share some thoughts and stories of the bar. We’ve seen a lot of closures recently, but this one hits hard. It’s a rare safe space for a community that doesn’t have many. Sad to see it go. Anyway, I’ll get out of the way and share Marco’s piece:

Rie, llora
que a cada cual, le llega su hora
rie, llora
vive tu vida y gozala toda

laugh, cry
that to each of us our time comes
laugh, cry
live your life and enjoy it completely


[Photo by Nehemiah Lazo]

Soon after I arrived in San Francisco in 1993, directo from Sinaloa, a gang of immigrant locas, known to me as Las Latinillas, became mi familia in all senses. Meaning, they were supportive, caring and fun to be with but also complete bitches and a beautiful hot mess. Always in your face. They will snatch your new boyfriend, get you a green card and a job, trash your soul con canciones de Juanga and uplift your spirits ala Gloria Trevi, as they revere Selena y Los Dinos and eat pupusas revueltas at Balompie. All this, a la luz del sol.

And at night, we had Esta Noche. It was my friend Mario, well, I called him La Marieta, who took me there the first time. La Marieta was dying of AIDS at the time but as he put it, “Despues de la novela, vamos a esta noche mana, hoy canta La Ronnie Salazar.” You always knew you were at Esta Noche because of a huge self-portrait of a naked Joe Dallesandro with an eternal spotlight on his even larger penis and how can you miss the Esta Noche smell . . . a mix of tequila, piss, and Chanel N°5. Running into friends, making new friends and losing friends all happened at Esta Nasty. It was the place for new immigrants like myself to listen to our music, speak our language and just for a few hours not to feel inadequate. It was also the place for young Latinos, to come out at night and join the festivities of music, drag, stripers, and drinks. But las reynas de la noche were the drag queens!

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Diet Coke doesn’t need a comments section to troll San Francisco techies

These Diet Coke ads have recently popped up around town.

New ads on pay phones seem to mock . . . something. But maybe the tone is what you bring to it. Maybe they’re meaning to celebrate a lifestyle or demographic that they’ve identified on some fancy charts as primed for targeting.

You’re in San Francisco, you took some crazy risks, the whole world is in your hands, put the world down for a moment and pick up a can of soda.

Or maybe they’re trying to get us to write and talk about it. So here we are. In that vein, I’d like to remind you that drinking Diet Coke is probably horrible for your body. You’d be better off drinking a glass of water. Also, water isn’t specifically messing with my head to get me to write all this right now.

We Built This City wondered if they were real, “I’d say that I hope these ads are a joke or art piece, but they probably aren’t. I mean, seriously? Seriously?”

If they are real, and not just a new effort from the BLF, I’m kind of baffled by what they mean. You could swap out their brand with anything else, nothing about it seems to imply that you need Diet Coke, but I guess that’s just lifestyle advertising.

Drama Talk & Drinks: The Speakeasy

We’ve been running Katie & Brittany‘s after-show drama talk for almost a year and I had yet to accompany them for a performance. Last week I was finally able to tag along for The Speakeasy, a new experiential performance in the Tenderloin. Here’s our report:

 

[photo by Peter Liu]

We’d heard a buzz about a unique underground club and theater in the Tenderloin. The folks at Boxcar Theatre have been working on an immersive theater piece that places audiences in the middle of 1920’s San Francisco. Speakeasy has lots of intrigue surrounding it, from the undisclosed location, to the interwoven stories being performed by embedded actors throughout the space. It was enticing enough to get our fearless leader, Ariel, out with us for a night of Drama Talk & Drinks.

Ariel: I loved that it was a world you could be in and not just be a passive audience member. I think they did a really good job of taking me to that place. To go from seeing them on the stage to a space where you could see the behind the scenes drama . . . it was amazing, I just wanted to go back and forth all night. (Ed. note: there was a space where you could spy on the dressing room through a one-way mirror)

Brittany: It was very cool. It was the ultimate in FOMO though. I kept wondering what was going on somewhere else. “Oh my god, there’s a noise in the other room should I be over there?”.

A: Did that bother you? I liked that about it.

B: I guess it bothered me in that I thought, what if I’m not getting everything I’m supposed to get out of the show?

Katie: That is exactly how I felt and I would say that it did bother me. I was trying to enjoy what was happening in front of me but I couldn’t get out of my mind “What’s going on in the other rooms?” Then there was that moment where we were supposed to follow the girl in the red dress and everyone got up and tried to follow her, but since everyone did that there was a bottleneck and we couldn’t get into the other room because of all the people. And I’m someone who doesn’t like crowds.

A: What made me enjoy it more was that the world wasn’t just propped up for me to see but the idea that this world is all around me and I’m just in it. I feel like if I walked into the room and the other rooms went dark it wouldn’t have felt totally immersive. But the idea that I could walk away from you guys and see something else and you guys are seeing something that I’m not seeing . . . It didn’t bother me that I didn’t see the whole story, I liked that about it. It’s just like regular life, we all got our different part of the story.

K: I don’t know, I live “regular life” enough, sometimes I just wanna go to a show and fucking be entertained. I’m in life twenty-fo-seven, I gotta pay $60 to feel life’s disappointments – the 1920’s version?

B: But this life has cool costumes.

K: That’s true.

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Touching Andy Warhol tribute

Some found street art in Clarion Alley.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Hir

The subject of one’s Preferred Gender Pronoun is finally getting some mainstream attention right now. Facebook announced today that it will allow many more gender options for self identification in profiles, and late last year A-gender teen Sasha Fleishman bravely spoke out after their attack on a bus by a classmate. The Magic Theatre’s new show Hir (pronounced like “here”) tackles gender identity, and from the sound of it, a whole lot more. Here’s the report from Katie & Brittany:

 

When we saw that the Magic Theatre was putting on a show called Hir we were intrigued. Armed with little more than Magic’s description “Newly enlightened Paige is determined to forge a deliriously liberated world for her two wayward children: Isaac, on leave from the Marines under dubious circumstances; and Max, tender, jaded, and sculpting a third-sex gender identity for hirself.” We braved the rainiest Sunday in recent memory for some Drama Talk & Drinks.

Brittany: I think Magic Theatre likes to say “fuck you” to its’ audiences.

Katie: I agree, I left that show with less hope for life than I did walking into it.

B: Which is not to say it was a bad show. It was a very well done show. But it was SO depressing.

K: It was depressing, but at the same time refreshing. I thought it was fascinating to see how far they could go with a dysfunctional family. The writing was really good, and the show had good pacing.

B: The first act of the play was a little too wordy for me. I felt like I was in a gender studies class, but maybe some audience members need a gender studies class for the play to make sense.

K: Sometimes it did get a little preachy, but overall, good writing, well acted, and an amazing tragic ending. I’m struggling with finding words for it, because it was well executed, I was moved and entertained, but I don’t think I would want to go through that again.

B: In the Director’s notes they talk a lot about the similarities between Hir, and Sam Shepard’s Buried Child (which we reviewed at Magic earlier this season). I feel very similarly now, to the way I felt walking out of that Buried Child. I feel moved, which is to say disturbed, and impressed by what Magic was able to create. At the same time, I don’t know if I would tell everyone I know to go and see it because it is such an unsettling piece.

K: I felt like I was in good hands with those actors, and the director and writer. I don’t have any negative notes for them, I enjoyed the lighting, staging, pacing . . . everything.

B: The actor who played the father (Mark Anderson Phillips), was remarkable. All the actors were good, but his physicality throughout the show was so spot on. That was such a hard role, and to see him throughout the play so debilitated, and then at curtain call as a totally normal person was impressive.

K: I really liked the mother (Nancy Opel) too. I thought she was really complex. I could imagine her as a submissive Mom, who has now gone a little batty and become empowered. She handled that character really well. If there are people who want to see creative, reimagined theatre, that hits you in the face hard, this is a good play to go to.

B: People should definitely go see it, just be aware you might want to drink heavily afterwards.

 

The Verdict: Go see this show. Although we both left with a bleaker outlook on the world than when we entered, it’s the sort of bleakness that makes you think, which is what good theatre is all about.

The Drama Talk: Magic is correct when it identifies Taylor Mac as “one of this country’s most heroic and disarmingly funny playwrights.” This play is disarming. From lights up on a man in a woman’s night gown in clown make up, to an end that leaves you feeling despondent, this play breaks lots of new ground. Magic and its cast pull off this complex show beautifully.

The Drinks: We went to a 7pm show on a rainy Sunday night, so the first place we tried had actually closed early. We ended up at Bullitt Bar on Polk. Katie got bubbly, since they keep talking about drinking non-alcoholic bubbly during the show, and Brittany got a spicy margarita, so her mouth would hurt as much as her soul after seeing such a depressing play.

Hir runs through February 23, at The Magic Theatre in Fort Mason. Shows are starting to sell out, so if you want to see this show before it closes you should get your tickets soon. Tickets for Hir are available through the Magic Theatre online box office and range from $20-$60 depending on seating.

Ariel Dovas

Posts: 669

Email: ariel (at) missionmission.org

Website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eviloars/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/eviloars

Biographical Info:

This guy moved to the neighborhood from his hometown of Santa Cruz in '93. Now he makes movies and does a bunch of other weird stuff.