Photos by our friend Trusha A. and this report by our friend Malcolm M. (via our Facebook post on Saturday):
The bulk of the burning was apartments above Playa Azul–completely gutted. Blaze was uncontrolled and stoked to massive proportions by strong easterly winds. The fire department seemed to be *extremely* slow in getting hoses on it (about 20 minutes after trucks arrived). A girl who lived above Cole said she was the one who called 911 and suspected it was a trash fire behind Cole sparked by her porch smoking neighbor’s cigarette. Very sorry for the families and residents who lost almost everything, and for the local businesses and employees affected–especially much-beloved Cole Hardware. Let’s try to help them out however possible, and PLEASE let’s not allow market rate condos to be built where local shops and rent controlled apartments stood this morning.
We’re suckers for the Stern Grove Festival (which, PSA starts next weekend). Epic picnics, redwoods, and culture all in one place. A trip to Stern Grove also means layers though. No matter how warm it may be when you start, you’ll end up shivering and cocooned in your dusty picnic blanket by the end. So when Brittany learned that a similar phenomenon, Mountain Play, existed just across the Bay on Mt. Tam, high out of Karl’s reach, she was intrigued. This summer’s production is the classic, West Side Story, so she asked her boyfriend (and frequent DT&D contributor Sam) on a Sunday date. They packed a picnic, rented a car, and drove up the mountain for a day of Drama Talk & Drinks.
Sam: I think this is the widest set I’ve ever seen. This theater is insane, I can’t believe that view! Did you get a good picture of the set?
Brittany: Yeah, I took it before the fog took over when you could still see the City.
S: Oooo, it looks cold down there. We should stay up here, above the clouds, there’s a place for us.
B: So did you like the show?
S: Yeah, I thought it was great. Great set, good costumes, this space is amazing.
B: They had great voices too. The dancing was the only thing fell a bit short for me. West Side Story is part ballet. Nothing says gang violence like grand jetés, and only some of the dancers were up to the task, although the fight choreography was on-point
S: They’re baking under the hot sun, at 2000 feet. I was impressed.
B: True, the audience was dropping like flies. I saw at least 3 people near us need to get medical help during the first act because of the heat.
S: I felt bad for the orchestra, they were outstanding, but they were stuffed into that little black box on stage. It must have been boiling.
B: I think it’s hard when seeing a play in a venue like this to fully appreciate the show. There’s so many distractions, the view, the wine, the picnic, kids walking around, audience members fainting. I think they did a good production of West Side Story, but with so much else going on you lose some of the emotional impact. You’re never fully immersed into the world of the play.
S: You don’t get the same punch, that’s for sure. It’s nice that outdoor theater doesn’t have to be as buttoned up though. The whole experience of spending a day on top of Mt. Tam, listening to the pre-show music, having a picnic, hiking up from the car to get here and then there’s a great show on top of it all. It’s a great way to spend a Sunday.
The Verdict: There’s a reason people are more likely to call this production by its company name, Mountain Play, than the name of the show they’re seeing. West Side Story was good, but it’s the whole experience that makes this day-trip worthwhile.
The Drama Talk: The actors had fantastic voices, the set and costumes were great, and although the dancers fell a bit short of Broadway-quality, it was still a well-choreographed show. West Side Story is a classic for a reason, and this is a solid production. Mountain Play is all about the experience. It’s a whole day affair. Music starts at 12:30 so if you get your act together you can arrive around noon, eat your picnic, kids can get their face painted, and hang out before the show starts. There’s even a picnic judging competition, which is just too intimidating, but it gives you an idea of how serious there people are about enjoying Sunday. Get there early for parking on-mountain and a place to sit in the shade.
The Drinks: Lots of people bring wine with their picnics, and there’s also wine and beer for sale on the Mountain. Just be careful to hydrate, it is hot and you’re at altitude. After the show we reluctantly rolled down the mountain back into the fog and Mill Valley, picking up a stranded fellow audience member on the way whose car was parked at the bottom. She told us that she grew up in Mill Valley and hadn’t been back to a Mountain Play since she was a kid. For her, this defined Marin summer. Jonesing for Puerto Rican food, we went to the closest thing we could find nearby, Joe’s Taco Lounge and Salsaria. We got some margaritas and toasted to a successful day of Drama Talk & Drinks.
West Side Story runs through June 19th, shows are on Sunday’s at 2:00pm, but pre-show music starts at 12:30 so get there early to picnic and enjoy the view. General admission tickets are $40 and available on the Mountain Play website.
my gym is at 16th & mission. i lived near that corner for almost 20 years. it’s the heart of sketchiness in sf. the blocks around it are a 24/7 open air drug & prostitution market. always has been. over the years, the sketch has been compressed down into the blocks immediately surrounding 16th & mission. the block where my gym is – mission between 15 & 16 – is particularly sketchy. big crowd of people – the same people – every day, and i go to the gym at 9am. commerce is clearly being done. mental illness is clearly on exhibit. it’s a crowd of almost exclusively black people (not too many black people live in the mission), many of them speaking spanish. i dont really have a horse in this race (so to speak – heroin being the main drug for sale) – i moved out of the hood 7 years ago – but I’m fascinated by the sociology. so, today, for the first time, i say more than ‘hi’ to one guy in this crowd who i see almost every day.
me: so dude, this is a big family here every day.
dude: yeah man, we got to get paid.
me: yeah i can tell there’s business going on.
dude: are you a cop?
me: dude you see me every day. you think I’m a cop?
dude: i have to ask.
me: i dont care what y’all do out here, but I’m amazed that the cops dont shut you down.
dude: nah, it’s live and let live with the cops unless there’s violence.
me: i never see any
dude: only at night. dont come through here at night.
me: i used to live right around the corner here.
dude: i would never live in this neighborhood. it’s too dangerous.
All for about $20.
In its 6th year, Dinner & Bikes is a month-long tour that brings people together to eat a huge vegan dinner and share bicycle stories, campaigns, and inspiration.
It’s presented by Joe Biel, Elly Blue, Joshua Ploeg and hosted by Mission Bicycle.
Joe Biel is the director of the feature documentary Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland as well as over 100 short films. He is the author of half-a-dozen books, including Beyond the Music. He founded Microcosm Publishing and has published over 350 nonfiction books, zines, and movies.
Elly Blue is the author of Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economyand Everyday Bicycling: How to Ride a Bicycle for Transportation (Whatever your Lifestyle). She’s the marketing director of Microcosm Publishing, producing books and zines about all aspects of feminism, self-empowerment, and bicycle transportation.
Joshua Ploeg is the the traveling vegan chef. When not touring the world, he’s a personal chef and delighter of secret cafe goers in L.A. His 8th and newest cookbook is This Ain’t No Picnic: Your Punk Rock Vegan Cookbook.
Friday, June 10, for Dinner & Bikes: Food, movies, and bicycle inspiration.
Gentrification is a frequent topic of conversation around these parts. However, recently it’s felt like the tone of these conversations has shifted, from one of righteous indignation, to that of resignation. Two years ago DT&D had the good fortune to interview Eric Reid, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Theater MadCap, who also used to run CELLSpace/Inner Mission SF before it was lost to The Beast on Bryant. Eric, partially inspired by Theater MadCap’s displacement, teamed up with HBO Def Poet and Youth Speaks co-founder, Paul S. Flores, to produce You’re Gonna Cry, a one man show about gentrification in the Mission in the 90s. Their goal is to make the gentrification conversation a little more action oriented. So off we went to Union Square (since their art space was gentrified out of the Mission) for some Drama Talk and Drinks.
Katie: It wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be. I was expecting it to be more innovative, with more spoken word and poetry.
Brittany: Yeah, it felt more like it was going for an Anna Deavere Smith vibe, lots of monologues around a theme. Some of the characters that were created were super compelling. I loved the immigrant mother with her daughter finding the old microwave on the street. Or the old women selling books. I wanted to know their stories. But despite some bright-spots, the pacing was off, and the show dragged for me.
K: The pacing was definitely a problem for me too. The transitions between the different characters took too long, and some of the staging was just wonky, like when he played all 3 characters at the same time. I don’t envy Flores, it’s not an easy show.
B: There were some technical problems with the TVs that were distracting too. This is a one man show, shit needs to be tight, and it wasn’t.
K: I appreciate what they are trying to do though, It’s important to have this dialogue. I also really appreciate that they had the post-show discussion with an activist. You want theater to inspire action, and it’s great they’re helping to direct people’s frustration about gentrification in positive ways.
The Verdict: The show needs some tightening, but the message is on-point. Making yourself a more empathetic and informed San Franciscan while supporting local theater is not a bad way to spend a night. Go and stay for the discussion at the end.
The Drama Talk: A play about gentrification in the Mission couldn’t even take place in the Mission because of gentrification. That’s pretty intense. The production itself could have been tighter. Slow transitions and some tech mishaps meant it lost some of its momentum and therefore emotional impact. MadCap’s website encourages audiences to “Come for the play. Stay for the discussion.” and we really appreciated the dialogue that happened after the show. Each night has a different local artists or activist who leads the post-show talk, so check the list below since discussion will vary dependent on who’s leading:
May 14th – Amy Farah Weiss – Homeless advocate.
May 15th – Norman will talk about wages and the struggle for gente to teach gente in the Mission.
May 20th – Adriana Camarena – Local Mission activist and author.
May 21st – Edwin Lindo – District 9 Supervisor candidate.
May 27th – Luna Malbroux – Comedienne/Community activist.
The Drinks: Afterwards we went to Benjamin Cooper, which was literally right next to the theater entrance. Exit the building, make a left, then an immediate second left into an unmarked door, up the stairs to a small cocktail bar. When you enter go right and head to the back, there are usually a place to sit. And after a discussion about SF’s housing crisis you will need a strong drink.
You’re Gonna Cry runs through May 28th at The Phoenix Theater. Tickets are available through the MadCap website and are $20.
DT&D has reviewed a We Players show before. Last summer we loved their site-specific Ondine at Sutro Baths. So when we heard about their season kick-off party, The Capulet Ball, we were intrigued. Katie was busy, so Brittany and Sam donned their best Shakespearean-Masked-Ball garb and headed out for a night of Drama Talk and Drinks.
Brittany: So did you have fun?
Sam: Yeah, I had a blast.
B: I think that the show (the full production of Romeo and Juliet) is going to be good. The girl who was Juliet was great.
S: She had great energy. She really got the physicality of a teenager. She had no inhibitions, and couldn’t filter when Romeo was nearby. The balcony scene felt really genuine and fresh, and I don’t normally like Shakespeare since it so often feels stale.
B: Even though this was just a sneak-preview of the show that’s opening this summer, you really got a good sense of the characters. Even if you never saw the actors saying their lines, by just interacting with them- in dancing or making small talk- you could tell who they were.
S: The characters were really intimate with the audience. It reminded me of Sleep No More, where you don a mask and become part of the scene. I wish that it went longer.
B: Yeah, it was really short. It was supposed to go until 10 but it only went until maybe 8:45 before the action ended and people started to leave. Even the band wrapped up early. I guess it’s good to leave the audience wanting more, but I thought it would be a longer production.
S: For the brief production it was, the costumes were phenomenal. The animal masks were haunting, they added something whimsical to the production.
B: It’s also fun that so many audience members got dressed up. There were some elaborate costumes and impressive masks. The show only worked because the audience bought-in. If you had come into that space with the audience wearing normal street clothes it would have been a very different experience. People dressed up, danced and interacted. That’s what made it fun, getting to be in character yourself.
S: I wonder if we could have convinced the band to keep playing, it ended so early and I wanted it to continue. There was still a boy to kill!
B: And a girl. And a few other people too.
S: Not enough death for an evening out.
The Verdict: The Capulet Ball is a fun way to support an innovative Bay-Area theater company. It’s not even the whole first act of Romeo and Juliet, so if you want to see the full play, hold out until R&J opens this summer. But if you want to have a very cool interactive theater experience, that lets you dress up and be part of the show, go to this. It’s pricey, but it supports a good cause, and drinks and light food are included.
The Drama Talk: We Players is great at site-specific work, and The Capulet Ball is no exception. The space for this production was perfect, and looking at the future venues, there are some neat places on the list. Production values are super high. Once you walk through the door and put on your mask you’re transported to the Capulet’s home and the party where Romeo and Juliet’s star-crossed paths first cross. It helps if you get dressed up, drink some mead, and go in with no inhibitions.
The Drinks: The party has an open bar, so we drank there. Wine, beer and mead only, but the pours are generous and flow all night.
There are only three more performances of The Capulet Ball, all in different parts of the Bay Area. They run through June 18th, and range from $75 for the show in Oakland, to $150 to the show in Calistoga (which includes dinner). Tickets are available through the We Players website: http://www.weplayers.org