Drama Talk & Drinks: An Interview with Thrillpeddlers Founder and Director on Losing Their Performance Space

The DT&D team has a soft spot for local San Francisco theater. We love the quirky, innovative, and rule-breaking companies that make our theater scene unique. So when we heard that the Hypnodrome, home of the Thrillpeddlers (and their classic Halloween-tastic show Shocktoberfest), was going to close at the end of February we wanted to know what was up. We asked Russell Blackwood, The Thrillpeddlers Company Founder and Director, to give us the scoop.

Thrillpeddlers Amazon Apocalypse

Brittany: We were so sad to hear about you losing the Hypnodrome space. The work you do is so unique and truly San Francisco.

Russell: I arrived in San Francisco in ‘89 and I remember in my first year here meeting people and saying “you’re the kind of person I came to San Francisco to meet”. Those experiences got me thinking; How do I become the kind of person that people came to San Francisco to meet? How do I make the kind of art people come to San Francisco to see? I think Thrillpeddlers has been a reflection of that without a doubt.

B: From hearing the story of how you got the Hypnodrome space originally, it sounds like a little bit of Bay Area love and luck went into starting the space. Can you tell us a little more about that?

R: Yeah, the space was offered to my husband within 5 minutes of meeting the gentleman that owned it. In the spring of 2004, my husband Jim Toczyl, was working the first day of his new mail route in Los Gatos. He was wearing a Thrillpeddlers “Sissies Stay Home” T-shirt under his open USPS shirt and struck up a conversation with one of the homeowners on his route about our theatre and the daunting prospect, even then, of renting a theater space in San Francisco. Right on the spot he volunteered; “We have building in San Francisco where you could do a show.” As it turned out, the space did make a perfect theatre. While the offer was just for 2 years originally, we’ve been able to stay for 13. I’ve gotten 11 years beyond what they offered so I’m happy with that.

B: Any ideas of where Thrillpeddlers will go next?

R: I believe that there are rental houses in town that would suit Thrillpeddlers well, and I believe that there are a few companies where a co-production might be a possibility in the future. We’re still assessing our options. As I watch rehearsals for Amazon Apocalypse (the final show slated for the Hypnodrome) I realize how – wow, well I might as well say it – smutty and rarefied our aesthetic might be and how it might not play to every subscription based company in the Bay Area.

B: Tell us a little bit about Amazon Apocalypse?

R: We’ve just added 3 more shows to the run. It will be a semi staged concert version of the show we had originally planned to produce in full in April. The show is set in Brazil over the period of about 100 years. The premise is that there is a prophecy that if the devil could come to earth, and enter the body of a human being, and put himself in a position to cum 7 times, there will be a thousand years on earth without conflict. So the show takes us to all kinds of locations in Brazil, through all kinds of periods in history, as the devil is entering the body of everything from an Italian opera singer, to an abortion doctor, to a children’s television superstar. It’s a nod to Brazilian sexuality, but also to the fragility of the rain-forest and the importance of that environment to the health of the earth. So it has both the touchy-feely and really raunchy going on simultaneously. This is a chance for our audience to get behind the work and hopefully see it to fruition at another venue eventually. This is also a great opportunity to workshop the piece.

B: The Hypnodrome is such a cool space, your sets and costumes are awesome. I heard you’re doing a rummage sale as you close down the space. Do you have any particular pieces that you are excited to see go to a new home?

R: Yes, there is very little that we are hanging on to, but I will confess to you now that we have made a decision to hold on to the guillotine, which is probably the one high ticket item that people have been inquiring about. Other than that, there is a lot of theatrical decor and fashion and special effects to be picked up. There are some severed heads that are particularly beautiful, and there are certainly some outlandish costumes from Cockette shows. Even ones that were designed and built by actual Cockettes. We have acquired a lot of things, much of it through the generosity and the altruism of others, so passing those things back out into the world at an affordable price is adding to the flow of karma that we have enjoyed for so long.

B: Aside from coming to the shows and to the rummage sale, is there anything else that people can do to help support Thrillpeddlers?

R: There is!. By buying tickets to our final shows, and of course donating to us through our website. Also, just by signing up for our newsletter, so we can keep in touch. In the future risking going to a new venue, that you haven’t been before, because we are there will make a big difference. Generally we need our community to keep holding the torch for this multi-generational freak theater company that doesn’t exist anywhere else.

The Hypnodrome closes at the end of February, so be sure to check out one of the Thrillpeddlers’ final shows on their home stage before they go. Amazon Apocalypse will be presented as a semi-staged concert for 7 nights February 8th-11th and 15th-17th at 8:00pm at the Hypnodrome (tickets $35 GA, $40 front row, shock boxes or Turkish Lounge). Thrillpeddlers are also hosting two Valentine’s Day benefit concerts and variety shows entitled Farewell to The Hypnodrome on  Tues. Feb. 14, 2017 – 7:00 pm & 9:00 pm (it appears those concerts are sold out at time of publishing). Finally don’t forget to stop by in the final days to fill your requite costume bins at the Hypnodrome Rummage Sale Feb. 25th & 26th, Noon – 5:00 pm. More information and tickets can be found on the Thrillpeddlers website, where you can also donate and sign up to find out what’s next for the company.

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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: Hedda Gabler – “Total girl crush”

Now seems like an important time to revisit critiques of a traditional women’s role in society. So when we heard that Hedda Gabler (the classic Ibsen play about the iconic female protagonist, Hedda Gabler, and her struggle for power and freedom in a patriarchal world) was being performed by the Cutting Ball Theater company at EXIT Theater we knew we had to go out for some drama talk and drinks.

Britney Frazier is Hedda Gabler. Photo by Liz Olson

Britney Frazier is Hedda Gabler. Photo by Liz Olson

Brittany: I really loved it. I have a soft spot for Hedda Gabler since I studied it in college, and she’s such an amazing character. I think they did a great job making it really fast and light, which isn’t easy. The whole cast was really strong, especially Hedda (Britney Frazier), she was amazing!

Katie: Yeah, she was great.

B: She had such a stage presence. Just a half smile, or a slight turn of her head said so much. Total girl-crush. I just loved it. I have no idea if you did, or if I’m just a Hedda head maybe.

K: I don’t know if I LOVED it, but I certainly didn’t dislike it. I did really enjoy how fresh it felt. It kinda reminded me of the Leonardo DiCaprio Romeo and Juliet- edgy and artistic. Particularly what they did with the music. It almost felt like they were scoring the play at the beginning which was cool. I’m just not as big a fan of old-school plays like this. I mean Chekhov and Ibsen are fine, but they can sometimes be a slog.

B: I think that’s what they did so well in this production though. That script has some dense language, and normally it runs over two hours. This show was 75 minutes flat. It was fast. They got in, out, and told the story. If you’re a purist you’d probably be upset with how much they cut, but I didn’t really miss anything. They had such urgency to their performances it made the show exciting.

K: True, and it was visually really cool. An inventive set, and great use of such a small space.  I loved the costumes too. Her dresses in particular were beautiful. Hedda was so powerful. She brought this sense of danger and urgency to the show, it was refreshing.

The Verdict: A vibrant and fresh take on a classic piece of theater. Go see it!

The Drama Talk: This production does a great job of distilling the story of Hedda Gabler down to its essence. It feels fresh, while still honoring the world of the play that Ibsen originally envisioned. Cutting Ball pulls the symbolic imagery from Ibsen’s script and manifests it onstage with a minimalist set full of flowers. Britney Frazier does a masterful job as Hedda, bringing to life one of the greatest female roles in theater. Her powerful performance holds the same power over the audience as Hedda holds over the people in her life. While Hedda is trapped in the domestic life that society demands of women, this production does not feel trapped in the past, and makes for a refreshing night of great theater.

The Drinks: After the show we wanted to go somewhere that kept the energy going. We went a few blocks down to Tradition, which if you haven’t been yet is a totally awesome bar, with great drinks and very cool seating (the have private booths you can reserve). Katie got the Grand Hotel and Brittany got the Molecular and we toasted to a refreshing night of drama talk and drinks.

Hedda Gabler runs through February 26th at the EXIT Theater in the TL. Performances are Thursday-Sunday. Tickets, which can be purchased through the Cutting Ball Theater website, seem to go up in price as the run goes on, so go early to get cheaper seats.  Prices range from $27-$45 for General Admission, there are also discount student tickets available.

 

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Drama Talk & Drinks: Finding Neverland – “business as usual”

Do you remember the 2004 award winning film with Johnny Depp called Finding Neverland? It’s about the playwright, J. M. Barrie, and the story of writing the original play Peter Pan. We really like the film, which made us excited for the musical adaptation to come to SF. It’s usually either a super-hit or mega-miss when a popular film gets made into a musical, so we headed to the Orpheum Theatre to see which of those this one was going to be.

finding_neverland_production_still_4

Katie: Wow. I’m disappointed. This was a business as usual musical for me. It felt like the producers pulled a lets-just-check-the-boxes and throw together a musical based on an award winning film with a popular story and cash-in. This story and music didn’t move me. There was no soul or depth. I didn’t really care about the characters. The music was super generic. I don’t understand how this got green lit. Maybe this was for kids?

Brittany: I don’t think it was 100% business as usual. There were some interesting and beautiful visuals (which you expect from Tony Award winning director Diane Paulus), but you’re right about the music and the play generally, it felt very cookie-cutter. I liked that they tried to create a fantastical spectacle, but even some of the background video projections were too much, they almost looked like screen savers.

K: Yes! I couldn’t think of a word for those wonky projections but that is exactly what it looked like!

B: The music was the big disappointment for me, it didn’t even match the period of when the show was set. Finding Neverland is set in the early 1900s and it sounded like shitty pop-music. I didn’t like any of the songs.

K: Me either, nothing was memorable. From the first 5 minutes I knew this was going to be generic and corny as all hell!

B: Despite the mediocre score and book though, there were some strong performances. Tom Hewitt, who played the producer, Charles Frohman, and the id-version of Captain Hook was fascinating to watch. Also I was so impressed by the kids in the show. The boys were really sweet and genuine and the boy who played Peter (we saw Ben Krieger) was great! So it’s not like there weren’t good elements to this production but the play itself was not good. It’s just not a very good musical.

The Verdict: Finding Neverland was a miss as far as we’re concerned, but some of the kids in the audience seemed to be pretty taken with the whimsical staging. If you have a kid in your life that loves Peter Pan they may like it, but otherwise we’d say sit this one out.

The Drama Talk: This is a very pretty production with some great costumes, sets and actors, but it stops there. There isn’t a single memorable song. The music and lyrics were done by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, who both worked on the X-Factor (the British American Idol spin-off). They have much more impressive pop-music resumes than they do musical theatre, which may explain some of the terribly corny out of place pop-power-ballads in the show. The Peter Pan story is so well loved that you can’t help but smile when Tinkerbell appears, but the play relies on these easy moments of nostalgia to keep the audience engaged while not creating anything truly unique. We’d rather just see Peter Pan again.

The Drinks: We were tired after seeing this show (it’s a 2 hour and 30 minute show with a 15 minute intermission). We needed to go somewhere we could get a strong and quick drink so we headed to Oddjob on 9th and Mission, which satisfied both of those needs.

Finding Neverland runs through February 12th at The Orpheum Theatre. There are $40 both virtual and in-person rush tickets available. You can check-out the SHN website for rush instructions. Goldstar also currently has tickets for $75 (normally priced $105).

Drama Talk & Drinks: Pre-Show Talk with soon-to-be Bay Area celebrity kid- Tyler Patrick Hennessy

San Francisco is often referred to as Neverland.  It makes sense then, that a kid that grows up in the Bay Area would be a perfect cast-member for the first tour of Finding Neverland, a Broadway hit about the origins of the Peter Pan story based on the 2004 film by the same name.

Tyler Patrick Hennessy, a young Walnut Creek native, is living the stage-kid dream and is currently on the road playing the roles of Jack and Michael in Finding Neverland. When Drama Talk & Drinks learned that we had some local talent on the tour, we wanted to sit down with Tyler to learn a little more about him and the show (so we could legitimately say we knew him before he was a famous).

finding-neverlandTyler-Patrick-Hennessy

 

 

 

 

 

DT&D: Tyler, How did you first get involved in theater?

Tyler: My three older sisters all did theater first, and it looked like a lot of fun, so I wanted to try it. That’s how I originally got involved.

DT&D: Why should people come see this show, Finding Neverland

T: I think people should come and see the show because it’s a lot of fun, they get to have time to be a kid again.

DT&D: What’s it like to be on tour?

T: It’s really fun. I like all the people in the cast. They’re so nice.

DT&D: What’s the most exciting part of the tour?

T: I had never really been past Arizona before, so when I got to go to New York for the auditions, and then to rehearsals in Buffalo, that was really exciting. I love performing. It’s really fun to do the play in front of different audiences and see their reactions. I’m excited to perform in LA, and in San Francisco for my friends and family.

DT&D: Before you were cast in this tour you primarily did shows in the Bay Area, what are some of your favorite places you’ve performed?

T: I had a lot of fun when I was in Ragtime at Stage 1 Theater [ed. in Newark, California] I also have been in shows at the Lesher Center for the Arts [ed.in Walnut Creek] which I really liked.

DT&D: Do you have a favorite thing to do in SF or the Bay Area when you’re not in a play?

T: I like watching Giants games with my dad. Buster Posey is my favorite.

If you want to check out this soon-to-be Bay Area celebrity, Finding Neverland opens at SHN’s Orpheum Theater on January 18th and runs through February 12th. Tickets are available on their website and range from $55-$125, or if you want to try your luck, they have a limited number of $40 rush tickets available for each night of the show – rush instructions here. Stay tuned for our DT&D review of the show coming soon!

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Drama Talk & Drinks: The Speakeasy – “appreciate where you are in the moment”

For those of you who missed the The Speakeasy the first time around, it’s an immersive play set in prohibition-era San Francisco. It had a sell out run in the TL in 2014. After losing their space, they decided to find a more permanent one to keep the show running. They closed for about a year, did an awesome crowd-funded micro investment campaign, got a space on the North Beach/Chinatown border, and set about to converting it into a real, three times bigger than the original, Speakeasy.  When The Speakeasy officially re-opened we knew we had to see it again, so Brittany donned her flapper dress, and brought Sam with her for a fresh perspective. After the show we stumbled over to Vesuvio to dissect what we had just experienced. We pushed our way into a table with a lovely couple who were also dressed as a flapper and a gangster. As we had guessed, they had also just seen the show, so we asked them to join us for drama talk and drinks.

The Speakeasy. Megan Wicks as Velma. Photo by Peter Liu

Gangster: It was striking how much effort went into transporting the audience. The production value, the set design, the sound design, the different story lines, how immersive it was, I loved it. It’s nice to be able to put away our modern life, put the cell phones away for the night, and just experience something amazing.

Flapper: I agree, I enjoyed having a night out with no phones. The show was so intricate, there were so many things going on, but it never felt forced or fake. We were just comparing our experiences and it was fun because we each got something different out of it. There are so many story-lines, I could see how you could go back over and over again and still see something new. If you spend the night in the casino, you’ll have a totally different night than someone who stays in the cabaret, or watches the dressing rooms. It’s also fun to see a theater performance, with performances in it, so you see the characters on the stage in the cabaret, and then you get to see their back stories and feel like you’re behind the scenes.

Sam: It was also fun to be integrated into the scene in a way that you aren’t normally in theater. You’re an audience member in the cabaret, which is a play within a play, so you almost have to become a character yourself. Everyone dresses the part too, like you guys look amazing, you can’t tell the audience from the actors.

Brittany: I think what’s great about this show, compared to other immersive theater plays I’ve seen, is you really have a hard time parsing fiction from reality. In shows like Sleep No More you know the plot. When you see a character you know who they are and their role in the story. Here you don’t know the story-lines, and you have no idea who is in the play and who is an audience member, which makes the discovery process that much more exciting.

F: Exactly, this is the first time in a long time I’ve left a show and really wanted to talk about. Like, which things did you see, what pieces of the plot do you have, because you only get bits and pieces of the show. We didn’t know how much we were supposed to stick to a structured thing, so we didn’t really move around the space until the second half of the show when we realized there were other rooms. I am sure there is a ton we missed.

B: I think no matter what you’re going to miss something, you just have to appreciate where you are in the moment.

S: So true, I think my favorite part was a scene we watched while we were spying on the office where two actors were performing, and just three of us were watching. No one else got to see that bit of plot, and that made the experience that much more special.

The Verdict: Absolutely a must see. We didn’t think it was possible to like this show more than the first time we reviewed it, but this new space is amazing, the show is tighter and overall the experience is more impressive. Yes, it’s expensive, and you have to budget for some of their delicious cocktails too, but buy it as a gift to yourself. It’s totally worth it.

The Drama Talk: The Speakeasy space is absolutely amazing. The cabaret is beautiful, the bar feels smoky even though there’s no smoke, and you totally feel like a creeper snooping into the ultra realistic dressing rooms and office. It doesn’t look like a set, it looks like a real speakeasy with classic cocktails and all. Since the audience is dressed up as much as the actors you sometimes forget that you’re in a play. This is the real-life version of virtual reality – we felt transported to the 1920s. There are so many different pieces to this production that it’s impossible to see it all. Yes it does still give you a certain amount of FOMO, but honestly it’s just too fun to care. While you don’t leave knowing the full story of any of the characters, you do leave with snapshots into their lives which are powerful. You could easily see this show 4 or 5 times and still not really know what happened, but that is part of the beauty and what should make this permanent run possible.

The Drinks: The Speakeasy is a speakeasy.  So much so you can go to the bar known as Club 1923 on certain nights after the show just for drinks. They have great cocktails, which are way too easy to order. You give them your credit card ahead of time so after your third drink you forget that you’re still paying them when you show your wooden nickle. The booze flows freely, and some audience members were more than tipsy by the end, but if you’re looking for a place for more drinks after the show Vesuvio is stumbling distance from the door.

Tickets for The Speakeasy can be purchased through The Speakeasy SF website and are currently available through March. Although some nights are sold-out there are lots of others that still have space, so if you need a last minute gift you can still book now. Thursday and Sunday shows are $85, Friday and Saturday shows are $110. You can also become a member of Club 1923 if you want to keep going back, and get discounted tickets for you and your friends. Club 1923 is also open on select nights after the show, so if you want to get a sneak peek into the space without committing to the show, you can pay a $10 cover for a night of drinking in a pretty dope bar.

Drama Talk & Drinks: Next Time Let’s Take the Stairs – “All these strange people are on a metaphorical elevator ride”

“Darkly comic theater that moves” is how local performance company 13th Floor describes itself. We’re always up to see inventive original San Francisco theater, so when we saw the press release for 13th Floor’s latest show Next Time I’ll Take the Stairs we knew it was time for some drama talk and drinks.

From left, Colin Epstein, Julie Mahony, David Silpa, Zach Fischer and Jenny McAllister appear in “Next Time, I’ll Take the Stairs.” (Courtesy Robbie Sweeny)

From left, Colin Epstein, Julie Mahony, David Silpa, Zach Fischer and Jenny McAllister  (Courtesy Robbie Sweeny)

Brittany: It was beautiful to watch. The movement was mesmerizing. They were really good at integrating lighting, sound and dance to create poetic stage pictures and some fascinating moments. The narrative was so abstract though. I had a hard time getting into the story. It seemed like the characters all had very precise backstories, but I couldn’t really piece them together. I found myself getting frustrated that I didn’t really know what was going on.

Katie: I kept thinking there was going to be a reveal, like oh this turn is going to tell us something. I was hoping for an ah-ha moment, but there never was one.

B: There were moments that I thought I started to understand what was going on, like – okay all these strange people are on a metaphorical elevator ride, and the reason they are all there is because they have some sort of weird painful history, and they all need to be in this space together to be able to eventually get to where they want to go – but I don’t even know if that abstract concept is right? I didn’t know what I was supposed to take away.

K: Exactly, and not being able to connect the story with the movement left me pretty unsatisfied. It was interesting, and the movement was beautiful, but the story fell short for me.

The Verdict: Go to this show for the aesthetics. If you like very abstract, poetic, visual movement-based work you’ll enjoy this performance. If you want a strong narrative with rich characters that tells a moving story, this show doesn’t quite get there for us.

The Drama Talk:  The 13th Floor company is made up of performers who have a strong background in acrobatics and dance, and that is where this show shines.  It’s very clear that all of these actors work really closely together. They move effortlessly through some pretty detailed and difficult choreography. It’s a visually engaging and beautiful piece with some interesting moments, but the storytelling element fell short. Yes, we were engaged, but this piece felt like you should leave with an emotional response, and the storytelling didn’t get us there.

The Drinks: This show is just an hour long, and the show we saw started at 7pm, so we decided to get dinner after the show at Tartine Manufactory. The whimsical space is a good compliment to the show and an appropriate way to end a night of beautiful San Francisco made art.

Next Time, I’ll Take the Stairs runs through this weekend Dec. 18 at Joe Goode Annex. Tickets are available on their website for $15-$40.

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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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Drama Talk & Drinks: The King and I – “If Rodgers and Hammerstein are your jam…”

After a week of post-election depression we decided to see if some Broadway magic could brighten our outlook on life. Hamilton had been our post-election playlist, but since that’s not coming to SF until next year, we decided to check-out the classic The King and I which is currently playing at the Golden Gate Theater.

The King And I

Brittany: You would think a week after election day would be a great time to go see a Broadway musical, because it would take your mind off all this stuff.

Katie: (laughs) Right, that’s what you’d think. We need singing and dancing. But gosh this is probably one of the worst musicals for people, especially women, to see to make them feel better about what’s going on in the world.

B: Right, it’s like let’s be a little racist, let’s throw some Western exceptionalism in there….

K: …and some misogyny.

B: Oh yeah, you can’t forget to add a lot of misogyny! And just kinda laugh about it. I don’t know, maybe we’re way off base. I understand that at the time this play was written (ed. note: in 1951) acknowledging that Taiwanese people are not barbarians was probably a revolutionary statement, even if it’s done while perpetuating Asian stereotypes. I’m sure having a single women stand-up to an Emperor in any way must have seemed so progressive.

K: But when Anna would stand up to the King, it was like one step forward and three steps back. She’d say “No I won’t be treated like this!” and then five minutes later she’d be like “Oh, NBD, I’m just a women. I’m probably overreacting when I yell that you should not whip one of your many slave-wives for running away because she doesn’t want to be married to you. It’s cool, sorry I was upset.”

B: And that whole refusing to give her a house thing.

K: Yeah! She’s all like “I’m putting down my foot and won’t stay here if you don’t pay me what was promised and give me my house.” Then the story fast forwards to a year and half later and she’s singing in the classroom with his wives and kids still without the damn house! Really, Anna? What happened this last year and a half? WHY ARE YOU STILL THERE!

B: This is just our liberal elite bubble Katie, we are out of touch with The King and I.

K: I guess so. This show is for somebody, but it’s poor timing for us.

B: I mean it was a beautiful looking show, the sets were amazing. It was a great production.

K: People did seem to be enjoying themselves. The women who played Anna, was just awesome. What an actress. What a voice! She really owned that stage. I couldn’t stop watching her. It’s just a very old-timey type of musical. I personally don’t like Broadway classics as well as more contemporary musicals, they’re a bit too corny for me. The King and I  just doesn’t feel very relevant anymore. It’s just not exciting.

B: Yeah it is a Rodgers and Hammerstein. Which, when you feel like Hamilton, is a bit of a let down. (laughs) But if Rodgers and Hammerstein are your jam…

K: True, if you’re looking for nostalgia, and you like this kind of musical you’d probably love it.

The Verdict: Beautiful production, and well sung Broadway standards, but unless you love this play already it may be better to pick another piece of theater to get you out of your post-election funk.

The Drama Talk: We personally don’t think this show ages very well, although this production was well done. If you’re a huge fan of Broadway classics, and are better at appreciating this play in the context of when it was written than we are, you may love it.  The sets are really amazing. There are some really impressive dance numbers, and some great renditions of well loved songs. But, if you’re not into musical theater, and as fed up with casual racism and misogyny as we are, it’s probably not a great pick for you.

The Drinks: Monarch’s The Emperor’s Drawing Room seemed aptly named for this show, so we decided to check it out for post-show drinks. While not the most ideal venue for a quiet post-show conversation, a good strong classic cocktails seemed the best way to dull the heartache.

The King and I runs through December 11th at the Golden Gate Theater. There are $40 both virtual and in-person rush tickets available. You can check-out the SHN website for rush instructions. Goldstar also currently has tickets for $50-75 (normally priced $65-150).

Drama Talk & Drinks: Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat – “It was refreshing”

Golden Thread Productions has been on the DT&D radar for a while, but bad timing has stopped us from reviewing one of their shows…until now. They’re wrapping up their 20th season with a West-Coast premiere of Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat by Egyptian-American playwright Yussef El Guindi, so off we went to Thick House theater in Potrero Hill for a night of Drama Talk and Drinks.

James Asher as Gamal (left)  and Kunal Prasad as Mohsen (right)

James Asher as Gamal (left) and Kunal Prasad as Mohsen (right)

Katie: Wow. What a great story. A good set, good lighting, good acting, and good writing that was deep but also funny. It’s cool to have a theater company focused on stories from the Middle East. I feel like this play offered a well rounded and balanced perspective that often doesn’t get onstage.

Brittany: I agree. It was refreshing to have a show give voice to so many nuanced and authentic perspectives, while still being entertaining. It would be easy for a play that’s dealing with frustration about the way Arab-Americans are represented in American media to get preachy or pedantic. This play stuck to good storytelling and somehow avoided that. I thought that it was a really honest play.

K: I loved the actress who played Noor (Denmo Ibrahim). She was so authentic and in the moment. It was great to watch her find so many discoveries in all her lines. There were moments when she was onstage and I forgot I was watching a play.

B: I loved her too. I also really liked the character of the Sheikh’s son, Hani (Salim Razawi). His monologue emails back from visiting his family in Egypt were really lovely. Overall a pretty strong cast.

K: There just isn’t a reason not to see this show.

B: And it’s cool that it’s Golden Threads 20th anniversary. It’s entertaining, and engaging…

K: It’s unpredictable.

B: It isn’t a perspective you necessarily get to hear a lot either. People should absolutely go see it.

The Verdict: Go see it! It’s a smart, refreshing, and all around engaging night at the theater.

The Drama Talk: This is Golden Thread Productions 20th anniversary year. They are the first American theatre company who is dedicated to focusing on the Middle East and producing “passionate and provocative plays… that celebrate the multiplicity of its perspectives and identities.” Our Enemies does just that. By focusing on three intersecting storylines the show shares the struggle of the Arab American community as it tries to define itself. Families fight and sometimes those who are most like us can be the most frustrating. The heartfelt and multidimensional characters in this play show us how we can sometimes be our own worst enemies.

The Drinks: As is often the case when we go to a show at the Thick House, we decided to head up the hill to Blooms Saloon for great city views and cheap drinks. If you’re looking for a nearby place to get into the spirit of the play though, consider hitting up Pera before the show for some awesome Turkish food. They close too early to be a good post-show option.

Our Enemies: Lively Scenes of Love and Combat runs through November 20th at Thick House. Tickets are $34 for general admission and $24 for students and seniors and can be purchased on their website.Tickets are also available on Goldstar on select nights for $17.

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