The Walking House

Forget about haunted houses this Halloween. This year is marked by the arrival of a much more awesome structure: the walking house.A few days ago, I read about this amazing-looking construction designed by architects and engineers from Copenhagen and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Beyond the fact that a prototype of the residence, with its cobweb-like black frame, looks slightly like the lair of an evildoer, the newly-designed concept really has nothing to do with Halloween. But it's such a wonderful concept that I just had to blog about it.Built on … [Read more...]

Being Clarence

Theatre critics sometimes pop up as characters in plays, and like dentist characters in movies, the portrayals are rarely if ever positive. Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound and Ira Levin's Critic's Choice are cases in point.The other day, I had the unusual experience of seeing myself (or, rather a weird version of myself) portrayed on stage by an actor in a local theatre production. Even though Sleepwalkers Theatre's production of a new play March to November lambasted me, my writing and (predictably) the theatre critics profession in … [Read more...]

Stravinsky Two Ways

There's something so refreshing about turning up to catch an Oakland Opera production. Instead of putting on a cocktail dress and walking into a grand, old wedding cake of a building in the heart of San Francisco as is the case with any visit to the Bay Area's flagship opera presenter, San Francisco Opera, one stands in line with a load of mostly casually dressed people down a barren, windswept back alley before being ushered into the large, empty warehouse of a room that serves as Oakland Opera's current performance venue.Sadly, the pieces I … [Read more...]

Resting On Her Lauriels

I couldn't help myself. I tried really hard to stay awake. It wasn't like I hadn't slept the night before or had eaten a heavy meal prior going to the theatre. Yet I could barely keep my eyes open during Laurie Anderson's latest appearance in Berkeley.The veteran experimental performance artist performed her latest show in front of a packed house at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. And though many people cheered and have the performer a standing ovation, all my addled brain and heart could do was lament how often artists with big reputations can … [Read more...]

Free Night Of Theatre Update

Since posting some thoughts about the 2008 Free Night of Theatre  on October 16, I have received some valuable responses. Thank you all for writing in.Brad Erickson, executive director of Theatre Bay Area, which oversees Free Night in this part of the country, got back to me at the end of last week with direct feedback to points I raised in my blog post as well as a report containing some interesting information about this year's event. Thank you, Brad. Here are some of Brad's thoughts in response to issues I raised in my blog post:Chloe: I'm … [Read more...]

Protagonist

I sometimes forget just how crucial a role context plays in experiencing a work of art.I was reminded of this fact just the other day when I went to the cinema to see a special benefit screening of Jessica Yu's documentary Protagonist, screened at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland as a fundraiser for Walden House, a substance abuse treatment non-profit based in California. A friend of mine, Joe Loya, serves as the organization's media relations coordinator. Joe is also an author and journalist. Furthermore, he happens to be one of four male … [Read more...]

Hidden Treasures

The newly-renovated National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul has the following inscription on it: "A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive." This statement should be the mantra accompanying visitors as they look around Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, a globe-trotting exhibition of some of the war-ravaged country's most precious artifacts, which opens at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum tomorrow.More than a dazzling collection of beautiful objects from the crossroads of the Silk Road trading route dating … [Read more...]

Internal Landscape

Friday nights are the night to visit the de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.When the museum hosts its weekly "Friday Nights at the de Young" event, museum-goers can enjoy live bands, a full bar and, best of all, galleries that stay open till 8.45.The Friday Night crowd don't seem all that interested in art though. When I visited last Friday, most people congregated for the party, leaving the exhibition halls blissfully uncluttered. It was a real treat to wander around the African and Early American galleries with so much space … [Read more...]

Shine On

Conor McPherson's tricksy play Shining City takes a musty formula and gives it a twist -- or, to be more precise, a shoulder-dislocating wrench. But he does it so subtly that you don't notice the brutality.The play is set in in modern day Dublin, but looks like it could have been written 70 years ago. It's an old fashioned psychological drama steeped in realism and coupled with a traditional bedtime ghost story. Both the ghost and psychological elements appear on the surface to follow the standard rules of their genres. But the play is so oddly … [Read more...]

A Play For Our Age

Sophie Treadwell's Machinal is as much a play for our age as it was a play for the age in which it was written - late 1920s America.This country certainly seems to be heading towards a similar economic crisis, and like Treadwell's seething worker-bee protagonist, Helen Jones, many of us are now experiencing the less-than-positive impact of so-called technological "progress" in our day-to-day lives.Treadwell's brutal-satirical view of a life lived according to the rules of "the machine" and the destructive effects of that life on a young woman, … [Read more...]

Cocktails and Culture

As a Brit, the concept of the "pub crawl" has always been dear to my heart. What better way to spend a day than wandering about a city, stopping in at bars, sampling interesting drinks and having wonderful and increasingly drunken conversations with strangers?Actually, I can think of one slightly better way to spend a day: And that's when you take the pub crawl formula and inject into it a bit of live theatre.That's exactly what a bunch of innovative theatre companies in the South of Market (SOMA) district of San Francisco Under are doing … [Read more...]

Free Night Or Free Nights?

Today is a special day for the U.S. non-profit theatre world: It's the 4th annual Free Night of Theatre. Organized by the Theatre Communications Group, the Free Night aims to attract new audiences to the theatre by offering no-cost tickets to a wide range of performing arts events in many different cities across the country.San Francisco (alongside Austin and Philadelphia) piloted the event in 2005. Since then, at least if the propaganda is to be believed, the Free Night has grown exponentially. On the first Free Night, held on Thursday, … [Read more...]