Extended Absence Greeting

Off to Germany and the UK for two weeks. I may post on occasion while I'm traveling, depending on the availability of wi-fi Internet access and time to catch my breath. In any case, I'll be back at my desk and posting five days a week again as usual starting Monday April 13. Until then, be well. … [Read more...]

Handel Man

I always find it interesting to see how particular performers jibe with particular playwrights, composers or directors. Think Fiona Shaw and Deborah Warner. Think Helene Weigel and Bertolt Brecht. Equally intimate relationships sometimes exist between two artists even when they are divided by hundreds of years and thousands of miles in time and space.Such is the case for the American countertenor David Daniels with regards to the composer Handel. The passion that Daniels feels for Handel's music was strongly in evidence last night at Herbst … [Read more...]

Sheen Does Blair Again

One of the things an actor dreads the most in his or her career besides not being cast is being constantly typecast. It's very hard for performers to move away from playing thugs, upper-class twits and heroes if that's what gets them a paycheck.With this in mind, I'd like to voice my concern about Michael Sheen. Sheen is one of the best actors working on stage and screen today. Until a few years ago, his diversity and flexibility were what set him apart from other actors of his generation. I was completely won over by his turn as Amadeus on … [Read more...]

On The Impossible Task of Mining A City’s Culture

What does it mean to be intimately acquainted with the culture of a city? How can a single person, even one that has lived in one place all his or her life, possibly understand how a metropolis functions on a cultural level when most of our cities are so densely populated and infinitely diverse?Questions along these lines came up yesterday evening during a conversation with a friend regarding the cultural awareness of the editor of a local news and culture publication here in San Francisco. My friend claimed that this editor was very much up on … [Read more...]

Pure Shock Value

Doing blood and guts on stage convincingly is extremely difficult. There are basically two ways you can go with it: Realistic and Anti-Realistic.Anti-realism is a common choice among theatre companies. Theatre is not a naturalistic medium, so the thicker and more radioactive-colored the fake blood looks and the more hammy or overwrought the death scene, the better. In San Francisco, the local grand guignol theatre company Thrillpeddlers, does this variety of blood-letting extremely well, often eliciting laughs, jeers and the occasional … [Read more...]

Anti-Aging Strategies

Arts organizations -- especially ones commonly viewed as being harbingers of "high art" (whatever that means) -- have been tackling the problem of how to "stay relevant" (whatever that means) in the face of aging audiences, dwindling ticket sales and disappearing media coverage for some time now.New York's Metropolitan Opera is renovating the operatic artform by bringing in top-tier theatre directors like Mary Zimmerman and the late Anthony Minghella with visionary approaches to staging, and drawing crowds from all over the country with high … [Read more...]

Google Logo Art Critiqued

For millions of people around the world, Google is the go-to site for everything from online shopping to project research. Almost everyone I know uses Google as their homepage.One thing that I've never until now given the site credit for is its subtle and artful way of reminding me about important or at least intriguing calendar dates.Today, for instance, the letters of the site's logo have been transformed to look like Eric Carle's iconic Very Hungry Caterpillar illustration. The artwork of the logo -- by in-house graphic artist and Google … [Read more...]

Berkeley Goes To Broadway (And Off-Broadway Too)

These days, if any city outside of New York has traction inside New York theatre-wise, it's Chicago. But Berkeley has also been holding its own in terms of transplants to both Broadway and Off-Broadway of late.Berkeley Repertory Theatre's 50th world premiere, Sarah Ruhl's In The Next Room (Or, The Vibrator Play) will open at one of the Shubert houses in Manhattan this fall, The Lincoln Center just announced. The show, which, like the world premiere, will be directed by Berkeley Rep associate director Les Waters, begins previews on October 22 … [Read more...]

Siren Call

Contemporary composers can't seem to get enough of working with Chanticleer. The multiple Grammy Award-winning, all male vocal ensemble might have originally established its international reputation with incandescent interpretations of Renaissance and Medieval works and gone on to earn a mass following through catchy Christmas carol and gospel arrangements. But these days, it's the group's partnerships with cutting-edge composers such as Douglas Cuomo, Shulamit Ran and Chen Yi that are setting the music world alight. "The biggest challenge is … [Read more...]

On Anonymous Donors

In Charlie Varon's new play, Rabbi Sam, a progressive rabbi sparks controversy among his congregants when he declares that an anonymous donor is giving the synagogue $2 million to pay for a congregational trip to Jerusalem and $18 dollar annual memberships for new families interested in joining the synagogue. The donor, according to the rabbi, insists on maintaining anonymity. Some congregants respect this and are simply excited about the prospect of seeing the numbers of the congregation swell and getting a free trip to the Promised Land. … [Read more...]

“Make-A-Wish”-Inspired Mozart

Goat Hall Productions, a Bay Area company that specializes in producing new operas, just finished a run of one of the genre's biggest chestnuts, The Marriage of Figaro. The 1786 Mozart/Da Ponte opera's broad social satire, fluid plot and hummable music make it a constant presence on big and small stages alike. It's been -- or is in the process of being -- produced by no less than four different Bay Area companies in recent weeks including Sacramento Opera (February 27 - March 3), Santa Clara Mission City Opera (February 20 - March 1) and … [Read more...]

Theatre on Venice Beach

A long stroll along the water from Santa Monica to Venice Beach in Los Angeles is the perfect way to catch a bit of recession-worthy theatre. Last weekend, impressive jugglers and break dancers were out in the sun showing passers by and lingerers their skills, all for the price of whatever people felt like tossing into a hat.Elsewhere on the waterfront, a different sort of "performance" was going on, undertaken by people with no interest in passing a hat, but equal amounts of exhibitionism.It was fascinating to see how the Los Angeles gymnasts … [Read more...]