Glickman Winner Announced

The winner of the 2009 Will Glickman Award for best play to have had its world premiere in the Bay Area is playwright Sarah Ruhl for In the Next Room (or the vibrator play). The work premiered last February at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in a production directed by Les Waters and then transferred to New York.It's always such a privilege being part of the panel of local theatre critics that selects the winner of the prize each year. I am absolutely thrilled about our decision, though there was some tough competition from such contenders as … [Read more...]

Patti & Howard

Patti Smith only heard the news about her friend Howard Zinn's death shortly before going on stage at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco last night to talk about her new book, answer questions and sing a couple of songs.Most people in the audience including myself, hadn't yet caught wind of Zinn's passing. A wave of sorrow and shock spread across the City Arts & Lectures audience when moderator Kevin Berger mentioned Zinn.Many people know about Smith's close ties with the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Shepard. But her friendship … [Read more...]

Symbiosis

The most palpable thing about watching Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax perform a recital of works by Schumann, Chopin and Peter Lieberson last night at Davies Symphony Hall was the rapport between the two artists. They behaved like they were sitting in the living room of one of their homes playing together for fun. They looked at each other almost more often than they looked at their music. Beatific smiles crossed their faces every now and again. The pleasure of their music-making was as evident as the gorgeous, sensitive sound they made together.The … [Read more...]

Blink And It’s Gone

I'm on a campaign to document street art in San Francisco. There is some beautiful work out there but it comes and goes so quickly that I fear that if I don't document it, it will be forgotten. At the moment, it seems like the lifespan of most of the pieces I see is between one and three weeks. One of these pictures (the one with the two women embracing) was gone the day after I snapped it. … [Read more...]

Believe The Hype

It's so often the case out here on the West Coast that by the time an arts happening reaches us, it's been so talked about that it can feel stale or overexposed before it even arrives. This happens a lot with touring Broadway shows (e.g. Doubt and August: Osage County.) The hype can have an adverse affect on the productions, setting expectations too high which often leads to disappointment.This weekend's appearance of Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts could have had the same negative results. … [Read more...]

Defining Cabaret

It seems odd to me that an artform should be defined by the space in which it is presented rather than anything intrinsic to the art itself. But this seems to be the case with cabaret. The word literally means "room". Here's the definition from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:Main Entry: cab·a·retPronunciation: \ˌka-bə-ˈrā, ˈka-bə-ˌ\Function: nounEtymology: French, from Middle French dial. (Picard or Walloon), from Middle Dutch, alteration of cambret, cameret, from Middle French dial. (Picard) camberete small room, ultimately from Late … [Read more...]

Jaroussky and Me on WNYC

Today I'll be a guest on Sound Check, WNYC's daily talk show all about music. Sound Check is currently doing a series all about singing and today's show is focusing on men who sing high, which is a lovely coincidence as I'm devoting tomorrow's episode of VoiceBox to the very same topic! I'm excited to be on air with one of my favorite countertenors, Philippe Jaroussky. Listen in at 93.9 FM or via the live webstream on the WNYC website. … [Read more...]

Youth Speaks. But Does It Speak Well?

I'm probably going to make myself very unpopular with this blog post. For what kind of cold-hearted arts critic would say anything negative about Youth Speaks, one of the the leading (if not the leading) nonprofit presenter of teen-oriented spoken word performance, education, and youth development programs in the country?Founded in the Bay Area in 1996, Youth Speaks has done an amazing job of reaching out to young people and helping them to channel their thoughts and beliefs into text, which the youngsters (mostly teens) can share aloud at … [Read more...]

Movement Choir

For most people, the word "choir" evokes an image of a group of people standing together singing. Last weekend, I learned that the term can also apply do dance.Of the many beautiful and innovative qualities of Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton's rapturous dance piece, The Illustrated Book of Invisible Stories, the most memorable is the "movement choir." The choreographers assemble a group of 18 women who appear on stage at the start of the work standing in rows on risers. When the work begins, they all make beautiful patterns with their bodies … [Read more...]

Should Composers Conduct Their Own Works?

Just as it's often the case that playwrights and screenwriters aren't always the best people to direct their own plays and movies, so composers don't necessarily do an optimal job leading performances of their works from the podium.This hypothesis was borne out over the weekend when I saw the British composer George Benjamin conducting the San Francisco Symphony in two of his pieces -- "Duet", a work for piano and orchestra written in 2008, and "Ringed by the Flat Horizon", which the composer wrote at the very start of his career in 1980.Unlike … [Read more...]

Petty Rivalries

The media landscape is in such a mess at the moment that media organizations should be shoring up their energies, focusing on turning out high quality product and finding ways to make sure that that product reaches an audience. There's strength in numbers, so it makes sense for media organizations of a similar kind to look for ways to partner with each other and help each other out.The reality, however, is very different. I'm seeing nothing but bitterness and resentment across the board. Local media outlets here in the Bay Area are harboring … [Read more...]

An Observation About Directing Theatre in the Bay Area

As in many other parts of the country, being a theatre professional in the Bay Area isn't easy. But it strikes me that theatre directors have a particularly tough time of it here.The main issue they have to contend with that's specific to the Bay Area (although may also be the case elsewhere) is a lack of medium-sized venues to scale up their craft. There are a ton of small spaces and a few big ones. But very little in between to help blossoming directors make the transition onto larger stages.Then there are plenty of other factors from finding … [Read more...]