TheaterMania iPhone App

I've been giving the TheaterMania iPhone app a try. It's not bad. Intuitive to use, the app allows you to select from three menus - "Broadway shows", "shows near me" (which it finds via the GPS system and Google maps), and "browse by location."I used the "browse by location" section a couple of days ago to help get information about a play I was seeing at The Magic Theatre. The app only has the major US theatre towns (as well as London) listed, so if you're looking for a show at, say, Dad's Garage in Atlanta, you're out of luck (although I … [Read more...]

Acting from the Neck Up

Actors are sometimes criticized for not using their bodies to their fullest -- for "acting from the neck up." But Arwen Anderson makes a virtue of confined physicality in Lydia Stryck's luminous and affecting new play about, among other themes, the healing process, at the Magic Theatre.In Stryck's An Accident, a two-hander directed by Rob Melrose and also starring Tim Kniffin, Anderson plays a woman hospitalized with memory loss and a broken body after being run over by a car (driven by Kniffin's character, named Anton.) It's a challenging … [Read more...]

Bacon

Given that part of the mandate of lies like truth is to highlight important cultural trends, it would be remiss of me not to blog about the latest craze sweeping the Bay Area cultural scene: unusual manifestations of bacon.It's almost impossible to go anywhere these days without encountering the delicious pork product's presence in unlikely contexts. My local candy store sells bacon-flavored chocolate. At a dinner party the other day, someone brought homemade bacon-infused caramels. Even the arts are bringing home the bacon: At a choral … [Read more...]

Fado Lamo

In Fado music, the singer's voice and command of the stage should cut the audience to the core. I don't speak Portuguese, but when these elements are in place, I feel like I understand the meaning of the words being sung at the deepest level. The most powerful performers, such as Amalia Rodrigues and Cristina Branco, have a way of connecting with people that is entirely visceral. Even the peroxide-topped Mariza, for all her populist appeal, can carry a song by dint of her searing voice and queenly aura. Such is not the case, as far as it's … [Read more...]

Shape Note Singing: Is It Good For Your Health?

At the weekend, I had my first exposure to shape note singing (also known as "sacred harp singing") -- an American a cappella singing tradition which took off in the mid-19th century in the church tradition.The all-day Bay Area shape note singing convention drew about 100 people to a small church hall in downtown Berkeley.The thing about this music is that it's so ardent and powerful that regardless of whether you pay attention to the churchy lyrics or not, you cannot help but get sucked in by the fervor and sheer volume of the singing.For the … [Read more...]

I Love KALW

What other public radio station would allow one of it's music programmers to create a show on the theme of yoga and singing whose playlist, over the course of an hour, veers between Handel's "How Beautiful are the Feet" and "Head Crusher" by Megadeath? … [Read more...]

Dancing Singers

No one expects opera singers to be able to dance. So when, as a director, you have performers who are capable of using their bodies in expressive ways, you should make the most of them.A world premiere collaboration between Alonzo King's LINES Ballet and the San Francisco Opera Center's Adler Fellows showed off the dancing skills of opera singers Ryan Belongie, Sara Gartland, Maya Lahyani and Austin Kness. The singers moved with agility and grace and displayed a remarkable technical understanding of intricate movement figures. I found myself … [Read more...]

Adorable

I don't think I've ever described a work for the musical theatre as "adorable" before. But that's the word I would most readily apply to Berkeley Repertory Theatre's new musical Girlfriend.Based on Matthew Sweet's early 1990s album of the same title and directed by the mercurial Les Waters, Girlfriend tells the story of two teenage boys falling in love against the backdrop of Sweet's lollipop rock soundtrack played with verve by a dykey all-female four-piece band.The piece is full of expectation, warmth and youthful vigor; it's the stuff of … [Read more...]

Of Singing in a Movie Theatre and the Advantages of Extended Rehearsal Periods

The Lark theatre in Larkspur is a gorgeous art deco movie house. But it's no place to hear live music, especially of the unadorned vocal variety. The Artists Vocal Ensemble (AVE), a professional choral ensemble from San Francisco, attempted to sing Benjamin Britten's Hymn to Saint Cecelia there last night as part of a Britten celebration which included a screening of a documentary about the composer's life.I have never heard this normally slick-sonorous ensemble struggle so much. The acoustic was as dry as hermetically-sealed film stock and … [Read more...]

Charlotte’s Wonderful but Seemingly Inaccessible Museums

Last week, I spent four days working at a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. I didn't realize until I arrived what a hub the otherwise fairly nondescript town is for museums. The downtown area is tiny, but it plays home to many institutions including The Light Factory, The Levine Museum of the New South, The Charlotte Nature Museum, the Harvey B Gantt Museum for African-American Arts + Culture and the Mint Museum of Art, to name the main establishments.I spent a wonderful hour pottering around the Levine Museum, which is free on Sundays … [Read more...]

Singing River

The Cutting Ball Theater Company's production of a new play by Marcus Gardley, "...and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi" has been extended for a week and is selling out fast. It's easy to see why. Gardley's language is tactile and poetic, the Demeter/Persephone Greek myth-based story about a mother's search for her daughter moves along with the fluidity and depth of the MIssissippi river thanks to Amy Mueller's rhythmic direction and the cast members act with an arresting sense of ensemble.Best of all is the a cappella gospel and spiritual … [Read more...]

Extended Absence Greeting and Shameless Plug

The vocal ensemble which I recently joined, the International Orange Chorale, will be performing a terrific, free concert tomorrow, Sunday April 11, in San Francisco. Sadly I will be traveling on business to the East Coast so won't be able to sing. But I'd like to spread the word, so please forgive the shameless plug.Also, as a result of my trip, I will be taking a few days off from blogging. You will find me here again starting on Monday April 19.REQUIEMby Maurice DurufleZane Fiala, Artistic DirectorStephen Lind, OrganMegan Stetson, Mezzo … [Read more...]