Some irritating news from the San Francisco International Arts Festival in my in-box this morning. Two of the event’s companies have had to cancel opening night shows owing, according to the organization’s executive director Andrew wood, to local and national bureaucracy of one kind of another.
Al-Khareef Theatre Troupe from Damascus, Syria was scheduled to perform the U.S. premiere of their production, The Solitary, tomorrow, Friday night. According to Wood, SFIAF filed the petition for the company’s visas ahead of most of the other visa applications for this year’s festival. “Three months after USCIS received the application, whilst all of the other artists’ petitions that SFIAF filed later were eventually approved, the Al-Khareef petition remained in the system with USCIS officials saying nothing about the application’s progress,” said Wood. “After much imploring–including from the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the members of Al-Khareef finally received their visas on May 10. But then the Damascus Consulate refused to process them for over a week citing unspecified technical difficulties. The result was that the company was only able to fly out to San Francisco on Thursday May 20–the day they were supposed to be doing the technical load-in for their show. As a result the Festival producers had no choice but to do the technical rehearsals on Friday night and cancel the performance. Opening night will now be on Saturday.”
The festival was dealt a second blow as a result of red tape challenges closer to home when the Bay Area-based ensemble, The Foundry, had to move their new show, Please Love Me, from the newly refurbished Monaghan’s Bar on Pierce Street in the Marina District to the Dovre Club. “Monaghan’s was slated for reopening on May 1, but San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspections kept on putting off the bar’s scheduled inspections to approve the work causing nearly five weeks of delays,” said Wood. “The problem in getting a back-up bar was that most alternatives could do one date or the other, but not both, which would have required choreographer Alex Ketley and multimedia artist Les Stuck to completely reconfigure the show in 24 hours for a new venue.
In the end, the decision was made to cancel the Sunday matinee and keep the Tuesday performance at another Irish Bar, the Dovre Club.”
Hopefully these two hiccups will be the last facing the festival this year.