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Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Conservatory Theater Announces Fab New Season

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 12:16 PM

Avenue Q
  • Avenue Q

The food was great and the wine flowed as the venerable New Conservatory Theatre held an elegant soiree to announce its 2015-2016 season. 

NCT founder/artistic director Ed Decker took to the stage to address/entertain the crowd, leaving some to wonder why he wasn't pursuing a career in stand-up. "I need my medicine," he said gleefully, as he poured himself a drink. He held up his flask for all to see. "It's the best self-help guide," he said. "Girl, heal thyself!"

Decker could have taught Neil Patrick Harris a thing or two about hosting the Oscars!

Next season promises to be a thriller, a combination of comedy, music, and thought-provoking drama. Douglas Carter Beane's The Nance, a recent hit on Broadway, is set to be performed from Oct. 2-Nov 1. The 1930s drama is a sobering look back at how lonely life could be for actors of that period, when playing gay was acceptable but being gay was not.

The season's theatrical themes will continue with Jonathan Tolins' Buyers and Cellars, a comedy about an actor and his relationship with his employer, Barbra Streisand.

Barbra will be on hand again next season when On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, the classic musical by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner, dances onto the NCT stage next May. Sexy William Giamonna stepped up to the mike and belted out the show's title tune, which Babs had popularized on movie screens way back in 1970.

The music continues next season as the wildly wacky Avenue Q makes its return to the NCT stage next season. Q's potty-mouthed puppets, and their human co-stars, wowed the crowed with hilarious renditions of "Dance 10 Looks Three" (the legendary "tits and ass" number from A Chorus Line), "Tomorrow" from Annie and "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago.

There will be serious theater as well. In The Kid Thing, two lesbian couples, close friends for years, deal with a pregnancy which changes the dynamics of their relationship. 

For the Love of Comrades tells the true life story of striking Welsh miners who find unexpected allies when they join forces with gay and lesbian activists from London — this same story was told in the recent, acclaimed film Pride

Mothers and Sons, written by the Tony Award-winning playwright Terence McNally is about a mom visiting her late son's surviving partner — and the partner's new husband. 

The audience was also treated to a brief preview of the season to follow when comic Jewelle Gomez showed her serious side. Gomez, NCT's playwright in residence, performed a dramatic reading from Leaving the Blues, her work in progress about Alberta Hunter, a legendary blues singer who was forced to hide her lesbianism.

To see the full schedule for NCT's upcoming season, please visit:        

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The Write Stuff: Kathleen McClung on Fierce Tenderness and Dreaming Big

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 9:00 AM

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

  • Laurel Benjamin
Kathleen McClung, author of Almost the Rowboat, teaches writing and literature classes at Skyline College and the Writing Salon. Her work appears in Atlanta Review, Unsplendid, A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace and elsewhere. Winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award, she is a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the 2014 Bay Area Poets Coalition contest. She serves as sonnet sponsor-judge for the Soul-Making Keats literary competition and reviews books for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, sponsored by the Stanford University Libraries.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

I’m a writer, editor, and teacher. I’ve been writing for more than forty years, editing and teaching for more than twenty. I currently focus primarily on poetry and memoir, but I enjoy working across genres—fiction, nonfiction, drama.

What's your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

My biggest struggle is balancing all the different facets of my work and, in particular, preserving ample solitude for writing while also devoting energy to teaching with passion. As an adjunct professor and adult educator, I work with close to a hundred students and their writing each semester. Mentoring so many different people and going inward to create art requires enormous patience, a kind of fierce tenderness.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

HBO’s canceled ‘Looking’ will tie up loose ends with special

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 3:23 PM

  • HBO
Looking, which filmed extensively in San Francisco, has been canceled after two seasons, but main character Patrick’s poor life decisions will get some closure.

“After two years of following Patrick and his tight-knit group of friends as they explored San Francisco in search of love and lasting relationships, HBO will present the final chapter of their journey as a special,” HBO said in a statement, according to US magazine. “We look forward to sharing this adventure with the show’s loyal fans.”

On the last episode, Patrick and his shady-as-hell boyfriend/former boss Kevin were on uneasy footing after hurriedly shacking up, a mistake that will hopefully be rectified on the date-to-be-determined special. Although USA Today reports the show averaged 298,000 viewers an episode, less than half the audience of its lead-in, Girls, it left the Bay Area with fond, Instagram-filtered memories of its casting calls for cuddly, naked bears.

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Astounding Antigonick at Berkeley's Shotgun Players

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 10:38 AM

Kenny Toll as Guard, Rami Margron as Antigone, photo by Pak Han
  • Kenny Toll as Guard, Rami Margron as Antigone, photo by Pak Han

No curtain hides the long, curved lick of bare wood that forms the set of the Shotgun Players’ production of Antigonick. Made of light, long planks, it swerves from the floor up to the top of the theater like an asymptotic bowling alley, a daredevil’s roller derby jump, an echo chamber, an arena turned on its side. It might be playful, were it not for the figure of a dead horse suspended perilously over the stage by ropes lashed about its belly. Before the play begins, under interrogation-bright lights, barefoot Nick (Parker Murphy) in tight white jeans revolves slowly upstage right. The message seems clear: no tricks to taint this scene.

Antigonick is Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Antigone, the story of a woman’s determination to honor her dead brother against the will of the state, retold by the poet Anne Carson. In Carson’s version, the words are handwritten in all caps, with illustrations by Bianca Stone printed on vellum, that translucent paper that used to be made from the skin of a calf. Like many of Carson’s recent works, Antigonick is a beautiful object as well as a text. It is called a translation, though it choirs with Hegel and Beckett and Virginia Woolf.

Kenny Toll as Haimon, Kevin Clarke as Kreon, photo by Pak Han
  • Kenny Toll as Haimon, Kevin Clarke as Kreon, photo by Pak Han

As rendered by Shotgun veteran Mark Jackson and choreographer Hope Mohr, the play uses tense, minimal strokes that erupt into a grand ferocity. A slim cast of six tells the story from start to finish. Sisters Antigone (a defiant Rami Margron) and Ismene (Monique Jenkinson; understudy Megan Trout at preview) declaim the first lines of the play in staccato bursts, standing side by side dressed as schoolgirls, stock still but for angry mouths set in otherwise impassive faces as they debate whether to let the body of their brother Polyneices lie exposed or bury him. Carson’s text is elliptical, and the two repeat the opening several times, taking pauses like chokeholds and shifting on the stage to face each other before taking hopscotch steps that accelerate into a ritual that becomes astonishing through precision, repetition, and speed.

This and other manipulations of time characterize the play, with the sound of ticking sometimes faint and sometimes deafening in Theodore J. H. Hulsker’s sound design, visually marked by the silent character Nick, who “measures things” in tiptoes, pendulum swings, and lightfooted runs arcing up the side of the unforgiving curve of the stage. Nick measures effortlessly what the others try to reason and reassure and tyrannize themselves into: the militant Kreon (Kevin Clarke), who bombastically announces his “verbs for today” (“ADJUDICATE LEGISLATE / SCANDALIZE / CAPITALIZE”) and his nouns (“MEN / REASON / TREASON/ DEATH/ SHIP OF STATE / MINE”) while wielding the backs and flats of his hands like blades. David Sinaiko is the one-man chorus, here a glittering-eyed professor who makes dry comments about the grammar of the scene.

Parker Murphy as Nick and Rami Margron as Antigone, photo by Pak Han
  • Parker Murphy as Nick and Rami Margron as Antigone, photo by Pak Han

“What is a nick?” stammers the queen Eurydike (Trout) in one of the most painful speeches of the play — her only speech, she is careful to announce — in between learning of the death of her son Haimon (Kenny Toll), betrothed to the ill-starred Antigone, who has hung herself in order to avoid execution, before she launches into a stunningly raw dance that leaves spit on the stage and stockings limp about the crotch. It’s the planets lining up poorly, perfectly, making collisions and constellations madcap and furious.

Shotgun Players presents Antigonick at 8 p.m. March 26-April 19 at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley. $5-$30;
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

S.F. rules, N.Y. drools, implies highly scientific sketch about Internet

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 5:24 PM

At right, YouTube. Courtesy YouTube.
  • At right, YouTube. Courtesy YouTube.

When decided to cram the entire Internet into the microcosm of high school, we couldn't help but notice how many of these kids are probably using "hella" on a regular basis. Surprising? Hardly. An opportunity to mock New Yorkers? Absolutely.

Below, a geographical breakdown of the sites and apps mocked in the video, because somebody had to. 

Bay Area crew
Twitter - San Francisco
Wikipedia - San Francisco
Instagram - San Francisco
Reddit - San Francisco
Google - Mountain View
Facebook - Menlo Park
YouTube - San Bruno
Netflix - Los Gatos
Geocities (Yahoo) - Sunnyvale
Silk Road - (Anywhere there’s somebody in need of a hired assassin or black-tar heroin, although convicted mastermind Ross William Ulbricht, Dread Pirate Roberts and San Francisco resident, was famously arrested at the Glen Park Library)

New York City?! 
BuzzFeed - New York City
Kotaku - New York City
Unworthy - New York City
Vine - New York City
Vice - New York City
OKCupid - New York City
Huffington Post - New York City

The Fly-Overs
Clickhole (The Onion) - Chicago
Snapchat - Venica, Calif. (developed by two Stanford students)
Hulu - Los Angeles
Kik - Waterloo, Canada
Snopes - California
UpRoxx - Culver City, Calif.
The Chive - Austin, Texas
Alibaba - Hangzhou, China

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Springtime is Break-Up Time—But We Have Solutions

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 12:53 PM

Well, spring has officially sprung, according to our calendars. Of course, that doesn't really mean anything in San Francisco, since unlike many other cities in the U.S., our weather here continues to fluctuate rapidly from foggy and borderline rainy to perfect Dolores Park weather regardless of the season.

One thing it does mean is an increase in breakups, according to a study done by the San Francisco-based dating app Coffee Meets Bagel. The study found that springtime is the second-most popular break-up season — after Christmas.

The study shows that the springtime spike in splits is largely due to college kids wanting to be free to get wild during their spring breaks and mean-spirited people who think it's funny to break up with someone on April Fool's Day.

But don't despair! If you're a victim of a pre-spring break or post-April Fool's Day break-up, or if you've been single for a while and want to meet someone new, there are a bunch of singles-oriented events happening in the next couple of weeks.

This Saturday, March 28, San Francisco will be treated to what is apparently its first ever "No-Rejection Dance." The premise is that everyone is supposed to say "yes" if asked to dance by anyone else in the room. Personally, we think this sounds like an open invitation to get hit on by random strangers who may or may not be creepy, but according to the event page, "many arrive single and leave as a couple," so there ya go. The dance will be held at Unicorn in the Financial District, will run from 8 p.m. to midnight, and is $15 per ticket. There will also be free valet parking.

If that doesn't sound like your thing, there is also a speed dating event happening the same night (Saturday, March 28) put on by the "San Francisco Singles Speed Dating" Meetup group. Held at Monroe in North Beach and beginning at 7:30 p.m., the event costs $45 per person and gives singles an opportunity to have a conversation with other singles one-on-one for five minutes at a time. Each person will secretly indicate "yes" or "no" on their "date card" for each person they talk to, and if anyone likes them back, each participant will be notified after the event and provided with the contact information of their match.

If those both sound like something you could be into, but you happen to be busy this Saturday, you're in luck — there is a combination speed-dating and single's dance on Saturday, April 11. The event will be from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at 715 Harrison Street and costs $25 jn advance or $30 at the door. If you want to just go and dance and skip the speed-dating portion, tickets are $10 at the door before 9:30 p.m.

Good luck out there!

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In the pit for Game Of Thrones premiere at S.F. Opera House

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 10:39 AM

click image This guy. - WIKICOMMONS
  • wikicommons
  • This guy.

Very few famous people look like you expect them to in real life. The exception, however, has to be George R.R. Martin, who seemed to leap off the page and land right in front of me, all tweed suit, bushy beard, and snug black cap of him. We were all seated in the War Memorial Opera House (after waiting outside for one and a half hours) when he sauntered in and down the wrong aisle. No no, an HBO publicist gently chided, steering his large frame in a U-turn and then sideways up the aisle like The Black Wind of Stannis' Royal Fleet  returning to sea. God bless this guy, not only for his books, but for looking like a normal person in a sea of suits and S.F. high society. That was the crowd in the orchestra pit: the well-heeled stuck with press heels like me.  

Do you want to know which Game of Thrones cast members didn't look like themselves in real life? Let's start with Kit Harington, aka Jon Snow. The guy is small, which leads me to think that the Wildling they paired him with had to be really tiny. Emilia Clarke is really a brunette and she looks about 16. Lord Varys isn't really bald and is actually pretty handsome. Peter Dinklage is actually 6'4". The list goes on. 

I was lucky enough to be seated next to the one and only person who wore a costume — she came as Daenerys,  natch — but she was feeling a bit self-conscious. I can't say I blame her, sitting there with her plastic dragon and platinum blonde wig. It was actually quite shocking that no one else dressed up, but then again, this was a fandork-free event. Apparently to be invited to this thing you had to either know an exec at HBO or work at Facebook, which hosted the thing. The real hardcore fans will have to settle for a GOT convention in Shreveport in 20 years, posing in an awkward grab-n-grin with the dude who played Hodor. 

Once everyone was seated we all watched the first episode of Season Five. I wonder what it is like for the actors to watch themselves on screen after everything has gone through post-production. When it was over, Kit and Peter both looked like they'd rather be anywhere else — perhaps they feared getting cornered by a Getty at the afterparty? Eh, they've gotten themselves out of worse fixes. 
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Friday, March 20, 2015

"Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed": An Easy-Going Road Movie From the Birthplace of "Strawberry Fields Forever"

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 12:12 PM

“Strawberry Fields Forever” is the Beatles’ masterpiece, and the time and place in which John Lennon wrote it provide the setting of David Trueba’s pleasant Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed. It’s 1966 in Almería, Spain, where schoolteacher Antonio (Javier Cámara) instructs his students in English via Lennon’s “Help!”

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"Seymour: An Introduction": Ethan Hawke's Doc Resembles Low-Key Linklater

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 12:06 PM

Ethan Hawke’s documentary Seymour: An Introduction is a loving portrait of a lovely man. Seymour Bernstein is an elderly but spry New Yorker who turned his back on a career as a professional pianist at the age of 50 to instead become a piano teacher, spiritual adviser and all-around 88-key Buddha.

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Tourism for Locals: Visiting Diego Rivera's The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 11:26 AM

A Diego Rivera masterpiece in San Francisco,  The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City. - JUAN DE ANDA
  • Juan De Anda
  • A Diego Rivera masterpiece in San Francisco, The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City.

San Francisco is home to many of the finest artists of the 20th century and the new millennium, whose works foster artistic rebellion and social critique. The City has played host to one of the greatest modernist painters of the 20th century, whose style exemplified revolutionary renegade art: Diego Rivera.

For those who don't know who he is, aside from his portrayal by the actor Alfred Molina in the 2002 Academy Award-winning film Frida starring Salma Hayek, Rivera was an enigmatic painter who fostered the muralist style of painting in Mexico at the turn of the last century.

Along with artists Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfredo Siqueiros, Rivera created allegorical and fantastical depictions of traditional indigenous cultures alongside uplifting and humane characterizations of working-class people that were welded with visions of a utopian future under socialism. The purpose of the muralist movement was to create public art that would educate those who were from low-income backgrounds, but also appeal to the aesthetic tastes of those from the higher rungs of the social ladder.

The first commissioned murals that Rivera painted outside of Mexico were in San Francisco.

Between 1930 and 1940, he painted murals in San Francisco, Detroit, and New York that focused on social and cultural progress through industry and technology. Here, he painted three murals, aiding him in getting global recognition for his technique and use of color. One of those works is titled The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City

Located inside the San Francisco Art Institute, the mural was commissioned by SFAI President William Gerstle, and was completed by Rivera in the course of one month, from May 1–May 31, 1931. Living up to its name, the fresco shows the building of a city and the making of a fresco, including the various individuals involved in the commission, such as artist assistants, architects, and general laborers.

The central figure of a helmeted worker, rendered in supernatural proportion, is the primary subject of the mural within the mural, thus driving home Rivera's belief of the importance of the industrial worker. Rivera makes an appearance in this mural, looking up to  the work, wielding palette and paintbrush, his back to the viewer. 

This is one of three Rivera murals in the city. The other two: The Allegory of California and Pan American Unity are located in The Pacific Stock Exchange and City College of San Francisco, respectively.

The gallery is open to the public from 8 a.m.until 9 p.m. daily

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