As the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA) presented the 12th iteration of the Time-Based Art Festival September 11-21, two newer festivals (Feast Portland and XOXO) also peppered the Rose City with foodie events and tech talk galore.
TBA, under the artistic direction of Angela Mattox, formerly the performing arts curator at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, emphasized music and vocal experiments in this year’s program. The international festival is distinct in its presenting platform and density of experimental performance, making it well worth the hour flight to Oregon from San Francisco.
If frog doesn’t sound like your thing, consider that we don’t always know we like something until we try it. Or consider the way this surveillance state being forced down your throat goes right to your ass. Or consider that Dalton Trumbo (following Emile Zola) once referred to his time (the time of McCarthy and other manifestations of totalitarian creep) as the Time of the Toad — an era in which maintaining indifference to the injustice and horror around you was tantamount to learning how to swallow a whole wet one each and every day.
THEATER If you were milling around the Asian Art Museum last Thursday evening, you might have seen a woman tumble — ever so slowly — down the Beaux-Arts building's elegant flight of central stairs. Ringed by a crowd of onlookers and the second floor's imposing colonnade, her limber form caressed the marble steps luxuriously as she cascaded beneath the elegant arched ceiling, entirely at her own pace, leaving behind her the unraveling, impossibly long train of her white and lavender gown.Read more »
Sexy granny panties? Up-and-coming San Francisco comedy troupe Granny Cart Gangstas recently proved this isn’t an oxymoron. Taking a cue from the Kids in the Hall — one of member Ava Tong’s biggest inspirations — who were once photographed wearing bras over suits, the troupe decided to do something similar (one member flaunted a pair of leopard-print granny panties) for a photo shoot ahead of its Sat/28 show, "No Happy Endings," at SF's Little Boxes Theater.
THEATER This week, at New Conservatory Theatre Center, San Francisco's Evan Johnson remounts his popular 2013 solo play, Pansy. It's the story of a disaffected twentysomething gay man who discovers a cache of videocassettes in the basement of his SF apartment building — made by someone who could be considered his doppelganger, a club kid long since felled by AIDS. The play functions in part as a communion between a younger generation of queer San Franciscans and the early era of the AIDS crisis.Read more »
This Is What I Want — the Bay Area’s fifth annual performance festival devoted to performing and investigating desire — seems to want it all this year, with no less than three weeks of far-flung programming. It all started last Sunday with TIWIW’s first-ever film festival, Left Eye/Right Eye, an evening of short subjects curated by San Francisco and Kansas artist Peter Max Lawrence. It continues this weekend with a performance installation and party at the Dollhouse (CounterPULSE’s new space at 80 Turk) for female-identified audience members (a category TIWIW organizers say they’re prepared to interpret liberally), followed by performances through the weekend for the all and sundry.
Note: this is an extended version of an article that appears in this week's print version.
Sitting in the Exit Café with a can of Guinness and the San Francisco Fringe Festival program is one of life's modest but absorbing pleasures. For those without much inside knowledge on the lineup (currently encompassing 36 companies and 158 performances), it's a little like taking a vacation by pitching darts at a wall map. There were several immediate sub-themes to choose from for 2013. I could have picked shows with bananas in the title, for instance. But for whatever reason, I dived into the service and servitude sector.
Of course, the Fringe, now in its 22nd year, is a lottery-based operation, so it is fate's fingers that pluck these patterns from the cultural whirl. At the same time, you don't need the I Ching to know that serving the rich is about all that's left of the economy for most of us, making it hardly surprising to find so many stories of bartenders, wait staff, sex workers, and mermaids-who-are-also-sex-workers floating in the pool.
Here in Vancouver, the Fringe Festival has been in full swing since Sept. 5, and its early bustle has come as something of a welcome surprise. Shows have been selling out right and left, including those by the five-woman sketch comedy team Strapless, and the manic SNAFU Dance Theatre's survivalist romp Kitt & Jane. The buzz hangs as heavy in the air as the morning humidity. It’s interesting to compare the rowdy carnival atmosphere of the Edmonton Fringe, complete with sideshow attractions, tireless street performers, and mountains of cheap fried food and the people who eat it, with Vancouver’s more refined approach and oddience. The Vancouver Fringe is the biggest theater festival in town, I’m told, and therefore attracts a fairly large percentage of mainstream theater-goers.
But despite the fact that each show begins with an overly complicated spiel about sponsorship opportunities, the shows themselves have run the usual fringe-y gamut of content from heartfelt to hilarious, edgy to educational. Here are some of the standouts I’ve seen so far.
It’s hard to believe, but the 32nd annual Edmonton Fringe is already over and touring companies like Naked Empire Bouffon are packing their bags to move on to the next festival, while artists who have finished their runs head for home — whether that’s Australia, the UK, or just North of the High Level Bridge. As at every Fringe, my goal has been to see just as many shows as I can, and in between stage-managing Naked Empire’s run and feverishly making deadlines, I saw 35, which ranged in content and execution from the merely mundane to the inarguably sublime. Here’s a roundup of my personal favorites and companies I recommend watching out for should they make over to San Francisco.