Best Tweets: February 2018

February was a hard month. The Parkland school shooting and the unrelenting bizarre news from the White House made my twitter feed more serious than usual. I’m now following some of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas student activists, as well as the US Olympic figure skaters and a few more authors. I’m still relying on Swear Trek for laughs, which gives this post a PG rating. These begin after the “continue reading” link.

Note: several of these are screen captures instead of links to the tweets, to make them easier to read.

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A.C.T.’s ‘Every 28 Hours’ Black Arts Festival

Yesterday I took a friend to the first annual Every 28 Hours Black Arts Festival at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, located across the street from San Francisco’s Civic Center. We arrived to find the lobby set up with a helpful welcome table and vendors selling tee shirts, art, jewelry and other handicrafts. The festival made use of the two performance spaces (The Rueff and the Rembe Theater) as well as the lobby. Events were scheduled from 3 to 10pm, and I was impressed by how well the organizers kept to the timetable.

3pm Moving The Movement: An inter-generational workshop exploring hip-hop dance as an act of social justice, led by Sarah Crowell and Rashidi Omari

4:15pm Panel Discussion: Empower Your Platform: How can black artists, activists and innovators use our platforms to heal and uplift each other in our struggle for social change? Moderated by Chip McNeal

5:15pm Meditation Workshop: A healing workshop inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

6:15pm Musical & Movement Performances by Nyree Young, Dezi Soléy, and the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company

6:45pm Musical Performance by Jessica Lá Rel

7pm a selection of plays from Every 28 Hours directed by Elizabeth Carter

8:30pm Group Discussions facilitated by Cheri Miller, Vanessa Ramos, Radhika Rao, Jasmin Hoo, and SK Kerastas

9:15pm Drum Circle with Nyree Young

9:30pm Closing Reception with food, drinks and a raffle

I learned about the festival by following A.C.T. on twitter. It was free, but I’m glad we registered online because the evening events were fully reserved by the time we arrived. We participated in all the events except for the meditation workshop. We were very sorry to miss that one, but we needed a dinner break!

The movement workshop in The Rueff was an excellent ice-breaker. Sarah Crowell and Rashidi Omari of Destiny Arts Center got us out of our chairs and into a large circle. We started with warm up exercises with breathing, clapping games, and introducing ourselves with our names paired with a movement. Then we teamed up with someone we didn’t know for silent role-playing exercises: have a conversation with movement only; act out a teacher and a student; role-play a police officer conversing with a young black man. I got a great partner, who I later found out is a middle grade teacher here in San Francisco. Next, we got into groups of four. Each person took a turn ‘sculpting’ the others into a tableau expressing racism, discrimination, healing and community. We added movements to link them together. Some groups chose to use sounds as well movement for the transitions. Once we had a bit of practice, we performed our creations for the rest of workshop. Finally, Sarah and Rashidi taught us a hip-hop dance sequence to some upbeat music. I tried a few steps but with my two left feet, I soon sat down and enjoyed the dancing from the back.

Freestyle hip-hop dancing from the back of the workshop

Moving The Movement Workshop

After a short break to rearrange The Rueff space, Chip McNeal led a panel discussion with Sarah Crowell, Regina Evans (Regina’s Door), Skyler Cooper, and Jack Bryson. McNeal acknowledged that they could only begin the conversation about healing and uplifting each other (Empower Your Platform). The hour went fast, but McNeal made sure all four panelists had a chance to speak about their work and their activism in the community. Sarah Crowell discussed working in collaboration with young people, striking a balance between letting them be creative while setting boundaries. Regina Evans talked about working with, and learning from, survivors of sex trafficking. Actor, filmmaker and activist Skyler Cooper described how being transgender means he’s experienced life as both a black woman and a black man. Jack Bryson became a community organizer because two of his sons were with Oscar Grant when he was killed by police. He said that the friends of Grant who witnessed his shooting were forgotten and wounded in their own way, as are many older folks from Bryson’s generation. He mentioned the many incarcerated adults who are now being released into a very different world. There wasn’t time for questions from the audience, but the discussion gave us plenty to think about.

We got Mexican food down the street for dinner, then returned to the lobby so we wouldn’t miss the dance and spoken word performances by Destiny Arts. Nyree Young played drum while Dezi Soléy danced down the stairs and around the lobby, interacting with the crowd. Then the talented Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company performed a spoken word piece on racism.

We all moved into the Rembe Theater for Alternative Soul singer Jessica Lá Rel. Her selections included Work Song (famously recorded by Nina Simone) as well as some new, unreleased material. She was supported by a keyboardist and three backup singers. Lá Rel has a beautiful voice. We very much enjoyed her performance.

Next up was the selection of 2 dozen one-minute plays from Every 28 Hours. From the program notes:

In April 2013, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement reported in Operation Ghetto Storm that during the previous year, 313 unarmed Black people were killed in the United States by police, security guards, and vigilantes. This occurred at a rate of one person of color approximately every 28 hours…

In 2015, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the One-Minute Play Festival created a project and partnership entitled Every 28 Hours, inviting American theater artists from across the country to gather in St. Louis to address the current movement for civil rights and racial justice. Participants created a compilation of 72 one-minute plays, which they cast, rehearsed, and performed as a rapid response to what was learned, heard, and experienced at the conference, with the intention of inspiring public discourse and social action.

Since that time, the Every 28 Hours plays have been presented at dozens of theaters, universities, and community spaces across the country, including A.C.T.”

The plays began with an introduction by producer Stephanie Wilborn and director Elizabeth Carter. There were about 3 dozen actors who sat at the back of the stage in two rows of chairs. They moved forward to perform, either on or in front of two platforms. The theme/title of each segment was projected onto the backdrop: Introduction, Race, Police, Community, Protest, History, Mothers, Youth, and Finale. I found many of the actors listed in the program on the current MFA student list. One of them was Micah Peoples, who we saw last weekend at A.C.T.’s play reading of Ibsen’s Ghosts. Another actor I recognized was Kavi Subramanyan from the Young Conservatory production of Homefront last summer. All the pieces were powerful. I was especially moved by Dinosaurs and Hooded Tears. For the Final Piece, the actors took turns reading the names of those killed by police in recent years, including Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and Eric Garner. The actors had a printed sheet of white paper for each name, which they raised over their heads and then dropped onto the stage.

Jasmin Hoo and the actors after the Every 28 Hours plays

After the performance, we broke up into three discussion groups. The black actors and audience members stayed in the Rembe Theater, people of color who weren’t black gathered in the lobby, and everybody else went upstairs to The Rueff. My friend was part of the lobby group, and I was in The Rueff, where facilitators Jasmin Hoo and SK Kerastas led us in a discussion on how to be effective allies. In small groups, we talked about our reactions to the Every 28 Hours plays and what we planned to do after the festival to stay involved. We were given a handout with a list of local ally organizations including and Asians4BlackLives.

We went back to the Rembe Theater for a drum circle with Nyree Young. There weren’t as many of us, but those who stayed were energized by Nyree’s music. She started on guitar with This Little Light of Mine, and when she moved to her drum, many of the performers danced in the aisles. It was awesome!


The closing reception was in the lobby. We had some wine and chatted briefly with Jessica Lá Rel. We didn’t stay long, but it was fun to mingle with the performers and organizers.

It was a wonderful festival, and we’re already looking forward to next year. Thank you, A.C.T. and everyone involved!


Filed under Actors, Music, Theatre, Videos

Best Tweets: January 2018

When I was doing my Year End Wrap Up 2017, I had a lot of trouble going back to find my favorite tweets of the year. I’ve decided to do this monthly instead. It’s unfortunate that here the text is displayed at the bottom of pictures/videos/GIFs, and I can’t put helpful spaces in between each tweet. Look for the faint blue lines around the tweets if you’re not sure what goes together.

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Michael Lee Brown: Way It Used To Be (Music EP)

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of both Dear Evan Hansen and Matthew James Thomas. It’s no surprise that I’m enjoying the new EP of 3 original songs from Michael Lee Brown, currently the alternate Evan Hansen on Broadway. Matthew James Thomas is the producer, and he’s been tweeting about the project. The EP was released today, so I purchased the download from Amazon after listening to it on Soundcloud. (You can also get it at CDBaby, since it’s nice to support the independents.) Brown’s songs are acoustic and unabashedly optimistic. Give them a listen!

(Be sure to leave a review like I did!)

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Love, Simon (Advance Screening)

Don’t worry, no spoilers here!

Tonight I got to attend an advance screening of Love, Simon at the San Francisco Cinemark Century 9. I read the book back in August (Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli) and I’ve loved Nick Robinson since seeing him in The Kings of Summer (2013). I can’t discuss the movie until it opens on March 16th, but I really enjoyed it. My friend who didn’t read the book enjoyed it, too. I’m still smiling!


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San Francisco Women’s March 2018

Today is the San Francisco Women’s March, and based on the sound of helicopters, it’s still going on downtown. I went to the rally at Civic Center Plaza, then started marching down Market Street before 2pm. (It’s so much easier to get home on public transportation when you finish early.) The weather was much nicer than last year when it rained most of the day. Today was bright and sunny without being hot. I believe there were less people, at least at Civic Center. I’m sure the news tonight will be comparing crowd estimates. I saw very few police and the overall mood was genial, in spite of the outrage expressed in many of the protest signs. It was a good mix of ages, races, and genders, with plenty of dogs. A special thank you to Daisy and Tonto for being such good company!


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Paddington and Walker Evans

Paddington 2

Paddington 2

I spent a delightful morning in Paddington’s London, followed by an afternoon of modern art and photography at the San Francisco MOMA. Both offer a welcome respite from the ugliness of Trump’s America. (“If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right” vs. “shithole countries.”)

Paddington 2 opened today here in the US, and right now the movie has 100% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I went to the early bird bargain matinee at the San Francisco Cinemark Century 9. I was happy to find that they’d installed recliner seats, although the leg rest went up without the back reclining. Instead, the raked rows of recliners have a solid partial wall behind each of them that block your view to everything in front but the screen. It’s nice not seeing people check their phones and fidget, but it’s also a bit isolating.

Paddington 2 is a treat from beginning to end. The production design is colorful and creative. The cast is top-notch. The effects appear effortless, which is a tribute to the efforts of the many people who bring the bear to life. The story is engaging for adults like me, and presumably fine for the kids, too. (I didn’t take any with me.) Honestly, I can’t think of anything to criticize. Wait, just one thing. The closing credits have a lot going on, delightful things that you shouldn’t miss, but you won’t actually read the credits while they’re happening. That’s okay for me though, because I will be seeing the movie again.

Ben Whishaw once again provides the voice of Paddington. Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville are back as the Browns, and their kids (Samuel Joslin and Madeleine Harris) have done a lot of growing since the last film. Feisty Julie Walters and cranky Peter Capaldi are back, too. Joanna Lumley isn’t onscreen for long, but she makes the most of her time. I love Tom Conti in anything, and Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd) and Eileen Atkins have fun cameos. Brendan Gleeson and all the actors rocking pink stripes are terrific, and Hugh Grant is clearly having a good time hamming it up. He deserves his BAFTA nomination for the closing credits alone.

Paddington 2 cast (photo credit: Roscommon Herald)

Walker Evans – Flood refugees at mealtime, Forrest City, Arkansas, 1937

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art currently features a Walker Evans exhibit with over 300 prints, and it’s just a few blocks from the cinema. The San Francisco Public Library has a program called Discover & Go, offering free passes to many of the museums, swimming pools, and attractions in the Bay Area. All you need is an SF library card. The pass for the MOMA is good for 2 adult admissions (kids under 18 are already free), and you just need to make your reservation the month before.

Walker Evans (1903-1975) was an American photographer best known for his depression-era photographs for the Farm Security Administration. Not surprisingly, the rooms featuring these photographs were the most crowded. The Walker Evans exhibit is divided into two parts, with the museum cafe located in between. Some of the prints are tiny, and they include early self-portraits from photo booths. There were also materials on display by other people that Evans collected. I love photos of faces, so I was drawn to the portraits, especially the ones from the 1937 Mississippi flood and the subway series. Other featured subjects include posters, signs, store windows, trash, tools, architecture, and African objects.

I also explored the Robert Rauschenberg exhibit, then visited the other floors with Lichtenstein, Mondrian, Warhol and Rothko. Many other artists too, of course, but these guys even I recognize without having to check the description. It wasn’t too busy on any of the floors, so a great day to explore the collections. The gift shop on the ground floor is always worth a visit, too.

For a few hours today, the world was right.

Walker Evans – Lunchroom Buddies, New York City

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