Tag Archives: San Francisco

Aaron Tveit, Neil Patrick Harris, and the Generosity of Moms

Last week, my attention was focused on the Supreme Court nomination and the hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh. Thankfully, I had two terrific events on my calendar to lift my spirits.

Thursday night I went to Marines’ Memorial Theatre to see Aaron Tveit in concert. I’ve been a fan since seeing him as Enjolras in the Les Misérables film (good performance, bad hair). I love his rendition of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, and I also enjoyed the first season of Graceland on USA. The BrainDead Partridge Family salami sex scene with Tveit and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is insanely funny. I’ve seen some of the Broadway bootlegs of Next to Normal and Catch Me If You Can on YouTube, but Thursday was my first time seeing Tveit live.

The Marines’ Memorial Theatre is intimate (564 seats), with a very nice foyer that features comfy chairs and and a bar. I got there early, so I sat down and noticed that several ladies had autographed Aaron Tveit posters. I asked the two ladies nearest me where they got them. They told me their ticket package included a meet & greet earlier that night. A few moments later, the younger woman got my attention and said, “My mom wants you to have her poster.” Oohhh! I turned to her mom and told her, “That’s so nice, but you might change your mind after you see him live!” She replied, “I met him and got a hug. I’m happy.” We had a nice chat about Tveit’s work and traveling to London and Scotland.

Once the auditorium opened, I went up to my seat in the balcony with my new poster. I was in the second to the last row on the left side, but the balcony only has seven rows, so it wasn’t a bad seat. There’s not much leg room at all, but it’s still better than the Curran! The fellow on my left was nice and friendly, and the folks on my right moved as soon as the lights went down. This gave me some extra leg room, so I stretched out and relaxed.

Aaron Tveit posterThe shallow stage had a piano, a stool, a microphone stand, and a music stand. Tveit’s pianist is also his music director, and he joined in on some of the songs and the banter in between. Tveit began with In Living Color from Catch Me If You Can, followed by Fight The Dragons from Big Fish. Other songs included a Sandy/Heart and Soul mash up, I Miss The Mountains (from Next to Normal), One Song Glory (Rent) and an Italian aria from La Boheme, Shut Up And Dance, Every Breath You Take, Thunder Road (Springsteen), Dancing On My Own, Irish Girls (The Last 5 Years), and Being Alive from Company. His encore was Come What May from Moulin Rouge, his most recent stage musical. I didn’t keep notes on his set list, but that’s what I remember. The theatre has lovely acoustics and Tveit sounded great. There were lots of hardcore fans in the small audience, because many folks clapped when he asked if any of them had seen Moulin Rouge in Boston over the summer. He told us his last trip to San Francisco was in 2006, which was well before I started following his career. The concert started a little after 8pm and was finished not long after 9pm, so short but sweet and well worth the effort

& & & & & & & & &

Friday night I walked over to the JCCSF (Jewish Community Center of San Francisco) for Neil Patrick Harris at Kanbar Hall. NPH is on tour to promote The Magic Misfits: The Second Story, his second book in a series for middle grade readers. Our ticket included a pre-signed copy of the book and a raffle ticket. Five lucky winners and their plus ones were getting a VIP Meet & Greet with NPH at the end. My seat was in the front row, and on my left was an excited young woman in a vibrant red dress. We introduced ourselves, and I told Elisa that if won the raffle, she could be my plus one. Then I assured her that she didn’t have to reciprocate, since she was with her mom. She told me she was giving her mom’s copy of the book to a friend who also love NPH.

Kanbar Hall seats 460, and the event was sold out. There were kids in the audience but far more adults. Neil Patrick Harris sat on stage and answered questions from the young interviewer, then took questions from the audience. He was in the chair closer to me but angled away, so I appreciated how he regularly turned in our direction when speaking. He said his last trip to San Francisco was in 2012. Before that, he used to come up from LA often to see David Burtka when he was in The Opposite of Sex at the Magic Theatre here.

NPH is a man of many talents, but since he was promoting his book, the interviewer focused on his writing. When he asked how many in the audience hadn’t read the The Magic Misfits, lots of us raised our hands. (I’ve only read his Choose Your Own Autobiography.) There will be four books in the series, one for each suit in a deck of cards, and he’s currently busy writing the fourth one. Each book focuses on a different kid in the Misfits group. The kids do different kinds of practical magic (card tricks, illusions, sleight of hand, etc) since that’s the magic NPH is passionate and knowledgeable about. He talked about visiting a magic shop in the Albuquerque mall and watching Doug Henning’s yearly magic specials on TV when he was growing up. A friend from Theory11.com is currently helping him with card tricks, and the cards he used later were from the online shop.

For the Q&A with the audience, they had two portable microphones on either side of the auditorium. NPH asked that the lights be brought up partway so he could see out. I think he directed the staff to choose kids, which made a lot of sense as he was promoting a children’s book. No complaints from me, because the kids were cute and funny and their questions were better than mine. One boy at the beginning was given a black envelope for having such a good question, but NPH told him to hold on to it, don’t open it, and “don’t leave!” One of his longest answers was about the 2013 Tony Awards; he described rehearsing the opening number and learning the closing recap on the fly as it was written backstage throughout the show. NPH was adorable interacting with the kids, and he was funny as well.

NPH did one card trick, involving the three of hearts and the envelope he gave the boy during the Q&A. The woman sitting on my right criticized his card shuffling (“It’s not so fancy”) so she got most of the deck thrown at her, as well as a lot of grumbles and scowls.

At the end, NPH and a little boy pulled red tickets out of a fishbowl for the raffle. Elisa next to me was the fifth and final winner. The way she said “Yep” when her number was read was matter-of-fact, but I was stunned. Elisa assured me that I was her plus one, so we got red wristbands from a staff member before being led backstage. I thought all ten of us would do the meet & greet as a group, but instead we were taken in to the green room in pairs. Elisa and I got to go first, which was nice because her mom had to wait in the lobby/atrium. The green room was small and crowded, with lights and a blue background for the photos, a couch and coffee table with a cheese plate, several staff members, and of course, Neil Patrick Harris himself. A photographer was shooting us as we interacted with NPH, while another fellow took photos on our phones when we posed against the background. Elisa was the winner, so I stayed near the door and let her talk to Neil Patrick Harris first. They discussed her tattoos, and he looked genuinely interested as she described their significance.

Then NPH moved over to me. I awkwardly shook his hand, then told him I saw his Sweeney Todd with the San Francisco Symphony (summer 2001). He grinned and said he’d forgotten about that—a temporary lapse, I’m sure, not a Full Kavanaugh! I started to gush, saying back then we didn’t know he could sing and his song Not While I’m Around with PATTI…LuPone. He was looking at me with an expression that might have been “Um, yeah, I know; I was there.” I was trying to convey that his performance as Tobias stayed with me all these years, but yeah, not very coherent. I switched subjects to ask him why there were six kids on the book cover. We were on firmer ground again. He was adorably enthusiastic, explaining that the extra two were the twins Izzy and Olly. He held up the book, took off the dust jacket, and showed how the spines of the four books will have Magic Misfits spelled across them. (The Second Story has ICM.) Izzy and Olly are comic relief in the series, but they don’t get their own book. Since jokers aren’t part of the four card suits, there could be a fifth book in the series, but hey, that’s for NPH to decide!

Next, we had our photos taken with NPH. I went after Elisa; she told everyone that we’d only just met that night,Neil Patrick Harris and me probably to explain why we wanted separate pictures. After NPH put his arm around me (gently), I put mine around him (very gently) because the photo would be that much more awkward if my arm was down between us. I think Elisa and I both were pretty dazed after that, because NPH had to remind us that he’d personalize our pre-signed books. I told Elisa to have my copy signed to her friend, and I would take the one her mom had in the lobby. It was only fair, since Elisa and her mom were so generous with me. Elisa also had a playing card from the magic trick, and NPH kindly signed that as well.

When we came out of the green room, it seemed like there were more than eight people waiting to go in, but I didn’t count. A fellow with clipboard asked for our contact info and signatures to allow the JCCSF to use any of the photos taken for their social media. He also said they might send us some of the good ones, but so far that hasn’t happened. Many of the JCCSF events are available to watch online later, but I didn’t see any cameras, so I don’t think one will be shared.

So, thanks to Aaron Tveit, Neil Patrick Harris, and two generous moms and their daughters, I have a new poster, a new book, a new screensaver, and another awkward “stage door” story.

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Families Belong Together March, San Francisco

Today was the Families Belong Together March and Rally in San Francisco. I missed the beginning, which started at Dolores Park. I joined in on Market Street. At the front of the march, Joan Baez marched behind a large banner. At City Hall, she was one of the first to speak at the rally, and she also sang We Shall Not Be Moved in English and Spanish. I made a sign with Mr. Rogers on it, because he was always kind to children. I met two different women with “What would Mr. Rogers do?” on their signs. Civic Center wasn’t as crowded as the first Women’s March, but it was a good turnout. I met interesting people and lots of great dogs.

I talked to a nice guy from KQED, and he included a photo of my sign here:
https://www.kqed.org/news/11678414/photos-bay-area-cities-join-nationwide-families-belong-together-marches
A video of Joan Baez at the rally:

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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 surjbayarea.org 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!

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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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Grove Street Halloween Block Party 2017

Today was my friend’s very first American Halloween. We went to the Grove Street Halloween Block Party here in San Francisco. Every year, the blocks between Baker and Central are closed to traffic. The neighbors decorate their stoops, garages and yards, and parents dress up with their kids. There’s a costume contest, and this year a band from the University of San Francisco performed. So much fun! And the kiddies in their costumes…oh, my! Just precious! Be sure to click on photos to see those faces better…

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Zachary Quinto at the Castro Theatre

Last night I went to San Francisco’s Castro Theatre to see Zachary Quinto “in conversation.” It was part of the California Independent Film Festival.

I was one of the first arrive in the non–VIP line outside the theatre. Once inside, I got a seat in the fourth row. A young Chinese woman sat next to me, and she could barely contain her excitement. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I told her I’d only seen Zachary Quinto in the Star Trek movies and Snowden. She’d seen more of his work, but neither of us watched Heroes.

Quinto was interviewed by Derek Zemrak and another fellow whose name I missed. They sat in comfy chairs on one side of the Castro Theatre’s shallow stage. When Quinto first sat down, his chair reclined back la-Z-boy style, which got a laugh. The rest of the hour-long interview he was thoughtful and serious, but he seemed very much at ease.

Quinto discussed his television and movie roles, particularly Heroes, American Horror Story, and So Notorious. He loves doing theatre, and he talked about his roles in Angels in America and The Glass Menagerie. When the conversation turned to Star Trek, he described his audition process and his relationships with the other cast members and Leonard Nimoy. He also shared his reasons for coming out and the LGBT+ organizations he works with, especially the Trevor Project and the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Then the discussion moved into some of the projects he’s involved with as a producer.

I met Tab Hunter a couple of years ago with his partner Alan Glaser at a screening of the documentary Tab Hunter: Confidential. It was interesting to find out that Quinto is working with Hunter and Glaser on a movie about Tab’s relationship with Anthony Perkins. It’s still in the early writing stages.

Quinto answered some questions from the audience, and then Zemrak presented him with the festival’s Maverick Award. We applauded and the interview was done. I waited with Leah, my new enthusiastic friend, in the foyer afterwards. Quinto signed a few autographs and posed for some photos. I took a photo of Leah and Quinto, then we went outside for a quick photo of him with his award. We watched him get into an SUV and drive away. I said goodbye to Leah with the promise of keeping her informed about other fun events in the city.

Now I need to finally watch Heroes!

Leah & Zachary Quinto

Derek Zemrak & Zachary Quinto with Maverick Award

 

(I would have taken more videos, but I forgot to charge my camera battery!)

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