Tag Archives: San Francisco

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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The PDX Broadsides & Leslie Hudson

Yesterday was one of those days when I couldn’t do anything right. I almost forgot that I had a ticket to see the PDX Broadsides and Leslie Hudson perform last night. I’m glad I didn’t miss them.
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The Booksmith on Haight Street is one of the last brick and mortar bookstores in San Francisco, and they recently opened an annex where the Red Vic Movie House used to be. Called The Bindery, it has an intimate performance/event space at the back of the store. This was my first time there. I get the email newsletter for both locations, because they always have great events.
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I’d never heard of the PDX Broadsides when I saw the listing for their performance, so I went to YouTube and listened to their Game of Thrones song and a few others. A folk trio based in Portland, they perform music for nerds. Awesome! Then author Charlie Jane Anders (All The Birds in The Sky) tweeted one of their songs. Seemed like a good omen, so I purchased an advance ticket.
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I arrived at The Bindery early, and everybody was mellow. The performance space had two old leather sofas that seated two, or three if you know each other well enough. In between the sofas were chairs, with only three rows set up, so no bad seats. The back wall has a small bar, and the drinks were reasonably priced. It’s nice that they allow food from outside. I should have used my extra time to peruse the book recommendations around the store, but I didn’t bring my reading glasses. Next time I’ll know better.
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The first up was Leslie Hudson, a striking redhead from Stratford, Ontario. She’s a storyteller, as well as a singer/songwriter with a keyboard, and I enjoyed the introductions as much as her songs. Her first song was Sisters & Sinners, about biblical women at a pub on the crossroads of heaven and hell (hope I got that right!). Unmasked is a song about Mary Jane Watson (Spider-man), while Eleven Feathered Sons is inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans. Hudson talked about prehensile hair and Medusa and love songs in the key of C in the intro to Entanglement; it was lovely and probably my favorite of her set list.
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Hudson also performed a song about Batman’s Poison Ivy (Welcome to Eden) and another one called Honey. I’m currently reading When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, and it’s about a girl nicknamed Honey. Her nemesis-es are four redheaded sisters, one named Ivy. What are the odds? I don’t usually recommend books until I’ve finished them, but I couldn’t help telling Hudson about it after her performance.
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The PDX Broadsides (Christian, Jessica, and Hollyanna) set up next. Jessica introduced us to her new keyboard, named after Rosalind Franklin (the double helix scientist). Christian played guitar. They had a few hiccups with the microphones, but they kept us entertained with banter while things got adjusted.
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I enjoyed all the songs they performed, mostly from their newest album, Trust Issues. Taking turns with lead vocals, the trio sang songs about Cold War spy cats (Acoustic Kitty), Westworld (Dolores), Star Wars (We Want Rey), Welcome to Nightvale (The Weather), mediocre love (I’ll Eat You Last), Japanese animated movies (Miyazaki Dreams), Conan the Barbarian (Best in Life), and Bitch Planet (Non-compliant). They made me realize that my wide-ranging interests are still rather limited, especially when it comes to comic books and graphic novels.
They finished with Jessica’s song called Nathan Fillion, and we sang along for the chorus (Please take off your pants!). The encore was Rocket Science, and then it was over too soon. I chatted a bit with Christian and Jessica before heading home. I also met Christian’s charming parents. It was their first time seeing the PDX Broadsides in person, just like me.
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I’m definitely going to keep listening and recommending them to friends and strangers. I hope both the PDX Broadsides and Leslie Hudson come back to San Francisco soon. I’ll be waiting.

The PDX Broadsides (Photo from their website, because I forgot my camera, too.)

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The A.C.T. Young Conservatory: Homefront

 

Growing up, I often went to see friends perform in musicals put on by San Diego Junior Theatre. JT is the oldest continuous children’s theatre program in the United States. I joined JT in high school, mostly working on stage crews because I can’t sing or dance. I got the role of the housekeeper in The Sound of Music only because she doesn’t have to do either. Living in San Francisco now, I miss seeing the kids perform, especially after attending  JT’s 60th anniversary celebration in 2008. Fortunately, there are talented young people performing here in the Bay Area.

Last night, I took a friend to see the A.C.T. Young Conservatory production of Homefront at the Strand Theater. The Young Conservatory is a professional training program for performers age 8 to 19.  This was the first time we’ve seen one of their productions, and it was also our first time at the Strand. It was a wonderful evening.

Homefront is a musical set during WWI. The three Kolemeir children are sent from Germany to stay with relatives in Vienna, Illinois, just before the United States joins the war in 1917. In Vienna, Curt Jensen has already enlisted in the US army and impatiently waits to turn 18. His sister Kathleen longs for Red Brady, whose twisted knee makes him unfit to serve. Instead, Red embraces the anti-German campaign at home, led by the former boyfriend of school teacher Gretchen Parker. The war may be far away in Europe, but it will change the lives of everyone in Vienna.

The A.C.T. Young Conservatory has many talented performers, so the lead female roles in Homefront are double cast. We attended the second performance, which meant six of the girls were doing the show for the first time with an audience. Everyone was great. Caroline Pernick (Emma Kolemeir) has a sweet face and an even sweeter voice. Kathryn Hasson is fierce as Else Kolemeir. Young Alex Cook (Horst Kolemeir) is vulnerable and affecting, and we were genuinely concerned for him in the second act. I have to confess, both Casey Schryer and Cole Sisser stole my heart as the Jensen siblings. We enjoyed all of the performances, and I’d like to go again to see the other cast.

I also enjoyed chatting with the mother of one of the cast members during the intermission. After the performance, there was a ‘second opening night’ reception in the foyer with cake and drinks. Everyone was invited, so I congratulated some of the cast while my friend enjoyed the refreshments. At JT we always got our programs autographed by the cast, and I was wishing they did the same here. (Yes, I really would get autographs if others were doing it. Even at my age!)

The German accents in Homefront brought back memories of my star turn as Frau Schmidt in The Sound of Music. I tortured my friend on the way home with my favorite line. Just try saying “He never used to whistle for us when his wife was alive” with a German accent. It’s a tongue-twister!

Go see Homefront if you can. It runs through August 19th.

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