Tag Archives: San Francisco

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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Life Lessons from Pippin

How to separate the drama nerds from the fantasy geeks: mention Pippin. A drama nerd will start singing Corner of the Sky.

Pippin is a Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote Godspell. It’s about a young prince’s search for something meaningful to do with his life. Pippin was the son of Charlemagne, but the musical is not a faithful historical narrative. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the original 1972 Broadway production, which starred John Rubinstein (Pippin) and Ben Vereen (Leading Player). Pippin’s grandmother Berthe was played by Irene Ryan, best known as Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies. I grew up believing the story that she died onstage during a performance of her song No Time At All. Not true, but it still makes a good “what a way to go!” story.

As a teen in the late 1970s, I was a little bit obsessed with Pippin. I knew the music and lyrics from the cast album long before I saw it onstage. A friend took me to a student production at UC Irvine in 1982, with the musical re-imagined as a futuristic space opera with loads of silver lamé. Then, in 1985, I worked with John Rubinstein at the La Jolla Playhouse (described here) which got me listening to the Pippin original cast album all over again. William Katt and Ben Vereen appeared in a filmed stage version in the early 80s, which I saw on videotape many years later.

Fast forward to 2013, and Pippin is back on Broadway. I watched the Tony Awards that year, so I was aware of the production and saw the musical number performed during the ceremony. I was also vaguely aware when the touring version came to San Francisco in fall 2014, but my budget was tight and my mind was on other things. Mostly I was busy pouting because I had to stay home while friends were at a festival in Utah.

Last summer, I finally listened to the Pippin Broadway revival cast album. My first impression was that Matthew James Thomas has a pretty voice, but it’s very different from John Rubinstein’s. I went to YouTube to see if there were any Pippin videos. And here we go, down the rabbit hole again!

I’ve now watched everything I can find with Matthew James Thomas, going back to The Bill in 1999. I was sad that he deleted his twitter account before I had the chance to follow him. I purchased his UK series Britannia High on DVD, watching it once through before my region-free DVD player packed up and died (boo). Then I actually cried when I found out that the San Francisco Pippin tour brought both Matthew James Thomas AND John Rubinstein to my doorstep, and I missed them. Thomas had given his last performance on Broadway, but he came back and filled in for the touring Pippin when that actor was put on vocal rest. John Rubinstein toured with the show as Charlemagne. Even if the tickets were beyond my budget, I could have gone to the stage door to meet the cast and see Rubinstein again. Heartbreak!

The biggest lesson learned from Pippin? Pay attention to what’s happening around me. Instead of wishing to be somewhere else, make the most of what’s right here. San Francisco isn’t perfect, and it’s way too expensive, but a lot of events are free or cheap.

(click to see better version)

Happily, Matthew James Thomas is now back on twitter. He was cast in a pilot called Shelter for NBC, but it wasn’t ordered to series. I wish him the best, look forward to seeing him onscreen again, and hope he comes back to San Francisco. (John Rubinstein, too!)

If I could have one MJT wish granted, since I can’t travel back in time to 2014, it would be to hear his Fenwick solo from the musical Diner.

Matthew James Thomas (Fenwick) in Diner. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media

Photo sources:

San Francisco Pippin tour: Review: A masterful ‘Pippin’ showcases Paulus’ bold vision

http://www.delawaretheatre.org/diner (Fenwick photo)

Screen captures made from YouTube videos, particularly from the official Broadway Pippin channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/pippinmusical/videos

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Adventures in Babysitting 30th Anniversary Screening

My friend Marco and I attended a 30th anniversary screening of Adventures in Babysitting (1987) at the Castro Theatre yesterday. Keith Coogan (Brad) was the special guest, and he did a Q&A after the film. He and his wife Pinky had a table set up in the lobby where they met fans, posed for photos, and sold some merchandise.

Marco and I arrived at the Castro early, so we had some pizza slices and then wandered around the neighborhood. One of the art galleries had a portrait of Gilbert Baker in their window. He designed the Gay Pride rainbow flag, and he sadly passed away earlier this week. We bumped into Keith Coogan and Pinky outside a taqueria, so we introduced ourselves and chatted for a few minutes. They recognized my twitter name and were good-humored and friendly.

Once we got in the cinema, I enjoyed watching Coogan and his wife interact with fans before the film. Marco got popcorn and relaxed in our seats. There weren’t a lot of us at the screening, but the line at the Coogans’ table was steady and everybody was having a good time. There was a good spread of ages, too, although I didn’t see any kids.

During the Q&A, Coogan talked about the audition and rehearsal process, his lasting friendship with Anthony Rapp, filming in Toronto, the film’s journey from script to screen, cast parties, real life crushes, the AIB remake, and his current projects. He told us an early version of the AIB script had Sarah swap her toy chest for one carrying plutonium, which evolved into the backpack with the Playboy magazine.

Anthony Rapp tweeted earlier this week about the screening:

I got to meet Rapp in 2006 when he was on tour for his memoir Without You, at both The Booksmith and at his Swedish-American Hall performance.

Adventures in Babysitting holds up well after 30 years. This was my first time seeing it in the cinema. Marco and I reminisced on the drive home about what we were doing in 1987, trying to remember the movies we saw on the big screen that year. It was a good year for films, and in these uncertain times, it’s a good year to escape back into, for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Thank you, SF Sketchfest, the Castro Theatre, and Keith Coogan! You’re lovely, Pinky!

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When We Rise: The San Francisco Premiere

As a volunteer with GLAAD, I received an invitation to attend the February 20th premiere of When We Rise, Dustin Lance Black’s new ABC miniseries chronicling the LGBTQ rights movement, focusing on the lives of several San Francisco activists. I invited a friend as my plus one and submitted my RSVP, although I wasn’t sure about an 8 hour marathon or the “first come first served” seating. Then my friend got sick, and the day arrived with heavy rain and 60 mph winds expected by the evening. Still, I braved the elements alone and headed to the Castro Theatre.

When I arrived in the Castro at 1pm, the doors to the cinema had just opened. At first I got into the wrong line, where the production folks were checking in. One of the young actors turned around and was very helpful pointing out the right line. I wasn’t sure any of the cast would be there, so this was a happy omen. My line went down the block and just around the corner of 18th Street. After I got there, many more folks arrived behind me. A friendly young woman with an ABC7 cap came by to explain what to expect. She assured us we’d all get in at that point in the line. We’d be checked in and given wristbands, which would allow us to come and go during the breaks. Everyone attending would also get a ticket for a free drink and a bag of popcorn.

I chatted with the guys around me, and there was some confusion about how much of the miniseries would be shown. Dustin Lance Black tweeted that we’d watch the whole 8 hours, but the numbering of the episodes is confusing. IMDb says there are 8 episodes, Wikipedia says 7 parts, but it’s being shown on 4 nights. Anyway, the ABC7 woman assured us we’d be seeing the entire miniseries, in four segments, with two 15 minute breaks and one 2 hour dinner break. The program would start at 2pm and end around 11:30pm.

There were still plenty of seats on the ground floor when I got in, but I headed to the balcony for a front row seat above. You don’t get a crick in your neck looking up at the screen there. Since we’d be spending a lot of time together, I introduced myself to several of the folks in my section. The young guy behind me worked as an extra in several scenes, so it was fun to hear to his stories.

Dustin Lance Black went up onstage with a microphone to introduce the first segment, saying that many of the activists depicted in the series were in the audience. He also pointed out that without the commercials, each segment was shorter than two hours. Zeke Stokes of GLAAD also spoke, and later in the day Roma Guy, Cecilia Chung, and Cleve Jones got up onstage to address the audience. We also had a song performed by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

During the screening, the audience cheered a lot—when familiar names were said, when well-known landmarks were shown, and when serious truths were spoken. The SF Chronicle says we booed the villains, but I only heard hissing.

Because When We Rise doesn’t air on ABC until next week (February 27th, then March 1st-3rd), I can’t share much about it yet. I never give plot spoilers anyway. I will say that the lesser-known young actors are terrific. These include Jonathan Majors, Adam DiMarco, Rafael De La Fuente, Fiona Dourif, Nick Eversman, Kevin McHale (familiar from Glee) and so many more. Austin P. McKenzie as the younger Cleve Jones had my heart from his first moments onscreen. I also really connected emotionally with Emily Skeggs as the younger Roma Guy. This kind of connection is crucial if the viewer is going to stick with these characters through a miniseries. I can’t count the number of shows I’ve seen where I appreciated the quality but didn’t care enough about any one character to keep watching.

During our first break, I met Emily Skeggs. It’s great to watch someone onscreen for the first time (whether it’s their first time or just yours), and then be able to tell them right away how much their performance has touched you. This is one of the reasons Twitter is so addictive, but doing it in person is so much more satisfying. I’m certain that many more viewers like me will be looking up these young actors and following them on social media. I was already doing that at the dinner break.

A tip for those folks looking at the cast lists online—at this point, the IMDb page is incomplete. Kevin McHale and Rafael de la Fuente, for example, are not yet listed. Wikipedia includes them and several other actors not listed on IMDb, but it’s not complete either.

At the end of the screening, all the folks involved with the production went up onstage. I left the balcony and came down to the front in time to video a bit of the song Oh Happy Day, and then it was done. I said hello to Dustin Lance Black and Tom Daley, then met Austin P. McKenzie and Kevin McHale (such a charmer, that one!).

I came out of the theatre to find that the rain had stopped, but the wind was blowing hard. I rode the bus home with a couple of fellow viewers, and we talked about our impressions of the miniseries. I got home tired but still wired from the experience.

I’m looking forward to watching When We Rise again next week. It will be interesting to compare the difference seeing it on a small screen, without an audience, and with the ad breaks.

This miniseries will hopefully inspire viewers to read more about the activists and the history of this struggle for equality, understanding, and respect. There’s so much more to learn. The book When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones is a good place to start.

Thank you to Dustin Lance Black and everyone involved for making this miniseries. Thank you to GLAAD and ABC for the privilege of attending this amazing event.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/tv/article/LGBT-community-sees-its-story-told-in-When-We-10948675.php

https://ripplenews.com/watch/san-francisco/when-we-rise-shows-emotional-powerful-san-francisco-lgbt-movement-1s7r0o5h (This is a video of the premiere from local ABC7 news.)

http://www.sfchronicle.com/tv/article/When-We-Rise-a-story-of-past-struggle-and-a-10954771.php

Tom Daley’s video of the premiere:

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