Geneva Anderson digs into art

film event– the Premiere that means the most…Wolfram Hissen will show “The Running Fence Revisited” to Sonoma County June 23-25, 2010

German filmmaker Wolfram Hissen shooting footage for "The Running Fence Revisited" in September 2009 in Valley Ford at a celebratory gathering with Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Filmmaker Wolfram Hissen of est-West films  will screen his new documentary film “The Running Fence Revisited” in Sonoma County this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.   The 47 minute documentary, shot almost exclusively in Sonoma and Marin Counties recounts the events and personalites that shaped Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s iconic Running Fence project in 1976.   The film premiered in April in Washington D.C. at the opening of the exhibition “Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence,”  at the Smithsonian American Museum of Art. 

The farmers and people near and dear to the project are planning to attend Wednesday evening’s Union Hotel reception and screening.  Following each screening, Hissen will discuss his film and take audience questions.  The screenings are hosted by the Sonoma County Museum and the Charles M. Schulz Museum, and sponsored by the Friends of the Running Fence, the Union Hotel, and the Sonoma County Tourism Board.   

  • Wednesday, June 23 at the Union Hotel in Occidental – SOLD OUT!
  • Thursday, June 24 at the Charles M. Schulz Museum theater – SOLD OUT!
  • Friday, June 25 at the Charles M. Schulz Museum theater – SOLD OUT!

All screenings are currently sold out, but you may call 707.579.1500 be added to the Waiting List.

All shows start at 7:15pm with a small reception prior, starting at 6:30 pm.

June 22, 2010 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday night’s hot ticket — Arts d’Light, Petaluma Arts Center’s annual party

320 art lovers turned out Saturday’s night at the Petaluma Arts Center  for  “Arts d’Light,” the Petaluma Arts Council’s inaugural celebration of local creative artists.  Vicky Kumpfer, PAC executive director, called the event  a “huge success” and hopes to turn it into an annual event.

Light was the operative theme both inside and outside the arts center.  For the past week, in anticipation of the party, the council’s exterior has been illuminated on the Lakeville Highway side with a dazzling computerized light installation created by Petaluma lighting wizard Chad Dunbar.   Inside the center, the galleries which are currently

The Railway’s Depot’s main gallery space was tranformed into a buffet and wine tasting area for about 300 Petaluman’s who turned out to support the Petaluma Arts Council

exhibiting stone sculptures by Edwin Hamilton and drawings by Chester Arnold, were adorned with 89 additional artworks created and donated by local artists especially for an “Objects d’Light” silent auction to benefit the Arts Council.

Also screening on the main gallery’s back wall was an urban scape created especially for the event by Nicholas van Kridjt which consisted of film footage shot entirely from his car window on a drive from San

The art works of Edwin Hamilton and Chester Arnold currently on exhibit took on “Arts d’Light’s” thematic lighting as the gallery was transformed into a dramatically glowing dance floor later in the evening.

Francisco to the Petaluma Arts Center.   Van Kridjt’s luminous oak tree, projected on another gallery wall, provided the perfect backdrop for many of the evening’s  photographs.

In addition to fine art, Petaluma catering wizard Tracy Gentry and her team of volunteers coordinated a virtual feast of local gourmet foods, desserts and premium wines donated by over 60 local businesses, galleries and wineries.  Some of the more well-known sponsors included Carter’s Classic Catering, Jerome’s Bar-B-Que, Lala’s Creamery, Viva Cocolat, Petaluma Coffee and Tea and numerous local wineries including Adobe Road Winery, Azari Vineyards, Hanzell Vineyards, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, Imagery Winery, Kendall-Jackson Winery, Pflender Vineyards, Singer Cellars, Sonoma Valley Portworks and Petaluma’s Lagunitas Brewing Company.

Michael Garlington’s fabulous photo installation “In the Eye of Michael Garlington” allowed to look into Garlinton’s third eye and see a reflection of their own eye…the crowd favorite

Local musicians serenaded guests.  Los Gu’achis, featuring Steve Della Maggiori, Barbara Arhon and Argus Courier editor Chris Samson played the music of Mexico as the party began.  Bruce Kurnow strolled the galleries playing blues/roots tunes on his harmonica.  Later in the evening, jazz pianist Bob Johns played keyboard with Steve Della Maggiori on bass as people enjoyed port, coffee, a delectible self-serve belgian chocolate fondue fountain and homemade ice cream.

While people partied indoors, Clifford Hill a member of the Santa Rosa kinetic artist collective Krank, Boom, Clank offered complimentary rides around Petaluma on his amazing

Clifford Hill offered guests rides around town on his whimsical kinetic Hennepin Crawler. Image by Scott Hess.

Hennepin Crawler to those nimble and sober enough to climb aboard the foot-powered contraption.  While most of the partygoers adorned themselves glowing baubles,  Theresa Hughes, Clifford’s wife and owner of Atelier Therese in Santa Rosa, was enchanting in a period costume she created that was clearly meant to recall the pre-electrical era.

The evening’s silent auction was a huge success with many pepole participating.  The highest bid offered was for Sean Paul Lorentz’s sculpture “Betty’s Ornament” which raised $555 for the Petaluma Arts Council.

After the auction winners were announced, DJ LaShonda ushered in the Afterglow Dance Party and the lights were turned down for dancing.    “We are so proud that so many people came out to the celebration and are expressing what an asset the center is to our commnity,” said Vicky Kumpfer.  “Light is essential and a universal and we couldn’t be more d’lighted with the turnout.”

Artist Mark Grieve’s “The Light that Came Out of the Closet,” a marijuana growing set-up that points to the hypocrisy of the liberal pot culture and reflects an important environmental issue—indoor cannabis production leaves a very nasty carbon footprint.

David Nunes-Childs and his mother Petlauma artist Cecilia Nunes whose paintings are currently at the Tea Room Cafe

Petaluma artist Alison Marks, Arts Council co-founder and current board member

Karen Petersen, President PAC Board of Directors, and Petaluma photographer Scott Hess who contributed photos to the Silent Art Auction

Vicky Kumpfer, Executive Director, Petaluma Arts Council, beaming in a black lace dress with its own voltage

Gina Benedetti-Petnik with a third eyeful after peeping into Michael Garlington’s installation and seeing her own eye.

Petaluma Arts Council’s Jonna Ramey took a break from shooting party pics to say she was “d’ lighted with d’ turnout”

Designer Theresa Hughes of Atelier Therese in Santa Rosa was resplendent in period costume

Nick Van Kridjt, Tammara Norman and Edwin Hamilton. Edwin’s stone works are on display at the Petaluma Arts Council through July 4, 2010.

Persian film buffs and winemakers Pari and Kamal Azari of Azari Vineyards served a d’lightful Shiraz

(foreground) Petaluma’s Barry Singer of Barry Singer Gallery and Singer Cellars proudly poured his vin Franc and other specialties. (background) Winemaker Michael NcNeill of Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma offered strong competition.

Karen Petersen, ARThound (Geneva Anderson), Cecelia Nunes and David Nunes-Childs against Nicholas Van Kridjt’s stunning Oak Tree

Mario Bosanac of Lala’s Creamery serving cones that many partiers dipped in Viva Cocolat’s streaming chocolate fondue

Will Mendoza, owner of Lala’s Creamery of Petaluma, could barely keep up with the demand for his homemade cones

Jazz Pianist Bob Johns and bass Steve Della Maggiori played as guests enjoyed fondue and ice cream

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Art, Petaluma Arts Council | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theatre Review: ACT’s “The Tosca Project” – a dance journey through time toasting the beloved Café Tosca

The three original owners (from left: Nol Simonse, Kyle Schaefer, Peter Anderson) celebrate the opening of Tosca Cafe in 1919. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Saturday night’s world premiere production of “The Tosca Project” at ACT (American Conservatory Theatre) (through July 3, 2010) marked the first time I had been to the historic Geary Street theatre since I stopped my season subscription two years ago.  I love good theatre and had subscribed to ACT for several years.  Increasingly though, I found myself struggling to connect emotionally with the stories and characters.  Lacking the private Ah-ha moments that actively engage the senses and intellect, the experience too often seemed flat.  At nearly $75 a pop for Orchestra seats (plus parking and incidentals like gas and bridge faire), I began to begrudge the expenditure and the considerable chunk of time invested in a drive into the City for a less-than spectacular evening.   

Having given it a rest, I was eager to see “The Tosca Project” and to revisit ACT.  ACT’s artistic director Carey Perloff and SF Ballet choreographer Val Caniparoli worked together on this piece for four years which Caniparoli calls “a character study through movement.”   San Francisco’s Café Tosca ranks as one of my favorite old-European style bars in America–a place that time forgot.  The collaboration with the San Francisco Ballet held the promise of new energy.

 The experience was pleasant but not memorable—the dancing carries the show but the storyline is so underdeveloped that it doesn’t do jthis famous watering hole justice.  Nor is there enough sustained dance in the 10 rapid-fire vignettes– lasting 90 minutes in all– to feel satisfied with it as a complete dance piece. 

The Bartender (Jack Willis, right) remembers his younger self (Kyle Schaefer, center) and the his long-lost love that he left behind in Italy (Sabina Allemann). Photo by Kevin Berne.

The idea itself is brilliant—a homage to San Francisco’s iconic Café Tosca, now 91, grounded in the history of San Francisco and set to an enthralling score of music ranging from Puccini’s Tosca to Rosemary Clooney singing “What’ll I Do?”  to Jimmy Hendrix.  Anyone who has ever been to the Café Tosca is keenly aware of the bar’s old world atmosphere and mystery–the play of light and shadow against that long solid mahogany bar, the burnished glint of copper from the espresso machine and the lingering melancholy permeating the booths.  Current owner Jeanette Etheredge plays hostess to a glamorous celebrity crowd along with eccentrics, tourists and locals.  While the world outside changes, Cafe Tosca doesn’t:  the secrets, demons, and dreams of generations are well-tended ghosts.  All this makes for great theatrical content– the characters hold their emotional histories in the space of the bar and the journey of the piece is the excavation of those histories.  Instead of mining these connections, the production offers a furry of brief—albeit lovely—sequential dance encounters that speed by without enough grounding for viewers to really invest themselves in any of the characters or the bar itself.  

The Immigrant (Rachel Ticotin) brings a piece of her Russian homeland into the bar with her. Photo by Kevin Berne.

The production opens as the founding bartender (Jack Willis) and his two business partners first arrive in San Francisco from Italy near the end of WWI.  The bartender is haunted by a ghost–a woman from his past, reminiscent of the melodramatic heroine from Puccini’s Tosca.  One of the bar’s first customers is an immigrant (Rachael Ticotin).  A regular at the bar, she becomes its soul, anchoring it through time as a home for those without a homeland.  

Prohibition comes just months after the bar opens and forces a clever change of menu.  Café Tosca begins to booze up its coffee—the “coffee royale” is the genesis of Tosca’s now signature “house cappuccino”— Ghiradelli chocolate, steamed milk and shot of brandy.  

A ballet diva (Sabina Allemann) enchants a businessman (Peter Anderson) in Tosca Cafe. Photo by Kevin Berne.

During the Great Depression, a musician on the run from the law finds a haven in the bar and ends up with a job there.  The action is then anchored around the trio of bartender, musician and Russian immigrant who reveal their tragic stories to each other and in the sharing find solace and healing.  What is revealed directly to the audience though is precious little.  Unless you read the program notes or the Words on Plays you are likely to be grappling as to who’s who and what’s transpiring in this nearly wordless production.  The immigrant, for example, clutches a set of matryoshka (nested dolls).  Those who can see them might deduce she is Russian but nothing about her tragic past–that she left her husband and baby behind– or that her great love of Russian dance and poetry connects her symbolically to current owner Jeanette Etheredge’s mother Arman Baliantz.  Baliantz

The members of the ensemble of The Tosca Project (from left: Sara Hogrefe, Kyle Schaefer, Lorena Feijoo, Pascal Molat, Peter Anderson, Nol Simonse). Photo by Kevin Berne.

established her own North Beach restaurant (Bali’s) and befriended a diverse array of artists, including the great Rudolf Nureyev, who is represented in one of the later vignettes.   The lack of detail transforms the unique history of these patrons and of Cafe Tosca into universal patrons at a universal bar.  With relationships between the characters as hazy as cigarette smoke lingering in the bar, there is little to hook the audience in emotionally. 

The dancers clearly steal the show, beginning with a classical ballerina who gracefully pirouettes across the bar in a dream conjured up by the old bartender.    Hopping along from Prohibition to the Great Depression to the flappers to WWII to the Beats to the hippies and digitalis, each new era is ushered in by a change in the music on the jukebox, a new dance fad and new fashion.   The transitions are seamless but the performance begins to feel more like a generic dance sampler than the advertised “valentine to San Francisco.”  

A humorous duo between the businessman (Canadian actor Peter Anderson) and classical ballerina (Sabina Alleman) is captivating and had the audience clapping wildly at the performance I attended.   Anderson, who starred in ACT’s 2005  riveting wordless adaptation of Gogol’s “The Overcoat”  also shines as a Beat poet reciting  Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “I Am Waiting” to a bar full of Beats and tourists.   The trio of characters around which the performance is built remain emotionally distant throughout.   The experience definitely calls for a drink afterwards and ticket holders are entitled to a buck off their tab at Cafe Tosca.   

June 3- July 3, 2010, American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA  94108, tickets: $17 to $89.  Tickets and info (415) 749-2228,

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment