Geneva Anderson digs into art

Review: Steven Epp returns to Berkeley Rep with “A Doctor in Spite of Himself”─bawdy, silly, politically incorrect and not to be missed, through March 25, 2011

Is laughter the best cure?   It certainly helps!  Molière’s classic comedy, A Doctor in Spite of Himself, which opened at Berkeley Rep on February 16, offers an ingenious promenade of tawdry merry-making carried out by actors  and puppets that resemble them.  Adapted by comic actor extraordinaire Steven Epp and director Christopher Bayes, this farce maintains the structure and tempo of the 17th century original but delights with its modern innuendo and live music.

The show opens in the woods with an all too familiar marital argument—who’s the boss?   Woodcutter and lout, Sganarelle (Steven Epps), is beating his wife Martine (Justine Williams) and her ample bouncing breasts assert themselves in the bout as much she does.  A delightful Punch and Judy show takes place behind the actors, the puppets replicating what’s transpiring live.  Adding a rural touch, and enforcing the rapid-fire potty-mouth humor, the puppet show takes place in an outhouse.

Pained and pissed-off about taking a beating, Martine is devoted to pay-back.  Opportunity soon presents itself—when two servants (Liam Craig  and Jacob Ming-Trent) show up in search of doctor, she tells them that Sganarelle is a doctor but the only way to get him to admit to this high rank is to beat him silly.  After a thorough beating, Sganarelle is ready to admit to anything.  He is quite shocked to see how much respect he gets as doctor when he shows up at the local big-wig’s (Allen Gilmore) plush chateau to treat his daughter, Lucinde (Renata Friedman), a garish-goth girl who is FAKING illness.  Turns out, she’s mourning being separated from her lover (Chivas Michael), whom her wealthy father can’t stand.  Reversals are the order of the day in this fast-paced romp: the doctor is indistinguishable from the peasant and the healthy from the sick.   The riotously funny dialogue is so expertly and freshly delivered, that it sounds like improv.

While the dialogue is superb, so too is the music composed by Aaron Halva and played onstage with gusto by Greg C. Powers (trombone, tuba, ukulele) and Robertson Witmer (accordion, clarinet, drums).  The music runs the gamut from recognizable snippets of pop to opera to Broadway.  The man sitting next to me got so excited that he started conducting, humming, and swaying at all once and was promptly shut down with a swat of a program.   It’s that kind of show—expect fits of laughter everywhere and anywhere.

Run Time:  90 minutes, no intermission

Post-show discussions: Stick around for a lively 30-minute Q&A with the cast or other company members:  Thursday, March 1, 2012, Tuesday, March 6, 2012 and Friday, March 16, 2012

Free tastings:  Join Berkeley Rep for complimentary tastings!  Sample wine, beer, chocolate, champagne, vodka, organic produce or other delights before select Friday 8pm, Saturday 8pm and Sunday 7pm performances.

  • Friday, February 24: Dr. Kracker / 7pm
  • Saturday, February 25: Peterson Winery / 7pm
  • Sunday, February 26: Ecology Center / 6pm
  • Friday, March 2: Charbay Winery and Distillery / 7pm
  • Sunday, March 4: Green Barrel Wine Merchants / 6pm
  • Friday, March 9: Speakeasy Ales & Lagers / 7pm
  • Saturday, March 10: Stella Nonna Catering / 7pm
  • Sunday, March 11: Ecology Center / 6pm
  • Saturday, March 17: Donkey & Goat Winery / 7pm
  • Sunday, March 25: Ecology Center / 6pm

Details: A Doctor in Spite of Himself  runs through March 25, 2012 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA.  Tickets: $14.50 to $73.  Call 510-647-2949 or visit .

February 29, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco presents “Italy in Film: 1978 – 2008,” a free film series, Friday evenings, February 24-March 23, 2012

Tony Servillo (center) is scandal-ridden seven time Italian Prime Minister, Giulio Andreotti, in Paolo Sorrentino’s “Il Divo,” screening at “Italy in Film: 1978-2008,” at San Francisco’s Italian Cultural Institute, starting February 24, 2012. Image: Music Box Films/MPI Media Group

 The Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco will present “Italy in Film: 1978-2008,” a selection of five entertaining Italian films on Friday evenings starting February 24, 2012,  that explore main changes and issues in Italian society.  The Italian Cultural Institute co-sponsors the acclaimed annual Italian fall film series “New Italian Cinema” and at last November’s N.I.C. hosted Daniele Luchetti and held post-film discussions with the prominent filmmaker.  The audience was transfixed.   “Italy in Film” offers another chance to familiarize yourself with a few of the best newer Italian films.  The series follows a chronology of events from the 1970s to the 2000s, as well as five key themes: politics, mafia and family, work, economy, and immigration. Together, these create a vivid portrait of contemporary Italy from multiple perspectives.  The host is Professor Andrea Bini (MA in Film studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D. in Italian studies at UCLA).  He is currently teaching Italian literature and film at Santa Clara University and contributed two chapters to the newly published Popular Italian Cinema: Culture and Politics in a Postwar Society, edited by Flavia Brizio-Skow.  All movies are in Italian with English subtitles.  

Friday, February 24 at 6:30 pm:     The Divo (Il Divo), Directed by Paolo Sorrentino, (2008, 110 min.): Register Now!

A biographical drama based on seven time Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, leader of Italy’s Christian Democrat party.  “Il Divo” is a label that was once applied to Julius Ceasar II and is just once of Andreotti’s nicknames─Sphinx, Hunchback, Black Pope and Beezebub are others.  The film is an almost operatic look at his 44 year reign and the Christian Democrats’ last months of power in the early 90’s as mob connections, murders, and other corruption became public knowledge.  Andreotti’s legend is enhanced by the great performance of Toni Servillo, an actor who delivers an absolutely hypnotic character so devoid of magnetism, so Poker-faced, dry and dispassionate, that he becomes fascinating.   The film is a full-on indictment and delivers an astounding and engrossing spree of violence and carnage.

Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino; director of photography, Luca Bigazzi; edited by Cristiano Travaglioli; music by Teho Teardo; production designer, Lino Fiorito; produced by Nicola Giuliano, Francesca Cima, Andrea Occhipinti and Maurizio Coppolecchia.  Cast:  Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, Giulio Bosetti, Flavio Bucci , Carlo Buccirosso and Giorgio Colangeli.

Friday, March 2 at 6:30 pm:     One Hundred Steps (I Cento Passi) , Directed by by Marco Tullio Giordana (2000, 114 min.): Register Now! 

I Cento Passi is about the life of Giuseppe “Peppino” Impastato, a political activist who opposed the Mafia in Sicily. The story takes place in the small town of Cinisi in the province of Palermo, the home town of the Impastato family. One hundred steps was the number of steps it took to get from the Impastato house to the house of the Mafia boss Tano Badalamenti.  The film opens with Peppino as a small child singing the popular song “Volare” with his brother in the back seat of a car on the way to a family gathering. The family is in good standing in the social community and they are celebrating the fact that they have such a good life.  Soon after, Peppino’s uncle Don Cesare, a Don (Mafia boss), is blown up by a car bomb which was planted by a rival Mafia boss. So ends Peppino’s time of innocence.  Little by little, as Peppino grows, he learns to despise the Mafia and in 1968, he joins left wing parties and groups and starts organizing and supporting the farmers and landowners whose ground has been expropriated to build the Punta Raisi airport.  Along with friends, he starts a pirate radio station, ‘Radio Aut’ and publicly accuses the Mafia in Cinisi and Terrasini of controlling the drugs and arms trafficking through the airport.  Through the radio, Peppino mocks the mafia and they tire of his impudence.  Peppino’s final days play out against the great upheavals of the 1970’s. 

Directed by Marco Tullio Giordana; written by Claudio Fava, Marco Tullio Giordana.  Cast: Luigi Lo Cascio, Luigi Maria Burruano, Lucia Sardo.

Friday, March 9 at 6:30 pm:     The Fever (La Febbre), Directed by Alessandro D’Alatri (2005, 108 min.): Register Now!

D’Alatri  is beloved by audiences and critics for his amazing ability to balance drama and comedy and to tell amazing stories of the inner lives of seemingly ordinary people leading boring lives.  La Febbre is the story of Mario (Fabio Volo), a young man in his thirties who still lives with his mother in the northern town of Cremona, birthplace of Stradivarius.  The film addresses what was once a very common European middle class career aspiration─parents who encouraged  their children to settle into civil service jobs, with job security and good benefits, which is what Mario’s mother wants for Mario. He dreams of opening a nightclub but goes along with mom and gets a job at a local prefecture. Things seem to go from bad to worse but, at the same time, he meets the beautiful Linda (Valeria Solarino), an exotic dancer who makes him rethink his life.

Cast: Fabio Volo, Valeria Solarino, Vittorio Franceschi, Massimo Bagliani, Gisella Burinato, Thomas Trabacchi, Gianluca Gobbi, Paolo Jannacci, Alessandro Garbin, Lucilla Agosti, Julie Depardieu.


Friday, March 16 at 6:30 pm:     The Jewel (Il Gioellino), Directed by Andrea Molaioli (2011, 110 min.): Register Now! 

Based on the real-life bankruptcy of the Italian company Parmalat, Molaioli’s film reunites him with the great Toni Servillo (The Girl by the Lake, La Ragazza del Lago)(2007) to dramatize a true example of corporate corruption. In 1992, Italian dairy company Leda decides it needs to diversify.  CFO Ernesto Botta (Servillo), right hand man of the boss Amanzio Rastelli (Remo Girone) suggests going public in order to raise cash, but mismanagement, backroom dealings and widespread financial finagling lead to disaster.  Even as the business unravels and it becomes obvious who will be the scapegoat, Botta remains loyal and unflappable. The pace is slow and mesmerizing, and we watch Leda unraveling for years as Rastelli keeps bringing the company back from the brink of failure.  The action switches from Italy to New York to Moscow as various leveraged financing schemes are tried to keep Leda, once the little jewel, afloat.  With a wide range of hooded glances and a particular rhythm of speech, Servillo inhabits yet another character unable to extricate himself from a devastating predicament.

Directed by Andrea Molaioli; written by Andrea Molaioli, Ludovica Rampoldi, Gabriele Romagnoli; photographed by Luca Bigazzi. Cast: Toni Servillo, Remo Girone, Sarah Felberbaum, Lino Guanciale.

Friday, March 23 at 6:30 pm:   Clash of Civilization Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio (Scontro di civiltà per un ascensore a Piazza Vittorio), Directed by Isotta Toso (2010, 96 min.): Register Now! 

A nineteenth century apartment building inhabited by a group of tenants of various nationalities in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio is the scene of a suspicious death.  Within the walls of the building, there arises a clash of civilizations in which the differences within the group─ beliefs, cultural pratcices─become more evident daily and lead to misunderstandings, provocations, and distrust.  Anyone could to be the killer and each person, zany but believably real, begins to blame the other.  The group, together, will reveal the killer’s name to the police commissioner, in place of the only witness that cannot speak: the elevator.  Based on the novel of the same name by Algerian novelist Amara Lakhous, Toso’s film is an exploration of truth seen through various perspectives and a touching ode to the human condition, so fraught with misunderstandings.  

Directed by Isotta Toso; written by Maura Vespini, Isotta Toso; photography by Fabio Zamarion;
music by: Gabriele Coen, Mario Rivera. Cast: Kasia Smutniak, Daniele Liotti, Roberto Citran, Isa Danieli, Ninetto Davoli, Kesia Elwin, Ahmed Hafiene, Francesco Pannofino, Marco Rossetti, Milena Vukotic, Serra Yilmaz 

Details:  Screenings are held Fridays, February 24, 2012 – March 23, 2012 at 6:30 PM, at the Italian Cultural Institute, 814 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94133.  Admission is free, but space is limited, and RSVP required.  To RSVP, click the link by the film you wish to see and you will be directed to  a registration webpage which will send you a confirmation email.

February 24, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

review: “Proof,” David Auburn’s play about math and insanity,” adds up to great entertainment, at 6th Street Playhouse through Sunday, February 26, 2012

In David Auburn’s “Proof,” at 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa through February 26, 2012, Alan Kaplan is Robert, a legendary mathematician who lost his mind late in his career and Dana Scott is his brooding mathematically brilliant daughter, Catherine, who cared for him and asserts that she has authored a proof that is about to be posthumously attributed to her father. Photo: Eric Chazankin, courtesy 6th Street Playhouse

What constitutes proof?   In geometry, it’s a sequence of justified conclusions used to prove the validity of an if-then statement.  In a more general sense, it’s evidence or an argument that compels the mind to accept something as true.  In playwright David Auburn’s play “Proof,” which won a Pulitzer in 2001, proving the authorship and validity of a mathematical proof enmesh a devoted daughter, her unstable father—both mathematical geniuses─with her father’s well-meaning student and a visiting sister in a poignant drama about genius, madness and inheritance.   This is a riveting production whose elements─concept, casting, staging─all cohere beautifully at Santa Rosa 6th Street Playhouse’s intimate Studio Theatre.  

Catherine (Dana Scott) functions best in the world of mathematical probability and equations but she dropped out of the University of Chicago’s math program to care for her father, Robert (Alan Kaplan), a brilliant Univeristy of Chicago mathematician who lost his mind late in his career and has spent the last several years filling stacks of notebooks with obsessive notes about observations in his daily life. The play opens on the porch of Robert’s rustic house on the South side of Chicago and an exhausted and depressed Catherine, played convincingly by Healdsburg actress Dana Scott, is mourning his death.  She cared for him through his breakdown, what looked like a promising remission, and then through his final breakdown.  In a series of flashbacks, the audience sees Catherine and her dad conversing and, at times, pouring over proofs.  They shared a very deep and special connection through their mutual love of and talent for mathematics.  The audience slowly discovers that Catherine is troubled herself and mistrusting.  She prefers to keep her talent under tight wraps and feigns ambivalence about her interest in pursuing her math education when she’s confronted but, secretly, she has made plans to pursue her studies at another prestigious Illinois University, Northwestern, which is in the city of Evanston just north of the Chicago city line, where she will not just be “his daughter.”

Mark Bradbury (right) is Hal, a PhD mathematician who is pouring over his mentor, Robert’s notebooks to find an important mathematical proof while sleeping with Catherine (Dana Scott), Robert’s daughter, who claims that she has authored the proof. Photo: Eric Chazankin, courtesy 6th Street Playhouse

Hal (Mark Bradbury), a socially awkward and well-meaning PhD mathematician who was once Robert’s protégée, is also at the cabin, reviewing Robert’s 100 handwritten notebooks for important mathematical discoveries.  Older sister Claire (Jill Zimmerman), a foreign currency analyst, who has flown in from New York for the funeral also arrives at the cabin.  Hal develops a crush on Catherine and, as she warms to him, she gives him a key to a drawer upstairs in the room where Hal has been reviewing her father’s notebooks.  When a promising set of equations is uncovered in a notebook that was in that drawer, Hal attempts to determine the true author, Catherine or her father.  Hal’s attempts to validate the proof are fraught with risks.  He’s sleeping with Catherine and also senses her fragility.  If he proves that the work is her father’s, it could destabilize her and ruin their relationship. If he proves the work is hers, then her father’s legacy will rest on work he accomplished in his early 20’s and his later years will be remembered as those spent in madness and obscurity.  We’re never sure until the end whether Robert had succeeded or whether he was deluded by his illness.  There are other proofs explored as well.  Is Catherine’s depression sufficient evidence to constitute proof that she has inherited their father’s disorder? 

It’s hard to imagine anyone more convincing than Dana Scott in the role of Catherine─brooding, moping, ambivalent, assertive, and insecure─a study in contrasts.  Most actresses, who have tackled this role, can nail the depressed aspect of Catherine’s character but Scott makes us feel that it’s entirely possible that Catherine is flirting with insanity.  Alan Kaplan delivers Robert as a kind-hearted and distracted mathematics genius who’s uncontrollably unsteady.  One moment he’s spouting wisdom and the next he seems confused.  The play’s high points all involve one-on-one scenes between Kaplan and Scott who have spent endless hours formulating theorems in a kind of connect-the dots logic to find a proof.   One of the most poignant and devastating moments comes as a flashback─Catherine comes home to find her father confidant that he has come up with the proof.  She is excited but when she starts to read from his notebook, she realizes it is filled with a logical but ridiculous rambling about the seasons and the change of weather and her hopes on many levels are dashed.   Jill Zimmerman plays the super-efficient older sister Claire as someone who means well but comes on like a freight truck, no matter what she’s talking about.  Mark Bradbury’s Hal is genuine─a sweet trustworthy nerd who carries a backpack crammed with his clothes and drumsticks and who wears his heart on his sleeve.  Paul Gilger’s charming set design─a rustic country cabin porch with maple rocking chairs, newspapers piled high, and plenty of leaves─evokes the simplicity and solitude of the daily life that Catherine and her father led while she cared for him.

In David Auburn’s “Proof,” at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse, Dana Scott is Catherine, a brilliant young mathematician suffering from depression who has put her life on hold to care for her aging father, Robert, played by Robert Kaplan. Photo: Eric Chazankin, courtesy 6th Street Playhouse


Click inside box to enlarge text.


Details: 6th Street Playhouse is located at 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa.  Proof  has four remaining performances:  Friday, February 24, 2012 at 8 PM; Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 2 PM and 8 PM; and Sunday February 26, 2012 at 2 PM.  Tickets are $10 to $25.  Phone: (707) 523-4`85 or purchase online: or in person.

February 24, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Review: “Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis” Peter Sasowsky’s new documentary looks at the unconventional pioneer of transgenic art

There’s a fine line between genius and madness and artist Joe Davis, the subject of Peter Sasowsky’s documentary Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis (2011), is walking it.   The film screened this weekend at the 14th Annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival (IndieFest), at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater and is an absorbing and inspiring but frustrating portrait of the artist Joe Davis whose unconventional melding of science, technology, and art have helped popularize the field of transgenic art (manipulating living things for artistic ends).   It’s very easy to get drawn into Joe Davis and his world.  Davis a peg-legged, wild-haired, scraggly-looking guy from Mississippi who is brilliant, eclectic, and radically non-conformist.  In 1982, after being expelled from several schools for counterculture activities like writing about atheism, running for student body president on a free marijuana platform, running an antiwar newspaper, and rarely completing what he started, he walked into M.I.T.’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, where he had been denied admission to their program for artists and demanded face to face meeting with the chairman.  The secretary called the cops.  Forty-five minutes later, Davis walked out as a research fellow, an unpaid but prestigious appointment.  Since then, he has used his charisma and zany innate curiosity about the way things work to foster impressive connections at other M.I.T. departments, Harvard Medical School, UC Berkeley and to collaborate with a number of global biotechnology scientists.  And he’s literally been around the world─Amsterdam, Ljubliana, Puerto Rico─championing fascinating ideas and projects that neither the official worlds of art nor science are entirely comfortable with but have gotten him profiled in Scientific American and on ABC’s Nightline (July 6, 2001) as a pioneer of transgenic art.

Davis is a natural subject for a film.  He applies himself to esoteric artistic endeavors at the nexus of art and science, often coaxing very improbable connections.  He’s the first man to record women’s vaginal contractions and translate these into text, music, phonetic speech and reduce these into radio signals, which were beamed from M.I.T.’s Millstone radar to Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti and two other nearby star systems.  His million-watt Poetica Vaginal 20 minute broadcast was ultimately shut down by the U.S. Air Force but the project’s driving concept was to say hello to extraterrestrials and to convey vital information to them about how humans reproduce, putting his own stamp on the message that Carl Sagan and Frank Drake had transmitted from the giant dish in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, 26 years ago and improving upon the first sanitized visual images of humans, with no facial hair and no female sex organs, that NASA had beamed into space on the Pioneer and Voyager space probes.  Conceptually, Davis was correcting what he perceived was an act of censorship that led to misinformation about our species.

Joe Davis, the subject of Peter Sasowsky's "Heaven + Earth + Joe Davis," poses for painter Michael Costello in his Cambridge, Massachusetts studio. Production Still, courtesy Serious Motion Pictures.

Sasowsky takes us along on an unforgettable ride into Davis’ world, producing a film a notch above Danish director Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s humorous documentary, The Invention of Dr. Nakamats (2009), which I reviewed for the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival in 2010.  Several of Davis’ expansive art projects are introduced with very little contextualization from the filmmaker.  In the end, the viewer is left with a highly creative but dizzying portrait of Davis and some gaping holes.  How credible and unique are Davis’ ideas?  Given that the official worlds of Art and Science both essentially rejected him, and his positions at the venerable MIT and Harvard have all been long-term unpaid internships that allow him to experiment but leave him dependent on donations of equipment and expertise from fellow scientists, what is the impact of his work for science and art?   There’s no question that Davis has done extensive research in molecular biology and bio-informatics for the production of genetic databases and new biological art forms.  So far though, he’s creatively applied the existing tools of science to artistic ends which leads me to suspect that most scientists would say that they like having him around but he’s not furthering serious science.  Art is another matter, lacking the rigorous standards of science.  Given that transgenic art is a relatively new area of art, how should we evaluate it?  What is its cultural impact?  What is Davis’ legacy and who are his artist peers?  The puzzlement about how it all adds up is annoying.

“The most absurd things are connected in very absurd ways,” Davis says.  “I like to take the least connected things and try to build connections between them.”   Davis’ innate curiosity is seductive and poetic and the film captures him jumping from one immersive project to the next while navigating his chaotic daily life.  He is captured conversing with a scientist from Clondiage Industries in Jena Germany who will assist him in genetically modifying an apple that will “tempt the Devil.”  In another sequence, he and assistants slather honey over the body of a naked and quite buxom young woman and then sprinkle her with gold dust for a project that tested his audio microscope and allowed him to investigate different types of bacteria by turning their natural movements into unique audio patterns.  He’s also shown amputating and then using electrically stimulated frog legs to power an aircraft, basically applying something we’ve all seen in high school biology labs—the nervous system reacting after death–on a grander scale.   Not your cup of tea?  His Microvenusproject (1990) encoded a simple symbol—a Y and an I superimposed—that is both a Germanic rune representing life and an outline of the external female genitalia into the E. coli genome.  It promptly reproduced into billions of cells and Davis declared himself the “most successful publisher” in history.

Joe Davis returns to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, a trip that served as inspiration for his project, "Call Me Ishmael." Production Still: courtesy Serious Motion Pictures.

Any scientist watching the film might well say… “I could do any of that but I’m just not interested because I’m applying my time to something more important.”   Davis knows that art has no boundaries and is out there passionately probing all sorts of connections, some of which have an amazing hidden logic.  Sasowsky offers a portrait of a man who explores the outer reaches of the cosmos, picks through Cambridge’s trash for materials and constantly battles the forces of eviction from apartments, labs and part-time gigs.  The film alternates between Davis’ daily life, footage of some of his early and most famous projects, family movies from his childhood, and conversations with his mother, sister, ex-wife and adult daughter.  His sister is frustrated and keeps hoping that something he does will lead to income and a means of supporting himself.  But Davis can’t be bothered with these practical concerns—he’s got bigger and more existential fish to fry.  As Davis discusses a number of complicated ideas that he’s got his own creative spin on, the film meanders along without a clear arch—an abstract poetic portrait that ebbs and flows like a kaleidoscope.  If you want substantive details about his processes and contributions, you’ll need to do your own research.

Director, Producer, Director of Photography, Editing: Peter Sasowsky.  Co-producer: Amy Grumbling.  Additional photography: Cecile Bouchier, Andrew Neumann, Stephan Baumgardner

DetailsHeaven + Earth + Joe Davis screens Saturday, February 18, 2012, at 2:45 p.m. and Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 2:45 p.m. at Roxie Cinemas, 3117 16th Street (at Valencia) in San Francisco.  Tickets are $11.

General Information about IndieFest:  All screenings take place at the Roxie Cinemas, 3117 16th Street (at Valencia) in San Francisco.  Film tickets are $11 for each regular screening and $20 for Opening Night (includes the film plus the after-party). 5-film vouchers are $50, 10-film vouchers are $90; $160 for FilmFestPass good for all films and parties.  The parties are $10 each or free with ANY festival ticket stub. Remember, passholders are always admitted first.  To purchase tickets in advance, or for more information, call 1-800-838-3006 or click on

February 21, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Leonardo LIVE,” a remarkable HD walk-through of the National Gallery of London’s blockbuster Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition comes to local movie theatres this Thursday, February 16, 2012

Next Thursday, February 16, 2012, the museum world will jump onto the HD (high-definition) streaming bandwagon with Leonardo Live, the first HD tour of a fine art exhibition created for movie theater audiences.  Presented by NCM Fathom, BY Experience and, Leonardo Live, will screen for one night only, Thursday, and will allow audiences to experience the old master coup of the century, The National Gallery of London’s Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan. In case you haven’t heard about the show, blockbuster fully applies.  By the time it officially opened in November, 2011, it was sold-out through January and the demand for tickets was insatiable, prompting all sorts of gray-marketing.   The museum offered extended viewing hours; let 180 people in every 30 minutes; shortened its audio guide and this frenzy continued until the show closed last weekend, February 5, 2012.   While nothing beats the experience of seeing art in real-life, taking in a show like via HD is a wonderful opportunity.

Leonardo Live was captured live in HD on November 8, 2011, just before the exhibition’s opening, and provides a virtual walk-through, with exclusive commentary from British art historian Tim Marlow, the exhibition’s curator Luke Syson, well-known media host Norwegian Mariella Frostrup, and others. 

This exhibition displayed more than 60 paintings and drawings by Leonardo, focusing on the art he created in the late 1480’s and 1490’s as court painter to Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan and the interesting connections between his secular court art and religious art.   The real draw was being able to see the paintings, all in proximity to each other.  Leonardo produced very few, probably 20, around which some scholaraly debate still continues, and the 9 that were in the National Gallery exhibition were all from his years in Milan.   The National Gallery’s newly-restored The Virgin of the Rocks (1483-86) was a focal point as well as a later version of the same painting borrowed from the Louvre.   The two paintings have never been exhibited together in the same room before and Leonardo himself never saw them together in his lifetime.  The Louvre’s earlier version was the first painting Leonardo completed as Duke Sforza’s court painter.  It is more delicate and meticulous than the National Gallery’s much later version, which is more sculptural, monumental and much brighter due to its recent restoration.  

“Salvator Mundi” (“Savior of the World”),(1499 or after) a work recently conserved, studied and controversially attributed to Leonardo is a focal point of “Leonardo Live,” an in-depth walk-through of “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan.”

Mary’s tender expression, the crumpled golden folds of her clothing, caught in the light, create the sense that she is alive but frozen in time by art.  The paintings are so cherished because they evoke the essence of Leonardo’s gift for expressing the delicate balance between the idealized and the imaginative, the human and the spiritual.  These paintings radiate a special inner life.

Also included, in varying states of condition, due to overrestoration and aging, are Portrait of a Musician (Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan), the Saint Jerome (Vatican, Rome), The Lady with an Ermine (Czartoryski Foundation, Cracow), the ‘Belle Ferronnière’ (Musée du Louvre, Paris) the Madonna Litta (The State Hermitage, Saint Petersburg), the newly discovered, never-exhibited painting, the Salvator Mundi, and Giampietrino’s full-scale (32 feet-wide) copy, made in 1520, of the Last Supper, on loan from The Royal Academy of Arts, London.     

While numerous exhibitions have looked at Leonardo da Vinci as an inventor, scientist or draftsman, this is the first show to be dedicated to his aims and techniques as a painter.  These pictures show how Leonardo, benefiting from his salaried position, used his artistic freedom to find new ways of perceiving and recording the natural world and how he mastered human anatomy and was able to depict the emotional life of a being like no artist before him.  Leonardo’s portraits have always been disputed but you’ll get a up close look at his signature features—moist spherical eyes, rippling curls, the obsession with the fall of light, the whiff of melancholy and, most of all, the suggestion of movement.   Before Leonardo, Renaissance

“Lady with an Ermine” (1489-90), one of Leonardo’s rare panel paintings, and one of only four female portraits painted by Leonardo, is a portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of the Duke of Milan. Leonardo painted this, considered by many to be the first truly modern portrait, while in the Duke’s service. Photo: The National Gallery

paintings were very closely representational but static and what he imparts in that hint of movement is a sentient emotional being, taking painting to an utterly new realm. 

The hypnotic Lady with an Ermine (1489-90), one of Leonardo’s rare panel paintings, and one of only four female portraits painted by Leonardo, also makes an appearance, shown with some of Leonardo’s animal syudies.  The delicate beauty is Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of the Duke of Milan and Leonardo painted this, considered by many to be the first truly modern portrait, while in the Duke’s service.  Cecilia is caught illusively turning towards something or someone beyond the canvas, while the ermine in her arms is completely still.  On loan from the National Museum in Krakow, this masterpiece  made a brief appearance in 2003 at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor during its Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland exhibition. 

The exhibition also brought together more than 50 of Leonardo’s drawings, including 33 owned by the Queen that were purchased during the reign of Charles II and left in the bottom of a chest until they were rediscovered in 1778, during the reign of George III.

Details:  Leonardo Live will be screened Thursday, February 16, 2012, at 7 PM, in the Bay Area at San Rafael’s Cinemark Century Regency 6, Napa 8 (Napa), Century 9 at San Francisco Center and San Francisco Cinearts Empire 3.   Tickets are available at participating theater box offices or online at  (Click here to download a PDF of participating theatres throughout the U.S.)

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SFMOMA’s offers a panel discussion on its fabulous “Francesca Woodman” show this evening

Francesca Woodman, Polka Dots, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976; gelatin silver print; courtesy George and Betty Woodman; © George and Betty Woodman

The art of Francesca Woodman has often been seen through the lens of the powerful and distinctive agendas of the 1970s and ’80s: feminist theory, Conceptual art, photography’s relationship to both literature and performance, Postmodernism.  It has also been seen as part of the moment in history when photography fully entered the sphere of contemporary art. SFMOMA’s exhibition of Woodman’s work — the most comprehensive to date — is a chance to reassess her work and recognize the intensity of her vision. A panel of art historians joins the Francesca Woodman exhibition curator, Corey Keller  (SFMOMA’s associate curator of photography) to discuss the impact and meaning of Woodman’s photography today.

Corey Keller, associate curator of photography, SFMOMA  

Julia Bryan-Wilson, associate professor of art history, UC Berkeley
Amy Lyford, professor of art history and the visual arts, Occidental College
Peggy Phelan, Ann O’Day Maples Chair in the Arts and professor of drama and English, Stanford University

Details:  Thursday, 7 PM, Phyllis Wattis Theater, SFMOMA.  Advanced ticket purchase highly recommended.  $10 general; $7 SFMOMA members, students, and seniors.  Buy tickets.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | SFMOMA | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Masters of Venice” closes a splendid run this weekend with a masked ball on Saturday, Feburary 11, 2012

Paris Bordone's "Allegory of Mars, Venus and Cupid," ca. 1560 is just one of the splendid paintings in "Masters of Venice" at the de Young Museum through Sunday. Photo courtesy: FAMSF

Celebrate those sumptuous Venetian paintings one more time before there’re off to Vienna’s Gemäldegalerie!  “Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power” is closing this Sunday and at the de Young Museum and ArtPoint is throwing a fabulous masked ball on Saturday to give it a festive send off.  Revel in the anonymity afforded by your finest Venetian mask and black tie attire; transport yourself to 15th-century Venice where the use of the mask became the perfect accessory to the love of transgression.  Just what may happen is up to you but let it all transpire in the midst of some of the most celebrated paintings in the history of art.  Titian, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto, Mantegna are all represented.  

Experience firsthand the mystery that for centuries has surrounded the Masquerade Ball. Revelers can expect exquisite works of art, spirited dancing, exotic cocktails provided by Solerno Blood Orange, and a few surprises. Dynamic performers and the musical stylings of San Francisco favorite DJ Solomon will set the stage for an utterly unforgettable night. Who will you be?

VIP guests will enjoy priority entry an hour before the main event, tours of the stunning exhibition, and access to a private VIP lounge all evening serving Stags’ Leap Petit Sirah and Viognier, along with Greg Norman Sparkling Wine and heavy appetizers provided by Union Street Catering.

After indulging in these worldly delights, you’ll to descend into the museum’s lower lever to view Masters of Venice. The exhibition features 50 magnificent paintings representing the height of Venetian Renaissance painting; these works are among the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s most celebrated holdings from art collections built over centuries by the emperors and archdukes of the royal house of Habsburg.  The Venetian Renaissance was one of the singular movements in the evolution of Western Art.  It forged an artistic vocabulary that took full advantage of the poetic potential of rich atmospheric effects, lustrous color, and the sensuous beauty observed in nature.  Venetian painters of the cinquecento transcended the spatial, textural, and representational realism of their predecessors to create works unsurpassed in their emotional and sensual depictions, velvety surfaces and glorious treatment of light.

Details:  Masters of Venice: A Masked Ball is Saturday, February 12 at 8 P.M.  Tickets: $95 to $250. Purchase tickets online here.  The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park.  Masters of Venice: Renaissance Paintings of Passion and Power from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, runs through February 12, 1 p.m. For more information call (415) 750-3600 or visit Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power runs through Feb. 12, 2012.

February 8, 2012 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco’s Boxcar Theatre opens Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” this Wednesday, February 8, 2012, part of a winter season of Shepard that is off to a roaring start

Family secrets are dragged out into the light of day in a remote farmhouse.  Dodge has lost control as the patriarch of the family and the mother, Halie, is in a not so secret affair with their pastor.  A heinous act, years ago, tore the family apart and killed all of the crops in the field.  It all bubbles to the surface in a heartbreaking conclusion.  San Francisco’s Boxcar Theatre opens Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” this Wednesday as part of what might their most ambitious season yet─staging four of Pulitzer Prize-winner Sam Shepard’s best-known plays in repertory.

True West, Buried Child, A Lie of the Mind and Fool for Love will run continuously through April 26, 2012 in two Boxcar locales─the Boxcar Playhouse on Natoma Street and the new Boxcar Studios on Hyde Street, each of which offer intimate staging experiences.  What makes Boxcar’s Sam Shepard project so innovative is that the Boxcar’s Artistic Director Nick A. Olivero, whose personality and passion for theatre are legendary, has turned his creative ratchet up even further than usual.  Boxcar really grabbed ARThound’s attention last January when they ingeniously staged their play “Clue,” like the classic board game.  The audience was seated six feet above, peering down at a life-size reproduction of the game’s exact playing board, replete with 9 rooms─the Ballroom, Conservatory, Billiard Room, Library, Study, Hall, Lounge, Dining Room and Kitchen─in which the characters moved about.  And once people caught wind of the whole concept— a play based on a movie based on a board game─and the hilarious acting itself, the extended run sold out. (Read ARThound’s Clue coverage here.)   The Sam Shephard series started off with some highly creative casting.

In Boxcar Theatre’s production of Sam Shepard’s “True West,” actors Brian Trybom (left) and Boxcar’s Artistic Director, Nick Olivero (right), play brothers Austin and Lee but rotate roles frequently, giving them the chance to fully immerse themselves in Shepard’s drama. Boxcar is staging four Sam Shepard plays and several readings through April, 26, 2012. Photo: Peter Liu

In True West, which opened January 17, Olivero and actor Brian Trybom have been performing the roles of the two brothers Austin and Lee and rotating between the two roles nightly.  And once or twice a week, after briefly outlining the characters to the audience, they let the audience decide on the spot who will play what role that evening.  They change into the required clothing and are off and running.  I’ve seen the play both ways and live theatre just doesn’t get any better.  When you’re watching this unfold, it’s hard to process how they each keep their lines straight under these conditions and pull it off, night after night, with such seamless and spontaneous flow.  And the intimate Boxcar Studios, which can hold about 30, is configured perfectly for this tight drama─the audience lines the three walls, forming the border of a kitchen, some just inches from the actors.   That’s close enough to feel the toast, toasters and typewriters that are hurled whooosh by.

True West is focused around two brothers who unexpectedly come together in their mother’s suburban home while she is away on a trip.  Austin, a disciplined screenwriter pecking away at his typewriter (far too uptight and lacking the confidence to proclaim his work as pure art) has come to watch his mom’s place and finish his screenplay in solitude.  Lee, a drifter, thief and born storyteller (an artist to his core but without the discipline to harness and craft his ideas), shows up out of the blue.  

In Boxcar Theatre’s production of Sam Shepard’s “True West,” actors Brian Trybom (left) and Boxcar’s Artistic Director, Nick Olivero (right), play brothers Austin and Lee but rotate roles frequently, giving them the chance to fully immerse themselves in Shepard’s drama. Photo: Peter Liu

Initially disdaining and mistrustful, the brothers warm to the point where they are curious to taste the life the other leads.   As they embark on a project that forces them to collaborate, a cesspool of raw emotion erupts and they confront what it takes to survive in each other’s world of illusions.  Like real Western cowboys, the two are pulled into a deadly battle.  The drama taps the mythic dreams and dysfunction at the heart of most American families.  The father never appears but is referenced several times.  His alcoholic legacy is one of destruction and family abandonment, but both his sons are still enamored with him.   Mom (Adrienne Krug and Katja Rivera alternating) plays her part too─traditional, meek, passive.   When she returns from her trip early, she is astounded that her plants have died, her home is trashed and her boys are at each other throats.  When she hears that both her sons are talking about leaving for the mythic West, that same West that her husband ran off too, she turns tail and exits. This is rough and tumble drama, and, as chaos descends, Olivero and Trybom play it to the hilt, honoring Shepard’s enduring classic.

“I started reading Shepard in high school with Lie of the Mind, and it just resonated with me,” said Nick Olivero.  “I had two older brothers and one of them was really mean to me, beat the crap out of me, and that’s the way it is in a lot of families and that’s what happens in a lot of Shepard plays.  A lot of us connect with that.  In college, I directed True West and I worked on Fool for Love and, without even looking to do it, I just kept working on Shepard.  I had always wanted to work at the Magic Theatre because of Sam Shepard.  I moved up here in 2003, and within six months, I was hired at the Magic.  It was such a big thing for me to be at that company who had supported him, premiered and produced his work that I liked so much.  After Boxcar did Tennessee Williams in repertory for our 4th season, I started thinking about Shepard.  I’ve directed his work twice and always wanted to be in it and I thought…all right, here’s my chance to do it before I get too old.”

Stay tuned to ARThound for an interview with Nick Olivero about Sam Shepard at Boxcar.

Buried Child is an epic odyssey about finding one’s way back home and finding one place’s in that home.  Neither can be achieved until all the buried secrets are unearthed.  Like in True West, Shepard uses the premise of a son’s return home for a brief visit while on his way West, to California, to explore the raw pain within the American family.   The three act play, Buried Child had its world premiere at San Francisco’s Magic Theatre in 1978 and, in 1979, Shepard won the Pulitzer prize for Best drama for Buried Child.   The play ran for more than one year Off-Broadway and has received more than 400 productions around the world. 

Sam Shepard readings: Boxcar Studios will also present several additional Shepard plays throughout March in the form of readings and enactments of selected scenes.  On the docket so far:  Cowboy Mouth, Curse of the Starving Class, 4-H Club, Action, Suicide in B Flat, and Kicking A Dead Horse.  

Sam All Day Sunday:  On consecutive Sundays, March 25 and April 1, Boxcar runs all four plays on the same day starting at noon. The ticket price of $120 includes lunch, a shot of whiskey and private transportation from theater to theater by the rep series cast and crew, giving playgoers the opportunity between shows to speak with the actors and directors who make it all happen.

Details:  Sam Shepard in Repertory runs through April 26, 2012.  Full schedule, including casting for each performance at  Individual plays are priced as follows:  Previews $15; Opening night, including reception $35; General Admission $25. 

“Sam Shep Rep Pass” includes one ticket to each show in the series $85.

Admission is $5 – $10 for each reading or free with the $85 “Sam Shep Rep Pass.”

February 7, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Great Danes! SF IndieFest 14 opens Thursday at San Francisco’s Roxie Theatre, 14 days of brilliant, weird, and doggie! independent films, February 9-14, 2012

The 14th Annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival  (IndieFest)  starts Thursday, February 9th, 2012 bringing two weeks of the very best of category-defying independent film on the planet to San Francisco’s Roxie Theater.  This year’s line-up includes 30 features, nine documentaries, six locally produced films, six shorts programs, and a host of special events.  And there are more inspired wild theme parties than ever before, all over San Francisco, including an opening night Spinal Tap Tribute, the (9th Annual!) Big Lebowski Party, a Roller Disco (half-price if you show up in costume), and a special Valentine’s Day Love Bites: 80’s Power Ballad Sing-a-long.   But the program that most captured ARThound’s attention is Everything Is Terrible!, which includes the film DOGGIEWOGGIEZ! POOCHIEWOOCHIEZ! which is composed entirely of found VHS dog footage and an accompanying “live in the fur show” program.  The film promises to be a diamond in the Ruff and its creators, the Chicago –based collective Everything Is Terrible!, will be in full body mascot delivering a psychedelic show which they promise will pick up where Cirque Du Soleil and The Rock-A-Fire Explosion took off.  

But wait—there is a serious component to DOGGIEWOGGIEZ! POOCHIEWOOCHIEZ! and the zany group behind it.  Everything Is Terrible! is a collective of seven furry, lovable internet monsters who are first order archivists and artists─they take forgotten VHS tapes of all kinds and edit them down into easily digestible videos that go viral.  They trolled old VHS footage for over a year to produce this feature-length film.  

DOGGIEWOGGIEZ! POOCHIEWOOCHIEZ!  is a zany remake of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s brilliantly weird 1973 psychedelic cult classic The Holy Mountain (La Montaña Sagrada).  This epic─screened at Cannes in 1973, honored as a Cannes Classic in 2006, and released on Blue-ray last year─is the journey of a Christ-like vagabond and thief who encounters a spiritual guru who introduces him to six wealthy individuals who each symbolize a planet in the solar system.  Together, they embark on a spiritual pilgrimage to the holy mountain, to unseat the gods and become immortal themselves.  Lots of drugs were consumer in its making.   As much as The Holy Mountain was a product of its time, so is DOGGIEWOGGIEZ! POOCHIEWOOCHIEZ! 

Sergio Caballero’s feature debut Finisterrae is another film that seems destined for cult status and cleverly uses humor and absurdity to deflect from its metaphysically hefty theme.  Two Russian –speaking ghosts, in white sheets (evoking large trick-or-treaters) embark on a fantastical pilgrimage to the Spanish holy city of Santiago de Compostela in search of new bodies to inhabit.  One of them occasionally rides a dappled gray horse or a wheelchair and the other carries around a colourful wind flag as they travel through rich landscapes that are the stuff of dreams and home to some fantastical oddities.  There’s a forest of trees wearing plastic ears and whispering in Catalan, a vivid flashback to Catalan video art of the 1980’s, and a singing hippie.  All this, cased in lush and languid cinematography, is a container for a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life and dreams.  As weird as it all sounds, the film is mesmerizing and comes together as a powerful surreal odyssey.  Finisterrae grabbed the top award at the 40th International Film Festival Rotterdam.  Finisterrae’s director, Caballero, a multidisciplinary musician and artist, is also the co-director of Bacelona’s acclaimed Sónar, the International Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art.

Stay-tuned to ARThound for more IndieFest coverage.  And if you missed last year’s IndieFest coverage, you likely missed another doggie classic, “Worst In Show,” a riveting behind-the-scenes documentary by filmmakers Don Lewis of Petaluma and John Beck of Benecia that covered the entrants in Petaluma’s 2010 World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.  Click here to ARThound’s coverage.    

Details:  “Everything is Terrible 2012” is Friday, February 17, 2012 at 9:30 p.m. at Roxie Cinemas, 3117 16th Street (at Valencia) in San Francisco.  Tickets are $15.00; buy them here.

General Information about IndieFest:  All screenings take place at the Roxie Cinemas, 3117 16th Street (at Valencia) in San Francisco.  Film tickets are $11 for each regular screening and $20 for Opening Night (includes the film plus the after-party). 5-film vouchers are $50, 10-film vouchers are $90; $160 for FilmFestPass good for all films and parties.  The parties are $10 each or free with ANY festival ticket stub. Remember, passholders are always admitted first. For advance tickets or more information, call 1-800-838-3006 or click on

Same day tickets are only available at the venue. The box office opens 30 minutes before the first show of the day. For all screenings, please arrive at least 15 minutes before show time to assure seating.)

February 5, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ensemble Parallèle Presents “The Great Gatsby,” a chamber opera with the swagger and pizzazz of the roaring ‘20’s─at Yerba Buena Center, February 10-12, 2012

Beautiful, haughty, seductive, manipulative, wearied, and indulged to excess….the iconic Daisy Buchanan is played by Soprano Susannah Biller, a former SF Opera Adler Fellow, in Ensemble Parallèle’s new chamber opera, "The Great Gatsby," at Yerba Buena's Novellus Theatre February 10-12, 2012. Photo: courtesy Rapt

Ensemble Parallèle is bringing what promises to be a very  inventive contemporary opera to Yerba Buena Center’s Novellus Theatre this coming Friday-Sunday (February 10-12, 2012):  the world premiere of Jacques Desjardins’ chamber orchestration of composer John Harbison’sThe Great Gatsby.”   Based on the beloved 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the opera was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera to celebrate James Levine’s 25th anniversary as its musical director.  It premiered in 1999, with just one subsequent performance at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, mainly because it called for an orchestra of 120 musicians.  Aware of the need to make Harbison’s important work accessible to performing groups, Ensemble Parallèle, a professional ensemble-in-residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, embraced the project and commissioned its re-orchestration from 120 to 30 musicians, keeping the rich sound of Harbison’s music─ which includes 17 original vernacular pieces─tangos, Charlestons, jazz songs─not your traditional opera to begin with.   The cast includes 11 singers─some very well known in the Bay Area and some newcomers.  This is the first time in ten years that the piece, which opened to mixed reviews at the Met, will be performed on stage and it is Ensemble Parallèle’s most ambitious project to date.  Recognizing music’s power to transform and raise consciousness, this presentation of a classic, with some story enhancements, with should be an exciting event.   If you haven’t been to an opera before, the best thing to do is literally jump in─get tickets and go!  At 2.25 minutes with one intermission, and all in English, this opera—jazzy and emotionally gripping─should be a great introduction for newcomers.   And, if you haven’t been to Yerba Buena Center’s modern Novellus Theatre for a performance, you’re in for a treat.  Unlike San Francisco Opera, these seats are much more user friendly and the site lines are exceptional. 

The cast looks fabulous.  Lyric tenor Marco Panuccio, a newcomer to the Bay Area, is Jay Gatsby.  Panuccio portrayed Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon for Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Soprano Susannah Biller, a Bay Area favorite and former SF Opera Adler Fellow, with a rich and powerful voice, who portrayed Eurydice in Ensemble Parallèle’s spring 2011 production of Philip Glass’ Orphée, is Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s fixation.  Baritone Jason Detwiler, who played St. Plan in Ensemble Parallèle’s summer 2011 production of Four Saints in Three Acts, is Nick Caraway, the opera’s narrator.  Casting also includes tenor Dan Snyder as Tom Buchanan, Disy’s husband; baritone Bojan Knezevic as the machanic George Wilson; mezzo soprano Erin Neff as his wife Myrtle Wilson and mezzo-soprano Julienne Walker as Jordan Baker.  All come together to present the gripping story—in music─of a very shallow lot of characters who make a tragic mess of their indulgent lives.  The setting is deco and the drama transpires against the colorful backdrop of the roaring ‘20’s, when American society enjoyed great prosperity, endured Prohibition and the dance music of the day was jazz. 

Gatsby marks the fourth major presentation of fully-staged contemporary chamber operas by Ensemble Parallèle’s duo–Artistic Director/Conductor Nicole Paiement and Stage Director and Production Designer Brian Staufenbiel.  Gatsby follows last year’s Orphée by Philip Glass, Alban Berg’s Wozzeck in 2010 and Lou Harrison’s Young Caesar in 2007–all to acclaim from audiences and critics.  Last August, in conjunction with SFMOMA’s fabulous The Steins Collect, Ensemble Parallèle presented a critically acclaimed production of the rarely performed Four Saints in Three Acts by composer Virgil Thompson and librettist Gertrude Stein. (Read ARThound’s coverage here.)

Paiement founded Ensemble Parallèle in 1994 to perform new music and to collaborate with various artists such as dancers, choreographers, and visual and multimedia artists— as the Ensemble’s name suggests, in parallel.  These collaborations have allowed Ensemble Parallèle to reach a wider-ranging and younger audience.  In 2007 Ensemble Parallèle began to focus exclusively on contemporary chamber opera, producing works with vitality, edge, and appeal, so important in world of opera.

Gatsby Insights at 7:15 PM, prior to each performance

Run-time: 2.25 hours with one intermission

Sung in English/English Supertitles

Details:  All performances are held at Novellus Theatre, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street, San Francisco, 94103

Friday, February 10, 2012
 – 8:00 PM
Saturday, February 11, 2012 – 8:00 PM
Sunday, February 12, 2012 – 
2:00 PM

Tickets are $35 to $85 and are on sale at the YBCA Box Office.  Call 415-978-2787 or order online at:

A Fitzgerald gem to ponder:  

I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.

It was seven o’clock when we got into the coupe with him and started for Long Island. Tom talked incessantly, exulting and laughing, but his voice was as remote from Jordan and me as the foreign clamor on the sidewalk or the tumult of the elevated overhead. Human sympathy has its limits, and we were content to let all their tragic arguments fade with the city lights behind. Thirty – the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.  But there was Jordan beside me, who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age.  As we passed over the dark bridge her wan face fell lazily against my coat’s shoulder and the formidable stroke of thirty died away with the reassuring pressure of her hand.

So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight. (Nick,  The Great Gatsby, Chapter 7, pp 307-309)

February 5, 2012 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment