Geneva Anderson digs into art

Matanzas Creek Winery’s 16th Annual Days of Wine and Lavender is this Saturday, June 30, 2012

Matanzas Creek Winery’s 16th Annual Days of Wine and Lavender is this Saturday, June 30, 2012. The winery’s Lavender Garden features some 5,000 plants. The cultivars “Grosso” and “Provence” line the entrance to the winery and are the basis of its Estate Grown Lavender product line. Photo: courtesy Matanzas Creek Winery.

 “lavender, sweet lavender;

come and buy my lavender,

hide it in your trousseau, lady fair.

Let its flovely fragrance flow

Over your from head to toe,

lightening on your eyes, your cheek, your hair.”

Cumberkand Clark Flower Song Book 1929


Ask any California gardener and you’ll find that lavender is an herb that is easy to fall in love with—it grows like a dream, has a calming fragrance, and its deep purple hues are treasured by almost everyone.  And luscious culinary lavender has endured long past its trending phase to become a gourmet staple.  This Saturday, at Matanzas Creek Winery’s 16th Annual Days of Wine and Lavender, you can put your problems aside and escape to a lush lavender oasis in Bennett Valley’s rolling hills.  The winery’s breathtaking lavender garden will be in full fragrant bloom and the day is geared towards tasting exquisite wines and sampling all things lavender—from artisan breads dusted with lavender flour to lavender lemonade to Matanzas’ rejuvenating Estate Lavender line.  This popular event always sells out early and draws a crowd of 400 from all over California for a leisurely and relaxing summer afternoon.  Designed in 1991 by landscaper extraordinaire Robert Kourik, with 5,000 impeccably cultivated plants; this is the largest planting of lavender in northern, CA.  It’s surrounded by a border of exotic trees, shrubs and tall grasses and the overall impact is reminiscent of the enclosed secret gardens of classical Europe.  If you’ve never been up to Matanzas Creek, the event this Saturday is just about the best introduction you could have to the sprawling estate and its rich offerings.

There will be ample opportunity to taste the wines of Matanzas Creek, featuring Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, and the unique Dénouement ® (day-nu-ma), a fabulous dessert wine made from Sauvignon Blanc that experiences botrytis, or ‘noble rot,’ which is prized in France for its ability to produce stylishly luscious fruit characteristics.  Velvety and sophisticated on the palate, this wine is led by aromas of baked peach and honeysuckle which transition elegantly into flavors of baked apricot with hints of brioche and hazelnut.   Delicacies featuring edible lavender and that pair well with the wines will be prepared by Matanzas Creek’s estate chefs Justin Wangler and Eric Frischkorn and their culinary team.  Last year, Chef Eric Frischkorn prepared out-of-this-world homemade artisan breads featuring lavender.  Some of these breads were created from a unique wild yeast starter dough from yeast Frischkorn collected on the vineyard’s grapes.  This year, be sure to try his special foccacia with Chardonnay Grapeseed Oil and lavender and his Kalamata Olive Sourdough with herbs de Provence which  is made from Frischkorn’s grape sourdough starter.

Chef Eric Frischkorn will be baking and serving his fabulous artisan breads this Saturday at Matanzas Creek Winery’s 16th Annual “Days of Wine and Lavender.” Photo: Geneva Anderson.

This year’s menu:

Assorted Local Artisan Cheeses & Charcuterie 

Paired with Sauvignon Blanc: Drakes Bay Oyster Shooter with Cucumber Consomme

Paired with Chardonnay: Lavender Honey Glazed Scallops, Sardinian Couscous Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Paired with Merlot: Lavender Roasted Leg of Lamb with Confit Fingerling Potatoes, Green Beans & Salsa Verde

Paired with Sauvignon Blanc: Lemon Grass Chicken Lettuce Cups with Toasted Almonds & Pickled Vegetables

White Chocolate Lavender Mousse with Caramelized White Chocolate Cremeux, Lime Streusel & Vanilla Bean Meringue

Justin Wangler assured me that there is a “subtle difference” between various culinary cultivars that fine palates can distinguish.  “Lavandula x Intermedia,” commonly named “Grosso,” is a strong and vigorous hybrid, grown on the Matanzas grounds that was developed in France in the early 18oo’s for its heightened oil content.  It yields a robust purple violet bloom and produces one of the highest quality culinary grade lavenders to be found and is favored by the culinary team.

This Year’s Highlights Include:

  • Learn first hand from winemaker Marcia Monahan, what sets Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc apart from the rest.  Featuring a sensory experience by tasting fruits, herbs and spices to discover exotic tasting notes.
  • Visit the Journey Tasting Room for an elevated experience and taste amazing wines.
  • Indulge in a chair or hand massage while surrounded by our gorgeous estate.
  • See a live demonstration how a dish is prepared and why it pairs beautifully with Matanzas Creek wines.
  • Take an immerging walk through lavender gardens in high bloom.
  • Groove to live music and just have a great time exploring our estate gardens, grounds and vineyards.
  • The Lavender Barn will be open with Estate Lavender culinary items, lotions, soaps, massage oils and much more available for purchase. And this is not your ordinary lavender spa line–of course, there’s a pure lavender scent from the finest essential oil.  Several lavender products have also been blended with ingredients like tangerine, neroli and rose to create modern invigorating scents.   There’s also a men’s line that features a handmade soap with a spicy earthy lavender-infused scent that’s worth stocking up on.
  • Tantalize your taste buds by indulging in unique desserts, local cheeses served by local vendors.  Try Marshall’s Farm estate lavender-infused honey which utilizes Matanzas Creek’s estate lavender.

Details: Saturday June 30th, 2012, noon to 4 p.m. Tickets: $85 General Public and $70 Wine Club members.  Matanzas Creek Winery is located at 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA  95404.  Phone: 800 590-6464

The winery is known for its crisp sauvignon blancs, luxurious chardonnays and fruity, earthy merlots.  To learn more, visit

June 29, 2012 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Emotional Creature”—The indomitable Eve Ensler explores the complicated inner lives of girls in the stage adaptation of her best-selling book, at Berkeley Rep through July 15, 2012

Six talented young women perform in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of “Emotional Creature,” a new play about girls around the world from Tony Award-winner Eve Ensler. Photo:

Six talented young women perform in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of “Emotional Creature,” a new play about girls around the world from Tony Award-winner Eve Ensler. Photo:

“Beautiful is a country with gates around it.  I will never be invited,” laments a girl from Johannesburg who is online and in an international chat room for anorectics.  She has just binged on French fries and the group of girls chides her.  Another girl has poured Clorox on her pizza to keep herself from eating it.  “Genius” they all chime in.  The online life of girls and body image is just one of the pieces that make up Emotional Creature, a new play by Tony award winner Eve Ensler, about the intensely emotional inner lives of teenage girls around the world, which has its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and runs through July 15, 2012 and then, in the fall, will move on to the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center.

Based on Ensler’s best-selling book of the same name, Emotional Creature, is made of up a series of fictional monologues, ensemble pieces and songs about and for teen girls crafted by Ensler but inspired by girls she met around the globe.  The cast is comprised of six talented young women, in their early twenties, who give powerful and heartfelt expression to stories highlighting the intensely emotional and complex worlds of girls.  Cliques, bullying, online life, body image, eating disorders, sex, sexual identity, abduction and sexual exploitation, and slavery, suicide, abortion, genital mutilation and plight of uneducated child factory workers are the topics broached in 90 minutes.   Emotional Creature, in Ensler’s own words, is intended as “a reckoning…an act of empowerment for girls…and an illumination for parents and for us all.”

It’s leaning in that direction but, on its opening night, Creature came off more like short attention span theatre, covering too much ground in too confusing a way to have the enduring impact of The Vagina Monologues (1996) which inspired VDay, a global non-profit movement that has raised over $75 million for women’s anti-violence groups, or The Good Body (2004) which addressed womens’ obsessions with their bodies.

Molly Carden performs in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of “Emotional Creature,” a new play about girls around the world from Tony Award-winner Eve Ensler. Here, Carden is American teen in a suburban high school who has been dumped by the clique who used to acknowledge her. Photo:

The show opens with a heart-piercing monologue from an American girl (Molly Carden) in a suburban high school who is trying to justify her existence after being dumped by the clique she thought she had been accepted by.  “I’m so tragically in the middle with not one outstanding characteristic.  I have nothing going for me but them.”  As Carden’s character spirals into a blob of self-hatred, desperate to be accepted at any price, we are hit with the utter cruelty of high school and its pathetic social politics.  Shunned because she was “accidentally nice” to Wendy in front of the clique’s leader Julie, the girl feels terrible because  she tried to win her way back in to the group by being mean to Wendy in front of them.  She actually likes Wendy, who is kind and courageous. Wendy used to be high up in the clique but got fed up and left and is much happier away from their control tactics.  The piece is a shout out to girls everywhere in this situation.

As the piece fades, the girls all break into a defiant vibrant dance and rap piece “I dance because…”  Wonderfully staged by Jo Bonney, the girls dance on Myung Hee Cho’s set of three roundish platforms with a large curving screen providing a hip background of pulsating colors, factoids, and photos.  Charl-Johan Lingenfelder’s songs, with catchy and bracing lyrics by Ensler, punctuate the emotionality throughout.

As the piece fades, the girls all break into a defiant vibrant dance and rap piece “I dance because…”  Wonderfully staged by Jo Bonney, the girls dance on Myung Hee Cho’s set of three roundish platforms with a large curving screen providing a hip background of pulsating colors, factoids, and photos.  Charl-Johan Lingenfelder’s songs, with catchy and bracing lyrics by Ensler, punctuate the emotionality throughout.

Sade Namei performs in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of Eve Ensler’s “Emotional Creature.” Namei portrays a Middle Eastern girl who had nose job forced upon her by her parents. Photo:

Sade Namei gives a memorable and funny performance as a Middle Eastern girl whose parents forced a nose job on her at age 16. “When you met me, you met my nose; it put everyone at ease…gave me permission…made me daring.”  Now, she laments that she is pretty but, “Pretty girls don’t really look like anything in particular…they look like what everyone dreams of looking, like but they don’t look like anything you can really identify.”  What is missing from her powerful monologue is the direct observation that her parents forced the operation on her to make her more marriageable, which would further drive home the gender issue (girls must be conventionally pretty to be attractive to men) that Ensler is presumably trying to challenge.

The performance tackles a number of sexual issues that teens grapple with—sexual desire and conduct, pregnancy, abortion, sexual orientation, and sexual abuse.  Emily S. Grosland, who anchors the show with her marvelous voice and distinctive stage presence, wraps herself in a lace wedding veil and delivers a riveting farewell monologue to her parents who refuse to acknowledge that she is gay.  Given that LGBT youth are frequently harassed and ostracized at school, and their suicide rates are higher than those of the general population, the piece is a heartfelt plea to parents to wake up and act with compassion and to accept their children’s sexual orientation.

Emily S. Grosland performs in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of Emotional Creature, a new play about girls around the world from Tony Award-winner Eve Ensler. Grossland plays a suicidal teen whose sexual orientation is not acknowledged by her parents. Photo:

Emily S. Grosland performs in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of Emotional Creature,” a new play about girls around the world from Tony Award-winner Eve Ensler. Grossland plays a suicidal teen whose sexual orientation is not acknowledged by her parents. Photo:

Less effective because of their sequencing and lack of development, which make them seem out of the blue, are two international pieces about sex crimes.  Molly Carden plays a 16 year-old Eastern European teen who ran away from a hellish abusive, alcoholic home.  She was raped by her father’s best friend, subsequently raped by the police and ended up a sexual slave. “I am a garbage pail, a receptacle. I don’t know why I was born. I am a rape opening. There is nothing left of me.  I am about to become extinct.”   In a monologue that follows, Joaquina Kalukango powerfully portrays a girl from somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa who was abducted while on vacation, raped repeatedly for years, and impregnated. To survive, she created a set of rules that she repeats poignantly on stage—“build a hole inside of you and crawl into it.”

Olivia Oguma delivers one of the evening’s funniest, but oddly out of place monologues, as Cha-ling, a 15 year-old uneducated Chinese worker who has been working in factory since she was a kid assembling Barbie dolls. “Barbie feels bad for all the girls who are starved to make her and starving to be like her. …she is so much smarter than people will ever let her be. Free Barbie! …Free Cha-ling! Let her out of this dirty sweaty factory.”  While her reflections on Barbie are insightful, her situation, as a factory worker with severely limited options, is not a uniquely girl issue and our minds grapple to discern Ensler’s deeper political message which seems to be an indictment of labor practices, the entire international economic system and Barbie and all she stands for.

Emotional Creature tries to cover too much ground and in the process loses its poignancy and relevancy for the two groups of girls it addresses—young women in America (or the West) and young women in the rest of the world.  Both are emotional creatures but their experiences and their suffering are not easily compared. The pain and anxiety associated with navigating cliques and girl’s body image and issues of sexual identity are not the same things as being sold into sex slavery (in Eastern Europe) or being abducted while on vacation and repeatedly raped for years and impregnated (somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa) or being expected to undergo genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) because it’s a tradition for women in the 30 countries that still practice it, or being trapped in a low wage factory job with no chance of advancement because you have no education and options.  While this appears to be a sampling of the wide range of stories presented in Ensler’s book, the pieces create an uneven series because they are from such different contexts.

By the end of the performance, Ensler’s message is unclear.   Is it, “It’s ok to have all of these intense feelings.  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not”?  The early scene, with the girls in the clique, points out the pathetic backbiting and control tactics that girls in cliques are indulging in and clearly has a “rise above it” theme to it.  Rising above it implies being rational, using discernment, and realizing that girls who indulge in this behavior are weak and ignorant and don’t know what they’re talking about.  You can’t just be emotional, you also have to think.  This becomes particularly important in the context of sexual behavior.  Several of the pieces have girls speaking out about rape and violence perpetrated by men, in other words speaking out against free reign of limbic impulses. There’s a double message.  We need to be MORE THAN emotional creatures or we’ll be what we accuse them of being.  As it currently stands, any group of liberal, well-educated and empowered women could rip this to montage to shreds.  With a few tweaks, its potental is unlimited.  I’ve attached two videos below which capture Ensler very coherently explaining her motivations and her concerns about young girls being shut down emotionally.  The work to be done is communicating these points effectively in  Emotional Creature.

Despite its shortcomings,  if you have a teen daughter, or a good girlfriend to go with, I recommend seeing the show.  It provides a framework for conversation about what the world is like now for girls and what it was like when we were teens.  I attended on opening night with a close friend and, from the minute we hit the lobby after the show, we engaged in a few short conversations with audience members—women of different ages—about their reactions.  They raved about Eve Ensler but were confused about Emotional Creature’s message and who it was targeted at.  On the way home, I talked with my friend about the horrors of high school now and then, in my case looking back 34 years, and in hers, 29.  I did not tear up once during the performance, a telling sign, given it’s supposed to address emotions, but the girl talk afterwards went straight to my heart.

Run-time 90 minutes, no intermission

Starring: Ashley Bryant, Molly Carden, Emily S. Grosland, Joaquina Kalukango, Sade Namei, and Olivia Oguma

Creative Team: Written by Eve Ensler; Directed by Jo Bonney; Music and music direction by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder; Choreography by Luam; Designed by Myung Hee Cho (sets and costumes), Lap Chi Chu (lights), Jake Rodriguez (sound), and Shawn Sagady (video)

Special Outreach to Girls:  Berkeley Rep has always embraced community outreach, but it has developed a special more structured outreach program for Emotional Creature and will distribute up to 3,000 FREE Community Access tickets to Bay Area non-profit organizations and government agencies serving young people, particularly girls, and at-risk individuals for whom cost of attending a performance would be a barrier.  Kashira Robinson, in charge of this endeavor, reports that, so far, 800 free tickets have been allocated and that almost every performance will have a few audience members who are attending through this program.  To request tickets, nominate a worthy charity, or donate funds towards this program, click here to be directed to Berkeley Rep’s form (PDF).

Free tastings: Join Berkeley Rep for complimentary pre-performance tastings! Sample wine, beer, chocolate, champagne, vodka, organic produce or other delights before select Friday 8pm, Saturday 8pm and Sunday 7pm performances. New tasting events are being added all the time, so be sure to check back often!

•Friday, June 29: Quady Winery / 7pm

•Saturday, June 30: Quady Winery / 7pm

•Sunday, July 1: Quady Winery / 6pm

•Friday, July 6: Quady Winery / 7pm

•Saturday, July 14: Urbano Cellars / 7pm

Details:  Emotional Creature runs through July 15, 2012. The Berkeley Repertory Theatre (Roda Theatre) is located at 2015 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704. Tickets start at $29, with discounts for students and seniors and half-price to anyone under the age of 30.  Special $15 high-school rush:  Starting 90 minutes before each performance of Emotional Creature, Berkeley Rep sell any open seats for $15 to anyone with a current high-school ID.  Be sure to provide your email address when purchasing, so you can find out about future offerings for teens at Berkeley Rep.  For tickets and additional information: or phone 510.647.2949



June 28, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

interview: Marin artist Michael Schwab talks about his latest poster for San Francisco Opera’s “Nixon in China”

Marin artist Michael Schwab signs copies of his “Nixon in China” poster at the Opera Shop at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House on June 17, 2012. Schwab has created three posters for SF Opera and has been commissioned to create a poster for Mark Adamo’s “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” which has its world premiere at SF Opera next summer. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Well before John Adams’ opera Nixon in China opened San Francisco Opera’s Summer Season, a striking poster featuring Richard Nixon’s silhouette in profile set the mood across the Bay Area.  That artwork was created by Marin artist Michael Schwab, one of our country’s leading graphic artists, whose iconic posters, images and logos for the Golden Gate National Parks, Major League Baseball, Robert Mondavi, Peet’s Coffee, Muhammad Ali, Nike, and others dynamically capture our lifestyle.  With his signature use of large, flat areas of color, dramatic perspectives, and bold, graphic images of archetypal human forms, Schwab’s work also lends itself perfectly to opera.  His Nixon in China poster was especially commissioned by San Francisco Opera to celebrate the first time San Francisco Opera is presenting the work, the 25th anniversary of the opera’s premiere, and the 40th anniversary of the historic trip that President Nixon made to Communist China in 1972.  The artwork, which also graces the opera’s program cover and appears as a huge three-sheet outside War Memorial Opera House, completely transcends Nixon’s dubious post-China legacy and is destined to become a classic.

Schwab’s sense of color is integral to his memorable compositions.  Nixon’s huge silhouette is executed in a subdued gray-red-mauve, an unusual color, that is set against a vivid orange-red background, evoking the red field of the Chinese flag.  As Nixon hovers in the background, the viewer’s eye is directed to the expectant figure in a black suit at the bottom, on stage, with outstretched arms, beckoning.  Behind him, in a darker hue of that unique gray-red-mauve, there’s a crowd of onlookers, in silhouette, that form a strong horizontal. Together, they evoke a poignant scene in the opera’s last act.  Blazoned across the top in a custom typeface, in a bright yellow gold that recalls the stars of the Chinese flag, is “John Adams Alice Goldman Nixon in China,” set against a black backdrop.  And on the bottom, in gray text, surrounded by black, is “San Francisco Opera June July 2012.”  In terms of mood, the poster has an ominous feel and lends itself to endless reflection on the fascinating personalities associated with this historic trip, primarily Nixon, but also Kissinger, Chairman Mao, Pat Nixon, and Chaing Ch’ing (Madame Mao) and their aspirations as individuals and as public figures.

Twenty years ago, in 1992, San Francisco Opera commissioned Schwab to create a poster to commemorate Mussorgsky’s great Russian opera, Boris Godunov, and last year, after interviewing several artists, SF Opera again commissioned Schwab to create a poster to commemorate Francesca Zambello’s new production of Richard Wagner’s four-part Ring cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).  And did he deliver!  His poster features a striking image of the heroic Brünnhilde, silhouetted against a fiery orange background evocative of the final immolation scene in Götterdämmerung, the cycle’s concluding opera.

“People came to the Ring from the four corners of the globe,” said Jon Finck, SF Opera’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs. “They bought that poster and took it home and it serves as reminder of that extraordinary experience they had here in San Francisco.  We’re looking at these posters as artworks, not advertising and we don’t include a lot of wording, we don’t need that.  Michael’s work has a lot of energy in it and it marks with a punch, evoking the drama and splendor of our operas.  There’s just no second guessing that this is Michael Schwab’s work.  His palette is bold and the typography is exciting and is a combination of a contemporary look that also harkens back to a more classic look from the 1930’s and 40’s, so it’s very classic but contemporary.”

Michael Schwab’s “Nixon in China” artwork is available in two sizes as a poster; it appears as three-sheet outside the opera house and it graces San Francisco Opera’s program cover for “Nixon in China.” Image: Michael Schwab.

San Francisco Opera has also commissioned Schwab to create three additional posters, so that there will be a set of five posters, not counting the Boris Godunov poster, that will mark the final five years of David Gockley’s tenure as General Director of San Francisco Opera.  In addition to The Ring (2011) and Nixon in China (2012), Schwab will create a poster for Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene that has its world premiere at SF Opera next summer and two additional, yet to be named, commissions.  “There will be not only local but national and international attention on Adamo’s work,” said Jon Finck.   “It will be a very daring and provocative opera given the libretto which suggests a particular relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus.  This will be powerful on stage and David Gockley felt that we needed to have a powerful counterpart in terms of the image and Michael’s our guy, no question.”

After last Sunday’s riveting performance of Nixon in China at the War Memorial Opera House, I caught up with Michael Schwab in the Opera Shop, where he was busy greeting audience members and signing the poster he created to commemorate San Francisco Opera’s production.   Earlier in the week, I had conducted a phone interview with him about his artwork for San Francisco Opera.  Below is our conversation—

Are posters really influential in people’s decision to go to an event?

Michael Schwab:   Absolutely.  A poster is like a label on a bottle of wine―it’s visually representing what’s inside.  There’s creativity in that bottle – and the label, like the poster for the opera, should evoke the personality of the wine.  It’s an integral part of the opera.  It’s exciting to arrive dressed for the evening and walk up the steps of the War Memorial Opera House.   The 3-sheet poster out in front and the program that you are handed are the first creative impressions of the evening and should reflect the excitement, thrill and integrity of the opera.

What makes a really effective poster?  And, why are so many posters today so bad?

Michael Schwab:   Simplicity.  There’s way too much visual noise out there.  Graphic messages are conveyed much more effectively when the design is simple, bold and efficient.

What was your conception for the Nixon in China poster and how did you approach a design project like this?

Michael Schwab:   I started out attempting to portray the two men, Mao and Nixon, shaking hands in that historic moment.  I eventually realized that the image of Nixon alone was more intriguing. It was more powerful to have the big Nixon head as opposed to two men with more detail, shaking hands.  It was a more effective composition.  More dynamic.

Michael Schwab’s first commission for SF Opera was a poster for Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” in 1992. Image: Michael Schwab.

My designs work better when they are very singular in subject matter.  People typically want to say too many things with one design – rarely the best strategy. You’ve only got one or two seconds to earn someone’s attention.  For me, less is more.

Because this was a poster for opera, was there anything inherently different about it?

Michael Schwab:   As a graphic artist, I have much more freedom with these projects.  The artwork should be lyrical and unique.  It’s like an album cover—it’s part of the event.  If I wasn’t a graphic designer, working on posters and logos, I would probably be involved in theatre somehow.  Part of the success of my work is drama – there’s some theatre in my artwork.  At least, I hope so.

Did you listen to the opera or music from Nixon in China while working on the poster?

Michael Schwab:   Yes, and it is a great opera.  I was able to watch the video of the Vancouver Opera (VO) production (March, 2010) whose physical sets, scenery and costumes are the ones that San Francisco Opera is using in its production.  I usually listen to music in the studio.  Typically jazz.

What types of source materials do normally you use?

Michael Schwab:  When appropriate, I work with models—human or otherwise.  I pose and shoot my own photos myself.   For Nixon, of course, there was no model, so I had to rely on historic photographs.

How much of your work is done on a computer and how has that changed over time?  Do you start with freehand drawing?

Michael Schwab:  When computers first came out, most of my illustrator and designer pals were going over to the digital world.  I knew that I really enjoyed working at the drawing table – not a keyboard.  I decided to go in the opposite direction and keep my work very hand-drawn, with obvious craftsmanship.  And I still work at a drawing table, with pencil and paper, and then pen and ink.  I first draw rough pencil sketches, then create technical pen and ink drawings that eventually get digitally scanned.  We then work with Adobe Illustrator fine tuning the colors and shapes precisely.

How did you settle on the colors? 

Michael Schwab:  For the Nixon project, I knew up front that my poster was going to be a very strong red with golden yellow evoking the Chinese flag.

After you’ve nailed the image you’ll use, how do you decide on a font and it’s size and positioning?

Michael Schwab’s 2011 poster for Francesca Zambello’s new production of Richard Wagner’s four-part Ring cycle, “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” was an instant hit. 15 x 21 inches, digital studio print on archival paper. Image: Michael Schwab.

Michael Schwab:   Many times, I use my own font, “Schwab Poster,” created back in the ‘90’s.  I work with that typeface a lot.  It’s not commercially available but I have it here in the studio.  I used that for the National Parks series.  For the Nixon poster, I used an old wood block font because it just felt right.  We altered several of the letters to make it just right.

In your creative process, do you work up several different images, or, focus on just one?

Michael Schwab:   I usually work up two or three ideas for myself and typically show those to the client.  With Nixon in China, I shared 3 or 4 sketches with Jon Finck and David Gockley and told them why I thought the singular image worked best and they agreed.

What is your lead time in developing a poster like this?

Michael Schwab:   Is this case, I had a month or two, so it wasn’t too bad.  Sometimes deadlines are two weeks and sometimes two years.  There are no rules.

When I see some of your images, the word ‘bold’ comes to mind, but there is also a romantic/nostalgic aspect as well, harkening back to old woodcuts.  I get that sense from  the color, strong line and the overall energy in a lot of your works.

Michael Schwab:  My heroes were always the old European poster artists—Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and A.M. Cassandre, from France, and Ludwig Holwein, from Germany, and the Beggarstaff Brothers from England.  There’s lots of graphic romance and drama in those images.  I also have a deep respect for old Japanese woodcuts.

What’s the first poster you made?

Michael Schwab:   My first professional poster was for Levi’s, back in 1975, for creative director, Chris Blum.   I’ve been a graphic artist now for almost 40 years.   My first opera poster was for San Francisco Opera’s Boris Godunov in 1992.   Talk about bold and simple—that was extremely bold and simple.

Yes, not much more than a silhouette but it really communicated the pagentry of that opera.

Michael Schwab:   Next time you look at it, tell me if you’re in the audience looking at him from the audience or if you feel like you’re on the stage behind him.   That was a silk-screen poster with gold metallic ink border, which was probably toxic as hell…but it was gorgeous.  A couple of decades went by and here I am, at the opera again and thoroughly enjoying it.

Michael’s Schwab’s popular series of posters for the National Parks are synonymous with Northern California. “Golden Gate Bridge,” 1995, 22 x 30.75 inches, 7 color, silk screen. Image: Michael Schwab

 Is silk-screen still used?

Michael Schwab:   Yes, but it’s so much easier and cleaner to create a digital print.  They can really match colors beautifully on archival paper.  However, I still love serigraphs (silkscreen prints).  They are like paint on the paper.

Do you do your own print work as well or do you work with a printer?

Michael Schwab:   I work with several printers, but for the opera posters, I work with David Coyle at ArtBrokers Inc. in Sausalito.  He is a master printer and publishes many artists and photographers.   He and his staff did a stunning job.

Your website has a fabulous gallery of work, which are your favorites and why?

Michael Schwab:   It’s kind of like asking which children I like the best. I’ve had a few home runs, not everything works incredibly well, but the images for the Golden Gate Parks are a favorite.  I’m also proud of the work I’ve created for Amtrak over the past several years.  Several individual logos I feel very good about—the Robert Mondavi corporate logo,  Pebble Beach,  David Sedaris, to name a few.  And the opera posters—Nixon is my third.  I have a commission for the next 4 years with them.

 What are you working on right now?

Michael Schwab:   The big project on my drawing table now is the poster for America’s Cup 2013.   It hasn’t been printed at the time of this interview, yet but it’s been approved, and everybody seems to like it.  I’m also working on the graphic for a highway project up in British Columbia—The Sea to Sky Highway.  It seems like I always have a wine label project going on too.  Currently, it’s Area Code Wine Company.

Information about Purchasing Schwab’s posters:  

Michael Schwab’s Nixon in China poster is printed on archival fine art paper and is available as an unsigned 16″x24″ poster ($75) and a signed 24″x36″ collector’s poster ($150) through the San Francisco Opera Shop at the War Memorial Opera House and online at .  A limited number of his out of print Boris Godunov posters, 24″ x 36″ are available for $625 through the San Francisco Opera Shop at the War Memorial Opera House.

To visit Michael Schwab’s website, click here.

To read ARThound’s previous coverage of Michael Schwab, click here.

Details about Nixon in China performances: San Francisco Opera’s Nixon in China runs for seven performances June 8-July 3, 2012 at the War Memorial Opera House.  Tickets and information: or call (415) 864-3330.

June 24, 2012 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian director Gabriele Lavia talk about Verdi’s opera “Attila,” at San Francisco Opera through July 1, 2012

It isn’t often that I get the chance to chat with Maestro Nicola Luisotti, San Francisco Opera’s Music Director, whose passionate conducting and dynamic presence have transformed our opera experience in San Francisco.  I caught up with Maestro Luisotti and Italian theatre and film director, Gabriele Lavia, last Sunday in San Francisco at the opening of Tuscan painter Domenico Monteforte’s exhibition, “Toscana,” at Italian Cultural Institute. Surrounded by Monteforte’s vividly expressive landscapes, some of which were painted on Verdi’s musical scores, Luisotti improvised on the piano while Lavia recited poems from memory by Giacomo Leopardi, Italy’s revered 19th century lyric poet, who wrote almost exclusively about the pain of life.  After the performance, Luisotti and Lavia, longtime friends, agreed to chat informally with me about their collaboration on San Francisco Opera’s Attila, which opened to rave reviews last Tuesday (June 12, 2012).

Co-produced with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and directed by Gabriele Lavia, this new performance of Verdi’s rarely performed opera is set in three different periods of Italy’s history: ancient Rome circa 450 AD; the Viennese occupation of the early 1800’s; and the present day.  Luisotti conducted the production in Milan and conducts it again in San Francisco.

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia discuss their friendship and collaboration on Verdi’s “Attila,” which opened at San Francisco Opera on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. 

Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia discuss rehearsing Verdi’s “Attila,” which opened at San Francisco Opera on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. 

Gabriele Lavia talks about directing “Attila” in San Francisco and at Italy’s Teatro alla Scala (La Scala)

Details:  San Francisco Opera’s Attila runs for six performances: June 12, June 15, June 20, June 23, June 28, and July 1, 2012 at the War Memorial Opera House. Tickets and information: or call (415) 864-3330.

Casting:  Legendary Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto heads the cast as Attila; Venezuelan soprano Lucrecia Garcia is Odabella; baritone and former Adler Fellow Quinn Kelsey sings as Ezio; renowned bass Samuel Ramey is Pope Leo I.

June 17, 2012 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marin artist Michael Schwab will sign his “Nixon in China” posters following Sunday’s opera

Marin artist Michael Schwab was commissioned by San Francisco Opera to create the poster to commemorate John Adams’ opera “Nixon in China,” which opens San Francisco Opera’s Summer 2012 Season. Image: courtesy Michael Schwab

I’ll be at tomorrow’s matinee performance of John Adams’ Nixon in China which opened San Francisco Opera’s Summer Season to rave reviews on June 8, 2012.  Afterwards, I’m going to meet acclaimed Marin artist Michael Schwab in the Opera Shop, where he will be signing the striking limited edition poster he created especially for this San Francisco Opera production.  His bold portrait of Richard Nixon in profile, against a vivid red backdrop, is elegant in its simplicity.  While focused on Nixon, it implies much more and the closer you look, the more you see.  The artwork is available as a limited edition poster, reproduced in two sizes, and is also featured on the cover of the Company’s Nixon in China program book.  Last week, I had the pleasure of talking with Michael Schwab about his creative process, something like a studio visit by phone, and will be publishing that shortly.

From his studio in Marin, Michael Schwab has established a national reputation as one of America’s leading graphic artists. Dramatic in its simplicity, Schwab’s work is easily recognized by his signature use of large, flat areas of color, dramatic perspectives and bold, graphic images of archetypal human forms.  He has created award-winning images, posters, and logos for numerous clients, including the Golden Gate National Parks, Major League Baseball, Robert Mondavi, Muhammad Ali, Nike, Robert Redford, and most recently, the poster for the America’s Cup 2013 in San Francisco.  His previous collaborations with San Francisco Opera include posters for the Company’s 2011 Ring Cycle and Boris Godunov in 1992.

Schwab’s Nixon in China poster is printed on archival fine art paper and is available as an unsigned 16″x24″ poster ($75) and a signed 24″x36″ collector’s poster ($150) through the San Francisco Opera Shop at the War Memorial Opera House and online at .  Following the Sunday, June 17, 2012, 2 p.m. matinee performance of Nixon in China,  Michael Schwab will sign posters of both sizes at the Opera Shop immediately following the performance.

Details: San Francisco Opera’s Nixon in China runs for seven performances June 8-July 3, 2012 at the War Memorial Opera House.  Tickets and information:
or call (415) 864-3330.

June 16, 2012 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , | 1 Comment

review: The Voca People have landed—8 harmonizing aliens creating vocal magic—at San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Theatre through Sunday, June 17, 2012

“Voca People,” a musical theatre event that combines vocal sounds, a cappella singing, comedy and the art of beat box, takes the stage at San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Theatre, June 5 – 17, 2012. Photo: Voca People

Last Tuesday, eight snow-white, ruby-lipped aliens from the distant planet Voca invaded San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Theatre, with a delightful musical theatre performance, Voca People, which is the perfect family-friendly summer-in-the-City outing.  Created by Israeli writer Lior Kalfo, who wrote, choreographed and directed it, and music director Shai Fishman, Voca People is a toe-tapping a capella musical review whose energetic and uplifting vibe is out of this world.  Its origin lies in an Internet video with that perfect weird-crazy-cool factor that went intergalactic with hits.   Voca People  packs the entire history of Earth music into a 90 minute show that actively involves Earthlings, audience members, who are brought on stage throughout the performance and subjected to Voca experimentation.  This is a limited run engagement that runs through Sunday, June 17, 2012.

The concept isn’t new but that doesn’t really matter.  The Voca spaceship ran out of fuel and has force-landed on Planet Earth, stranding eight friendly, very bald, and cuddly aliens who happen to sing in amazing harmony.  To return to Planet Voca, the Voca people need fuel—Earth music.   In their search for fuel, 3 female singers (alto, mezzo, soprano), 3 male singers (bass, baritone, tenor), and 2 vocal beat box artists run through a rich medley of roughly 70 musical hits, sung in short segments that range from the opening “The History of Music” to “Music of the Movies.”   There are no musical instruments, no sound effects, only vocals!   The sheer diversity of the songs keeps you hopping and in awe.  You’ll hear  “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Lollipop,” “Mr. Sandman” and even Mozart’s “Magic Flute” and will be challenged over and over again to name that tune without cheating and glancing at the program where the titles are all listed.   On opening night, audience members enthusiastically clapped, waved their arms in the air, and swayed to familiar tunes that resonated on many levels.  

The great thing about Voca People is that its talent runs deep and when you least expect it, amongst all the zaniness, you can be blown away by the simple delivery of a song.   All the performers are gifted but stand-outs are “Beat On,” the Voca commander in chief and “Scratcher,” his brother, who create an endlessly impressive array of human beat box sounds that serve as the sole rhythmic accompaniment to the singing.  A lot of the fun is in sizing up the various audience members who are pulled up on stage spontaneously to serve as human companions to the affection-starved and ever curious Voca citizens.  If you’ve got guests coming or simply want to enjoy an evening out that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face,  Voca People is out-of-this-world.  

The creative team for Voca People includes Lior Kalfo (Director / Co-Creator), Shai Fishman (Musical Director / Co-Creator), Roy Milo (Lighting Design), Naor Ben Meir (Sound Design) and Hana Yefet (Costume Design).

Details:  Voca People runs Tuesday, June 5, 2012 through Sunday, June 17, 2012.  8 PM shows Tuesday-Friday; 6:30 PM and 9:30 PM shows Saturdays; and 3 PM and 6 PM shows on Sundays.   Tickets range in price from $49 to $75 and are on-sale now at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre Box Office, online at, or by phone at (415) 771-6900.  The Marines’ Memorial Theatre is located at 609 Sutter Street, San Francisco.

June 12, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Toscana”: Painter Domenico Monteforte’s lyrical homage to his native Tuscany opens Sunday at the Italian Cultural Institute —Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian director Gabriele Lavia will speak at Sunday’s reception

Domenico Monteforte paints landscapes on musical scores of Tuscan-born composer Giacomo Puccini. His solo exhibition, “Toscana,” is June 10-August 20, 2012, at the Italian Cultural Institute, San Francisco. “In Pine,” mixed media, 40 x 60 cm. Photo: courtesy Domenico Monteforte

One of the best experiences you can have is seeing something familiar in something new.  The magnificent pine and cypress trees that figure prominently in Tuscan painter Domenico Monteforte’s landscapes echo the sculptural oaks that grace the golden rolling hills of our Sonoma.  Monteforte’s solo painting exhibition, Toscana, opens this Sunday, June 10, 2012 and runs through August 20, 2012, at the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco.  Toscana features thirty of his recent paintings, including landscapes that lyrically capture the region’s unique and remarkable light and nature, as well as landscapes painted on musical scores of Tuscan-born composer Giacomo Puccini.

“Everything in my work hearkens back from there – from Tuscany,” says Monteforte, whose deep connection to his native countryside makes for profoundly personal works that capture Tuscany’ sublime beauty.  Italian art critic Gianmarco Puntelli has written about Monteforte’s work in a beautiful Italian-English catalogue documenting the exhibition.

Monteforte, a celebrated artist in his native Italy, studied closely with Italian artist Umberto Buscioni at the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, where he was profoundly influenced by artists such as Pontormo, Ennio Morlotti, Giorgio Morandi and Carlo Carrà.  Three of Monteforte’s works were purchased by the President of the Italian Senate for the Palazzo Madama Art Gallery and his painting, L’albero della vita (The Tree of Life) was presented to the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, Rome.

Monteforte lives in Forte dei Marmi, a quaint coastal village in the province of Lucca on the Tuscan Riviera.  He cherishes his home base for its tranquility and calm, simultaneously accessible to the cultural landmarks of bigger Italian cities such as Florence and Milan. He maintains two studios.  A smaller space is located inside his gallery, Galleria d’Arte Arena, in the center of Forte dei Marmi, where he exhibits his work along with other artists such as Mark Kostabi, Antonio Possenti, and Walter Lazzaro.   To accommodate large-scale works and cumulative projects, he has a spacious studio in Camaiore, a small town in the province of Lucca.  “It’s ancient place that’s rich in history with a beautiful, eighth century Benedictine Abby.  Life seems to go at an even slower pace than in Forte dei Marmi and I’m able to express myself with total freedom.”

The Italian connection–good friends Gabriele Lavia (Left), Nicola Luisotti, and Domenico Monteforte will all be at the Italian Cultural Institute this Sunday to celebrate the opening of Monteforte’s painting exhibition, “Toscana.” photo: courtesy Domenico Monteforte

Sunday’s Opening Reception: Maestro Nicola Luisotti and Italian theater and film director Gabriele Lavia, both longstanding friends of the artist, will be making an appearance on Sunday night to introduce Monteforte’s exhibition.  Lavia is in San Francisco directing SF Opera’s highly-anticipated Attila, which opens Tuesday, June 12, 2012.  Monteforte’s friendship with San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti is the impetus behind this exhibition in San Francisco.  “Luisotti opened up a marvelous world to me of opera – Puccini, Verdi, Bizet – and now I listen to this great music when I work on large canvases.”

Maestro Luisotti relates, “When I study a score, I try to discern the colors within the music.  When Domenico paints, he strives to interpret the music of life into colors on a canvas. We always say that our work is not so different after all. Domenico is a true magician of color – his Tuscany is like a dream.”  Guests at Sunday’s opening reception will receive a sample of olive oil featuring a label that Monteforte has designed and will be invited to try “pappa al pomodoro”, a hearty tomato-bread soup which Monteforte will have prepared himself for the event.

Details:  Toscana’s opening reception is Sunday, June 10, 2012, 6:30-8 p.m., at the Italian Cultural Institute, 814 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94133.  Phone 415.788.7142

Admission is free, but space is limited. RSVP required.  To RSVP, click here you will be directed to a registration webpage which will send you a confirmation email.

The Toscana exhibition runs June 10-August 10, 2012, at the Italian Cultural Institute.   For further information on Domenico Monteforte, visit the artist’s website at

June 8, 2012 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kim Novak, Glamour Girl of the Silver Screen–who knew she could Paint? “Life is but a Dream,” part of a larger exhibition at San Francisco’s Old Mint, June 16-24, 2012

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Film actress, Kim Novak, with her all-American blonde looks and bewitching demeanor, said goodbye to Hollywood in the 1960’s at the height of her fame.  She had come from a working class Czech neighborhood community in Chicago and risen through the ranks of Hollywood to wow audiences worldwide with her unforgettable performances in such films as Vertigo (1958), Picnic (1955), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and Bell Book and Candle (1958).  Her irresistibly carnal Judy, pretending to be Madeleine, in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller, Vertigo (1958), made Vertigo one of the greatest films of all times and forever linked her to the San Francisco Bay Area.   It is only fitting that San Francisco will be graced with Novak’s presence next week for two very special events organized by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society (SFMHS).

Novak, now 79, is a painter and she’s having her first public art exhibition at the Old Mint, June 16–24, 2012.  Novak’s collection of paintings, Life Is But a Dream, will be a key exhibit in a larger exhibition, The Stuff that Dreams are Made of: San Francisco and the Movies, which highlights the movies and the filmmakers that have made San Francisco one of the world’s unique film capitals at the Old Mint, June 16-24, 2012.

Novak will also be honored with the San Francisco Cinematic Icon Award next Thursday, June 14 at the Old Mint at Standing Ovations, a gala event to benefit the Society.  She will be interviewed onstage by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz.

“San Francisco has always been my favorite city of all time,” says Kim Novak. “I was privileged to feel a part of this magical place in two films — Pal Joey with Frank Sinatra and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  What an honor it will be to receive this special award from San Francisco. It will be like coming home again!”

Her series of paintings, Life Is But a Dream, bathed in rich colors and light, can be best described as Novak’s very personal take on her surroundings—a rustic Oregon ranch bustling with animals where lives with her husband, Dr. Robert Malloy, an equine veterinarian.

“My style of painting is the result of striving for the marriage of impressionism and expressionism,” says Novak. “I have always been influenced by life as it exists around me—touched by my past, the world of make believe—and concerned with what affects life today and how it might infect life tomorrow.  Through the use of symbolism I have found a way to vent life’s frustrations and experience the freedom of self-expression. This is the ultimate reward that comes to the visual artist.”

In regard to the techniques she employs, Novak says, “I love the serendipitous effects one gets by combining water colors under paintings with pastels.  However, I enjoy using all mediums.”

It was always Novak’s dream to become an artist. She received a scholarship to the prestigious Chicago Art Institute as a teen.  But just before she was to follow through with her studies at the Institute, fate intervened and she was discovered by a talent agent from Columbia Pictures in Hollywood.

Having lived with mental illness in her family, as well as in herself, she found the importance of using art as a means of overcoming depression …she would paint late into the night even before she was diagnosed as Bipolar and able to receive treatment and medication.

Novak has never stopped painting and she now lives in Oregon, where she devotes most of her time to art.  She is hoping, through this exhibit in San Francisco, to find a way to connect with the best people in the art world and to find a way to raise funds through the sale of her art to fund an arts program for those struggling with mental health issues … far this is just her dream for 2013, but, “this is the stuff dreams are made of.”

Details:  Life Is But a Dream runs June 16-24, 2012, from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm at the Old Mint at Fifth and Mission Streets.  Admission is $5 for SFMHS members and $10 for the general public. Life Is But a Dream is an exhibition within the larger exhibition, The Stuff that Dreams are Made of: San Francisco and the Movies, June 16-24, 2012, from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm at the Old Mint.

The Standing Ovations benefit gala is Thursday, June 14, 2012, at 5 p.m., with guest of honor, Kim Novak, receiving the San Francisco Cinematic Icon Award.  Individual tickets start at $300.  For information about the gala, contact Darlene Plumtree at (415) 710-7332 or

Kim Novak and William Holden’s Dance Scene to “Moonglow” from Picnic (1955)

James Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958)— Scottie (James Stewart) tries to find out why Madeleine (Kim Novak) threw herself into the San Franicisco Bay.

Kim Novak’s appearance “What’s My Line” on February 5, 1956

June 7, 2012 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pounce! From dimwit to witty, Heather Gordon is talented and luscious in Cinnabar Theatre’s “Born Yesterday,” through June 10, 2012

Heather Gordon, of Novato, plays ex-chorus girl, Billie Dawn, in Cinnabar Theatre’s production of Garson Kanin’s “Born Yesterday,” through June 10, 2012. Photo: Eric Chazankin

Tuesday’s election didn’t go the way you had hoped?  Is the country going to hell in a hand-basket held by special interest groups awash in money?  It’s certainly maddening but it’s not new.  As relevant and funny today as it was when it made its 1946 Broadway debut, “Born Yesterday,” now at Cinnabar Theater,  charms with its bittersweet comedy and sardonic look at politics.  After Cinnabar Theater sold out all three performances for its opening weekend week run from June 1 to June 3, 2012, it added a Thursday night show to accommodate overwhelming box office reservation requests.

Ex-show girl and mistress, Billie Dawn, played by the captivating Heather Gordon, gets a new lesson on life, love and politics when she comes to Washington with her corrupt and uncouth junk tycoon boyfriend, Harry Brock, James Pelican.  When Harry hires a liberal newspaper reporter to tutor her in current events, grammar and the necessary gentility for mixing with Washington D.C.’s political elite, he’s the one in for a big awakening.  Newly educated and wisened-up to Harry’s schemes, Billie Dawn sets out to get even with her law-breaking schmuck and then move on.  This endearing story of how one woman changed her life and threw a wrench in a big influence peddler’s machinery, gives hope in a world where it’s a getting to be a real ugly jungle.

Heather Gordon commands, seduces and bewitches with her vulnerability, bringing mesmerizing freshness to Billie Dawn.

Cast: Heather Gordon as Billie Dawn, Gary Grossman as Harry Brock, Paul Huberty as Paul Verrall, Charley Queary as Ed Devery, Samson Hood as Senator Norval Hedges, Nuria Ibars as Mrs. Hedges, Madeleine Ash as Helen, James Pelican as Eddie Brock, Dezi Gallegos as Bootblack, Assistant Manager, Pascale Serp as Bellhop, Barber

Production team: Sheri Lee Miller, Director; Ross Tiffany Jones, Stage Manager; Peter Parish, Scenic Manager; Lisa Eldredge, Wayne Hovey, Costume Designer; Jim Peterson, Lighting Designer; Sound Designer, Jim Peterson; Sharlyn Klein, Production Manager; Production Assistants, Mike Acorne, Aloysha Klebe, Mike Orton.  

Details:  Cinnabar Theatre is located at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North (at Skillman Lane), Petaluma, CA, 94952.  Tickets online: $25 General, $22 Seniors 65 & Over, $15 Age 22 & Under.  Tickets can also be purchased before the performance but pre-purchase of tickets is highly recommended as the theatre is small.  Early arrival is also recommended as there is no assigned seating.  For more information, call 707-763-8920 or visit

There are 4 remaining performances:  Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 8 p.m., Friday, June 8, 2012, at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 9, 2012, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 10, 2012, at 2 p.m.

June 6, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

review: Dael Orlandersmith’s “Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men”—a powerful one woman show that probes the lingering wounds of abuse— at Berkeley Rep, through June 24, 2012

Pulitzer Prize-finalist Dael Orlandersmith is back at Berkeley Rep with the world premiere of “Black n Blue Boys / Broken Men.” Photo courtesy of

From the moment the formidable Dael Orlandersmith steps onto the barren floor of the Thrust Stage at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, her intensity is hypnotic.  In her new solo work Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men, which had its world premiere last Wednesday evening, Orlandersmith transforms herself into five young men of varying ages and races to take us on a dark journey that probes the lasting trauma of childhood abuse.  Wearing simple loose-fitting black clothing and her signature braids loose throughout the entire 100 minute performance, Orlandersmith shifts her weight, changes her accent and seems effortlessly, from someplace within, to call forth five young men of varying races, origins and ages who tell their stories.  Having lived through horrific abuse—recounted in graphic detail—the common enemy these young men now face is the power of history and painful personal experience.   Adulthood, especially for children from homes with recurrent abuse and violence, presents varying levels of growth and regression.  Orlandersmith takes us a journey riddled with turbulent emotional shifts as acts of self-sabotage and unintentional abuse undo significant gains.  As these young men question the choices they’ve made and the patterns they’ve enacted, we can’t help but applaud the strength it took for Orlandersmith to give voice to their demons and the sliver of hope residing in the dark corners of their awakening self-awareness.

Orlandersmith made an indelible impression on local audiences in 2004 with Berkeley Rep’s production of Yellowman.  That play, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, explored the complex dimensions interracial prejudice through the story of a young black couple.  It was commissioned and originally produced by McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey and was the first play Orlandersmith wrote for other actors.  Black n Blue Boys/Broken Men has the potential to be every bit as biting as Yellowman but it needs to be tightened and honed, much of which will happen during its road-test at Berkeley Rep.  Orlandersmith pours every once of her soul into these young men, giving a raw, haunting and audacious performance.    

Special Events:

Free 30-minute docent presentations about the show take place at 7:00 PM on the following Tuesday and Thursday evenings: June 5, June 7, June 12, June 14, June 19, and June 21, 2012.  Docent talks are also held in three local communities: at the Orinda Library on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 7:00 PM, at the Lafayette Library on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 7:00 PM , and at the Moraga Library on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 2:00 PM.

Post-play discussions moderated by theatre professionals follow the 8:00 PM shows on Friday, June 8, 2012 and Tuesday, June 12, 2012.

Free tastings: Join Berkeley Rep for complimentary pre-performance tastings! Sample wine and other delights.  New tasting events are being added all the time, so be sure to check back often!

  • Friday, June 8, 2012: Urbano Cellars / 7pm
  • Saturday, June 9, 2012 Dr. Kracker / 7pm
  • Friday, June 15, 2012: Semifreddi’s / 7pm

Creative Team:  written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith; directed by Chay Yew; designed by Daniel Ostling (sets), Anita Yavich (costumes), Ben Stanton (lights), and Mikhail Fiksel (sound)

Details:  Black n Blue Boys / Broken Men runs through Sunday, June 24, 2012. The Berkeley Repertory Theatre (Thrust Stage) is located at 2025 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704.  Tickets start at $29.  Additional savings are available for groups, seniors, students, and anyone under 30 years of age – meaning discounted seats can be obtained for as little as $14.50. For tickets and info: or phone 510.647.2949

June 4, 2012 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment