Dance/USA Comes to San Francisco
The annual Dance/USA conference was in San Francisco this year, and late this June it got off to a rollicking start at City Hall, with Chinese lion dancers outside and SF performance artist Fauxnique inside slowly unfurling her giant train as she danced dramatically down the stairs. Other venues South of Market stayed open late to accommodate some of the 500 attendees.
This year’s meeting in San Francisco went international. At the many breakout sessions and receptions taking place at various venues, including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the ODC campus, it was possible to meet and hear the issues of the CEOs of American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, artistic staff from the Australian Ballet, and representatives of companies such as Great Britain’s Michael Clark and the Winnipeg Contemporary Dancers. The Canadians revealed their vibrant art poster campaign to market dance, the Britons reveled in their success performing in American museums such as the Whitney, and American Ballet Theatre claimed there is no room for it at the Opera House and that other local halls can only house its smaller contemporary repertory.
Dance/USA introduced the theme of diversity as one the dance field’s strengths, and one that could be fully explored in San Francisco. Also unique to the San Francisco conference was the choice of theatrical venues for the sessions, rather than holding the conference in the corporate atmosphere of a hotel. This made the selection of keynote speaker Simon Sinek all the more intriguing, as he’s not a choreographer but an entrepreneur. Sinek, who has advised several major ballet companies, gave a rousing motivational speech centering on each dance group’s finding the “why” of its existence and moving from there to find the necessary support and patrons. Following the plenary, the conference moved into the YBCA auditorium for an eclectic showcase that featured the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Smuin Ballet, Company C Contemporary Ballet and local modern companies such as Sara Shelton Mann’s Contraband and Axis Dance Company. The afternoon included sessions on dancers’ health insurance (or lack thereof), on choreographers collaborating through sharing producing responsibilities, and a session focused on marketing dance with social media, highlighting the successes of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on that front. An additional breakout demonstrated generational gaps in companies’ approaches to touring outside the US, with more mature presenters referencing the importance of personal contacts abroad, while younger artists like Trey McIntyre said they rely more on state touring opportunities and cultivating people at consulates. An awards ceremony followed, with honors given to the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, philanthropists Chris and Warren Hellman, San Francisco Ballet artistic director Helgi Tomasson and presenter Sam Miller. In the evening the conference convened in the auditorium for a roundup performance, including duets by Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet and San Francisco Ballet and performances by Margaret Jenkins Dance Company.
On Friday the conference moved to ODC and offered a panel on dance blogs, where local dance writers could be seen avidly taking notes, and a session on some of the issues of creating dance in the community, where dance makers from Chicago, Los Angeles and the Bay Area all chimed in. Douglas Sonntag, director of dance at the NEA, gave a workshop on applying for those ever more competitive grants (these days only full-fledged nonprofits can apply; fiscal sponsorship is a no-no). Friday evening featured dance in the Mission District, with artists such as Joe Goode and performances in unusual settings such as a neighborhood laundromat.
Saturday included a session led by the Bay Area Video Coalition and local videographer/filmmaker Austin Forbord on how to get all those old “archival” videos out from under beds and properly into storage. YBCA’s new curator Marc Bamuthi Joseph led the wrap-up session with a panel of women choreographers working with themes as varied as widowhood, the Middle East, science and nature, and creating dance with households in Philadelphia.
At the session’s end, Joseph and Dance/USA were questioned by members of the audience as to why the theme of diversity had not been explored until the last moment, and was perhaps underrepresented by Joseph’s selection of a panel composed of women who were mostly white. Joseph countered that he was programming based on diversity of theme. Dance/USA was left to consider how this issue could be better addressed at the next conference, which takes place in Philadelphia in 2013. —Kathryn Roszak
Take It for Granted
Theatre Bay Area is delighted to announce the 2012 Eric Landisman Fellowship awardees: Stage manager Christina Wilson of Piedmont and sound designer Teddy Hulsker of Mill Valley. Wilson will serve as resident stage manager for Bay Area Children’s Theatre from November 2012 to May 2013. Hulsker will work with Shotgun Players on sound design for their upcoming productions of “Assassins” and “Woyzeck” and will also run the board for “Woyzeck.” The Eric Landisman Fellowship Program, founded in memory of the noted scenic designer and property manager, supports the development of emerging Bay Area designers and technicians.
Titans Among Us
Theatre Bay Area is also thrilled to announce the 2012 winners of the Theatre Bay Area Titan Awards: Luisa Frasconi of Berkeley, Patrick Jones of Albany, Carla Pauli of San Francisco, Ross Travis of San Francisco and Reggie White of San Leandro. These five actors have all completed the Advanced Training Leading Actors to Success (ATLAS) program and developed a detailed career map outlining their goals. Each will receive a grant of $1,000 for the implementation of this career map and a yearlong mentorship with a theatre professional of their choice. Mentors for the 2012 cohort of Titans include Arwen Anderson, James Carpenter, Catherine Castellanos and Craig Marker.
Dragon’s New Nest
Dragon Productions, the little 42-seat black box at the corner of Alma and Hamilton in Palo Alto, is about to double its space and increase its capacity with a move to downtown Redwood City on the site of an old travel agency. The new Dragon will be located at 2120 Broadway Street in the heart of the entertainment district. The 4,600-square-foot venue will be slightly more than double the size of the old space and seat 70 in four rows facing a circular thrust stage. Included in the build-out will be a small classroom and a small studio space separate from the main-stage and backstage areas, a dressing room, office, storage and workshop area, restrooms and a small mezzanine. The lobby will have space for concessions and box office. Dragon will finish out the 2012 season in its current home in Palo Alto and will open the 2013 season in its new digs on January 25 with “After Ashley” by Gina Gionfriddo. The new location will also allow the company to offer classes, workshops and special programming. —Lee Kopp
Sweet Valley High-Fives
This year’s Silicon Valley Small Theatre Awards were announced in August, honoring small theatre companies of fewer than 300 seats in Silicon Valley, judged by an anonymous panel. There are far too many honorees to list, because most categories had three of them rather than a single “winner,” but the list can be found at artsalot.wordpress.com. In addition to standout productions in various categories and “artists to watch,” the panel took the occasion of longtime artistic director Barbara Cannon leaving Bus Barn Stage Company as an opportunity to acknowledge the ADs of all the small theatres in the area. The announcement also notes, “Although this year only two Standout New Works were awarded out of a possible three, the panel was impressed and glad to see more attempts at producing New Works.” The panel also wanted to give South Bay Musical Theatre props for its special autism-friendly performance of “Guys and Dolls” and Lyric Theatre of San Jose for hiring a high-functioning autistic person for one of its recent productions, as well as Tabard Theatre Company’s ongoing practice of preshow presentations for the blind.
Ensembles Ensemble, Assemble!
Several Bay Area ensemble-based theatre companies have joined together in a new organization called the SF Bay Area Ensemble Consortium to act as an advocate and community hub for ensemble theatre. Founding ensembles include Mugwumpin, FoolsFury, Ragged Wing Ensemble, Theatre of Yugen and Inferno Theatre, plus a number of ensemble-curious individuals. The consortium conducted general auditions in late August.
Ending Racism on TV
Bay Area stand-up comic W. Kamau Bell, creator of the long-running solo show “The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour,” has launched a late-night TV show called “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” which premiered August 9 on FX. Produced by comedian Chris Rock, the show promises highly political riffs on the day’s news by Bell and other contributors.
Keep the Home Fire Burning
Crowded Fire Theater reports that it has a new home—not a performance venue, alas, but a rehearsal and office space of its own for the first time. The company used to have a steady space to rehearse at the old Z Space, but for the last four years it’s just been space-surfing, renting space wherever it could. Crowded Fire’s new digs are at 870 Innes Avenue, San Francisco. It’s still in the middle of a fundraising campaign called Project Home to make the new space sustainable, complete with a housewarming registry. Visit crowdedfire.org.
Fellowship of the Rep
Berkeley Repertory Theatre has announced its 16 fellows for the 2012–13 season. Each of these recent college graduates will be mentored by department heads in every department of the company. The local fellows include Jacob Marx Rice of Oakland, to be mentored by director of marketing and communications Robert Sweibel; Read Tuddenham of Berkeley, working with production manager Tom Pearl; UC Berkeley grad Betty Lin, mentored by scenic artist Lisa Lázár; and Alameda native Mary Kay Hickox, in her second year working with art director Cheshire Isaacs.
Busy, Busy, Busy
San Jose Stage Company had a busy start to summer. In June alone the little Equity house at First and William streets had the regional premiere of the emo musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”; produced The Stage Top Honor Awards, recognizing outstanding achievements in high school musicals throughout the Bay Area; offered a Summer Conservatory and presented a special benefit concert at the majestic California Theatre. But just to make sure that nobody had time to rest on their laurels, the company announced The Next Stage, its first-ever major capital campaign intended to facilitate the purchase of the building it has occupied at 490 South First Street for the last 20 years.
The 7,500-square-foot building, currently appraised at $1.2 million, is part of the assets of San Jose Redevelopment Agency, which ceased operations in February after California lawmakers shut down all of the state’s redevelopment agencies. San Jose Stage plans to purchase, update, expand and improve the venue. Additional information about The Next Stage Campaign can be found at thestage.org. —Lee Kopp
The recipients of the summer 2012 CA$H Grants have been announced! Theatre organization grantees are Felonious, to adapt a book on the history of hip hop titled “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” for the stage, and Performers Under Stress, whose multidisciplinary theatre project “You Need to Read Poetry” will showcase a diverse cross-section of American poets and their work through music, dramatized biography, audience interactive segments and more.
Individual theatre artist grantees include Lawrence Bogad for “Economusic: Keeping Score,” an experimental audience-participatory musical performance event based on economic themes; Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe for “Black Gold,” a new solo performance placing West African deity Mami Wata in an erotically and politically charged confrontation with legendary slave and conqueror Estavanico; Xandra Ibarra for “F*** My Life (F.M.L.),” which follows the fatal journey of a queer Chicana performer exiled from the burlesque community; Anntionette Johnson for “The Fragrance of Freedom,” a solo performance based on the life of Harriet Ann Jacobs, a slave in the 1800s turned abolitionist and feminist; Jubilith Moore for costs involved in traveling to the East Coast to rehearse and perform the role of Kumagae no Jiro Naozane in a traditional production of the Noh play “Atsumori”; and Summer Shapiro for “Kinds of Light,” a physical theatre project exploring humor in life’s dark times.
Dance organization grantees are Cid Pearlman/Performance Projects for “Your Body Is Not a Shark,” an interdisciplinary performance with original live music; Deep Waters Dance Theater for “Our Daily Bread,” a performance examining our connections to our food sources that includes food parties and eat-ins; Jaara Dance and Drum Company to raise the impact of its creative work by upgrading its website and marketing tools; Project Agora for “Mother Tongue,” an evening-long multidisciplinary performance event blending dance, live music and visual art; and Scott Wells & Dancers for “The Father Dances,” a suite of dances on the shifting landscape of fatherhood, which will be developed partially through playtime workshops open to kids and their fathers. The individual dance artist grantee is Naby Bangoura for “N’Nanden,” a full-length West African dance production weaving together traditional dance, music and song.
Presented by Theatre Bay Area in partnership with Dancers’ Group and funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund/Grants for the Arts, CA$H is a grant program designed by artists for artists, intended to support professionally oriented theatre and dance artists and small companies with budgets under $100,000 by providing grants to individual artists ($2,000) and to small organizations ($4,000). Visit theatrebayarea.org/Programs/CASH.cfm.
Yerba Buena on the Lam
Four years after Yerba Buena Center for the Arts renamed its 750-seat theatre the Novellus Theater, after regular donor Novellus Systems, YBCA is renaming the space again, this time to Lam Research Theater. San Jose tech company Novellus Systems has merged with Lam Research Corp., “a major supplier of innovative wafer fabrication equipment and services to the worldwide semiconductor industry,” and it wouldn’t make much sense to be named after a company that doesn’t exist anymore.
The Way of TAO
Teaching Artists Organized (TAO) has announced that the organization is in the middle of a large-scale restructuring process “with the goal of engaging members in more active leadership roles.” Sabrina Klein has stepped down as executive director to return to her previous role as volunteer adviser and consultant, and the TAO executive committee has hired organizational consultant Sangita Kumar of Be the Change Consulting to guide the organization through this transition and ponder its immediate and long-term future, and it’s actively soliciting feedback from its members.
Rep’s Pacific Overture
Before Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s currently running West Coast premiere of David Henry Hwang’s comedy “Chinglish” even opened, the theatre announced that the production will be heading to Hong Kong in March for the Hong Kong Arts Festival. A play about vastly different linguistic, business and romantic expectations between people in China and America, this coproduction with South Coast Repertory will be Berkeley Rep’s first export to Asia. Meanwhile, the new play about teenage girls by Eve Ensler that Berkeley Rep premiered this summer, “Emotional Creature,” is headed off-Broadway, opening at the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre this November.
Save the Last Dance
After serving the organization since 2006, program director Kegan Marling announced his departure from Dancers’ Group in June. “I’m proud of the work we’ve been doing at Dancers’ Group as advocates for the value of dance,” Marling says, and that he feels “both joy and sadness” at leaving the group to focus on his writing and choreography, as well as arts consulting and management.
New Blood at Aurora
Aurora Theatre has announced two new hires: Ryan O’Steen took the reins as technical director and production coordinator in late July, and Josh Costello began serving as the company’s new literary manager beginning in August. O’Steen, who most recently held the position of associate technical director at Berkeley Rep, had a tough act to follow: his predecessor Chris Killion had been with Aurora 11 years, had worked with the architects on the build of both the original space on Addison and the Dashow Wing, and had constructed the sets for 55 productions. O’Steen has serious chops too, with 12 seasons of shows at Berkeley Rep under his belt, including “American Idiot,” “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)” and “Passing Strange.” Costello comes to the Aurora from Marin Theatre Company, where he served as the artistic director of expanded programs and director of education; he is also founder of Impact Theatre and a freelance director with past shows at Marin, Custom Made Theatre and SF Playhouse. He replaces literary manager/dramaturg Alicia Coombes, who signed on as company manager with FoolsFury Theater Company in June.
Margaret Jenkins Dance Company has announced Tere O’Connor as program chair for its 2013 CHIME Across Borders program. CHIME (Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange) is a yearlong program that matches choreographers in mentor-mentee pairs and provides each pair with financial support; it began in the Bay Area nine years ago and expanded to Southern California five years ago. CHIME Across Borders, its four-year-old sister program, selects one master choreographer as its program chair and brings him or her to San Francisco to work with a group of local choreographers over the course of a year. Tere O’Connor, this year’s program chair, is artistic director of Tere O’Connor Dance in New York and a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has toured internationally and created commissioned works for Mikhail Baryshnikov and the White Oak Dance Project, Lyons Opera Ballet and others. O’Connor will design a series of weeklong activities for the group of mentee choreographers, who will work with both MJDC dancers and one dancer each from their home companies during these sessions. O’Connor will work hands-on with three of these mentee choreographers over a four-week residency period, designing a curriculum for their use prior to and following the residency.
New Directions by the Bay
Broadway by the Bay recently announced major changes in its leadership team, following financial hardships that forced the almost 50-year-old company to reexamine its administrative structure and practices. The duties of the executive director will now be split between artistic director Amanda Folena and development director Trista Bernstein. This retooling is part of a multimonth evaluation process the company is undertaking to determine best practices that are sustainable in the long term and keep the group’s mission at the forefront of its activities. Former executive director Jim Gardia said of these changes, “I am so excited for Broadway by the Bay and all of the possibilities for moving forward. I have every confidence that BBBay will become a stronger and more vibrant company through this opportunity.”
Berkeley Rep Stretches Its Wings
After acquiring a new campus in West Berkeley in 2010 that’s able to house all of the theatre’s offices and preproduction facilities (costume, prop and scene shop) under one roof for the first time, Berkeley Repertory Theatre has announced the opening of three new studios in the Downtown Berkeley Arts District. The new studios are located in the Arpeggio Building on Center Street. The centerpiece of the facility is the 200-seat Osher Studio, which has a full lighting and sound system, restrooms, dressing room and kitchen. All three studios are suitable for meetings, rehearsals, classes and performances. Berkeley Rep will provide studio rentals at a subsidized rate to local nonprofit arts organizations that do not have permanent homes of their own. “As a nonprofit that was born in a storefront,” says Susan Medak, Berkeley Rep’s managing director, “we are particularly excited to share these opportunities with arts organizations at an earlier stage in their development.”
Why Do Granters Hate Round Numbers?
The Creative Work Fund (CWF) has announced the awarding of 21 grants, totaling $808,000, to Bay Area artists collaborating with local organizations to create new work in media or performing arts. Grant awards range from $10,000 to $40,000.
The 2012 performing arts awardees and collaborators are John Duykers and Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Sara Felder and Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, Paul Flores and Central American Resource Center, Gabriela Lena Frank and Quinteto Latino, Anna Halprin and UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Rhodessa Jones and Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific, Marcus Shelby and Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, Sudhu Tewari and Joe Goode Performance Group, Emiliano Valdez and Mr. O’s Academy of the Arts, and Pamela Z and Kronos Performing Arts Association/Kronos Quartet.
The Creative Work Fund, founded in 1994, is a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, which is supported by ArtPlace, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation.
Our article “Remaking Mid-Market” in the July/August issue incorrectly stated that donors Jeff and Laurie Ubben donated an $18 million purchase price for American Conservatory Theater to buy the Strand Theater. The Ubbens did contribute the undisclosed purchase price of the building, but $18 million is the sum of ACT’s capital campaign for the project.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph.
Photo: Bethanie Hines Photography
Newsfeed September-October 2012 by / Theatre Bay Area StaffPublished 2012-09-13
Dance/USA Comes to San Francisco
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