Editors' Picks: March 2016
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
It’s not quite spring, but it’s easy to feel like it is, judging by all the sunshine and flowers we’ve seen lately—not to mention that lifting of the spirit that comes with longer, brighter days. We hope that you’re feeling uplifted, too—and, whether you plan to make theatre this season or simply enjoy it, that you experience creativity and beauty every day.
This month, our guest editor is a newcomer to the Bay Area, so help us welcome Sarah Williams, associate managing director at Berkeley Repertory Theatre! She manages Berkeley Rep’s new work lab, The Ground Floor; serves as a member of the LORT Diversity Initiative’s Recruitment Subcommittee and sits on the Theatre Services Committee for Theatre Bay Area.
When we asked Sarah what exciting things were coming up for her, she replied, “BRT’s The Ground Floor Summer Residency Lab 2016! I’m super pumped for the amazing group of artists that will be in Berkeley in June; a great mix of local and out-of-town artists working on some inspired, profound, and fascinating new work.” Sounds good to us!
Editors’ Picks: Laura Brueckner, editor
|James Seol* and Francis Jue* in TheatreWorks Silicon Valley's production of Kimber Lee's
tokyo fish story. *Member, Actors’ Equity Association. Photo: Kevin Berne
Tokyo Fish Story
Mar. 9-Apr. 3
Kimber Lee is a playwright to watch. In 2013, she landed the prestigious Lark/PoNY fellowship; the next year, her boxing play Brownsville Song (B-side for Tray) won a slot at the Humana Festival before being produced at the Lincoln Center (and at Long Wharf Theatre, under director Eric Ting, now AD of Cal Shakes). That very same year, her play Different Words for the Same Thing landed on the first-ever Kilroys list of excellent new work by women writers. Now, TheatreWorks is producing the Bay Area premiere of Lee’s newest piece, Tokyo Fish Story, an exploration of the age-old tension between tradition and innovation. This production holds a singular delight for audiences: the stellar Francis Jue, a SF native based in NYC who has several Broadway credits and an OBIE Award under his belt. Note: when researching this production, I found that all performances but nine had already sold out. So visit What’s Playing or theatreworks.org—soon.
Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
Mar. 23 & Apr. 21
In 2014, when BAMPFA was forced to close and move to a seismically safer venue, its absence created an imbalance in the Bay Area arts universe. It reopened this January at 2155 Center St. in Berkeley, and is already back on the job producing innovative arts experiences with Full, a series of performances held on the evening of every full moon. March brings us Full: Voice, an exploration of the human voice, with virtuosic singer Pamela Z, bass vocalist Richard Mix and local “deep listening” collective, the Cornelius Cardew Choir. April will bring Full: Invent, featuring homemade and experimental instruments and their makers, including Bay Area master Paul Dresher. Visit bampfa.org.
Diaspora Arts Connection at Buriel Clay Theater, SF
A local playwright friend and I have a running joke (or is it?) about producing a festival featuring plays in any language except English. It’d bring together artists and audiences currently underserved by most companies, and it would, in some ways, better represent our globalized, diasporic world—a world of international conflicts (and coalitions), translocal identities and refugee displacement—without the illusory impression that a single, stable, American voice had the story under control. Mimi’s Suitcase may come close to embodying this purpose. Written and performed by Ana Bayat, this show explores identity and the consequences of displacement as it follows Iranian teen Mimi’s involuntary return to her war-torn homeland after a happy childhood in Barcelona. Premiered last November at the United Solo Festival in New York, Mimi’s Suitcase is performed in English, Spanish and Persian with English supertitles. Visit anabayat.com.
|Lauren English* and Rolf Saxon* in Aurora Theatre Company’s production of Talley’s Folly, directed by
Joy Carlin in Aurora’s Harry’s Upstage space. *Member, Actors’ Equity Association. Photo: David Allen
The How and the Why
Aurora Theatre Company, Berkeley
Mar. 18-May 8
Aurora Theatre Company experienced welcome popularity with the first two fully staged productions in their new Harry’s Upstage space, and The How and the Why is likely to continue that trend, having already been extended two weeks after an incredibly popular pre-sale a year ago. This is the West Coast premiere of Sarah Treem’s (Netflix’s House of Cards, HBO’s In Treatment) play, which uses a wonderful combination of wit, science and depth to explore the choices that women of every generation must make. The play focuses on two evolutionary biologists of different generations as they spar over what it means to be female—clashing as they struggle to find the balance between research and relationships. Treem’s play was inspired by a book called Woman by Natalie Angier, as well as the life and work of scientist Margie Profet. Aurora’s production will be directed by Joy Carlin, and will feature Nancy Carlin and Martha Brigham. Visit What’s Playing or auroratheatre.org.
The Boys from Syracuse
42nd Street Moon, SF
Mar. 23-Apr. 17
42nd Street Moon is known for their seasons full of rarely produced musicals, and The Boys From Syracuse, one of the last collaborations between Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart before the latter’s death in 1943, is a wonderful show to bring back. The first musical ever adapted from a Shakespeare play, the musical sets Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors to song, generating classic 1930s musical theatre songs such as “Falling in Love with Love” and “Sing for Your Supper.” This will be 42nd Street Moon artistic director Greg MacKellan’s final production (he is also directing), before he retires at the end of this season. Visit What’s Playing or 42ndstmoon.org.
Island City Opera, Alameda
If you’ve never seen this classic, beloved opera by Giacomo Puccini, now is the time to catch La Bohème at Island City Opera. Possibly the most well known of the romantic-era operas, La Bohème tells the story of youthful bohemians living together in 19th century Paris, as they experience passion and poverty, love and tragedy. Some of the most well known (and possibly overused) arias in the operatic repertoire come from this opera, such as “Quando m’en vo soletta” and “Mi chiamano Mimi.” A fairly young company (this is Island City Opera’s second season), they’re definitely a company to check out. Visit islandcityopera.org.
|William Hodgson in Ubuntu Theater Project’s upcoming production of I Am My Own Wife by Doug Wright.
Photo: Beth Hitchcock
I Am My Own Wife
Ubuntu Theater Project
After seeing Ubuntu’s production of The Gospel of Lovingkindess, I’ve become a huge fan. This is Ubuntu’s inaugural season (although you probably have seen them around at one of their previous summer festivals). Their work is all about building community, uniting diverse audiences, removing barriers to access and making compelling site-specific theatre. For me, that is theatre at its most exciting and most impactful. I Am My Own Wife features Ubuntu cofounder/coartistic director William Hodgson playing all 40 characters in this one-person play about a transgender woman who survived Nazi and communist Germany. Visit What’s Playing or ubuntutheaterproject.com.
A House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion
with Tour Guide Weston Ludlow Londonderry
Mar. 29-Apr. 23
I may be new to the Bay Area, but I’ve already figured out that you should not miss a show with Danny Scheie in it. I had the pleasure of seeing a reading of this play this past June, during Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor Summer Residency Lab; Peter Sinn Nachtrieb has written a brilliant and hilarious script for a brilliant and hilarious actor. I can’t wait to see what Z Space has in store for the audience in this immersive and interactive tour of the Porter Family Mansion. Visit What’s Playing or zspace.org.
Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters
The Marsh, Berkeley
Mar. 10-Apr. 30
Apparently, I’m all about one-person shows this month! Echo Brown’s Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters has already played to raves in SF, but now she’s coming over to the East Bay with her insightful and comic commentary about race and romance in the 21st century. Hipsters, online dating, dissecting the value of black beauty in America—all combined with a Beyoncé dance tutorial?! I’m pretty sure that’s everything I need. Visit What’s Playing or themarsh.org.