Tuesday, November 8, 2011

“Trevor Allen gives brilliant performance in ‘Working for the Mouse”

By Stephanie Wright Hession
Arts and Culture Writer

Performing a one person show presents an array of challenges, the main one being how to keep the attention of audience members for an extended period of time, especially when the production doesn’t include an intermission. And yet that’s exactly what Trevor Allen did brilliantly during his 90 minute, solo show, “Working for the Mouse.” Directed by Nancy Carlin, based on Kent Nicholson’s original staging, and presented by the Black Box Theatre, it opened Friday Nov. 4 at the EXIT Theatre in San Francisco.

Through his engaging storytelling, hilarious impersonations and wonderful imagination, Allen relays his experience working some 20 years ago as costumed characters at Disneyland—Pluto, Smee, Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. All along, the audience is right there with him on a mirthful romp that makes for a delightful evening of theater.

“Working for the Mouse,” through Dec. 17 at the EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy St., San Francisco. $20 advance, $22 at the door. For tickets call (800) 838-3006 or visit www.browpapertickets.com/event/201528

Photos by Cheshire Isaacs

Thursday, September 22, 2011

San Francisco Surrealist painter Cynthia Tom displays new works during San Francisco Open Studios, Oct. 1 and 2, 2011

Meet Surrealist painter Cynthia Tom and see an exhibit of her new works during the San Francisco Open Studios, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat., Oct. 1 and Sun., Oct. 2 at the 1890 Bryant Street Studios, 1890 Bryant St., S.F.

For those not familiar with her work, Cynthia's exquisite paintings possess ethereal, emotive and mysterious qualities. Don't miss this opportunity to meet and support a truly gifted, San Francisco artist.

“Circus Series: The Cloud Walkers”
Cynthia Tom

"Circus Series: Cloudwalkers, The Movie"
Cynthia Tom

Circus Series: Cloud Walkers, The Movie

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Land of Magic: Artists Explore Make Believe," a group show at the Bedford Gallery explores desire, escape and reverie.

By Stephanie Wright Hession
Arts and Culture Writer

Raised in Montreal, Rosemary Scanlon now makes her home in Canada's Yukon Territory, which influences the ethereal images of owls, raccoons, unicorns and the boreal forest that appear in her paintings.

"When I first started coming up to the Yukon, life up here was so surreal. It was so magical and strange - the atmosphere, the crisp quietness of when it gets really cold and really dark, the lynx slinking across the road ahead of you, wild adventures in pickup trucks, the things that go on under the midnight sun," she says. "My experiences here had a huge influence on my artwork and me. I like to attempt to locate that feeling of tension between the fantasy and reality of northern life."
Six of her watercolors will be part of "Land of Magic: Artists Explore Make Believe," a group show that explores desire, escape and reverie. Working with media ranging from printmaking to painting to photography to video installation, the 13 artists' imaginary settings possess distinctive characteristics and feature astronauts, pink trees, mystical creatures and castles, assembled from childhood memories and thoughts on the future.
In "Looking Glass," one of Scanlon's works in the show, a statue of Jesus juts from the head of a grizzly bear standing against a midnight blue background. Stems of flowers seem to dance about a large rainbow, intermingled with trees and plant stalks.
" 'Looking Glass' is probably the most playful of them all. ... I really just wanted to play with the different flora and fauna of the Yukon," Scanlon says. "All the animals in the painting are painted from images of taxidermy. Some of the flowers are fake or genetically modified. I was interested in fake and real representations of nature."
She also enjoys adding strange and random aspects, like the statue, which happened to be in the photograph of the taxidermy bear she painted from. She draws from northern folklore, First Nations storytelling and tales of the Yukon Gold Rush.
"I work intuitively, though to some extent there is an ever-present dialogue or narrative of place that occurs wherever you live, and that greatly informs my work. When an idea or image pops into my head, I write or sketch it down," she explains. "I then research these ideas, draw ideas from that research - which may in turn lead to other research. I also take a lot of photographs. I carry a camera with me to record interesting scenes or things that I come across."
Sun.-June 12. Noon-5 p.m. Tues.-Sun., 6-8 p.m. during performances. $3-$5 (free 12 and younger and first Tues.). Bedford Gallery, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. (925) 295-1417. www.bedfordgallery.org.

"Aurora Theatre produces 'The Eccentricities of a Nightingale,' one of Tennessee Williams' lesser-known plays."

By Stephanie Wright Hession
Arts and Culture Writer

Tennessee Williams spent decades retooling "The Eccentricities of a Nightingale," including revising the piece for 25 years before it opened on Broadway in 1976.
"Eccentricities" is one of Williams' lesser-known plays, but he's said to have identified with its main character - Alma Winemiller - more than any other he created.
Winemiller lives in pre-World War I Mississippi, and she's a spirited and creative woman who's called the "nightingale of the Delta" for her musical ability. She lives among people in a place and time that reject her nonconformist ways.
"I found 'Eccentricities' to be very moving," said Tom Ross, artistic director of the Aurora Theatre Company, which is staging the play as part of the celebration of Williams' 100th birthday.
"Tennessee said he could relate to Alma because it took her a long time to come out, as it did with him," Ross added. "She is definitely on a sexual journey in a repressive environment. Tennessee Williams writes from the vantage point of the universal heart and the mind."
San Francisco actress Beth Wilmurt, who portrays Winemiller, said that the 35-year-old play has not lost any of its appeal with age.
"The play has many relatable themes," she says. "Marginalization and repression of those who are different is certainly an obvious theme, and even though times have changed, still relevant.
"But there are other interesting ones that stand out to me," she adds. "What makes up our fantasy lives or what are our illusions that keep us going and able to cope with life, getting out from under society's judgments and the hold our parents have on us; the repercussions of honesty - of ourselves and others - and our judgment of that; and sexually forward woman and the judgments that brings on."
Ross says those ideas of self-reflection and self-understanding help with the show's appeal to a contemporary audience.
Williams' "themes and characters are timeless and wholly human," Ross says. "This is a play about a human being who comes to an understanding of who she is and who she really wants to be. The play follows her as she attempts to find true satisfaction in life. We all want that."
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Previews through Wed.; opens next Thurs. $10-$55. Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org.

"'Outside In,' show at the 1:AM Gallery focuses upon graffiti as art"

By Stephanie Wright Hession
Arts and Culture Writer

Though graffiti dates to ancient civilizations, it took recent artists such as Keith Haring to nudge this counterculture art form toward the mainstream.
While not wholly embraced, an appreciation for the urban art continues to be nurtured with an increasing number of galleries and museums presenting it, corporations seeking it and - in an ironic twist - property owners desiring it for the enhancement, rather than the defacing, of their buildings.
"Outside In," an exhibition opening Friday at the 1:AM Gallery, features 36 pieces, ranging from 2 by 2 feet to 3 by 4 feet, by nine California artists including BUTER, JURNE, KEB, UFO and WAND.
"We got the idea by seeing graffiti blending into these urban landscapes, amongst the drugs, poverty, advertisements, traffic, noise, etc.," says Roman Cesario, the gallery's art director. " 'Outside In' is created to take graffiti off of the streets and in a more comfortable, personal viewing space, so the art can be approached, dissected and appreciated."
The gallery focuses on the positive qualities of urban and street art, with themed exhibitions displaying creations by local and international artists.
"I chose the artists by viewing their art for many years and carefully choosing graffiti artists that represent different styles and letterforms," Cesario says. "These graffiti writers represent graffiti as it should be. Good people that produce beautiful public works."
Artist Joseppi DiMarco, 29, who started using the street artist name KEB about 20 years ago, integrates hues of turquoise, blue and plum into his works - colors he says "represent life and the ability to create."
"My style is what I would call traditional funk - funky letters with cool color schemes and great characters," the San Francisco artist says, adding, "I often do murals inspired by my drawings, which are related to how I feel and what I see. I live to paint and create.
"This show will give everyone a chance to bond with graffiti and its artists. My art is for the city and its people. It's not selling you anything or saying more than 'I love to create.' I don't mind if it is not for everyone, nothing is. I just hope people embrace this culture and start to decriminalize the art by creating outlets for artists."
Opening reception 7 p.m. Fri. Through March 12. Noon-6:30 p.m. Tues.-Sat., noon-4 p.m. Sun. 1:A.M. Gallery, 1000 Howard St., S.F. (415) 861-5089. www.1amsf.com.
"Eugenie Chan's 'Bone to Pick', re-envisions the Greek myth of Ariadne, at the Cutting Ball Theater."

By Stephanie Wright Hession
Arts and Culture Writer
In 2008, Eugenie Chan debuted "Bone to Pick," her provocative re-envisioning of the Greek myth of Ariadne, at the Cutting Ball Theater. The San Francisco playwright set the tale in a post-apocalyptic world and reinvented Ariadne as a waitress toiling away in a diner.
Starting Friday, the company reprises "Bone to Pick," along with "Diadem," Chan's new companion piece, which serves as a prelude and depicts Ariadne as young and love smitten. Fast-forward a few thousand years in the second play, and the audience meets Ria, the embittered, betrayed waitress. In both solo performance works, directed by Rob Melrose, Paige Rogers, Cutting Ball's associate artistic director, returns to portray the two characters.
" 'Diadem' is about a giddy teenaged Ariadne in the first blush of love, romance, and desire - and what happens when she realizes she's been abandoned by her hero," Chan says. "It's about how she grows up, fast. In 'Bone,' Ria's been living, serving up cups o' joe and waiting for her man alone on that island for millennia. She's seen everything - seen her island, her home, her country, her family, her civilization blown up and destroyed. Her heart has been broken in so many ways. Yet dutiful temple suppliant that she is, she will serve her customers day in and day out with the utmost professionalism and aplomb.
"In short," Chan says, "she's been around and around the block for thousands of years, and now is her time of reckoning."
Chan says she chose the atmosphere and period in which "Bone to Pick" occurs to pose an intriguing question.
"We're in a time of war the world over. For us, it's the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan. It made sense to me to play out a time when the occupation of civilian life has overtaken. What would it be when the weight of the world fell on the shoulders of one woman, as she is simply living out her daily life in her job as a waitress?" she asks.
Although based on ancient Greek mythology, Chan says the works contain timeless elements relevant to contemporary society.
"At heart, these plays are about how people, in particular these two women, try to wrestle their lives to get what they believe their dream is," Chan says.
"The impact of human action, the nature of our hopes and love - our complicity in our own demise and betrayal - and the demise of our world. Especially in 'Bone,' it's about our complicity in the fizzling American Dream."
8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m. Sun. Check website for complete schedule. Through Feb. 13. $15-$50. The Cutting Ball Theater at Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor St., S.F. (415) 419-3584. www.cuttingball.com.