Archive | September, 2013

Joe Goode’s “Hush” at Z Space, September 26

29 Sep

Joe Goode and his company moved into Project Artaud following the death of long-time occupant Pepe Ozan and his space was renamed the Joe Goode Annex.

Project Artaud started out in 1925 as the American Can Company, providing jobs for San Francisco’s Mission residents until the 1960’s. A group of artists formed a non-profit organization in 1971, naming the space after Antonin Artaud [1896-1948]. The city block houses three theaters of varying sizes and some 80 practicing artists, mostly visual artists and designers; their evocative work are displayed in the Gallery section of the Web-site. At the 2013 Isadora Duncan Dance Award Ceremony, the house manager mentioned proudly that it is the oldest artists’ cooperative in the United States.

The Z Space itself seats 229 on riser seating which has been reconfigured in at least three different ways that I personally witnessed. The organization recently added Z Below, with 88 seats, once the home of A Traveling Jewish Theatre. Lisa Steindler is the artistic and Lori Lacqua the executive director.

Hush as a word has familial connotations, namely “shut up.” Here, however, Hush here refers to an individual’s desire not to talk about painful experience or almost pathological hesitation. These interpretations are part of Goode’s on-going focus on the “outsider,” the pangs of isolation for “not fitting in,” or exposition of some monumental personal divide. It reminds me of the family comment “fitting in with the family plans,” to which the retort is “what plans?”

Before discussing the production with its evocative values, I want to state that for the audience to read the program without squinting or resorting to sheer intuition, Z space might install a few more lights for said purpose. I could scarcely make out the letters, with cataracts currently far from ripe. Plus, whoever was responsible for the program format and color choices might remember that the first directive for a program is to be readable physically, not simply an exercise in color contrast and printing obscura. The results may have been striking on the cover, but the interior could not possibly qualify for bon usage, photographs and white text on grey excepted. The characters also were not identified with names of their interpreter. How casual can one get?

The set and sound effects moved the action forward with genuine facility. A door downstage left symbolized the distant domicile of the young woman [Damara Vita Ganley] who was gang raped, and a corrugated sheet on rollers, painted manure hue with graffiti, proclaimed the wall where two male characters lounged; and there was a bar that moved as well a small circular table with a couple of chairs, where Jessica Swanson effectively conveyed an ambitious woman blind to the effect her career comments sound to a man whose sexuality is probably his main calling card in her landscape. The edge was unmistakable.

Jennifer Gonsalves’ costume choices seemed like a near masterpiece on haphazard morning dressing,tee-shirts color-hued monotony standouts.

If I have to rely on physical appearance alone, Felipe Barrueto-Cabello and Melecio Estrella were the two gay men who finally connect in one of the most lyric dancing passages in the piece. Hush primarily seemed to state a situation and then it was acted/danced out, making the “trajectory” loose and episodic,

I have to guess it was Andrew Ward and Alexander Zendzian who slouched or slumped against the corrugated wall with enormous style and cinematic acuity. When the career tirade and the prospect of moving to Salt Lake City arrived in the dialogue, one of them, making pickles, provided chuckles as he plunked green circles into what was intended to be pickling brine.

There is no question that Joe Goode has a laconic wit, is familiar with the drifting, directionless sub-epidemic cloaking many, many American lives, providing it with a theatrical portrait conveying the casual covering desperate interior confusion. As someone emerging from The Great Depression with relief, I, perhaps unfortunately, prefer a brisker beat.

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At Last Ballet San Jose’s Roster 2013-2014

26 Sep

With just five days to go before September’s end, like the U.S. Congress, Ballet San Jose has released its company roster for 2013-2014, placing Karen Gabay in the new category of Artistic Associate and minus Maria Jacobs-Yu, who elected not to sign a contract this year. Jacobs-Yu’s delicate precision will be missed.

Not a dignified way to announce a company’s roster of dancers; but Ballet San Jose’s record makes one want to mention artists contributing to much of its varied repertoire history under its former artistic aegis. What invariably strikes me as noteworthy is that both past and present artistic directors are Ballet Theatre alumni from different periods of ABT’s evolution.

So, onward to glimpse the thinking of artistic director Jose Manuel Carreno and his Associate Artistic Director Raymond Rodriquez. Evidence points to the remarkable training ground of Carreno’s native Cuba for the corps de ballet is gaining three former members of the Ballet Nacioinal de Cuba in addition to principal dancers Ramon Moreno and Maykel Solas.

Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun has been promoted to Principal Dancer status; along with Alexsandra Meijer, they are only two women in the principal dancer roster. The three men are Jeremy Kovitch, Ramon Moreno and Maykel Solas.

The soloists now include Amy Marie Briones, Rudy Candia, Damir Emric, Junna Ige, Beth Ann Namey, Mirai Noda, Akira Takahashi and Jing Zhang. Emric’s status reflects promotion from the corps de ballet.

The new comers to the corps de ballet include Kathryn Meeusen and Thomas Baker from apprentice roles. The Cuban influx includes Jorge Lopez Barani, Walter Garcia and Ihosvany Rodriguez. Also new to the corps de ballet are Grace-Anne Powers, a former member of La La La Human Steps of Montreal and Alison Stroming, a former dancer with Alberta Ballet, both women natives of the U.S.

These new comers join Shannon Bynum, Cindy Huang, Lucius Kirst, James Kopecky, Alex Kramer, Brieanna Olson, Francisco Preciado, Annali Rose, Joshua Seibel, Cynthia Sheppard, Sarah Stein, Kendall Teague and Lahna Vanderbush.

The three apprentices are Emma Francis, Nicole Larson and Mariya Oishi.
Francis previously danced with Oregon Ballet Theatre.

George Daugherty will continue as Music Director. Those who have been fans of Nutnaree Pipit-Suksun look forward to her performances as a principal.

Date Changes for Yulan at San Jose’s California Theatre

24 Sep

Dennis Nahat learned today that visa problems are causing a delay in the arrival of the dancers and acrobats performing in Yulan, scheduled to open at San Jose’s California Theatre on Thursday, October 3.

Ever the realist and taking no chances, Nahat rescheduled the run to open October 10, running through October 13 as originally scheduled.

So fans take note. I’m sure the box office will make the necessary adjustments.

Onward!

Grand Style Accessories Coming to The Asian Art Museum

20 Sep

Printing out the object list for the forthcoming Asian Art Museum’s smashing
next exhibit prompted an unexpected whimsical response. The exhibit, scheduled to open October 25, 2013 and close January 12,2014 is largely drawn from the Korean National Museum, with a few additional objects from other Korean Museums and Institutions. At the touring docent preview we were told the objects would number 110.

Wisely, the selections embrace the domestic life of the Joseon Dynasty as well as
seals, scroll painting of important figures and a number of memorial panoramas of state occasions, charming in their detail, staggering in what they represent in terms of numbers of participants, their elegant garments and the production of those elaborate state code vestments.

What caught my eye as I scrolled down past images of seals, umbrellas, document boxes, were some clearly feminine hair accessories, Even today, one can see a Korean woman, her luxuriant head of hair, an ornament cutting through her bun of hair with dagger- like resolution.

What makes them even more amazing to my eyes is the description with the statement “Important Folklore Material of Korea, National Palace Museum of Korea. Returned from the Tokyo National Museum in 1992.”

I counted eight such objects, adorned with jade, pearls, coral, silver plate.
Close to the end of the list were three accessory boxes, again with the
identification “Important Folklore Material of Korea, National Palace Museum of Korea. Returned from Tokyo National Museum in 1992.” The three are described as made of wood, silk, paper, gold and ivory. What the list does not say is just
when these feminine objects and containers left Korea for Japan, but one can easily speculate that some high level samurai in one of Hideyoshi Toyotomo’s two invasions purloined the objects taking them back to his wife or mistress, and perhaps in one of the three elegant boxes. Of course, the spoils might also have been the result of the Annexation of 1910; my fancy leans towards the former.

What enhances the connections for me is that Yanagi Soetsu was inspired by his
visit to Korea during the Japanese occupation to start what has become the Korean National Folk Museum, before returning to commence his collection of Japanese folk crafts comprising the Mingei Museum in Tokyo. Yanagi’s The Unknown Craftsman drew its initial inspiration from that trip to Korea.

Those hair ornaments fulfill most of Yanagi’s requirements for folk art which
include: made by hand; used by the general public; functional in daily life; characteristic of region where produced. The objects falter in two respects:
made by hand in quantity and inexpensive. Truly, who cares when embellishing
the head of a beautiful Korean woman.

Ruth Asawa Remembered en Plain Air, August 27.

15 Sep

What more fitting tribute to the supremely elemental Ruth Asawa, sculptor, educator and activist, could there be than an open air memorial at Golden Gate Park’s Band Shell late morning August 27.

Arriving just as Mark Dean Johnson from San Francisco State University (SFSU) was speaking of his memories of Ruth and revealing her surprisingly wicked humor, worthy of a Kyogen masterpiece, it was gratifying to see the Band Shell benches were filled with those remembering Asawa, their lives crossing with her own trajectory,sharing mutual comfortable, creative moments.

A small woman sitting at the end of a bench turned out to be Sumi Honnami, elder daughter of the couple who had maintained Honnami Taido in Japantown both before and after World War II, and whose Japanese aesthetic assocation harkens back to the Takagamine artistic colony during the Momoyama and early Edo periods. I sat between her and a formidable African American man with luxuriant braids; I later identified him as Chip O’Neal, directing the dance outreach program at San Francisco Ballet; he must inspire awe, respect and admiration to young boys in San Francisco’s public school system. It couldn’t have been better company for hearing the comments by Johnson, Asawa’s son, daughter and grandson and Nancy Pelosi.

Ruth, of course, is clearly remembered for her public fountains – the whimsical one near the Hyatt Hotel which Apple has agreed to preserve when building a new store at the corner of Post and Stockton; the mermaid in the Ghiradelli Square; the two striking origami inspired fountains in the Buchanan Street Mall in Japantown; the memorial fountain for the Japanese-American Internment in
San Jose. Ruth’s wire sculptures, wonderful hanging, pollen-like constructs with atleast two bulbs connected like a long drop of water about to release, are permanently installed at the De Young Museum; there also are the wispy tumble weed-like wires, one used long ago in Carlos Carvajal’s Wintermas at Nourse Auditorium.

Johnson spoke of Ruth’s design of the Garden of Remembrance at SFSU, with ten boulders to symbolize the ten internment camps where 110,000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated during World War II. She was dissatisfied because of a tree disturbing the composition. When told it was a memorial tree, Ruth said, “If it’s okay, I’ll come out at midnight and pour some poison.” I hope the planting was not for Anatol Joukowsky, the beloved dance teacher with the encyclopedic knowledge of Slavic folk dance forms and social behavior.

The next comment Johnson provided the information that Isao Ogura and Shigeru Namba, the workers who installed the boulders also worked on the Larry Ellison Japanese-style garden in Woodside. Johnson and Ruth were invited to see what they had been accomplished. Arriving to pick Ruth up for the drive, he found her in plaster-strewn sweat shirt and baggy trousers. Ruth smiled at him and said, “I thought I would dress down for the occasion.” Appreciative chuckles wafted through the audience.

Ruth’s younger daughter Addie shared the fact that during her last two years, Ruth could not use her hands and also had difficulty speaking, but her interest and connection with nature remained profound. They watched a documentary over KQED on the trek butterflies made from Canada and the Eastern United States to a special forest location in Mexico, requiring at least two life cycles of
butterflies to complete the circuit. At the end of the film, Ruth said, “They are eternal.”

She also disclosed that Ruth drew constantly, her drawings found on board meeting agendas, California Art Council review papers; minutes of meetings. Her vision was constant in the best possible way; a writer said of her, “I don’t think Ruth Asawa knows what a form in triplicate looks like.”

I had the great pleasure of collaborating with Ruth Asawa relating to mural at the Glass Gazebo, the Clinic building at the University of Californa, San Francisco. Originally, I thought the Irving Street entrance to the campus via the Gazebo’s basement pleaded for Ruth Asawa’s ability to transform such a dismal concrete space (The space subsequently has been progressively diminished by auxiliary offices.).

But the Clinic director saw a better use for the Asawa talent; a mural on the street level reception area. Ruth asked me to collect photographs of members of Millberry Union’s cafeteria employees. Ruth, her assistant Nancy Thompson and her students painted the MU likenesses on a mural that for at least a decade adorned the south-facing wall to the right of the Clinic’s main entrance. The mural was still on view for several years following my 1991 retirement; it subsequently has vanished. Whether painted over or stored, I have no idea. Like the Hyatt Fountain, it was a work involving students under Ruth’s and Nancy’s keen eyes.

Further tribute to Ruth and her husband Albert Lanier is the fact their children chose to live within a mile of the family home on Castro Street on the slopes of Noe Valley. The entire tribe came forward at the end, from the immediate children to what must be a great grandchild in its mother’s arm. I didn’t count but it looked close to 36 or 40.

We attendees signed books of remembrance, with colored pencils thoughtfully provided, penning our comments at various angles. It was a formidable line, wanting to pay tribute, saluting this woman who taught children that growing plants and flowers takes time, helping to make them aware life is a process.

We were gifted with a small program with Ruth’s image and two of her hanging sculptures on the cover; on the back was the Asawa recipe for garlic ginger salad dressing. Three musical offerings listed were performed by the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts musicians, one composition by an alumni. On the reverse of the program was the recipe for Ruth’s Ginger Garlic Salad Dressing, and below it, a 2002 Asawa comment:

“An artist is not special. An artist is an ordinary person who can take ordinary things and make them special.”

Verily, Ruth Asawa Lanier, a woman for all seasons.

Target Update

1 Sep

No sooner had I written about the white with grey accented walls of Target’s new branch on Geary Boulevard than vegetation has been installed. Near the parking lot are two or three distinctly different forms of low lying plants.

Boy, do I wish I had my aunt’s command of Latin names for vegetation. She used to discuss with nurserymen and gardeners in Latin about suitable plantings on the slope of the family home in Los Gatos. I still find that impressive.

The one thing which did not occur to her was the damage by the chemicals in their sewer system to the magnificent oak tree adorning the northern end of their property. In the gap between my early adolescence and my visit following my grandmother’s death, the oak tree had died, trunk and limbs removed, increasing the view but minimizing the sheltering privacy from a new neighbor down the hill.

Back to Target, I did not mention the three monumental sized grill structures along the wall. I thought they were intended for advertisements. Wrong, wrong, wrong. In front of each metal web is now a vine, the intervals in between
new home to clusters of swaying clumps of bamboo. The drip lines are brown in hue. Let’s hope the bamboo belongs to the cluster family, not the running root variety, so invasive and potential source of expensive sewer damage. Target is probably quite
aware.

Interesting note is the new sign on the old Sears Tower, proclaiming the location as City Center. I need to look on the map to see if, indeed, where the Western Addition gives way to Jordan Park and the apartment buildings on Masonic
near California, is the geographic center of San Francisco. Speaks a lot to how the city moved west to conquer the sand-dunes, dislodging the ribbon of cemeteries marking the edge of old San Francisco, pre World War II.