Thursday, July 25, 2013

Making Theatre Matter: Talk and Action

Now there's one more reason to look forward to Friday. 

At 2pm tomorrow the BAPF is hosting an incredible panel of theater makers who use their art to engage the world's problems. The discussion, Making Theatre in a Messed Up World, takes its name from moderator Velina Brown's TBA blog post of the same name.

It's free! It's open to the public, and it will inspire you.
(If you're out of town, watch the livestream or the archive)

Who are we going to speak with?
  • jump-up-and-down-and-march-with-me rabble rousers
  • introspective writers who hit where it hurts
  • activists in neighbourhoods, prisons and classrooms. 
Many are locals—all are nationally renowned. Names below! We're going to put it to them straight in this two part seminar

Part I: Why theatre?

When we decide to make a change, fight an injustice, why turn to the stage? What is it that the performing arts has that no other tool has? Why do we put on make-up and costumes instead of marching or going door-to-door? What makes the stage more powerful than the megaphone?

Part II: How?

These panelists are experts in all different styles. Their performances are devised, hip-hop, circus-inspired, musical, dramatic, and poetic. They use transcriptions and adaptations and (our favorite) brand-new writing. These panellists put the audience member in a different position, each dependent on the different style. Are you watching the story, waiting on edge to boo, hiss or cheer? Are you an active creator of the story? The means, as always, are just as important and varied as the ends.

Without further ado, let's meet our amazing guests.
Velina Brown (Symposium Leader)

Rhodessa Jones, Cultural Odyssey

Lindsay Krumbein (Gritty City Rep)

Margo Hall (Actress, Member Campo Santo)

Michael Rohd (Sojourn Theater)

Michael Gene Sullivan (SF Mime Troupe)

Dael Orlandersmith (Playwright - PF Workshop Instructor)

Richard Montoya (Culture Clash)

Torange Yeghiazarian (Golden Thread)

Ryan Nicole Austin (NuDekades and Mouthoff)

Sean San Jose (Actor, Director, Member Campo Santo)

Kinan Valdez (El Teatro Campesino)

Christine Young (USF Department of Theater and Social Justice)

Joan Holden (Playwright, Former SF Mime Troupe lead writer)

Kimber Lee (BAPF Playwright, author of brownsville song [b-side for tray])

Phew! So if you ever wanted to meet any of these fabulous movers and shakers, tomorrow is the time! It's going to be a open conversation, with panelists -  not lecturing -  but engaging with the audience in a seat-swapping, hard hitting, honest discussion. Everyone who wants to speak can speak and have their topics heard in an open forum. 

The event will be ABSOLUTELY FREE, followed by snacks from Mediterranean restaurant Pera and complimentary wine!

This symposium will be simultaneously live-streamed through #newplaytv. So catch the conversation there if you can't be with us on the day.  

So. That's the talk, but what about the walk? You'll really to see the political work we're fostering at the moment. Kimber Lee's brownsville song (b-side for tray) is playing at 8pm that night. This graceful, lyrical work. Unpretentious, funny, gentle, but with plenty of teeth, this play acts as a witness and not a commentator, challenging the definition of "political" theatre. It is a must-see event.

photo by Jim Norrena

So join us Friday for these two great events. Talk the talk and walk the walk, meet some collaborators, find some friends. Lets get angry then happy then moved by turns.
It's a great time to be alive and making art!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo: Love, Loss, and Life in the DMZ

Among the selections for this year's Bay Area Playwrights Festival, I was especially intrigued by Jiehae Park's Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, the story of a Korean-American family trying to understand the meaning behind their grandmother's absurdly flamboyant suicide. Hannah is the recipient of her grandmother's final request, the fulfillment of a 100%-bona-fide-hearts-desire-level-wish which her thoroughly Americanized family has no way of comprehending. In a series of bizarre, schadenfreude-laden twists and turns involving fairy tales, dream sequences, and an especially hilarious chat with Kim Jong Il's ghost, she is forced to confront the secrets of the DMZ and the intricacies of a culture and heritage she never really knew. 

We asked Jiehae Park, playwright extraordinaire, about the process of writing the play and how her own experiences as an Asian-American influenced her work.

Her response: 
"A director recently pointed out (during a reading rehearsal for a different new play) that the concept of "legacy" kept coming up again and again in the work. I think it's a fascinating theme to view through an immigrant lens...which is, I guess, a slightly pretentious way of saying-- as someone who came to this country quite young, and has only a hazy sense of where she came from, the idea of what is passed down both to and from me is really powerful. What is this thing that's supposed to mean something to me? It's maybe a little funny looking and I maybe don't quite "get it," but there's something there that's drawing me in. I love things that toe the line between comic and just plain awful, and I think that sense of loss can bounce around in that liminal space, looking for answers."

In Hannah, that "liminal space" finds itself physicalized in the DMZ, the buffer zone between North and South Korea and a bizarre world unto itself with its own code of law. An area with even more palpable tension and uncertainty than the rest of the world, the DMZ proves itself to be an exceptionally weird corner of the globe. 

A few fun facts about it:
  • The flagpole wars: In the 1980s, the South Korean government built a 323 ft tall flagpole with a 287 lb South Korean flag in Daeseong-dong. North Korea responded by building what was then the tallest flagpole in the world at 525 ft with a 595 lb North Korean flag in Kij┼Ćng-dong. Though both were eventually topped by others in Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, the rival flagpoles remain a symbol of what some refer to as "the flagpole wars."
  • What not to wear: Visiting tourists are prohibited from wearing distressed jeans, lest the North Korean government use pictures of them as propaganda proving the poverty and terrible quality of life in democratic societies.
  • Beer in North Korea? In an effort to bring decent beer to North Korea, the former ambassador to Switzerland bought a British Brewery in 2000 and had it moved brick by brick to the capital in Pyongyang.
If Hannah and the Dread Gazebo sounds like your kind of show, this Saturday (July 27th, 2013) is the last day to see it at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. 
Get your tickets here before they sell out!