When the doomed love of Pelleas and Melisande first premiered in 1893, it subverted the French realism that was all the rage in the Parisian Belle Epoque. Innovative French symbolist Maurice Materlinck - one of the most respected writers of his time - penned a lush, avante garde fairytale that blends elements of Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet.
Shakespeare’s doomed heroine Desdemona is getting a lot of theater time this month. For fresh interpretations of the misunderstood Venetian beauty who met her untimely end at the hands of her husband, Othello, you can check out the high profile Toni Morrison-Peter Sellars collaboration or the black box experimental interpretation where Desdemona really is a whore.
Cal Performances presents the United States premiere of the collaboration between Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, renowned director Peter Sellars, and one of Africa’s greatest vocalists Rokia Traoré. Together they create a beyond-the-grave conversation between Othello’s Desdemona and Barbary, the woman Shakespeare identifies as the African nurse who raised her.
Two rival gangs sit down for a dinner party in Arrivederci Roma, Morgan Ludlow’s furiously dreamlike world premiere for Stage Werx, stuffed wtih ultimatums and revelations and Italian-Jewish home cooking. A psychedelic blend of The Godfather and Trannyshack, it’s a bloodthirsty comedy with unexpected guests, plot twists, and breaking bread with the enemy.
Adam and Eve managed to get their kids banished from the Garden of Eden, and parenting in religion has been going downhill ever since. How To Write a New Book for the Bible is award-winning playwright Bill Cain’s flashlight into the grand religious and theatrical traditions of familial blame.
The hipsters are bringing back ancient Greece. So gather the tattered shards of your theatrical optimism, all ye who enter Exit Theater. Calling this year’s San Francisco Olympians Festival “a Pandora’s box of plays, leaving all who attend with hope for independent theatre,” No Nude Men premiere thirty-two new works this month. Written by twenty-nine local writers, nine are full-length and the rest are delightfully random shorts. Each night is something different - some folks saw as many as ten shows last year.
Oh, childhood. That magical time when people fetch you milk and carry you places. When getting dessert is the epitome of success and every road leads somewhere good. In Sorya! A Minor Miracle, Theater of Yugen distills childhood stories of Western literature through ancient Japanese performance traditions, emerging with new Kyogen comedies of dwarfs in dismay, charlatan prophets, and sake.
As sisters go, having one nicknamed Katherine the Cursed isn’t the ideal family tree situation, especially when you aren’t allowed to marry until your sister does and your cursed sister has no interest in the blessed state of matrimony.
Bianca and Katherina navigate the tricky rapids of Elizabethan dating in Shakespeare’s sharpest romance, Taming of the Shrew. Director Shana Cooper, straight from her Oregon Shakespeare Festival debut, gives Cal Shakes’ version a gorgeously physical realignment. Projected onto a high-fashion, pop-art society, Bianca’s tender romance is tinder to the flying sparks of Katherina and Petruchio’s battle of the sexes.
Two soldiers sit in their kitchens, where apparent domestic normalcy is constantly dogged by the threat of horror. Set during the Bosnian War, two former friends and bandmates end up on opposite sides of a bloody conflict. Inspired by a true story, this award-winning play shows how bonds formed through music flex and strain in an unrecognizable world. And how unlikely partnerships can emerge as one soldier faces his own brutality and the other his cowardice - all while they toast bread and eat sandwiches and perform the daily functions of staying alive.
A trio of unemployed vaudevillians head to Tinseltown to con Hollywood stars into hiring them as vocal coaches, planning to profit on a dreadful truth - the world is changing and actors have to change with it. Films have sound now and it’s not enough just to be a pretty face. In the new era of 'talkies, stars have to start opening their mouths if they want to keep their jobs.
American Conservatory Theater starts off the season with a shiny new version of the 1930 Kaufman and Hart satire Once in a Lifetime. A cast of 15 take on 70 roles in this biting comedy about the early days of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Using period film clips and cinematic backdrops, ACT blends the worlds of theater and film to redefine the audience’s vision of “moving pictures.”
A play about a boat, performed on a boat. Revolutionary, logistically tricky, and rife with ultra-awesome potential. We Players triumphs yet again with another site-specific performance - Homer’s classic seafaring adventure, performed on an 1891 scow schooner named Alma. For its latest ambitious project, local theater troupe takes audiences on a ride through the seas - physical and metaphorical - of Greek poetry.
Condensing Odysseus’s ten year journey into a three-hour sail around the San Francisco bay, cast and crew blend real-time wrangling of Alma’s sails with Homer’s epic journey of gods and sirens. Definitely a new way to experience both The Odyssey and boats.