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Tony Award winner The Normal Heart at A.C.T.: When we first fought back against AIDS

September 18th, 2012 Comments off

I’ve been more than a little surprised to see lots and lots of discounted tickets popping up on online bargain websites for the American Conservatory Theater’s production of The Normal Heart. Last year, A.C.T.’s lighthearted Tales of the City was a tough ticket, and its run was extended multiple times. But this season’s gay-themed mainstage production appears to be lacking buzz. As playwright Larry Kramer might say (or scream): Shame!

Kramer’s scorching 1985 autobiographical drama about the early days of AIDS in New York is a ferociously emotional and political work of theater that was “ripped from the headlines” when first produced and today might be called “ripped from the history books.” The play helped catalyze and amplify community anger over the dismissal of the burgeoning epidemic by government and the medical institutions, and begin to move our country forward toward saner policy. The Normal Heart proved that art can make a difference in American society.

Michael Berresse, left, and Tom Berklund in The Normal Heart. (Photo: Scott Suchman)

The production at A.C.T., directed by George C. Wolfe, won last year’s Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Currently in preview performances, it officially opens next Wednesday.

Do San Franciscans feel The Normal Heart will bring back too many difficult memories? In the face of Prop 8, Mitt Romney, and rising presence of AIDS among younger generations, are today’s gay men so ready to bury our heads and ignore the still urgent messages of this landmark piece of political art? Here’s a fascinating interview with Kramer, conducted in conjunction with the play’sopening in New York last year.

Man up, San Francisco, and support this important production.

 

 

Insider tips: Author Michelle Tea

July 10th, 2012 Comments off

For 15 years, San Francisco author Michelle Tea has spearheaded Sister Spit, a loose collaborative of roadtripping queer writers and performers that brings alcohol- and vegan meatloaf-fueled evenings of cabaret-styled provocation to college campuses, community centers, and art spaces around the country. This fall, venerable SF publisher City Lights will launch an entire line of Sister Spit Books, to be curated by Tea, whose own past novels, including the lesbian landmark Valencia bode well for what promises to be an edgy, engaging imprint. We’ll keep SF Agenda readers informed about local authors and events related to Sister Spit, but while we wait for news, we asked Michelle to answer our Insider Tips questionnaire about some of her recommendations for SF visitors and locals.

 What’s your favorite SF cultural institution?

 The GLBT Historical Society. Their archives are open to the public, and contain really incredible artifacts – Harvey Milk’s Levi’s, Sylvester’s sequined stage costumes, a bar stool from the legendary ‘female impersonators’ nightclub Finnochio’s. They have the entire collection of every On Our Backs ever published (who knew Dorothy Allison was writing for them at the start?! Not me!). One gentleman left the Society a collection of his lovers’ pubic hair, all neatly collected in little glass jars and labeled with their names. It’s really a fun and vast collection, and they also run a storefront museum in Castro on 18th Street that shows different aspects of the archives with cultural context. San Francisco is really lucky to have this institution!

What’s the best spot to take in a view of the city?

Probably the view from the top of Dolores Park. The park itself curves out beneath you like this pretty green bowl, and then beyond that is the city. It’s a great, inspiring view, especially on a sunny day. At night I like the view of the waterfront when you’re driving back over the Bay Bridge. It looks so charming and exciting, old fashioned somehow with the ferry building, but totally not, with the giant buildings.

Michelle Tea has to eat and run (Photo: Amos Mac)

You are one of the best dressed literary ladies around.  Where do you like to shop.

For clothes, in the Mission, I like the Candy Store Collective and The Bell Jar. For vintage Stone Pony and Painted Bird are great and for actual thrifting, Community Thrift and Thrift Town. In a city of mad thrifters you can still find treasures at these places! I also love high-end consignment and discount stores, and good places for that are Sui Generis and in the Castro (second hand stuff you can’t afford the first time around) [Ed.: Honey, love that store, but I can't afford most of their stuff the second time around either!], and My Roomate’s Closet in the Marina (where Philip Lim and Costume National go to die).

For interesting ephemera I like 826 Valencia (which is like a fun house on top of being an actual store, where one can open drawers and discover dioramas, or get themselves swabbed. That would be a trap door of mop heads tumbling down on you.) and Paxton Gate and Viracocha, which is like a beautiful art installation you can buy earrings at.

For books I love Dog Eared Books, which are new and used with a fantastic remainder table. And City Lights is the best is like being in a museum and  wonderful bookstore at the same time. There is so much history, and then shelves of the best edgy and political work that is out right now. A whole alcove dedicated to zines and chapbooks, and a whole floor dedicated to poetry! Unheard of!

What would you tell visitors are San Francisco’s “must eats”? 

I am obsessed with the tacos and burritos from Pancho Villa on 16th Street in the Mission, in particular their chili verde chicken, which is stewed and delicious. I like to get ‘baby burritos’, which are slightly smaller version of the giant ones that can be a bit too much. You can pick spinich or chili tortillas, and there are tons of bean options, like 10 different agua frescas and a giant salsa bar. Also, for a really special and slightly otherworldly dining experience, check out Outerlands, in the Outer Sunset just blocks from the ocean. It looks like it was made by ocean-dwelling gnomes, with driftwood and plants hung on rusting chains, and the food is really great.Their Sunday brunch is awesome, and the wait can be annoying but a few doors down is Trouble Coffee, a little shop that sells only three things – coffee, fresh young coconuts (they slice the top off for you) and thick slices of cinnamon toast. Get some caffeine and a snack to tide you over and browse overpriced but lovely hippie wares at The General Store. If it’s a nice day check out their backyard, which has a big old picnic table and a lovely little greenhouse.

And for the best, most extravagant meal of your life, splurge at Atelier Crenn, a Michelin-starred restaurant where a wildly talented and creative French chef serves up Asian-inspired dishes with the help of molecular gastronomy.The menu is a poem, and on my visit one of the desserts came with smoked fog. Yes, fog.

More food, drink, and—gulp—death, after the jump Read more…

Loud in bed: Berkeley publisher introduces gay erotica audiobooks

May 7th, 2012 Comments off

Our Bay Area neighbor, Berkeley-based Cleis Press, is a leading publisher of GLBT erotica. And now they’ve come up with a new series that’s dedicated to the best in aural sex.

The image you associate with the phrase “in one ear and out the other” will never be the same after you check out the new audiobook versions of Cleis’ annual Best Gay Erotica and Best Gay Romance anthologies.

Drake Stone—whose name suggests porn stardom as much as audiobook narration—will seduce listeners with his warm, flexible baritone that easily transitions from cocky fratboy to middle-aged-man in love in stories that run the gamut from walk-on-the-beach mushy to locker room grungy.

Erotic anthologies used to be referred to as “one-handed” reading material.  Cleis has just moved them into  “Look Ma, no hands!” territory.

On second thought, let’s just leave Ma out of it.

Tickle your eardrums with an outrageous audio excerpt here.  And get a full list of Cleis’ audio erotica here.

Insider tips: Writer-performer Kirk Read

March 27th, 2012 Comments off

The always colorful Kirk Read (Photo: Toby Jantzen)

This Friday and Saturday night, March 30 and 31, Kirk Read presents his latest one-man-a-palooza, Computer Face,  at The Garage. Kirk manages to make performance art charming, even as he laces it with all manner of playful perversity. The yarns spun in Computer Face include a fantasia of touring with the Republican presidential candidates as a tagalong sex worker. SFAgenda asked Kirk to honor us by being the first local notable to answer our “Tips for Tourists” questionnaire. His replies do not disappoint…

                                   ——————-
What are some of your favorite cultural institutions in San Francisco?
I like the indigenous art gallery at the de Young. It’s an amazing place to go tripping on mushrooms because it’s so perfectly lit. The masks come alive. You should go with someone because the masks are powerful and there is high potential for a meltdown.
I am a huge fan of the Center for Sex and Culture and do events there a lot. Carol Queen and Robert Lawrence, to me, are the essence of what San Francisco is. They champion pleasure, kindness, intellect and art.
And Joe Landini of the Garage is a sort of saint, taking in all these performance art strays and giving us an unpretentious place to do our work. I love doing my stuff there because it used to be an auto garage and now it’s a theater and so much of that mechanic aesthetic carries through. Joe is a big ol’ bear. That’s probably part of it.
I would argue that the sex clubs Eros and Blow Buddies are cultural institutions and they are definitely two of my favorite places. I love that at Blow Buddies people walk around with beers and smoke cigars on the patio.
                                                      ——————–
What’s the best view in the city?
The top of Bernal Heights is a place I take visitors because it captures the vastness of the city. It’s mythic up there. I did a naked photo shoot in the grass once and accidentally rolled in dog doo. That place belongs to dogs. I still don’t know what is going on with that tower up there. I really should use my google function, but it’s nice to have mysteries in life.
                                                       ——————-
Kirk chews the fat about food and restaurants after the jump…

Positive Hikeology: Clear your mind in the great outdoors

March 15th, 2012 Comments off

One of the best things about spending time in San Francisco is the way its geography can help put life into perspective. Step out the front door of your home or hotel and within a minute’s walk you’ll see water, and mountains, and big stretches of sky. (Some of those mountains are actually hills…but go ahead and walk them for a few hours: they’ll feel like mountains.)

Unlike most flat, gridded American cities, scaled and engineered for human endeavors, modern San Francisco is unignorably situated amidst ancient nature. Being here constantly reminds you that we are mere specks on the planet, and that our petty personal gripes are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The city is a Zen Psychologist. No insurance needed.

Since 1982, the San Francisco Hiking Club  has offered GLBT residents and visitors ample opportunities to shake off their nonsense and meet small groups of likeminded journeyers, at no charge. You’ll find listings on line for at least one hike each week, with experienced volunteer leaders and convenient, reliable carpool pickups (Ideal for out-of-towners who want to get into nature, but don’t want to spring for car rental).

The Marin Headlands, a popular hiking destination just 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco. (Photo: Jim Gladstone)

Also of interest:  The Gay and Lesbian Sierrans of the San Francisco Bay Area

Hit the road to Tacoma for landmark gay art (March 17 – June 10)

March 12th, 2012 Comments off

The de rigeur spring break weekend for San Franciscans this year is a trip north to Tacoma, Washington for the only West Coast showing of  HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.  And LGBT travelers planning to visit the Bay Area should consider adding a day or two to their trip to take advantage of a rare opportunity.

 

Running from March 7 to June 10, the landmark exhibition views the history of American art from the 1880s to the present through a keenly focused lavender lens. Curators Jonathan Katz and David Ward’s exhibition notes and labels decode references to gay sexuality and romance that have traditionally been tiptoed around by art historians loathe to acknowledge the homosexual within the canonical. The veil is removed from—and important social context restored to—works by artists including Thomas Eakins, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keefe, Charles Henry DeMuth, Romaine Brooks, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg. The exhibition also explores the slow emergence of more overt references to gay sexuality and culture in art, in works by Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others. The Tacoma Museum is also offering an extensive series of talks and guided tours to enrich attendees’ experience.

Co-curator Katz talks about the exhibit in a fascinating video after the jump.

Read more…