Arts: Performance

San Francisco choreographer Robert Moses’ latest work, “Bootstrap Tales,” is inspired by his company’s new outreach initiative for foster youth. The initiative, called The Bootstrap Program, seeks to expose foster youth to “the process of creating a life in the arts.” Moses joins us in the studio for a conversation about the initiative and the new work, which features the music of local street musicians. We’ll also check in with Renee Espinoza of San Francisco CASA, one of the groups participating in The Bootstrap Program.

Marga Gomez performs "Latin Standards."

Writer, comedian and performer Marga Gomez brings her 12th solo play, “Latin Standards,” back to the Bay Area. The show explores Gomez’s childhood as the ambitious daughter of Cuban entertainers and what it means to be a queer Latina performer in today’s changing art scene. Gomez joins us in studio to discuss “Latin Standards” and a life in showbiz.

“Latin Standards” plays at the San Jose MACLA February 9-11 and the Brava Theatre Center in San Francisco March 16 through April 1.

Composer John Adams’ “Girls of the Golden West” explores gender and racial tension during the California Gold Rush. It plays the San Francisco Opera through Dec. 10. In the photo, Adams is seated at a table, leaning on his hand with a smile and holding a writing instrument.

The sound of fortune-hunters’ pickaxes digging for gold in 1850s California marks the opening scene of “Girls of the Golden West” by composer John Adams. In creating the opera, Adams and librettist Peter Sellars drew heavily on the letters of a doctor’s wife, Louise Clappe, who exposed the brutality toward women and ethnic tensions that broiled under the optimism of the Gold Rush. Adams joins us in-studio to discuss “Girls of the Golden West,” which plays the San Francisco Opera through mid-December.

John Adams, composer, “Girls of the Golden West”

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Lisa Fischer has been a backup singer for some of the biggest names in music: Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé, to name a few. But after she appeared in the Oscar-winning documentary “20 Feet From Stardom,” Fischer found the spotlight focused on her. She went on to collaborate with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet in a production called “The Propelled Heart,” which returns for a repeat performance this November. Fischer joins us to talk about the show and her varied career.

Lisa Fischer,
singer collaborating with choreographer Alonzo King on “The Propelled Heart”

Marcus Gardley

Award-winning playwright Marcus Gardley’s “black odyssey” opens at California Shakespeare Theater this week. The mashup of African-American cultural lore with Homer’s “The Odyssey” was set in Harlem when it premiered in 2014, but Gardley changed the setting to his hometown of Oakland for its East Bay run. The play follows an American soldier, Ulysses Lincoln, who is lost at sea and presumed dead, as he tries to return home. Two gods — Deus and Paw Sidin — play a deity’s game of chess that manipulates Lincoln’s journey. The Denver Post called the show’s premier “an epic night of ritual and wonder.” Gardley’s previous plays include “The House That Will Not Stand” and “X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation.” Gardley joins us in studio to discuss his new play, his spin on Homer and his own journey home to Oakland.

Marcus Gardley,
playwright, “black odyssey,” which runs August 9-September 3 at the California Shakespeare Theater

Jeff Raz has worn a lot of big shoes. He toured with Cirque Du Soleil’s “Corteo,” worked with the influential Pickle Family Circus and co-founded the Clown Conservatory, a professional clown training program at the San Francisco Circus Center. Raz joins us to discuss his new book “The Secret Life of Clowns: A Backstage Tour of Cirque Du Soleil and The Clown Conservatory,” and to answer your questions about what goes on behind the curtain, and under the big red nose.


Jeff Raz, professional clown & author (“The Secret Life of Clowns”)

Torange Yeghiazarian

When Torange Yeghiazarian [Yag-ya-zarian] moved to America as a teenager, the Iran hostage crisis dominated American airwaves, yet she says only one of her neighbors actually knew where Iran was. Closing that knowledge gap about her native country has loomed large in Yeghiazarian’s career as a playwright. For the past 20 years, she has run Golden Thread Productions, a San Francisco theater company that explores the issues and culture of the Middle East with talent from Egypt, Iran, Syria and other countries. Yeghiazarian joins us as part of our First Person series, which features the local innovators, leaders, and notable characters who make the Bay Area unique.

The cast members of Richmond Renaissance, a production of RYSE Center.

The Ryse Center’s upcoming production of “Richmond Renaissance” brings to life one of the legendary blues clubs or “juke joints” that thrived in north Richmond during the 1940s. The play explores the cultural scene that grew alongside the shipyards that famously built America’s fleet of WWII Liberty ships. In this segment, we’ll talk to two of the show’s young producers and a historian about the city’s early economic prosperity and rich cultural heritage.

More Information about “Richmond Renaissance”

Daveed Diggs as Marquis de Lafayette, Okieriete Onaodowan as Hercules Mulligan, Anthony Ramos as John Laurens, and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton in 'Hamilton.'

Ron Chernow, the historian whose biography of Alexander Hamilton inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway sensation, praises the hit musical for transforming our understanding of the founding fathers beyond “a bunch of middle-aged white guys with wigs and buckled shoes.” This hour, we’d like to know which historical figures or events you think deserve a full-scale theatrical treatment akin to “Hamilton.” Who played an important — but overlooked — role in shaping America? What historical figure deserves their name in lights? What historical eras should be highlighted like the formative days of Hamilton, Burr and LaFayette?

Jessia Waldman and Rick Roiting as the bartender in "The Speakeasy."

Turn down a dark alley in North Beach, say the right password to a man in a trench coat, and a secret world of dice games, blackjack and cabaret singers will appear. The Speakeasy, an immersive theater show that recreates the look and feel of a 1920s Prohibition-era drinking club, is interactive and lets actors and audience commingle at gambling tables and a bar stocked with “bootlegged liquor.” Many guests show up in period clothing, from fedoras to flapper dresses, and cell phones are strictly forbidden. (You can’t get a signal in 1923!) We’ll discuss creating immersive theater with The Speakeasy’s producers and the hurdles to finding a permanent space in San Francisco.

More Information on “The Speakeasy”

Philip Watt as trumpeter Chet Baker

Chet Baker comes back to life this February in “The Cool,” a play based on the sounds and struggles of the jazz trumpeter. Actor Philip Watt portrays a young Chet Baker playing in a Hollywood jazz club on the night the public discovered his singing voice. Watt and playwright Barry Eitel join us to talk about the play and the racism, homophobia, and police brutality of 1950s America.

More Information on ‘The Cool’

People walk past souviners of Broadway plays in Times Square on May 27, 2015 in New York City.

In his new book, “Showstoppers! The Surprising Backstage Stories of Broadway’s Most Remarkable Songs,” critic Gerald Nachman draws on in-depth interviews with icons of musical theater to explore what makes certain songs “knock us out” and send audiences home humming. These tunes “often become a vital part of Americana, firmly lodged in the country’s collective memory” he writes. We talk with Nachman about his favorite hits, his 50 years as a theater critic and what worries him about today’s musicals.

Echo Brown had no acting experience when she set out to write her autobiographical solo show “Black Virgins Are Not For Hipsters.” But her honesty and sharp sense of humor drew audiences to fill the Bay Area’s Marsh Theater for over year, where her show was extended seven times. Though the show’s premise is light — a giddy Brown is preparing for the arrival of her hipster date — it also delves deeply into Brown’s experience as a black woman in America. With her final performances coming up at Tribe Oakland this week, we’ll speak with Brown about the power of storytelling and what it was like to write about race and sexual violence so personally.

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