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Friday, May 4, 2007

Blackberry at ACT in San Francisco

Yesterday I was picking up Raya Light at the airport (back from world tennis championships in Turkey; the U.S. team placed 8th) when I picked up a call from friends on Liberty Street offering me two tickets to "Blackbird" at ACT. I said I'd take them, rash of me since I had managed not to hear a word about the play until then and because Raya wasn't yet through Customs and curtain was in 40 minutes.

Somehow we were only fifteen minutes late. As we settled into our seats I was predictably disoriented, trying to figure out where we were and what was going on. Later I gathered from friends who saw it opening night that it doesn't help much to be on time.

I enjoyed the disoriented portion of the evening more than the rest of it. I found the play--a cross between Lolita and No Exit--intermittently compelling, the characters sympathetic enough for me to care about their predicament. But too often I felt the ickiness of the playwright's pleasure in being provocative, and the parts that were meant to be most shocking were actually the most predictable. Of course they're going to kiss! Still, someone nearby was gullible enough to be offended, and walked out, so for somebody the play will work as intended.

Still, I thought there was something good about it. In the parking garage elevator, when I recognized the actress who plays Humbert Humbert's step-daughter, I asked for her autograph. Raya pretended she didn't know me after that.

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.