Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: Golden Thread's The Fifth String; Inferno Theater's Diasporas Festival

By Ken Bullock
Friday May 02, 2014 - 10:06:00 AM
Carolina Duncan
Brian A. Bernhard
Carolina Duncan
Company: Christine Germain & Dancers
MoonFish Foto by Warren Jones
Company: Christine Germain & Dancers
Company: Dell'Arte Company
Anthony Arnista
Company: Dell'Arte Company

—Golden Thread, the Bay Area production company staging plays about the Middle East, presents The Fifth String, an original play for families, written and directed by founder Torange Yeghiazarian, May 2-4 and May 10 at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California in downtown Oakland (an extraordinary historic building from 1911, originally a Masonic Temple, in Moorish Revival style). 

Subtitled "Ziryab's Passage to Cordoba," the Fifth String tells of the arrival of Ziryab in Southern Spain, a Middle Eastern figure who, in the words of designer Mohktar Paka, "not only introduced the fashion idea of seasonal clothes, fabrics and colors to Europe, but also brought toothpaste, and deodorant!" The lively production features a fashion show, rap music and a blues song, with original music by Faraz Minooei and performances by musicians Gari Haggerty and Ali Bazyar. "A moment of shared history, both East and West," is how Yeghiazarian describes it. 

May 2-3, 7 p. m., May 4 at 3, May 10 at 7, Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, 1433 Madison, near 14th—6 blocks from BART—(& May 15-18 at Brava! Theatre, 2781-24th Street, San Francisco. $15-$22, children under 12, free. 

—"It's a way of celebrating the making of the United States," said Giulio Cesare Perrone, founder of Inferno Theatre, of the upcoming First Annual Contemporary Performance Diasporas Festival, next weekend at the South Berkeley Community Church, "Diasporas are the concrete reality of the United States! We're not just doing a festival of Jewish or Italian theater, but moving towards working together. It's experimental ... but not so much an ethnic eye looking at it as it being a contemporary way of doing theater—mostly ensemble-based, physical, performative groups ... They're from all over the world in terms of ethnicity, but all work in the Bay Area." 

Inferno Theatre is in its second year of residence at historic South Berkeley Church, an Arts & Crafts architectural gem, with a troupe right now consisting of performers and production people from "North Africa, Russia, Ukraine, French-American, Chinese-American, two other Americans—and I'm Italian," said Perrone, a native of Calabria. 

Among the pieces to be performed—many being works-in-progress in one way or another—are some by "masters of the precision of the art form—like Joan Schirle of the Dell'Arte Players (Perrone once directed the Dell'Arte School in Blue Lake, near Eureka), who will perform a piece about a Jewish woman making an art book in a concentration camp, about displacement, not only during but after the War, first trying to survive, then to get her life back—a sub-theme in Perrone's concept of the Festival ("In that sense, the Holocaust continues to happen every day")—and Jubilith Moore of Theatre of Yugen, performing a piece using Noh and Kyogen movement from Japanese classical tragedy and comedy, to contemporary music by Polly Moller—and dancer-choreographer Christine Germain, "who's young, but really knows what she's doing, has a solid relation with her art form." 

There will be a piece on women's issues—and the Five Deadly Improvisors, "who're very, very funny!" The individual pieces range from seven minutes to a half hour. 

Inferno's own piece, "Oblivion," which played in a shorter version at the French School-International School in San Francisco recently as part of a wider program there focusing on a contemporary response to the fate of Antigone, who was condemned for burying her brother after a veritable civil war in Thebes, is a response to "the revolutions, the genocides today, the frequent impossibility of finding relatives who've disappeared," said Perrone of the unusual, universal little piece he wrote, as I saw it performed by Inferno at the French School. 

Perrone—who lives in Oakland, once worked at the Grotowski Institute in Italy as well as teaching Commedia at Blue Lake, before founding Inferno Theatre here five years ago—stressed the differences of the performers, not only where they've come from and how they came here, but their styles and techniques—and their will to work together, the nucleus of theatrical performance. "Christine St-Germain married an American, immigrated here; Jubilith Moore's from America, but practices Japanese classical theater—performers like Jubilith are important to me. I want to show groups interested in and with a mastery of the art form itself, the dynamics of theater, the vibration of it—filling a space with the performer's voice, their presence. It's a high state of being—much contemporary film acting, for instance, goes away from that, has the camera and editing doing the work—and not all schools of theater, for that matter, rely on it!" 

Friday May 10th, from 8 p. m.: Dell'Arte Company (Joan Schirle, Laura Munoz, Ruxy Cantir), Robert Fields, Theatre of Yugen (Jubilith Moore, Polly Moller), Christine Germain & Slater Penney, Inferno Theatre. 

Saturday, May 9, from 8 p. m.: Dell'Arte Company, Elia Zaturanski, Five Deadly Improvisors, Melusina Gomez, Inferno Theatre. 

Sunday, May 11th, from 6 p. m.: Faun Fables, Jamie Greenblatt, Michael McCamish, Eli Zaturanski, Carolina Duncan & Carlos Munoz Kampff, Melusina Gomez, Inferno Theatre, Robert Fields, Maria Luisa Forenza. 

South Berkeley Community Church, 1802 Fairview (entrance on Ellis), two blocks from Adeline, near Ashby BART. $10-$35 (Festival pass: $35-$50) & Inferno Theatre on Facebook.