The New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) under the direction of Stephanie Temple is renowned in San Francisco for its enchanting plays for youth. Temple’s current production, which she wrote and directed, is 'Bollywood Sleeping Beauty' and runs through October 14 at NCTC.
Temple has a wonderful ability to put together such endearing tales that her theatre pieces have become beloved by the public for many years. There is always the opportunity for a young child to audition for the program and on October 7 there were several children that looked on in reverence at the older children, most around 15 years.
This story of 'Sleeping Beauty' has been given a Bollywood twist where the young princess Sabeena has become prey to the goddess Kali. The marriage of Sabeena's parents, Queen Dalaja (Tess Greenham) and King Maandhata (Roman Blum) displeased her so much that she is bent on revenge of their first-born. Sabeena starts to fall for Prince Taj (Julian Holmes) just before this unfortunate circumstance is about to come into play.
At 15, the needle of a spinning wheel will mortally wound Sabeena, true to the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty. In Temple’s arrangement, three benevolent goddesses: Saraswati (Stella Price), Lakshimi (Rebecca Hughes), and Parvati (Lena Galinson) watch over Sabeena and arrange that she will merely fall into a deep sleep. This is a slumber not without enchantment. The goddesses create an obstacle map within Beauty’s subconscious to help get her home including the meeting of a black bearded prince, the elephant headed god Ganesha, and a white mustached prince. They are even able to arrange for Sabeena's new love Prince Taj to appear in the dream to accompany her on her journey home.
This Temple production excels in clever dance arrangements set to Bollywood music with members of the royal family and the goddesses. As in other Temple plays, the young actors double as other characters, such as some of the dream personalities. The incredibly talented Carola Anderson makes the costumes for NCTC youth theatre and in this production the garments of the Indian royalty and dream creatures are stunning.
'Bollywood Sleeping Beauty' is a visionary play that is cinematic like the Indian genre from which the name is derived. The play is an explosion of color, enchantment, dance and music in a journey that clearly appeal to all ages.
The play runs through October 14 at NCTC, 25 Van Ness in San Francisco.
'The Paperboy' is the story of Hillary van Wetter, a bloated Southern sleezeball played by John Cusack who is awaiting the electric chair for killing an obese racist sheriff. While in prison femme fatale Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) writes him, and soons falls for him. She convinces two newspapermen Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) to re-investigate the homicide in order to prove van Wetter’s innocence. Charlotte, Ward Jansen and his brother, Jack (Zac Ephron) visit him in prison in one of the film's raw scenes.
Jack prances around in shorts or underwear as a clearly homoerotic character. Yardley is (erotically) disturbed by him but Jack falls for Charlotte Bless. The seductive blonde with a brittle wig and heavy eye makeup tells Jack she has a dark side where his good looks and nature do not fit.
Van Wetter does nothing but abuse Charlotte from the minute he meets her in prison and when he gets out. As far as the other lead characters, Ward accepts an offer to have sex with some local black men, not the first time, but gets badly roughed up. Macy Gray is Zac’s beloved nanny but that position of privilege soon ends when his father (Scott Glen) starts to see the provincial albeit racist Ellen Guthrie (Nealla Gordon).
The connection between sexism, homophobia, classicism and racism is interconnected throughout the film. 'The Paperboy' no doubt shows the roots of oppression. Cinematographer Roberto Shaefer ('Monster’s Ball') constructs each shot of the misé en scene (composition of the frame) There are also some montage elements by Joe Klotz ('Precious') that will clearly jolt in the spectator. These images are disturbing and pull the film away from the traditional thriller genre, which critics expected.
The raw edges of the film are not entertaining. This lack of feel good put off some of the press at Canneswhere it had its international film debut in May, but for others it was a cinematic triumph.
Lee Daniel's'The Paperboy' is an excellent, well-crafted narrative that seems to turn upside down everything you thought a film might be about set in the south. It opens in San Francisco at the Landmark Theaters at Embarcadero October 5.
'Vertigo' (USA, 1958) has been chosen the number one film of all time, according to a vote by 846 international critics. The vote was featured today in the online site for the respected BFI monthly film publication Sight & Sound.
This is the first time that 'Citizen Kane', directed by Orson Welles was wrestled from first place for best film every by a group of film critics.
In another vote by Sight & Sound, 358 film directors voted Yasujirô Ozu's 'Tokyo Story' (Japan, 1953) the best film ever. 'Vertigo' was in seventh place.
The actual vote by critics and directors is as follows:
2. "Citizen Kane"
3. "Tokyo Story"
4. "The Rules of the Game"
6. "2001: A Space Odyssey"
7. "The Searchers"
8. "Man With a Movie Camera"
9. "The Passion of Joan of Arc"
10. "8 1/2"
1. "Tokyo Story"
2. "2001: A Space Odyssey"
2. "Citizen Kane"
4. "8 1/2"
5. "Taxi Driver"
6. "Apocalypse Now"
7. "The Godfather"
9. "The Mirror"
10. "Bicycle Thieves"
The exciting Teen Summer Stock opened July 26 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco with a four day run of 'Dis/Connected' through July 29. Written by Bennett Fisher and directed by Jessica Holt, the play is an innovative exposé on bullying at school and through social media on the Internet. The ensemble actors are excellent and work well as an engaging team of storytellers with a smart script and direction. 'Dis/Connected' appeals to both teenagers and parents and deals with the phenomena of texting and social media that has preoccupied young people ever since cell phones with mobile networking became affordable in the 90’s. The opening lines of the play address how elderly people look back on their past whereas young people try to put it behind, especially memories about being picked on and bullied at school.
The teens wind up having to go get an online education when their school is closed. This is a disturbingly grim reality today for some students due to educational cutbacks. The school administrators - Supervisors Nelson and Wilson, (Alia Anaya and Rachelle Highbrou), a modern Tweedledum and Tweedledee, engage in double speak on all aspects of the increasingly deteriorating situation of their school and morale of the students. Their exchange reveals the stark reality of school boards who are able to justify cutbacks through deceptive language.
Top Hat (Tess Greenham) royally bullies the ill named Snot (Rebecca Huges) aided by her gang - Rabbit (Regina Leon), Tiptoes (Zoe Zapata) and Mumbles (Casey Alter). Top Hat has her eye on Buzzy (Joseph Weinberg) who becomes more and more intrigued by how Snot turns her life around in front of her peers and begins to become empowered. Since she has suffered as a social outcast for years, she decides to hit back with real potency by demonstrating through a self-designed app how students can randomly become unpopular on the Internet through rumors and hearsay. Top Hat is the first to lose her reputation in this way, though Rabbit and Tiptoes who have followed the leader are given a chance to change ways and atone for bullying Snot. Meanwhile, DD (Forest Nolan) confers with Buzzy about the relationship that seems to be budding between him and Snot that is moving him away from Top Hat and her bullying. He also expresses his own feelings towards Buzzy in the painful process of coming out.
'Dis/Connected' addresses the homophobia, sexism and racism that lies dormant among unconscious and insecure teens. Insensitive social exchange can cause scars for a lifetime. However, in this play the real threat is social media, cell phones and the Internet, which increasingly replace human contact. This group of actors successfully and evocatively bring these messages home and awaken many of the thoughts that everyone is thinking today about how far will it go as cyberspace and smart phones continue to take over meaningful social engagement. There is also the problem of malicious commentary in social media. The recent expulsion of a Greek athlete by her country from the 2012 Summer Olympics for a racist tweet is an example of the power of inappropriate usage.