Critic Kevin Kirby wrote: “Those who attend expecting a conventional plot with conventional staging may be frustrated by Winnie’s static plight. But for those willing to accept Beckett on his own terms, there are ample riches to be discovered.” Kirby also had ample praise for Courtney Walsh, the gifted thespian who played Winnie and carried the bulk of the play as it explored humanity’s feelings of existential aloneness.
Walsh has a background in the law and, as it turns out, a few linguistic tricks up her sleeve. After SST’s production closed at Stanford, the troupe took the show on the road to present an unusual bilingual production of “Happy Days” in Montpellier, France.
Now SST is teaming up with Alliance Francaise of San Francisco to present two performances in the city: at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 (in English) and Nov. 15 (in English and French). Shows are in the alliance’s theater at 1345 Bush St; ticketing info is here.
Next up for SST: an Orson Welles festival starting in June. Artistic director Rush Rehm says the company plans to present Welles’ theatrical adaptation in blank verse of “Moby Dick,” along with a reenactment of his Mercury Theater broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.”
Pictured: Courtney Walsh in “Happy Days.” Photo by Stefanie Okuda.
A survivor’s spirit
I recently got an email from artist Edna Shochat with a dramatic poster attached. Headlined “One in Eight,” the poster contains seven photos of glossy-haired celebrities showing lots of décolletage. It also has a picture of Edna in a hospital gown, which somehow looks elegant on her.
Beneath the eight photos, a stark American Cancer Society statistic: “During her lifetime, the chance of a woman to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer is about 1 in 8.”
Then Edna has written a more uplifting line: “If you are one of the eight, remember: You may lose your hair, temporarily, or precious body parts, permanently, but you should never lose your sense of style.”
That positive spirit seems perfectly in line with the artist’s personality. When I first wrote about her in the Weekly last year, she was exhibiting her photos at Philz Coffee in Palo Alto. The images were cheerful and humorous freeze-frames of everyday life. The show was also a celebration, of the artist’s first anniversary of her final chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Earlier this fall, Edna told a longer version of her story on the health blog of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, whose surgeons had performed her bilateral mastectomy in 2011 and whose oncology department had administered her chemotherapy. She’s now cancer-free.
"As soon as I woke up from surgery and saw the worried faces of my husband and children, I knew I had to reassure them," the blog quotes Edna as saying. "I said faintly, ‘I think I’m beginning to experience Empty Breasts Syndrome.’"
Edna beams in a photo. Her optimistic spirit also shines through in her pastel drawing “Two Sisters,” which is highlighted in the blog. (The real thing is on display at Deborah’s Palm in Palo Alto.)
She sent me the blog post, along with a kind, appreciative note for my previous write-up about her. But I was the one who felt appreciative, as I read every inspiring word.
Pictured: “Two Sisters,” a pastel by Edna Shochat.
One of the best uses of light I’ve seen in an Eichler. Well played, P.A.
If life gives you self-help manuals, make a quilt. Well played, artist Lisa Kokin, who found a bunch of said manuals at a recycling center and gave their spines new life as the finely stitched 2010 work “Fret.” My detail photo above also offers a taste of her flair for color.
"Sometimes the spines remain partially or wholly intact, but sometimes I sacrifice the titles to make cheery shapes like flowers and leaves, which I hope will create eternal happiness for the viewer in five days or less," writes the East Bay artist, whose portfolio of work includes button works and sculptures.
Kokin also creates altered books and book collages, which makes her a fine fit for the Palo Alto Art Center’s current show, “Bibliophilia,” where “Fret” is now on display. I had written a preview story about the exhibit focusing mainly on the book works by Emily Payne, and yesterday I got to see the full show, which contains art by 15 people overall.
Another highlight was the section of oil paintings by Scot Velardo. Old and discarded books are the canvases for him to paint scenes of street life in San Francisco, New York, Milan.
Seen here: a book called “The Wonderful World of Music” revamped into a slice of life on Harrison Street in San Francisco. Beautiful how the texture of the book title blends with the new painting, and how the conductor’s arms open to the new sky.
Interesting perspective on the infamous Willow Road “couches” that have sparked so many snickers in the Menlo Park City Council chambers over the years. I like the sculptures better from this angle. They look like angry moray eels.
When you switch journalism beats, you can usually torch your Rolodex. It’s rare that your sources will carry over en masse from, say, the cops beat to the sports desk.
Bill Jackson is the one of the few artists who was also a regular source for me when I was a news reporter back in the day, covering county government for the San Mateo Times. He was the county’s elections manager then and is a fine-art photographer now. When I jumped ship for the arts editor’s desk, he got in touch again.
Instead of chatting about precinct results, we’ve talked about his pleasantly eerie photography, which has been seen quite a bit around town in recent years. Jackson is a member of the Palo Alto Camera Club and is represented by the Paolo Mejia Gallery in the city.
At the moment, he also has a solo show up at Philz Coffee in Palo Alto’s Midtown neighborhood. Jackson usually likes to photograph people; here he’s found inspiration in the rings and cracks of fallen trees.
His “Timber” series came from “cut and fallen trees from California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, modified in post-processing to create something different from the original,” as he puts it. The series is a blaze of color: atomic reds, deep blues, powerful oranges. I like to imagine some logger knocking down a tree and jumping back appalled, seeing all this wonder inside.
In our young country, it seems inconceivable that a span of 200-plus years could be just “a period,” a fraction of our history. But that’s Japan (and most other nations around the world) for you.
"Mapping Edo: The Social and Political Geography of Early Modern Japan," a new small exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center, looks at the art of Japan’s Edo period. This span, which extended from the early 1600s into the 1800s, was marked by stability and growth, with much attention paid to the arts.
This is evident in the paintings, prints and archival maps now up in the Stanford museum’s Madeleine H. Russell Gallery. Everyday scenes mingle with pastoral landscapes, historical sites and castles from early modern Japan. Artists represented include printmakers Kitao Masayoshi and Utagawa Kunisada. The show is up through Feb. 2.
Pictured: “Plum Garden, Kameido,” an 1857 woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858).
Slightly haunted, but in a good way, by Irene Schlesinger's mixed-media work “Shulamit.” Those eyes. And of course that level of detail that makes you walk up and back in a gallery: up close to see it all, way back to take it in. The eyes didn't follow me, but they were close.
The Bay Area artist contributed this visage to the current “Figures and Faces” show at the Pacific Art League. Several Palo Altans also have their work represented: Maura Carta (oil paintings), Alicia Ivanhoe (color drawings), Cherryl Pape (graphite drawings). Forty works, lots of eyes that follow you.
In my eight years as A&E editor, this is the first time I’ve seen a movie open at three of our local movie theaters at once. “Jobs,” you better kick ass more than “Kick-Ass 2.”
One of my favorites. One of everyone’s favorites. Neigh there, Cantor center.