I posted this on some other sight, as a volunteer “community blogger” and am trying to paste it over here, for archive sake:
SF Mime Troupe, an award-winning comedia dell arte political-musical-theatre group from San Francisco, is bringing its new production “2012: The Musical” to Mitchell Park in Palo Alto on September 1
Posted by Mark Weiss , August 14, 2011 at 03:39 AM
Factwino, a griot in the form of a street person (think Victor Frost mixed with Langston Hughes) was a fictional star or dramatis persona in three of the SF Mime Troupe’s productions in the nineteen-eighties, most notably “Factwino Meets the Moral Majority” which I covered for the Stanford Summer Daily in 1981 (it was at a church, maybe on Cowper).
He will not literally be present at Mitchell Park on September 1, except in spirit, except perhaps as a poster for sale during intermission.
But, as portrayed by Shabaka Henley (b. 1954) Factwino left his impressions on me, and I know I’m not alone. Gil from Accent Arts asked me about Factwino when I placed this year’s SFMT poster in his California Avenue storefront.
Jenee Gill (no relation), the general manager of the Tony-award winning comedia dell arte (street theatre) company, in her third season, knows of Factwino but pointed out that the current production featues the writing of a more recent wit, Michael Gene Sullivan, as opposed to Jean Holden, who retired in 2000.
Like the 1981 poster, this year’s poster features the art of Spain Rodriguez. Even if you miss, don’t get, or don’t appreciate SFMT, you might want the poster as a collectible.
My car now features a SF Mime troupe sticker, next to those by David Gilhooly at Smith-Andeson, Superchunk, KCSM Jazz 91. Kid Koala, City Lights Howl, and Merge Records. (Disclosure: I am an unpaid contributor writing a preview in the form of a “column” for Patch; they sell the stickers at shows for about $2; I also once put down a $250 donation or deposit to try to bring SFMT back to Palo Alto for the feist time in 20-plus years but my application somehow fell through the cracks at Lucie Stern basement — it is an old building. Paul George and the Peace Center picked up the gauntlet a year or so later and now this 2011 production is the fifth season back in PA, home of Joan Baez, Jerry Garcia, Neighbors Abroad Oaxaca Exchange and Windham Hill Records birthplace.)
“2012” is a meta-production, about a small theatre company struggling to survive, its corporate temptations, attacks from the far right, just like SFMT. Gill said that it is fair to compare it to similarly self-referential “(Title of Show)” the Broadway show that was remounted recently at Theatreworks, although “2012” does not reference it directly.
With a slew of long-time contributors, mixed with fresh blood, the 52 productions in SFMT’s history do have over-lapping themes, and timeliness. Gill pointed out that she was proud of the show called “1600 Transylvania Avenue” which presaged more recent debates about corporate influence over Washington politics.
A stalwart of the music department for “2012” and SFMT is Bruce Barthol, best known as the founding bass player for Country Joe and the Fish. She said, however, that two of my favorite “usual suspects”, Velina Brown (who has also appeared locally in five TheatreWorks shows) and Ed Holmes, are each taking the season off.
Besides this short dispatch, I said I was hoping to get time for Jenee Gill and maybe one or two of her performers at KZSU, where I have produced and emceed about a dozen live interviews and performances in recent years. Also, I hope to hear back from jazz musician Liberty Ellman (Norah Jones, Vijay Iyer, Brad Hargreaves of 3EB, Ledisi, Henry Threadgill) who put in four or five seasons with SFMT in the nineties before relocating to the 718.
I missed the SFMT show here in July — anybody want to post their impressions? (which would make them post-impressionists?) Also, if you miss this upcoming Sept. 1 “hit” (jazz lingo for “event”) you could catch “2012” in Redwood City a few weeks later.
Besides writing this, invoking my privileges at KZSU, and my sticker, I am looking for good homes for about six more posters, plus about 20 handbills. I have to admit I used one to bribe Paul Jacobs of Gryphon Strings (a big Spain collector, apparently) to get in to see Richard Johnston and Frank Ford about the Varsity, although I digress (and obsess).
Mums the word about SFMT in Palo Alto – NOT. Or as Chad Jones said in the Examiner, “if we are going down, at least we’re going down singing.” Or: come see its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset (show starts at 7, music at 6:30).
edit to add, three years later but only a week after reposting this here to Plastic Alto: I spoke to Ed Holmes very briefly, on another matter, and he said he is writing for SFMT but not likely to appear in a show. He is also working on his photography.