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Climate Change At The Climate

October 16, 2007

Spent a rather post-modern evening at The Climate Theater last night. The SOMA space's new artistic director Jessica Heidt together with Richard Ciccarone are definitely on to something with their scrappy but strangely fascinating You Tubed performance series.

You Tubed revolves around screenings of excerpts of YouTube videos on a big projector screen followed by short live sketches based on the videos. The show is slightly different each Monday, as directors Heidt and Ciccarone and their team of nine actors add and remove various sketches from the lineup.

Some of the items on the menu work better than others. My personal favorite was "Otters" in which Alexandra Creighton and Ignacio Orellana-Garcia, dressed in big, furry hats with ears, hold hands and look non-plussed against a backdrop of a blue, rippling sheet, while all the rest of the cast yell "Awwwww! They're soooo cute!" at the tops of their voices. The appreciation of the otters holding hands while they swim backstroke (see here for the YouTube version) borders on frenzy. The commentary on human beings' strange fascination with a couple of animals just minding their own business is hilarious.

I also got quite a kick out of the show's finale, a take on a Finnish music video (see here for the YouTube version) in which almost everyone in the cast dances on the Climate's tiny stage while Anthony Nemirovsky and Alexander Creighton do a lipsynch version of a terrible Eurovision Song Contest-style tune entitled "Love Me Tender" (nothing like the Elvis version.) The humor is pretty basic. But the earnestness with which the performers go at it -- the dance corps looks like a synchronated swim team and the principle couple are so vacant-looking that they could be reading entries from a phone book -- is very funny.

Some of the sketches quickly outstay their welcome. A bit in which a German teenager takes his frustrations out on his computer goes on for too long. Ditto on the laughing yogi. There are also those sketches which simply don't add anything to what we've just seen on screen. In fact, in some instances, the YouTube version is more engrossing and funnier.

The low-tech vibe of the performance is perfect -- it's wonderfully at odds with the slickness of YouTube and our instant-access, high-tech age in general. But Heidt and Ciccarone have some honing to do. The main challenge is to figure out the nature of the relationship between what we see on screen and what the actors perform. It's OK for one or two of the sketches to simply be funny (a la Finnish music video.) But it would be better if most of the performances could reveal something about our culture or human nature as well as make us laugh.

On another note: since Jessica Heidt took over as artistic director of The Climate Theater a couple of months ago, the space is bounding with new energy and ideas.

Here are just a few of the events on the horizon in the coming weeks:

1. You Tubed performance series. Mondays at 8pm, through November 5th (though I wouldn't be surprised if the idea gains traction and becomes a Monday night staple. It really should.)

2. Zac Jaffee's Music Box Series. Curator Jaffee has spun together an eclectic music program on Tuesday nights at 8PM beginning October 16. 10/16 is Jazz (with David Slusser of Rubber City), 10/23 is experimental electronic (including David Molina, who many of you know as a fantastic sound designer for theater and film), and 10/30 is folk (with Ruthann Friedman who wrote the song Windy in the 60's. Yes, that one you're humming).

3. 4-D Dreamathon experimental film series. Sunday nights at 7PM
beginning 10/21. Curators Jen Cohen and Nick Gilbert have put together a program of classic experimental films from local and global artists.

Heidt is also planning a literary series. Last night she was also making noises about a live dating show, happening sometime in November.

Go see YouTubed. It's one of those performance experiences that's inately San Franciscan. And if you're lucky, Heidt might have some of her homemade cupcakes with chocolate frosting on hand.


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