The 12 Plays of Christmas, 2015

“Beach Blanket Babylon” is on their 41st year and counting, skewering politics and pop culture nightly at San Francisco’s Club Fugazi. (Beach Blanket Babylon photo)

So in my attempt to showcase my uncanny wit (or not), I decided to pen a shameless little tribute to Christmas and plays all to the tune of maybe my least favorite Christmas ditty “The 12 Days of Christmas” (Although “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is a very, very close second). And this attempt could either be an unmitigated success or a pathetic disaster. It may be Rocky, it may be Rocky V. Or it might be Grease with John Travolta, or Grease 2 with Adrian Zmed.

But hey, what isn’t a disaster is the fact that the region we live in is loaded with every type of performance for every type of patron. From world class plays, ballets, operas and musicals, we have it all. So cue up your favorite karaoke version of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” and let’s see what true Bay Area Play love gives to us all year long.

12 A.M. show
(But not really)

Comedysportz San Jose does a lot more than just their traditional competition-type show, a sport where actletes compete for audience laughter using audience suggestions. They also offer up a weekly “midnight” show that starts at 9:15 on Saturday nights. There are no fouls for vulgarity or racy content. This is long-form, no holds barred improvisation for those 18 years and older. And if you’re looking for more bang for your buck, the midnight show is free with a paid ticket to the regular Comedysportz show that starts at 7 pm. So get out there early, get your clean laugh on at 7, then get your dirty laugh on at the midnight show (which starts at 9:15), and then be home before midnight. Unless you live far away. Then you will be home later. Just a little tip. And you’re welcome.

11 different breeds

“Odysseo” by Cavalia is a huge spectacle, a Cirque du Soleil with horses. The whole thing is terribly stunning, with water, speed, athleticism and gorgeous backdrops on gargantuan screens. It’s running through Jan. 17th, and even though the Bay Area boasts a ton of different kinds of performance, this one stands out as something special and unique. Here’s the official website.

10 bucks for 30

The Neo-Futurists in San Francisco have a really cool show weekly that costs $10. But there’s a catch to that. The base price is ten bucks. But you also have to roll a die and whatever number you land on, add that to the $10. I first saw the show “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” in Chicago during my graduate school years. And there was something so fun about going to a theatre late at night to see a totally fresh, original show, one that is constantly being written. The goal is to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. It’s fully interactive and fun, poignant, sad, funny, and sometimes, if they sell out, they order out. So check it out.

You’ll see plays that are funny, sad, and irreverent. And hopefully, you’ll see all 30 of them. ( photo)

9 Days of China

You might see folks around the malls passing out flyers and information for “Shen Yun,” a Chinese spectacle that comes to the Bay Area annually. The show is a showcase of 5,000 years of Chinese culture, and features a large orchestra, dazzling performers and gorgeous, bright backdrops. There are only nine days of performances in San Francisco and San Jose. So grab some tickets while you’re grabbing that last minute gift for the loved one, or grab some tickets here

8 P.M. curtain

Ok, sorry, but I’m stretching this one a bit, because I was having trouble finding something for number eight. SORRY! But from experience, check your tickets for the right curtain time. I do not speak on behalf of being irritated by people walking in late. Hell, I’ve done that. I’m talking about showing up at eight for a curtain at 7:30. Generally speaking, Thursdays through Saturdays are 8 pm curtain times, and Wednesdays plus other weeknights are 7:30. Even though anything at the half-hour mark feels unnatural and wrong to me, it happens plenty. Don’t be like The Drama Guy and assume that the show starts at 8. Because if you assume…

7 years of strength

Crowded Fire Theatre Company in San Francisco has made it a mission to give a voice to the marginalized and underrepresented, having spent the last seven years producing plays by women, LGBTQ playwrights, and people of color. After artistic director Marissa Wolf left to become the director of new works and an artistic associate at Kansas City Rep a year ago, in stepped Mina Morita, and the company has not missed a beat. Crowded Fire’s production manager is also one of the great students I’ve had in my career, a lady who I affectionately call “Weffy.” They will kick off their season this February with the play “Mechanics of Love.” And did I mention the theatre’s top three positions, and most of the positions on the staff are held by women? As a dad with a wife and three daughters, that’s some personal and inspiring stuff for moi.

6 Million fans

So what are the latest targets in the world’s longest running musical revue seen by more than six million people and counting? At present, rest assured that there is plenty of pop culture and political humor with appearances from Caitlyn Jenner, Donald Trump, Taylor Swift and President Barack Obama with his wife Michelle. The show, created by San Jose State alum Steve Silver in 1974, follows Snow White as she searches up and down San Francisco for the perfect man. I saw this show a few years back when I did a feature on Tammy Nelson and had the privilege of sitting next to Jim Barnett, Golden State Warriors color commentator. Barnett and his wife could not have been nicer with a fan such as myself, talking some awful Dubs before curtain and after the show. Right now, it’s safe to say that he gets to see some great shows on both ends of the spectrum, athletic and artistic, including the one he watches every night, since the Warriors have become some kind of awesome. And BBB is gonna continue to be some kind of awesome for at least 41 more years. If you’ve lived in the Bay Area or plan to visit, “Beach Blanket Babylon” is a must see kinda show

5 Golden spaces

A nice year for some new spaces to perform and rehearse in. Companies with new digs include American Conservatory Theatre with the Strand, The Osher Studio at Berkeley Rep, Harry’s UpStage at Aurora Theater Company, Shotgun Studios at Shotgun Players and a brand new building for Palo Alto’s Pear Avenue Theatre, which takes them out of their tiny little room and gives them high ceilings and higher aspirations.

4 years of funny

Brava Theater Center in the heart of the Mission is bringing back their annual New Year’s Eve comedy show, this fourth year version being the “Latino Power Edition.” Featured at this year’s bash will be Marga Gomez, Lydia Popovich, Monica Palacios, Chris Storin, Baruch Porras-Hernandez & Betty Pazmiño. The show kicks off at 9 pm, with doors opening an hour earlier. There’s also champagne and dancing until 1 am included in the price of your ticket. So go, laugh your ass off, dance the night away, support a fabulous cultural institution and enjoy some menudo for your crudo later that morning. Win win baby!

The folks at Brava are throwing a New Year’s Eve party, so get those tickets now!

3 Brand new musicals

The new company with the simple name, Bay Area Musicals, does just that – produces musicals in San Francisco, a town that can be tough on the arts. After taking on the classic “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” next up on their list is “Hair” and then “La Cage Aux Folles.” Here’s to hoping they stick around for a long while.

2 stars to Tango

Spending 92 weeks in San Francisco is nothing to sneeze at. But for the colossal dance hit, “Forever Tango,” 92 weeks is just getting started. After not being here since 2011, the lords of the Argentine dance have returned with some television dance show studs, Dmitry Chaplin and Anna Trebunskaya. They are here through the beginning of January, tangoing out of town on January 10th. Check out this feature on the dancers, as well as the creator of the show, Luis Bravo.

And a great place to watch live theatre

No explanation necessary. It’s not just lots of theatre companies that make this place pretty great, it’s the variety of companies and the good folks out there making and watching all this cool stuff. Whether it’s companies that focus on musicals, Shakespeare, comedy, queer theatre, classics or theatre that shocks, there is no shortage of getting what you want in your local theatre community.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good play.




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