Thursday, March 15, 2007

Slow Fire

There is an old industrial section of San Francisco near 16th and Harrison Streets which is on the cusp of the Mission District and the South of Market neighboorhoods.

It has changed radically over the last three decades as industrial manufacturing migrated to other, less expensive locations in the Bay Area and beyond.

The dot-com gold rush during the late 1990s also focused on the area, with factories being transformed into offices, fancy restaurants and "live/work lofts for artists."

The latter were in many cases simply a real estate zoning scam that took advantage of legislation spurred by the granddaddy of live/work artist lofts, Project Artaud (click here for their website).

According to the history section on their website:
"In 1971, a group of artists moved into the then vacant building and named it after the avant-garde French theater artist, Antonin Artaud (1896-1948). In 1989, full legal status was granted to Project Artaud,
thus defining the new live/work code for the city of San Francisco.

Today, there are over 70 individual artists' live/work studios occupied by visual artists, sculptors, writers, photographers, print makers, performing artists of all disciplines, electronic media creators, as well as film/video makers."

According to stories I've heard over the years, the residents' association meetings can be hellish, since everyone is an egomaniacal artist, but somehow the place has survived.

There is a large theater on the Florida Street side of the building which has been home to a whole host of theater troupes along with touring shows, and one of its most distinguished presenters over the years has been the Paul Dresher Ensemble, which specializes in theatrical "new music." (Click here for their website.)

Their first great success was in the late 1980s with "An Electric Opera" called "Slow Fire," written by Dresher and its solo performer, the unclassifiable singer/dancer/actor Rinde Eckert, and they toured with the piece worldwide for 10 years before retiring it in 1996.

The collection of musical rants around the character of Bob and his Memories of Dad was a bit too "arty" for my tastes, but the music is great, and this brief revival (through Sunday) is probably your last chance to see this landmark work live with the original performers, which is reason enough to check it out.

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