Best reason to get outta Dodge (and So Cal) this week I can think of is The San Francisco Silent Film Festival (www.silentfilm.org), returning May 5–11 to the Castro Theatre. And as changes are afoot at the Castro, with the venue being renovated for live events, it may be the last hurrah for the historic 1922 movie palace as we know it.
Some 29 programs from 14 countries are on the slate for SFSFF’s 25th anniversary festival, from to Brazilian experimentalism and French melodrama to German horror films. Screenings include Buster Keaton’s “Steamboat Bill Jr.,” my personal favorite of his films, Erich Von Stroheim’s “Blind Husbands” and “Foolish Wives,” Max Linder’s “King of the Circus,” and “The Primrose Path” with Clara Bow.
Also at SFSFF: “Salomé” with Nazimova, Laura La Plante in “Skinner’s Dress Suit” (opposite Reginald Denny) and “Smouldering Fires,” Paul Leni’s expressionist “Waxworks,” Booth Tarkington’s “Penrod and Sam,” and Paul D. Miller’s (DJ Spooky) “more truthful” live remix of D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” deconstructed and reassembled as “Rebirth of a Nation.”
All films are accompanied by live scores, provided by more than 50 musicians, including The Anvil Orchestra, Frank Bockius, Guenter Buchwald, Philip Carli, Classical Revolution, Club Foot Hindustani, The Matti Bye Ensemble, and London-based Stephen Horne.
Hot on its heels, Catalina will host its 35th annual Avalon Silent Film Showcase (www.Catalinamuseum.org) on May 13-14. Screenings include Keaton’s “Sherlock Jr.” and Rudolph Valentino’s “Blood and Sand.”
The recent presentation of “Romeo and Juliette” by Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo at Segerstrom Center for the Arts (www.scfta.org) in Costa Mesa was refreshing in that it was bold and original—it didn’t fall back on conventional approaches to R&J, as danced by American Ballet’s Theatre and other companies I’ve seen. There was a lot of unexpected humor in the show, especially in the first act; Prokofiev’s score, a work of art in itself, was played superbly by the orchestra.
What’s upcoming at SCFTA? “Shen Yun” (May 14-22), ABT’s Gillespie School Final Showcase (May 28-29), “Tootsie” (May 31-June 12), Beethoven’s Piano Concertos performed by Alexander Romanovsky (June 9-11), “Hamilton” (Sept. 28-Oct. 16), and Bernadette Peters (Sept. 29).
Not all new plays produced in So Cal premiere in Los Angeles. Emma Gibson’s “if nobody does remarkable things” opened last week at the Garage Theatre in Long Beach, where it runs through May 14. Gibson’s endeavor to look into the future and ask questions like “How will the planet look in 10 years?” and “What happens if we all give up?” has yielded an intriguing play about what may be in store for us.
Mariana Aroxa, a young Brazilian actress, stands out amid a fine ensemble cast ably directed by Pam Paulson. The play, brought to us by Panndora Productions (www.panndoraproductions.com), took first place in the Panndora’s Box New Works Festival last fall.