Jean Genet’s “The Balcony” at the San Francisco Old Mint – tonight through February 21!

Share
florentina5

Audrey Dundee Hannah and Jack Halton explore the Old Mint.

I received a note from actor-director Florentina Mocanu-Schendel a week or so ago, inviting me to the Collected Work’s new production of Jean Genet‘s The Balcony. It promises to be an unusual production. Here’s one reason why: it’s performed at the gloomy Old Mint in San Francisco – also known as the City’s “Granite Lady,” with its dark stone corridors and vaults. You can see at the two bottom photos exactly what I  mean, if the other photos don’t give you a feel for the place. (All photos, by the way, taken by Jamie Lyons, who co-directs the play with Michael Hunter.) The Granite Lady is a survivor, the only financial institution open for business after the 1906 earthquake. They thought it was an apt setting for a play about the struggle for institutional power.

florentina6

San Francisco’s cheery landmark.

The Balcony is about a revolutionary uprising in the streets of an unnamed city. While armed rebels fight to take control of the city’s power structures, most of the action takes place in a brothel or “house of illusions,” where clients act out their fantasies of institutional power: they play judges, biships, and generals as their counterparts in the “real” world struggle to maintain their authority.

Important voices had lots to say about the controversial classic: Genet’s biographer, the critic Edmund White, wrote that, with the foregrounding of illusion and meta-theatricality i creating contemporary power and desire, Genet invented modern theater.  The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan described the play as the rebirth of the spirit of Aristophanes, while the philosopher Lucien Goldmann called it “the first great Brechtian play in French literature.” Martin Esslin has called The Balcony “one of the masterpieces of our time.”

Collected Works was founded in 2012 by a a group of theater directors, actors, and designers, mostly from the PhD program in drama at Stanford, where they had worked under the enlightened guidance of Carl Weber, who in turn had been the assistant director to Bertolt Brecht at the Berliner Ensemble. The San Francisco Weekly said the group is “hell-bent on bringing exceptional, experimental performance to the West Coast theater scene” – and in offbeat venues, too. Go here for more information.

We’ve written about Collected Works before, here, for it’s earlier production of Gombrowicz’s Princess Ivona. This one definitely sounds like it’s worth checking out. Go here for times and tickets.

 

florentina1

Right to left: Ryan Tacata (facing the wall) Scott Baker, Val Sinckler, and Florentina herself. (Photo: Jamie Lyons)

florentina7

Ryan Tacata has a nightcap, with Valerie Fachman.

florentina3

Val Sinckler ponders the script.

florentina2

Ryan Tacata finds a lot to ponder, too.


Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply