Out There : New Year, Still Queer

  • by Roberto Friedman
  • Saturday January 9, 2016
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Yes indeed, Brava's 4th Annual New Year's Eve Comedy Fiesta: Latino Power Edition! was everything we wanted from our NYE: hilarity, festivity, and sexual innuendo.

Comics Marga Gomez, Lydia Popovich, Monica Palacios, Chris Storin, Baruch Porras-Hernandez & Betty Pazmino kept us in stitches. Gomez remarked that New Year's Eve is the most delusional of holidays, in that we all pretend everything's magically going to get better the next day, after we turn the calendar page. And of course, things only get worse. But, Marga went on to say, we - gesturing to the progressive, multicultural, all-over-the-map sexually, partying and high-spirited crowd at the Brava Theatre - we only get better. And she was so right.

The whole line-up was superb. Porras-Hernandez described blowing white straight dudes' minds by coming out as a light-skinned Mexican gay guy. Storin explicated being the mixed-race son of a sexy Latina mother and a hick Oklahoma father - which turned out to be a pretty hot mix. And Popovich turned us all out with several spirited riffs on women's breasts and men's testicles - using other, more colorful terms.

The after-show Countdown Party included "champagne," a Midnight countdown and dancing. Then it was time to head out into the freezing Deep Mission night and the uncharted waters of 2016. We were happily buzzed. Thanks for getting us there, Comedy Fiesta crew!

Wonder Bred

We must admit, our first impression on coming upon "After Alice," a novel by Gregory Maguire (William Morrow), wasn't all that charitable. Maguire is the author, you see, of "Wicked," "Son of a Witch," and other reimaginings of the characters and settings found in L. Frank Baum's classic "Wizard of Oz" series of books, and "After Alice" is a similar recasting of Lewis Carroll's immortal "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." Oh dear, we thought to ourselves, this man has made a cottage industry of rewriting staples of children's literature. Better look elsewhere.

Also, the Alice story has already been reset in countless plays, musicals, even an opera. It's as if Carroll's fantastic tale of the Oxford girl who fell down a rabbit hole into a mysterious, topsy-turvy universe were some sort of primal text, a creation myth that modern audiences have not been able to resist since its inception. Must we follow the blonde child through the looking glass yet again?

But "After Alice," we discovered in just a few pages, is another animal entirely. It uses the Wonderland premise and characters as a jumping-off place (falling-down place?), but then takes them somewhere entirely new. Its protagonist is not Alice, but Alice's friend Ada, mentioned in Carroll's tale, off to meet Alice, who falls right down that rabbit hole after her. We then experience Wonderland through new eyes, as well as get alternating chapters of what's happening meanwhile in Oxfordshire, with Alice's sister Lydia and others wondering where in the dickens Alice and Ada have gone off to.

Maguire's fiction is oh so droll. A few examples, such as his description of Ada's world: "Ada was encased in the husk of Ada, which consisted, largely, of these: parents distracted and obscure; Miss Armstrong, not obscure enough, in fact screechy, bothersome, and all too adjacent; and the new Boy Boyce, with his tiny boyness perched between his legs. Ada wished it might fly away. Or sting itself. Quite hard."

Maguire puts the story in its larger social context. "Lydia will spend her entire life in a nexus of Victorian social understandings too near to be identified by the naked eye, like viruses, or radiation."

Descriptions are delightful. "She blinked two or three times like a Guernsey surprised to have just delivered an aria." "He moved by in a froth of white whiskers." Maguire broadens the scope of the story to encompass the American abolitionist movement and the groundbreaking theories of Charles Darwin, who is a character. His book is a joy to read from beginning to end, and our first impression was most incorrect. Herewith recommended.

Dance Stars

It's that time of year when the San Francisco Ballet School announces the recipients of the Bob Ross Scholarship, the Keith White Memorial Scholarship, and the Eric Hellman Memorial Scholarship for the 2016-16 school year. We're here to report them.

Bob Ross Scholarship recipient Nathaniel Remez, 19, from Washington, DC, wins support from the fund for the second year. He attended SFBS' 2013 and 2014 summer programs, and was invited to stay for this year. The Keith White Memorial Scholarship goes to India Nunes, 18, from Carnaxide, Portugal; and the Eric Hellman Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Sarah Drake, 17, from Alhambra, CA. This year marks the 20th anniversary of these worthy scholarships. Congratulations to these up-and-coming young stars of the ballet!

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