Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wanda's Picks Radio Friday, April 19, 2013

We open with a rebroadcast of our interview with Keith Josef Adkins on his latest play, The Patron Saint of Peanuts, which honors George Washington Carver.

We then shift to an interview airedd two years ago with Camille T. Dungy, editor of black nature: Four Centuries of African Nature Poetry.

We celebrate with author Judy Juanita the publication of her first novel, Virgin Soul. The novel is a tour de force featuring Geneice Hightower who takes us on a journey through the Black Arts & Revolutionary Movements of the '60s, most notably the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Up close and personal, this old soul in a young body, smart and cute and hip, when she needs to be, innocent and fierce yet always honest is a for real foot soldier movement woman, who attends Oakland City College, hosts Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) at her flat, which becomes a SafeHouse, learns to clean and assemble guns, dodges police bullets, graduates from SF State, feeds kids breakfast, tutors in Bayview Hunter's Point, recites poetry, gets laid, and ultimately finds herself (smile). Yes, it's that exciting.

We close, if there is time, with an interview with Rachel Rosen, Program Dir. for the San Francisco Film Society, presenter of the 56th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival which begins April 25-May 9, 2013 http://www.sffs.org/  See http://sf.funcheap.com/ for information about Earth Day Activities Friday-Monday, April 19-22, 2013.

Wanda's Picks Friday, April 26, 2013

We open with Gina Breedlove, who will talk about her new CD and concert, Sunday, May 5, 2013, in Berkeley at Freight and Salvage. Visit http://www.ginabreedlove.com/

Next we speak to Jacque Barnes, a Bay Area Keeper of the Culture AfroBrazialian style who is recovering from open heart surgery. There is a benefit for her medical expenses Sat., April 27, 7-9 show; 10-2 party, at BrasArte Casa de Cultura, 1901 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley:  ww.brasarte.com 

We then shift to speak to Dr. Gabriela Lena Frank (composer) and Nilo Cruz (Pulitzer Prize winning playwright) about the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra performance of the World Premiere of Journey of the Shadow, Friday, April 26-Sunday, April 28 in various venues, the first, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., 8 p.m. Visit www.sfchamberorchestra.org

We close with a prerecorded conversation with Victoria Theodore, pianist, composer, who is featured with her trio at the Oakland Public Conservatory's Music SHE Wrote benefit for OPC's youth who also perform, Friday, April 26, 2013, 8 p.m. at OPC 1616 Franklin Street, Oakland, 510.836-4649, $15 advance tickets, $20 at the door. Visit http://www.opcmusic.org/.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wanda's Picks Radio Show Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Father with daughter Coumba
Rachel Rosen is the director of programming for the San Francisco Film Society. She was director of programming for Film Independent and the Los Angeles Film Festival for eight years. Previously, Rosen was associate director of programming for the San Francisco International Film Festival where she programmed for seven years.  She has worked in various capacities for the New York Film Festival, New York’s Film Forum, and Tri-Star Pictures. A graduate of Stanford University’s Master of Arts program in Documentary Film, Rosen directed Serious Weather, a short documentary that was shown at the Vancouver and San Francisco International Film Festivals, and the British Short Film Festival. She is an occasional contributor on the subject of documentary film to Film Comment magazine.

Amaday, Coumba's classmate
and friend
Younger Sister Debo

Jeremy Teicher, Director writes:
Coumba's Mother
Tall as the Baobab Tree is about standing up for your beliefs and doing what you feel is right, no matter what. To me, the film speaks to the energy and idealism of youth while portraying a very stark and realistic world where change is two steps forward and one step back, where the invincibility of youth bends beneath the harsh realities of life – but is not stamped out.

Inspired by my work with local students, I wanted to tell a story that captures the emotions of the traditional and modern worlds colliding.
Jeremy Teicher, Director / Co-Producer / Co-writer bio

Jeremy Teicher is a Student Academy Award-nominated director whose first feature film, Tall as the Baobab Tree (Grand comme le Baobab)   (2012), is garnering acclaim from festivals around the world. Tall as the Baobab Tree won the “Best Feature Narrative” award from the Doha-Giffoni jury at Doha-Tribeca Film Festival and was ranked in the top 20 out of over 170 feature films by audience vote at International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Tall as the Baobab Tree is inspired by Jeremy’s ground breaking documentary short, This is Us (2011), which was awarded a prestigious Lombard Public Service Fellowship, supported by Kodak, and earned Jeremy a nomination for a Student Academy Award.

Both films were shot on location in a rural village in Senegal, Africa, with the documentary premiering at the American Embassy in Dakar to international media coverage. Jeremy graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College where he studied Film, English, and Theater.

The cast is made up of local villagers playing roles that mirror their own lives: the two main characters, Coumba and her sister Debo, are played by real-life sisters who actually are the first kids from their family to go to school. The role of the mother is played by a local woman who was herself a young bride. A young man who never had the opportunity to get an education plays the older brother, a character who has never gone to school.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Whipping Man

L. Peter Callender as "Simon"; Tobie Windham as "John"

I'd really been looking forward to playwright Matthew Lopez's The Whipping Man, especially after speaking to Tobie Windham about his role as N-(expletive) John, so while certainly Tobie Windham and L. Peter Callender, two of my favorite actors were phenomenal, the story was not. Granted, the addition of Judaism made the mix interesting if for nothing but the persecuted Jewry's participation in another person's persecution, in this case enslaved Africans. And the fact that I am not a Jew made the rituals Elder Simon, formerly enslaved, officiated with such finesse from memory truly one of the perhaps many scattered jewels in the work.

Former owner Capt. Caleb (Nicholas Pelzar) meets a startled Simon
It was strange though that neither Caleb nor Simon sympathized with John when they found out what kind of trouble he was in, nor did either man offer him guidance regarding this new suit called freedom he'd sent to the tailor for adjusting. It is an interesting dilemma to find oneself shackled to the enemy; which means for John, in order to save himself he has to save his captor too. Hum. What a provocative conclusion. One suggestion raised during the talk after the play, was to have the playwright, who is a television writer, start a series where each week TV audiences could learn more about the men and their lives post-freedom.

Is this the new Roots? The perspective is certainly not an Alex Haley worthy sequel. That said, it might be cool for a season to see where this goes if the same cast is also used for the sitcom. The playwright is certainly getting a lot of play, literally on this work, with it appearing simultaneously on multiple stages throughout the country. The MTC production comes here after a month run in Norfolk, Virginia from February 26-March 17, 2013. Tobie said they met a man whose ancestors were enslaved African Jews. He showed them letters and other artifacts from his family. The story is as much about the injured former owner who is dependent on the kindness of men whom he was not too kind too. We can guess how this scenario will play out. . . . Of course the black men are forgiving, at least Simon is, initially. Why Simon believes he can trust a person who enslaved him to do right by him when this "Master," lost the war, is a bit of a stretch I am still trying to perceive. Maybe I need a better prescription--I just can't see it.

Freedmen John, Simon, Caleb at Sacred Meal or Passover Seder
All photos: Samuel W. Flint
John is what happens when a person is without guidance or without a role model. He is smart, yet, he doesn't know what to do with the knowledge he has acquired. A child in a man's body, he doesn't realize until it is too late what consequences result in his withholding information from Simon.

Simon says freedom as not a state rather the prize one gets from labor. The shackles don't just rust and fall off, one has to turn the key. John gets close, but some dreams evade slumbering souls, just because it's hard to wish for something one cannot imagine.

The Whipping Man has been extended at the Marin Theatre Company through April 28.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in Association with the AAACC present a staged reading of Marcus Gardley's Black Odyssey

Saturday morning my plans were many: ride my bike, finish hanging curtains in the living room and kitchen, go to the First Annual Halal Festival at Masjidul Warith Deen, but time slipped away and I just got to two out of four before time was up and I had to head over to San Francisco by way West Oakland BART to pick up a friend, and together head over to the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre staged reading of a Marcus Gardley original, Black Odyssey.

Marcus is brilliant, and at almost 30 his light is shining so brightly, at the end of the two act play, not only as I blinded, I was speechless--so full of emotion was I. And I was not alone, men and women were wiping away tears as Ulysses Lincoln made it home.

Based loosely on Homer's Odyssey, this journey was one most in the audience recognized, yet perhaps had not articulated it so masterfully prior to this production. We know the trail of bones, whether it is Black Mary Wilkes following Aunt Ester Tyler: a former slave and a "soul-cleanser's" instructions so that Citizen Bartlow can get right with himself or Great Aunt Tina (Athena) pleading with her dad, Great Grand Daddy Deus (Zeus) to talk to Great Grand Paw Sidin (Percedian) to save her kin from drowning.

It is interesting that like Citizen, Ulysses Lincoln, a Gulf War veteran who has blinded Polyphemus, a one eyed cyclops, Great Grand Paw Sidin's or Poseidon's son, which is why Sidin is trying to drown him, also has to go to the City of Bones. He needs to find his story or learn his history so he can get home.

As he travels, he meets friends and foes--even family. Maps are etched in hands and he finds paths or trails similar to his own. These familiar markings make the journey, if not less, harrowing, certainly satisfying for Ulysses who has been lost so long his memories are legends he shares with his new friend, Nella Pell.  She saves his life. Stranded people with limited rations are not the most sympathetic rescuers, but the child Nella Pell convinces her dad to not shoot him and her mom to let him stay.

There is a lot of water imagery, floods and heavy rains--Ulysses's is at first confused, until he realizes that he is in the future, the journey a memory past, one previously inaccessible, thus the forced journey. He will not get a pass home until he knows where he comes from, not physically which when asked he'd say, New York City, but deeper who are his people? How many generations can he name? What ancestors' stories does he carry in  his bones?

Gardley writes of blood memories, trapped energy, clotted or stuck souls unable to get home. Ulyssey's meets a family floating on a roof--there is a flood and Artez and Alsendra Sabine wait as the water rises for the "government" to save them. Ulysses, a bit less optimistic, tries to get them to notice the water rising and abandon hope of something outside themselves saving the couple and their daughter, Nella Pell.

What is blood but water? First blue and then when air hits it the color changes? The human body is 90 percent water, and if the planet is a metaphor for our vehicles for this journey, then what does this memory-blood-water connection mean?

The sibling rivalry between Paw Sidin and big brother Daddy Deus is so amusing, as are the relationships between other characters, I guess too numerous to name that the actors portray, yet are absent from the program.

The major characters are nine (9), yet many more fill out the story like Malachi (Telemachus), Ulysses's son who is born while his dad is away and does not know him; Ulysses's wife, Benevolence Nausicca Sabine (Penelope). 

In the world these characters inhabit, while gods technically can't cross each other, Great Aunt Tina , leaves home to go to stay with Ulysses while he is away. Hanging with human beings changes her. She loses her looks, and the human container starts to give her pain and trouble. Magic ceases to work in this realm or perhaps what she notices how hard the life her Ulysses and others trapped in this realm manage.

Ancestors speak to Ulysses. He dreams and in this state he and his wife Benevolence speaks.

There was much to recommend Black Odyssey: the staging, which was marvelous, especially the various songs and choreography (smile). The cast, which was stellar. When Aldo Billinglea's Ulysses makes it home to Benevolence (Britney Frazier), one sees tears rolling down his cheeks. And then there is the single mother, Benevolence--she wants to believer her husband is gone, but something makes her continue to hold on even after 14 years.

Margo Hall as Great Aunt Tina, exemplifies how much our ancestors love us and how hard they work for our salvation and happiness even if their advocacy doesn't work out for the best. Aunt Tina begs her dad to stop Great Uncle Paw Siddin, portrayed by Darryl V. Jones, but his hands are ethically tied.

Black Odyssey covers the period Ulysses's been lost, black people from our earliest memory of enslavement to the present. Stranded on rooftops waiting for a savior, Ulysses's sees the Four Little Girls from Birmingham, Emmett Till from Chicago, Martin King and others. Is this his fate to be stranded?

If Ulysses's represents post-Apocalypse or life after captivity, then how much longer must we wander as a people? When will our choices open the the hinges which are rusted shut? True, like Ulysses we've inherited trauma--mother dead before he was born, Ulysses is without family or at least he thinks he is an orphan until he starts traveling and realizes how much family there is waiting to claim him.

The memory is in the blood and perhaps one has to spill the blood to release the spirit trapped inside? Sounds like what happened with Jesus--the trapped divinity wasn't released until crucifixion. That's when the magic begins--water becomes buoyant whereby Jesus can walk on its surface. What does he learn while blue that he didn't know when the water was red?

Paw Siddin admits to his stirring the waters, yet Ulysses does have choices. Paw Siddin reminds me of Olukun, the orisha who rules the deepest waters. Post-traumatic slave syndrome, this genetic memory and our participation in its continued perpetuation, that is, our own enslavement is no skinny dip.

The cast is rounded out by: Steven Anthony Jones as director, who plays the role of Artex Sabine; Halili Knox is a number of characters, her primary one is Alsendra Sabine; Kehinde Koyejo as Nella Pell; Dimitri Woods as Malachi; Carl Lumbly as Great Grand Daddy Deus; Bert van Aslsburg is stage manager.

Visit www.lhtsf.org or call (415) 474-8800 to find out about subscriptions, other free readings. The next one is May 4, 2 p.m., at MoAD We Are Proud to Present by Jackie Sibblies Drury.

The playwright's work was a part of Bay Area Playwright's Festival about two years ago. Listen to the interview: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2011/07/15/wandas-picks

Friday, April 05, 2013

Wanda's Picks Radio, Friday, April 5, 2013

We open with an interview with Bay Area author, journalist and political columnist J. Douglas Allen-Taylor about his first novel, Sugaree Rising, set in the South Carolina coastal area Lowcountry in the late Depression years and discuss his well-crafted female characters like narrator Yally, Aunt Soo, Na'Risa, Nana'Timbi, Eshy. . . and their ability to hold the bridge between the past and the present as this community of Gullah people face an enemy threatening to end their collective lives. The community resists while Yally, feet in the middle of the path finds no rest, as her beloved community seems to be unraveling and with it her identity and life. She is haunted both at night and eventually by day as the spirits who are very much alive and active in Yelesaw use Yally's voice and body to tell their story.

Rice cultivators, ancestrally hailing from the Mende people who live on the coast of West Africa, in Sierra Leone, the water also breathes as it brings and takes life.

Allen-Taylor's Sugaree Rising is a fascinating journey into the swamps and backwoods --a self-contained community happy with its legacy and ways. Challenged  by modernity, what will this pending dislocation do if successful to the spirits of the dead and those who reside in communion with them?

Labeled primitive by some, a white surveyor thinks he can fool the inhabitants of Yelesaw, when men with more experience than he were not capable. He spends months learning their Gullah language and familiarizing himself with certain customs. He also learns the leaders' names. When prepared, the surveyor comes bearing gifts, candy, ribbons as he tries to befriend first the women and then the children who are well-trained.  What transpires between the government employee who is hired to get the people to agree to resettlement so that a dam can be built, their history and lives and loved ones buried and beyond access forever, is mysterious and quite satisfying.

There is a lot of back and forth, cross generational digressions from the unreliable perspective of a 15 year old girl-child, who has no answers.

Yes, one is lost quite a bit, but we like the strong, tall girl, Yally enough to wait for the answers which I assure you, do come (smile).

Nothing about Allen-Taylor's tale is typical or easy to anticipate, which is what makes it compelling and hard to put down. My favorite parts are the dreamscapes which are stories within the story, like desert or perhaps an entree waiting to be served; it sits tantalizingly aromatic until served. Look out for Yally's great aunt, Na'Risa and the old man, a formerly enslaved elder who lives between two worlds, closer to one than the other. When they arrive, separately, folks are pushing away from the table (smile).   

When one doesn't know one's history, in some ways one is more vulnerable to distress and harm than if one knew more about one's inheritance and gifts, which unfortunately for Yally, her mother chooses to keep her ignorant of until it is almost too late. Safeguards like the close knit community structure in Yelesaw save Yally, who in turn, saves it.

What is lost when civil government takes it upon itself to force progress on a group of people, in this case several generations representing 100s of years past as those inhabitants still retained their language and ancient customs, a little diluted perhaps by missionary water, but more intact than those on the mainland?

Sugaree, written reverently early on, shifts dramatically the higher the waters rise and the more bemused Yally becomes. When negative assignations become primary, the intrusion is quite startling, both intellectually and spiritually. I find this language disconcerting, disruptive and distracting considering the language before the rupture.

And it doesn't go away. Its inclusion almost ruins the journey for me as I am both surprised and dismayed considering the years of research that Allen-Douglass spent writing this story. Were there no spaces in black history where the enemies' names for us didn't end up being synonyms for how we called our own? 

Dismayed, I can only wonder what will be the fate of these Yelesaw gods and goddesses? Are they dethroned? Sugaree shows there are many ways to die, some more painful than others. And what do we do with the dead who refuse burial or when the rituals are interrupted and therefore left incomplete? Visit http://www.sugareerising.com/

Our next guest, David Roach is the founder of the Oakland International Film Festival, Apr. 4-7, 2013 http://www.oaklandinternationalfilmfestival.com/film-schedule/ 

After The Roach Brother’s (Mack, Paul and David Roach screened the feature film Sydney Byrd Private Eye, in other film festival’s and hosting screenings locally in the Bay Area in pursuit of locating a distributor, David Roach came up with the concept of starting an Oakland International Film Festival and co-founded the Oakland Film Society with Johnny Drake and Sharon Norwood in 1996.

We close with an interview with Bernadette Cooper. she speaks to us about her DIVA AND A TURNTABLE TOUR, Saturday, April 13, 2013, 8pm $29 & 10pm $27, at Yoshi's in Oakland.

KLYMAXX, the legendary platinum-selling all female band, is synonymous with such chart hits as “The Men All Pause,” “Meeting in the Ladies Room,” “Sexy,” “I'd Still Say Yes,” “Divas Need Love Too,” and the band's biggest hit, the top five Billboard single, “I Miss You." And when you think of the groundbreaking Pop/R&B funk unit, you can't help but also think of its founding leader, musician, writer and producer, Bernadette Cooper.

Music: Bernadette Cooper's Klymaxx

Visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/04/05/wandas-picks-radio-show

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Wanda's Picks Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Simone Missick as Camae & Adrian Roberts at MLK Jr.
at the Lorraine Motel in The Mountaintop

Wanda Sabir welcomes Simone Missick, (Camae) in Katori Hall's The Mountaintop at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto, CA, through Apr. 7, 2013 with performances Thursday, Friday and Sunday afternoon. Visit www.theatreworks.org Wanda's Picks is a black arts and culture show.

This play looks at the evening before Martin Luther King is killed. The one act play takes place at the Lorraine Motel the night before. King and Camae, a maid, spend the night together in conversation, comradery and comfort. We meet a King who smokes Pall Malls, is honest about his fears, loves his family, and is a devoted servant to his creator even when the two disagree. Visit http://www.theatreworks.org/shows/1213-season/themountaintop

On Thursday, April 4, 2013, 8 p.m., Dr. Claybourne Carson, a Stanford history professor who also edits the papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., will speak at the theatre. It should really deepen the experience for audience members.

Jovelyn Richards

Our next guest Jovelyn Richards joins us as scheduled to speak about her Nappy Hair Love Stories and the kickstarter campaign to mount them all (4) this summer. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nappy-headed-love-stories/x/711728

We close with Konda Mason who speaks about the benefit program for East Bay Meditation Center: The Dream Never Dies at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall, Thursday, April 4, 2013, 7 p.m. Visit http://www.eastbaymeditation.org/

Music: Sweet Honey's Hope; Sowethu Gospel Choir's Grace.


Born in Detroit, Michigan, Simone always knew she was meant to perform. Growing up, Simone spent years playing the violin, singing, and playing sports before she decided to focus on acting. While in her first year as an English major at Howard University, she decided to take a theatre for non-majors course. This class solidified her commitment to acting, and she graduated with a minor in Theatre arts. Following graduation, Simone traveled to Oxford, England, where she participated in the British American Drama Academy taking Master Classes with greats Ben Kingsley, Alan Rickman, and Jane Lapotaire. She then honed her craft performing in regional theatre in Detroit, Michigan before packing it all up and moving to Los Angeles. Simone has experienced success filming several short films, features and has begun writing and producing her own series of one act plays. In 2010, Simone will begin production on a self-written web series, and a documentary. From http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1395855/bio

Ms. Richards, MFA, Published Writer & Solo Performance Artist resides in Oakland, CA. Jovelyn Richards, is the creator of the Nappy Headed Love Stories a series of theater performances examining, black love and intimacy, told through the voices of women and children. She is a radio host of Cover to Cover, Open Book on KPFA 94.1 radio.

Jovelyn Richards, theater performances has been presented at the Minnesota Fringe Festival, San Francisco Festival, La Pena’s Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA, The Marsh, San Francisco, CA, and Afro Solo Festival, in San Francisco.

Jovelyn performed her Nappy Headed Love Story’s to audiences internationally at The Merlin Theater, and Central Eastern University, in Budapest, Hungary.

Ms. Richards is currently working on her first short film ‘Birds in the Attic’ and raising funding for her next series of Nappy Headed Love Story’s.

Konda Mason honed her business leadership skills in the entertainment industry as a Grammy winning artist manager in London, an Academy Award nominated film producer in Hollywood, and an Off Broadway hit theater producer in New York…just to name a few.

Turning her attention to sustainable personal and global living solutions, Konda is a facilitator trainer for The Pachamama Alliance, a certified yoga instructor, and a partner in Earthseed Consulting, LLC, where she is producing/directing a web series called “Green Street Loft”, a program aimed at deepening the connection of the African American community with land, place and the sustainability movement. She was a co-host for the Shift Network’s 2012 Season of Sustainability, and is often a panelist or moderator in the impact investing space.

Most recently Konda Mason is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hub Oakland LLC, an inspiring space for socially engaged people and social entrepreneurs to create community and bring their projects to life as they create a better world.

Konda’s leadership style leverages her innate wisdom with tools of permaculture, sustainable business practices, yoga, storytelling, Buddhist theory, and Integral theory. A human equity advocate, Certified Permaculture Designer, and social entrepreneur, Konda’s work is driven by the vision of realizing in her lifetime a genuinely just and sustainable world. See www.huboakland.net