Monday, November 22, 2010

Creating Coraline: The Making of a New Musical

Maya Donato as Coraline (source SF Playhouse)

Children, teens and adults alike can relate to Coraline’s theme of fantasizing about an ‘Other Mother’ and running away to find idealized-versions of our families. Perhaps no more so than at the holidays, do we need to humorously indulge these fantasies and be guided back to an appreciation of our real family. SF Playhouse’s current production, a musical adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s award-wining graphic novella Coraline does just that.

This holiday weekend, SFPL invites you to Creating Coraline: The Making of a New Musical, a unique behind-the-scenes look at (and a chance to win tickets for) this currently running production.

Maya Donato and cast

A host of talented people are behind the musical adaptation of Coraline. Gaiman’s material provides a springboard for playwright David Greenspan’s production book. (Of Greenspan, Tony Kushner has said he "is probably all-round the most talented theater artist of my generation.") Its original score, rich with tinkling toy pianos, was composed by indie-music legend Stephin Merritt (of The Magnetic Fields, composer of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s 2010 screening of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and subject of Strange Powers, a recent documentary film). Bill English, artistic director and co-founder of SF Playhouse, brings it all together, guiding the hands of some of the Bay Area’s finest artists: Erika Chong Shuch (choreography), Robert Moreno (music director), Chris White (puppetry), Michael Oesch (lighting design) and Valera Coble (costumes).

Get a glimpse behind the curtains. Learn how the show came about and how the cast was selected. Hear about the challenges of learning (and playing!) Stephin Merritt's score and what it is like to work with puppets on stage. Learn how the stage designers were inspired by Tim Burton, and what it is like to create the "Other World" each night. This event is ideal for music lovers, Coraline fans, and theater-goers ages 11 to 111.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Diary of a Lost Girl - an author talk and film screening

On Sunday, November 14, Thomas Gladysz will speak about his new edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl in the Koret Auditorium of the San Francisco Public Library. This author talk and film screening are sponsored by the Art, Music & Recreation Center in association with the Louise Brooks Society, an online archive and international fan club based in San Francisco. A small display with archival material relating to the 1905 book and the celebrated 1929 film are on display on the fourth floor. Gladysz wrote the following:

As anyone who knows me knows, I’m nuts about the silent film star Louise Brooks. I find her an endlessly fascinating subject – and my interest and research into her life and career extends into the books and plays which were turned into her various films. They include The Diary of a Lost Girl, a little known 1905 novel by an equally little known German writer named Margarete Böhme.

Wanting to know more about the book –– I began by doing research at the San Francisco Public Library. My 20 page introduction to a new edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl (the first in English in more than 100 years) details the book’s remarkable history and relationship to the celebrated film of the same name.

The Diary of a Lost Girl was first published in Germany as Tagebuch einer Verlonenen. It tells the story of Thymian, a teenage girl who through circumstance turns to a life of prostitution. Today, the book is accepted as a work of fiction. But when first published, it was believed to be a genuine diary. Naturally, it caused quite a scandal. Böhme claimed only to be its editor (a claim she always maintained), and controversy swirled around its authorship.

The book was also a bestseller. It was translated into 14 languages including English, and was published in the United States in 1908 as The Diary of a Lost One.

Though little known today, the book was something of a sensation in the early 20th century. Controversy over its authorship, spirited debate over its merits, and even lawsuits followed its publication – as did a popular sequel, a banned play, a parody, a score of imitators, and two silent films. The best remembered of these is certainly the celebrated G.W. Pabst film from 1929.

By the end of the Twenties, the book had sold more than 1,200,000 copies – ranking it among the bestselling works of its time. Then, it was called “one of the saddest of modern books.” Today, a literary scholar has called it “Perhaps the most notorious and certainly the commercially most successful autobiographical narrative of the early twentieth century.”

Böhme was a progressive minded writer and early feminist and the author of 40 novels. She starting publishing in German newspaper at the age of 17, and in her day, her work was compared to that of another popular and prolific author, Emile Zola. However, only two of Böhme’s books were ever translated into English, and each has been long out-of-print.

There is very little in English about either Böhme or The Diary of a Lost Girl. The only three about the author are in German. Thus, it was challenging to find out more.

However, through a series of inter-library loans and link+ requests, by delving into some of the old bound periodicals held by the library, and by exploring some of the various electronic databases (namely JSTOR and the historic New York Times), I was able to piece together a history of the book as sketched above.

I think it’s a remarkable history, and I was often amazed to learn some new fact in my research. A search through the New York Times, for example, revealed an article from 1907 which mentioned that Bram Stoker, the celebrated author of Dracula, would have wanted to ban The Diary of a Lost Girl!

Wow, that's the kettle calling the pot black.

I could not have put together my new edition of The Diary of a Lost Girl without the help of the SFPL. Both my new book and the DVD of the 1929 Louise Brooks film are available at the library.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jim Marshall 1936-2010

Grace Slick
(all images are from Trust: Photographs of Jim Marshall)

“I love all the musicians – they’re like family. Looking back I realize I was there at the beginning of something special, I’m like a historian. There’s an honesty about this work that I’m proud of. It feels good to think, my God, I really captured something amazing.”
- Jim Marshall

Miles Davis

The Art, Music and Recreation department is pleased to present “Jim Marshall 1936-2010”, a wall-case display highlighting some of the iconic images photographed by Jim Marshall of local and national musicians. The display includes his photographs of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles at their last concert, Miles Davis, Shel Silversteen, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, and Stevie Wonder.

Jimi Hendrix

Jim Marshall was born in Chicago in 1936 but his family moved to San Francisco when he was only 2. He played with a Brownie camera as a child and bought his first Leica in high school. When he came back from the serving in the Air Force Marshall met John Coltrane. Once, while he was photographing backstage at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco in 1960, a musician asked him for directions to Berkeley. The musician was John Coltrane. "He asked me for directions to a club," Marshall said later. "I told him I'd pick him up and take him there if he'd let me take his picture." Jim Marshall went on to photograph and forge lasting friendships with many of the greats of jazz and rock n’ roll. He died earlier this year on March 24th, 2010.

Janis Joplin

His images can be seen in the following books, available at the San Francisco Public Library:

Jim Marshall: Jazz by Jim Marshall; introduction by Philip Elwood (Chronicle Books, 2005).

Match Prints by Jim Marshall and Timothy White; introduction by Anthony DeCurtis (Collins Design, 2010).

Tomorrow Never Knows: The Beatles' Last Concert / by Eric Lefcowitz; with photos by Jim Marshall (Terra Firm, 1978).

Trust: Photographs Of Jim Marshall (Omnibus Press, 2009).

Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 To The Present by Gail Buckland (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra returns to the San Francisco Public Library

The sounds of old North Beach are coming to the Koret Auditorium this Saturday, November 6th.

In their 3rd program in 3 years the Aurora Mandolin Orchestra, will play from their repertoire of traditional and semi-classical Italian, Spanish and Russian works. The orchestra for this outing will consist of approximately twenty-three professional and amateur musicians playing mandolin, mandola, mandocello, guitar, string bass, accordion, flute and percussion.

In addition to the musical delights, there will also be a demonstration of a tango (La Cumparsita) and waltz, (composed by Shostakovich), performed by two agile-footed musicians.

This program is supported by The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. All library programs are free and open to the public.