The San Francisco premiere of Mabou Mines' Belen: The Book of Hours (formerly called “Las Horas de Belen”) closes Dec. 17, ending the first production for the city's new theatre company, Brava! for Women in the Arts. Performances began Dec. 6. Mabou Mines founding member and co-artistic director Ruth Maleczech directs.
Belen traces the history of Mexico's Belen, first created in 1683 as a Roman Catholic sanctuary for single, native women, where they were forced to stay until they died once they entered. By the 19th century, it had degenerated from a place of harsh, regimented living to the most infamous and dangerous prison in Mexico City. Told bilingually, Belen features the poetry of American writer Catherine Sasanov, the songs of Liliana Felipe and a silent movement piece by Mexican performance artist Jesusa Rodriguez, who embodies the modern woman, imprisoned by her routines of ironing, shopping, cooking, dancing, sleeping and fighting.
This piece debuted in March 1999 at Mexico City's Festival del Centro Historico, coming to New York City May 1999. Following that run, Belen traveled on to California State University, North Ridge, La Capilla, New Mexico and the New World Festival in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Single tickets are $28-$22. Brava! performs at the newly refurbished Brava Theater Center at 2789 24th Street (at the former York Theatre). For reservations and information, call (415) 392-4400. Brava! is on the web at http://www.brava.org.
* The Brava! season continues with Culture Clash, the famed Latino performance trio, performing their Magic Mystical Tour of San Francisco's Mission District Dec. 27-Jan. 28. That neighborhood, celebrated as one of the most vibrant barrios on the West Coast, is now changing with an influx of new economy and new residents. Culture Clash recalls the Mission District of the past, where Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana and the Brown Buffalo once met up, and the District of today, filled with cops and club kids, lesbian bike messengers, out-of-work mariachis and day laborers.
The 1999 Obie and GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding New York Production winner Stop Kiss comes to Brava! Feb. 7-March 11. In this comic and dark play by Diana Son, two girls, Sara and Callie, who always considered themselves straight, find themselves falling in love. When they finally share their first kiss, the act provokes an act of violence from a stranger, changing both of their lives. Loy Arcenas directs.
The final production will be the world premiere of Apertura Modotti by Ellen Gavin. The true life story of photographer Tina Modotti, Gavin's play traces her adventures from acting in Hollywood and North Beach, her work as a frontline nurse in the Spanish Civil War and her affair and studies with Edward Weston. Apertura Modotti runs April 18-May 20.
-- By Christine Ehren