Leigh Donlan loiters at the Great Star Theater in San Francisco’s Chinatown:
Over one hundred years ago, Russian art critic and impresario Sergei Diaghilev revolutionized the theatrical experience by inviting renowned artists and writers to collaborate on equal terms with composers and choreographers on works of dance that smashed many of the then-fashionable notions of aesthetics. Some of the most significant productions of the twentieth century came out of the Ballets Russes (Les Sylphides, Firebird, Petrouchka, The Rite of Spring) and Diaghilev’s influence in just a few short years catapulted classical ballet into the modernist conversation, alongside painting, sculpture, music and literature.
Diaghilev was a visionary, an innovator. He is the inspiration for our show. Bring talented artists together, put them on a stage and give them the freedom to be themselves.
– Zarina Zabrisky
And so it is that Green Lions with Word Performances will grace the stage of Chinatown’s legendary Great Star Theatre this Saturday night, a literary theatrical extravaganza. Critically acclaimed author Zabrisky and her partner, writer Simon Rogghe, present the first half of the evening’s two-act performance, a play set to eight poems from their co-authored book, Green Lions (in alchemy, the Green Lion often represents a state of transformation in consciousness.)
The book will be officially released during intermission and contains twenty-two poems related to the twenty-two major arcana of the tarot deck, accompanied by Zabrisky’s drawings. Creating this visual enactment is an all-star cast of musicians, actors, dancers and writers.
A variety show of experimental theatre around similar mystical themes constitutes the second half of the show. Curated by Word Performances, a San Francisco reading series co-founded by husband and wife team Cybele Zufolo Siegel and Todd Siegel, these vignettes include an avant-garde Nutcracker tribute from Zufolo Siegel, operatic jazz from acclaimed singer Lora Libby, classical music, a hip-hop trio and literary readings.
Zabrisky and Rogghe met the Siegels two years ago at Beast Crawl, a Bay Area literature festival, and instantly bonded over their passion for the theatre. Both women have a deep affection for ballet, Zufolo Siegel having grown up in New York City’s School of American Ballet with Alexandra Danilova (an original Ballets Russes dancer) as her teacher, while Zabrisky was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, Diaghilev’s home turf.
There is an overarching theme of surrealism to the show, of different times and places. So The Great Star Theater is the perfect venue for this production, being the last original Chinese theater in San Francisco.
– Zarina Zabrisky
And the theater truly is an experience in itself. With red velvet curtains, original painted drops and plush seating, one is transported into a bygone era, with Diaghilev’s ghost lurking backstage. Experience it for yourself. Green Lions with Word Performances performs for one night only, this Saturday night at 7:30 sharp.