“Is something true, just because you remember it?”
“Still Standing” is as much a happening as it is a site-specific work. Shaped by the walls of San Francisco’s landmark Victorian, Hass-Lilienthal House—and the creative corridors of director and choreographer Joe Goode’s mind. The piece is furnished by Goode’s troupe of 16 stellar performers, and lofty original music by, Ben Juodvalkis—in collaboration with Lila Blue, Shawna Virago, and Tassiana Willis. “Standing Still” is an intimate gathering. But, this grand old house is just a musty old museum without people making it a home, and for this performance the audience, sporting masquerade masks, fills its hallways and parlors, kitchen, and bathroom, standing a breath away from singing and dancing performers. Intimacy is what a home is all about, and the changes and stories that take place within those who dwell there.
For Goode this Victorian house represents the very spirit of San Francisco, a city known for its liberal acceptance, making it a place where residents have historically reinvented themselves. It’s a city known for its resilience–surviving earthquakes and fires, at the same time pioneering progressive thinking. “Still Standing” is also a meditation on aging, reflecting on the disbeliefs of baby boomers that they are still here, after surviving their own emotional fires, romantic earthquakes, structural damage, and endless renovations. Yet, they remain determined to stay fit, healthy, and attractive hoping to stave off the inevitable. “If I need repair, will you be there for me?” is a phrase both spoken and sung during vignettes in different nooks and crannies of the four-storied 1886 house.
The audience is ushered magically from room to room, stairway to stairway, banging pots for rhythm in the kitchen, witnessing a shrouded corpse undulate to life in the parlor. For nearly an hour and a half they crowd into small rooms with high ceilings, often being split into sub-groups of four or five to see a one-of-a-kind piece that the other 45 guests won’t see but will instead simultaneously witness something else. These tiny groupings of people in very tight spaces are the most remarkable, feeling the dancers so close, smelling the stale air of an old home, hearing their narratives face to face about “real, written and imagined stories.” The masks provide a comfort zone for staring deeply into performers eyes as they sing ghost-like, some lamenting, always questioning, wondering, and contemplating. Some of their answers sound banal, some like New Age banter, others profound but all with strong prose and sincerity of voice.
A big round of applause for all the multi-talented performers including company members; Marit Brook-Kothlow, Molly Katzman, Damara Ganely, James Graham, Patricia West, with guest performers, Brendan Barthel, Janine Trinidad, Cookie Harrist, Wallana Simcock, Gabriel Christan, El Beh, Caroline Alexander, Pamela Shoebottom, and Jan-Matthew Sevilla. “Still Standing” is wondrous, a happening to be witnessed more than once because it’s impossible to see all of it the first time or to take in all of its many layers. Performances began July 12th, running Thursday-Sunday through August 5th with weekend times of 5:30 & 8:30 (Saturday) 3:00 pm & 5:30. Due to the limited number of audience members per performance, with returning audience members also competing for tickets, the remaining performances are sold out. Check website for announcement of additional performances.
David E. Moreno