Friday, November 1, 2013

Window on the World

May I introduce myself?  I am Harriet March Page, born Harriet Ellen March in Oakland, CA in 1939 (but they took me home to Berkeley, as I was fond of saying - knowing from the beginning that there was no there there as Gertrude Stein declared and no one ever forgot no matter what). My mother was raised in a two-story brown-shingled house on Rose Street in Berkeley, so I was telling the truth about my home.  I however was not raised on Rose Street or in Berkeley after I was 2 years old.....but that's another story and I have already written it somewhere else.

In 1994 I had a live/work storefront on outer Mission in SF near Daly City.  I was making dried flower arrangements and painted masks.  I loved it.  And I especially loved having a Window on the World: two big windows on either side of the door which were full of decorations.which I could change whenever I wanted.  Foot traffic was scarce and no money was made but I was obsessed with collecting plant material wherever I went and I had a very close relationship with my glue gun.

Soon my passion withered and in 1996 I found myself in a new Window on the World:  GOAT HALL on Potrero Hill, 19th and Missouri, in SF.  Another live/work situation, this time in a converted church which had been bought by my musical friends, Miriam Lewis and Douglas Mandell.  They live in the attached house. With a few other musical friends from St. Gregory's Episcopalian Church, also on Potrero Hill, we formed GOAT HALL PRODUCTIONS and presented our first show in the rather funky Goat Hall (short for Goat Hill Music Hall...though nobody knows this but me).  It suited us just fine.  It was perfect for cabaret tables which was fortunate because it turns out all you need is several small tables with glasses of wine and lit candles, and a dusty abandoned church is transformed into an intimate cabaret style performing space..

It happened that Dave Hurlbert, pianist, and myself discovered that not only were we both left-handed Pisces but were mad about Menotti, and so Goat Hall Productions began its new life with Menotti's The Medium, a great melodrama, and Barber's A Hand of Bridge, a ten-minute masterpiece, as a curtain raiser.  During our first three years we put on Menotti's The Old Maid and the Thief, Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, and an annual Christmas celebration, Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors.  We also began our relationship with Kurt Weill (Threepenny Opera) and Mozart.(Cosi fan tutte and The Magic Flute).

So 15 years later, in 2013, it was no accident that, in a fit of nostalgia, we conceived of  Anywhere But Here, an amazingly unique cabaret show created by Michelle Jasso, which featured the three Strange Bedfellows Menotti, Weill and Mozart. It was a great performing experience (I was actually in it), and the audiences were wonderfully responsive.  A good time was had by all, I am happy to say.

Our windows have gotten a little blurry since April 2003, when Goat Hall was effectively shut down as a performing venue by the Fire Department after a woman fainted and they were called to an overflowing house of happy patrons watching Poulenc's The Breasts of Tiresias and Vaughan Williams' Riders to the Sea.  For the last ten years we have been what Theatre Bay Area calls a Nomad company, wandering around from venue to venue, Oakland to San Francisco to Berkeley and back again and again, and back again, and then again.  Oh, for a home of our own!

Since I live in Vacaville (45 minutes to Berkeley, one hour to SF), I continually contemplate moving our operations to Solano County, but everyone else lives either in Contra Costa, Alameda or SF County and so do our audiences.  So I drive and drive and drive....and drive... over bridges and freeways full of cars and cars and people.   And my main Window on the World is out  my Windshield!

I am going to close for now and promise to be briefer and not so long in writing so you will not have to wait to keep abreast of our comings and goings, which continue unabated.

Stay well and be of good heart.