The News: To Thy Clown Self Be True


On the first Tuesday of each month The News, presented by SOMArts Cultural Center, features new, queer work by Bay Area artists. The News is a monthly cabaret evening that spotlights 10-minute or less performance pieces, experiments, and works in progress by pre-selected solo artists, groups, or troupes.

On Tuesday, August 4, The News is guest curated by David Villegas and features The Box Club: Cason MacBride and Slater Penney, Brian Benson, Genie Cartier and Marie Cartier, Evan Johnson, One Flea Circus/Al Daniel, Amelia Van Brunt, and wild card Xavier MTW.

“Family entertainment and amateur comedy don’t do justice to the theatrical heritage of clowns as tricksters, as transgressors of cultural norms, and occasionally as tragic heroes. Clowns are outsiders who unmask the truths that lie beneath the individual and social masks people wear. This month, The News showcases clowns who have been chosen for their craftsmanship, creativity, humor, and versatility. Perhaps they will provide new insight into the human condition. Then again, perhaps they’ll make fart jokes for ninety minutes. Admission is free: you get what you pay for.” – guest curator, David Villegas

New: admission is FREE! SOMArts is offering free admission in hopes that if you can afford to donate, you will support the artists onstage when the hat passes. RSVP on EventBrite to guarantee a seat. 

Register for The News: Queer Performance Series in San Francisco, CA  on Eventbrite

The nature of The News is to give artists access to critical space for risk-taking in performance. In addition to artists selected by a guest curator, a “wild card” performer or two appears in each line-up at The News. “Wild cards” are artists who may not have been selected by the guest curators, but join in the evening to share new work. Artists interested in performing as a “wild card” at The News can find more information here.

Please note: this show contains mature content and may not be appropriate for children.


The Box Club is the latest project by actors, dancers, and circus artists Cason MacBride and Slater Penney. Both are graduates of UC Santa Cruz and are working with the ensemble physical theater group Black Horse. Cason has toured internationally with Diavolo Dance Theater, Scott Wells & Dancers, and Soren Bennick’s Power of One. A 2013 Izzie Award winner and former director of Fou Fou Ha!, he teaches a drag boot camp at Rogue & Saint Fitness and will perform in Bay Pointe Ballet’s upcoming productions of Dracula and The Nutcracker. Slater has studied at the San Francisco Circus Center and the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre. In 2001, he won an Emmy Award with TechTV. He directs the preschool program at Luna Gymnastics and has taught circus arts and physical theatre at Berkeley Repertory’s School of Theatre, Kinetic Arts, Marin Shakespeare, Sacramento State University, and UC Davis. Artists websites: The Box Club | Cason McBride.

Brian Benson started his career as an assistant director and line producer working on music videos (Metallica, Sixpence None the Richer) and independent films (Groove, Bartleby, Wildflowers). In 2000 he produced his first feature film, Haiku Tunnel, which was selected for the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics. He received the prestigious Sundance Mark Silverman Producer’s Fellowship in 2002, and his third film, Red Diaper Baby (2004) starring Josh Kornbluth, was one of the few films financed by the Sundance Channel. His fourth feature, Full Grown Men— a comedy starring Alan Cumming, Deborah Harry and Amy Sedaris— premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival before being released nationally in theaters, on cable, and on DVD. By the end of 2009, Brian produced two more films: All About Evil, a dark comedy born in the world of horror, and Howl, a film about Allen Ginsberg’s poem and the subsequent obscenity trial that followed its publication. Directed by the Academy Award winning team Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, executive produced by Gus Van Sant and starring James Franco, John Hamm and Mary-Louise Parker, Howl opened the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Currently, Brian is writing a musical feature film which he will direct, and is in development on two other feature films as producer. Artist website.

Genie and Marie Cartier are sisters and San Francisco natives. Their early collaborations consisted of short plays performed in their living room and ambitious amateur films shot with their father’s camcorder. Both went on to study at the San Francisco Circus Center. Genie completed an MFA in creative writing at San Francisco State University and has a background in acrobatic and aerial training. She recently co-created and starred in Genie and Audrey’s Dream Show!, an award-winning two-woman circus. Marie holds a BA from UC Berkeley in theater and in peace and conflict studies, aka a dual degree in drama and drama. She has trained in political theater creation with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, is currently a technician at The Marsh, and practices as a visual artist. They are excited to be performing together again especially because, this time, the audience isn’t primarily one of stuffed animals. Artist website.

Evan Johnson is a Bay Area-based actor/creator and teaching artist. He devised two original queer solo works, Pansy for New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) and Don’t Feel: The Death of Dahmer for Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory. A graduate of the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre, Evan has collaborated with local dance/theatre makers Jesse Hewitt (FREEDOM), Hope Mohr (ridetherhythm), Liz Tenuto (The Two Legits, In the Velvet) and Nathaniel Justiniano (Shame!). In 2007, Evan performed as a clown with Ricochet Circus Theatre throughout India. He’s studied with master clowns Giovanni Fusetti and Ronlin Foreman. He is the director of Harvey Milk Center for the Arts’ Junior Acting Troupe. Currently, Evan is working on a mask/puppet performance entitled Hang on to Your Hats (with artist Michele Menard) for this year’s San Francisco Fringe Festival. In October, Pansy will travel to NYC for the United Solo Festival. Artist websites: Pansy The Play | Evan Johnson.

One Flea Circus (Al Daniel) is a physical performer with a rich background in puppetry, mime, clown, mask, acrobatics, theater design, and construction. She is a graduate of the Flying Actor Studio conservatory program, Sandglass Puppetry manipulation intensive, and the Clown Conservatory program at Circus Center in San Francisco where she now teaches. She was the first recipient of the Peggy Ford and Paoli Lacy Award for female clowns and was featured on the cover of the 40 under 40 issue of Puppetry International. The puppets she builds are as varied as the performances for which they were created. They include tiny 7-inch-tall musical mice, a 9-foot-tall 14-foot-long dragon and countless creations in between. Her work in both performance and construction give her a world of possibilities and ideas to mix and match into a world of joy, insanity, and unique perspectives. Artist Website.

Amelia Van Brunt is a professional and award-winning actor/creator, clown, dancer, fire spinner, and character extraordinaire. Amelia has studied at the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre where she completed the one-year Professional Training Program. She is also a part of the beloved San Francisco-based clown/burlesque troupe Fou Fou Ha! which has been established as one the Bay Area’s most sought-after hired performers for over 15 years. With Fou Fou Ha!, Amelia helped create and perform the smash hit full-length show “Whoa-Man!” which has been extended with Shelton Theater into 2016. Amelia is also the current artist in residence at the San Francisco Circus Center where she is developing a one-woman show,In the Blue of Evening, produced by her own theater company, “Bad, Bad Bunny.” Artist Website.

Michele Menard is an interdisciplinary artist with over 7 years experience at the Richmond District Neighborhood Center teaching puppetry and directing theater productions with young artists. Michele is also a celebrated preschool teacher at both Puddle Jumpers Workshop and Monkey Bird Collective. She is an visual artist with over 20 years experience and has a background in world music.

Xavier MTW is a multimedia artist living in San Francisco. Much of his work is informed by his experiences as a sex worker and porn actor (under the name Xander Spade) and dissects issues of sex, gender, and body politics in the digital era. Xavier is a French expatriate who did the bulk of his growing up the East Coast, studying Art History at the University of Florida. His work has been featured at numerous SF venues and festivals including Glamarama, SOMArts, the DeYoung Museum, Faetopia 2012+2013, and Frameline38. His current project (from which his performance is based) is a memoir/road trip narrative titled All-American Whore: Stories about Sex, Life, and the Great American Landscape, and is tentatively scheduled for release by December 2015.

David Villegas, this month’s guest curator, is not a performer. He has appeared on stage at venues such as The Garage, Shotwell Studios, SOMArts, Stage Werx, and Z Space, only to be escorted back to his seat by friendly ushers or annoyed stage managers. Performance artist Philip Huang has not described his work as “a daring reinterpretation of SpongeBob SquarePants that uses the aesthetics of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Lars von Trier,” although he did want to be mentioned in this bio. David has not toured with Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Blue Man Group, Mummenschanz, Circus Vargas, or the Moscow State Circus. His current project explores the effects of spurious name-dropping on search engine results.



Pictured: Evan Johnson; Al Daniel; The Box Club; Amelia Van Brunt—all courtesy of the artists