All posts by Mordecai Ettinger

Somatics for Social Justice: Embody the Change!

Butterflies with chrysalis

About the Workshop

The Somatics and Social Justice Workshop provides participants with an overview of: 1) somatic practices, how they ‘work,’ and what they are good for, and 2) the neurobiology and neurophysiology of stress responses and also of empathy, connection solidarity, and the social nervous system. Spoiler alert — the same neuro-anatomy and processes control all of these aspects of being, wow!

Through discussion and experiential exercises participants will learn somatic techniques for being and becoming the embryos of the better world we dream of creating. Participants will be invited to carry these practices into their lives however they wish to help to align with their personal goals for healing and social justice values.

This Workshop’s for you if:

  • You are interested in learning practices to embody the change you want to see in the world
  • You love science and want to geek out
  • You hate science and want to re-claim it as a tool for healing and justice
  • You want to build community in which to co-create transformative healing practices
  • If you want to feel better!

All are welcome, especially beginners!!

When: Thursday, December, 4th, 7- 9 pm at Take 5 Cafe’ and Gallery

Thursday, December, 18th, 7 -9 pm, at the Orange Castle in South Berkeley (address provided to those who enroll)

Cost: $20, No one turned away!

Enroll: at Village Craft

Questions: Contact me at:

What’s Somatics

Grounded in the belief that the body in its wholeness is the foundation for healing, somatic practices combine body awareness techniques with cutting-edge findings in neurobiology and neurophysiology. These practices work to support and enhance the body’s innate self-regulatory and resilience-building capacities. Used with focused intention, these practices can also lead to deeper insight about who we are, the world as a whole, and how we wish to inhabit it.

New Horizons for Health Six Week Intensive — Extended Enrollment until October 23rd!



The Living Room Project and Village Craft Proudly Present:        

 New Horizons for Health: Concepts and Practices for Healing and Health Justice     

Extended Enrollment until October 23rd!

at the Living Room Project, 1919 Market Street, walking distance from 19th Street Bart

6 Consecutive Thursdays: October 16th – November 30th                               6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

$200-$250                     Exchanges and Barter negotiable.             No one turned away for lack of funds!

The vast amount of health information currently available can feel overwhelming.  This training series aims to empower people to get diverse health information and research, including information that seems so advanced only a doctor would understand it.  You are the primary expert on your body and you have the right and ability to use and understand all available knowledge about the body to your benefit.

Think you can’t understand the newest finding in neuroscience or epigenetics and how they pertain to you?  Think again!  Health knowledge, like many things in our society, is too often used as a form of control.  New Horizons for Health: Skills and Practices for Healing and Health Justice will provide concrete concepts, skills and practices to enable participants to engage with their own health and healing in a fresh, more confident and liberatory way.

Whether you are a person for whom standard healthcare hasn’t worked, a health-care professional, an activist, or someone who simply wants to feel better, this 6-week intensive training series will change the way you experience health.

This course will enable participants to:

  •   Re-think health beyond popular health myths
  •   Be Present
  •   Gain fluency in basic medical terminology, and learn the basics of conducting medical research
  •   Confidently engage in health-advocacy for yourself   and others
  •   Learn somatic techniques for healing trauma and for being and becoming the embryos for the change we strive to create in the world 
  •  Cultivate an understanding of emerging findings in neurobiology, neurophysiology and epigenetics
  •  Build skills for healthier living and using your intuition
  •  Envision and plan personal and community-based solutions to the health crisis

All participants will also receive a 20 minute health and wellness session.  Enroll Here!  

About the Instructor:

Mordecai Cohen Ettinger, MA, is adjunct faculty at CIIS and has over 20 years experience as a holistic healer, educator and social justice activist. Trained as a somatic, Reiki, and Cranial Sacral practitioner, Mordecai’s Masters research explores the social nervous system and the neurobiology of trauma and trauma resolution, particularly trauma stemming from  injustice, as it relates to collective and individual resilience, healing and social change.  Learn more here , or email Mordecai:

This class will be a scent-free space!

What’s Somatics:

Grounded in the belief that the body in its wholeness is the foundation for healing, somatic practices combine body awareness techniques with findings in neurobiology and neurophysiology. These practices support & enhance the body’s innate self-regulatory and resilience-building capacities. Used with focused intention, these practices can lead to symptom reduction and deeper insight about who we are, the world as a whole, and how we wish to inhabit it. Come as you are, leave as you want to be, somatics for social responsibility!

Village Craft Logo
Village Craft



Fall Happenings!

Greetings dear friends, colleagues, and fellow travelers!

I hope you have been having a fun and fruitful summer, despite the challenging times in which we are living. As we prepare to ease into autumn, I wanted to let you know of my upcoming course offerings as well as the September reading of my newest play, Chokehold at Impact Theatre in North Berkeley on September 15th!

 If you have any questions, feel free to email me and please feel free to pass this on & post on Facebook. If you are not interested in getting further emails like this, please let me know. I hope to see you at the reading or a class. Be well!

I am teaching two workshops on ecological justice, health justice and liberatory world-making. One is a two-hour Villagecraft evening introductory workshop: Ecological Justice Not Ecological Impairment: Co-Creating a Healthier and Ecologically Just World at the Long Haul in Berkeley on August 28th, 7-9pm, $20, No one turned away for lack of funds!



If this interests you, please sign-up for the 6 week intensive at A Place for Sustainable Living:

Ecological Justice Not Ecological Impairment: Co-Creating a Healthier and Ecologically Just World

What kind of society would we be living in if in place of the hyper-individualization of illness, health and health risk, we recognized that the conditions that cause most common illnesses are related to environmental, not individual, impairments such as air, soil and water pollution, the food desertification of low income neighborhoods, unsafe working conditions and long working hours, etc? This 6 week long course provides a conceptual framework for contemplation and action around this core question.  The course will be oriented towards local and collective action for health and ecological justice so participants can bring their learning home and co-create in community.


During the course participants will have the opportunity to explore:

  • How the socio-economic institutions and practices of our society influence health and shape our own ideas of health and healthy living
  • The role of media and culture in health and health practices
  • How environmental and social injustice systematically impact health from the cradle to the grave
  • How medical knowledge is created and the process by which it becomes generally accepted as true
  • Cases of global ecological injustice and their resulting health crises such as the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan, the Union Carbide gas leak and ensuing disaster in Bhopal, India, other national and local incidents to be identified and selected by participants
  • How to do health research for yourself, your friends, loved one and family
  • Community mapping exercises to more deeply understand the dynamics of health or health injustice in our communities
  • What liberatory health beliefs and practices look like
  • Dreaming, scheming and co-creating innovative solutions for healthier communities through collective or individual organizing projects, art projects, and / or new daily life practices


Sliding Scale: $250-$300, barter and work exchange negotiable.

Class Dates and Time:

6 weeks on Thursday evenings from 7pm – 9:30pm.

September 11th, September 18th, October 2nd, October 9th and October 16th, and October 23rd.

* Please note, there will be no class on Thursday, September 25th in respect to those who observe Rosh Hashanah

For more info visit Mordecai’s A Place for Sustainable Living


A PLACE for Sustainable Living

Come to a free reading of my newest full length play, Chokehold, at Impact Theatre on September 15th at 8pm.

Here’s what Chokehold’s all about: When Tal, a young man who was once (supposedly) a girl makes the tough choice to participate in a risky Palestine solidarity protest, he begins a journey for his life—to breathe or not to breathe, that is the question.

Part picaresque, part carnivalesque, and like its protagonist, not satisfied being just one thing, Chokehold is a neo-expressionist absurdist hero’s journey examining how to live ethically in an unjust world and other of life’s profoundest existentialist dilemmas which compel and confound us all.

Hope to see you there!


Chokehold_eblast image_Matthew John Sigrist
by Matthew John Sigrist




Finally, I will be giving a workshop on Somatics and Social Justice at the fabulous Siren Festival.

The Somatics and Social Justice Workshop will provide participants with an overview of: 1) somatic practices and how they ‘work,’ and 2) the neurobiology and ‘ecology’ of social inculcation–specifically addressing the ways in which social learning is all too often polluted by social injustice, systematic oppression, colonialism/ neo-colonialism and globalization.

Together we’ll engage in discussion, dyads and full group exercises to learn somatic practices to cultivate insight, resilience and the unlearning of oppression. Participants will be invited to carry these practices into their lives however they wish to help to help them align with their personal goals for healing and social justice values. We’ll close with a collective somatic exercise to help ground intentions in the heart.

What’s Somatics

Grounded in the belief that the body in its wholeness is the foundation for healing, somatic practices combine body awareness techniques with cutting-edge findings in neurobiology and neurophysiology. These practices work to support and enhance the body’s innate self-regulatory resilience-building capacities. Used with focused intention, these practices can also lead to deeper insight about who we are, the world as a whole, and how we wish to inhabit it.

The Siren Festival is a Feminist Festival of Transformative Arts. “The intention of this feminist-powered participatory festivity is to allow all festival attendees to celebrate, experience and cultivate as a vehicle for self & collective transformation.”  September 14th at the Oakland Peace Center.  My workshop will be part of the Creativity Playground, 1 pm -2:30 pm on September 14th. For more info and to register go to Siren Festival !

Announcing my upcoming class, co-taught with Joshua Muscat! Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions to Trauma: Exploring the Use of Constitutional Herbalism and Somatics for Healing Trauma

Butterflies with chrysalis


Joshua and I are pleased to announce our upcoming class. Hope you can join us!

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions to Trauma:  Exploring the Use of Constitutional Herbalism and Somatics for Healing Trauma

at the Sins Invalid Space, walking distance from North Berkeley Bart

Address to be provided to participants upon enrollment

6 Consecutive Tuesdays: August 12th, August 19th, August 26th, September 2nd, September 9th, September 16th, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm

Cost: $250-$300

Experiences of trauma are pervasive, yet many continue to feel stuck in emotional and physiological patterns stemming from unresolved trauma.  Within the complementary frameworks of constitutional herbalism and somatic awareness, there are tools we can apply to change these patterns and help people regain wellness however they define it for themselves. This class will discuss the underlying physiological and neurobiological consequences of trauma and the common resulting long-term patterns which can be altered by using herbs and somatic practices. It will also discuss more subtle emotional tendencies and the ways that herbs and somatic practices can be used to help people who feel trapped in these seemingly intractable patterns.  Short-term, acute de-escalation and relief will be covered, as will long-term interventions that help redirect and untangle more persistent patterns so that they recur less and less over time.  This class’s approach will emphasize allowing individuals and clients to decide for themselves whether or not they want to include a spiritual component to their healing.

Both Joshua’s and Mordecai’s professional experiences include working extensively with sexual abuse and trauma.  This includes trauma rooted in surviving injustice as a person of color; trauma which stems from poverty; family violence, neglect, and isolation, and trauma which arises from living as a queer, trans, or gender-nonconforming person in this world.

The course will use both lecture and experiential teaching methods.  Some of the specific topics that will be covered in the class include: panic attacks, depression, sleep disorders, anxiety, challenges with safety, emotional containment and intimacy, digestive issues, chronic pain, inflammation and other common physical ailments that often accompany trauma, and compulsive behavior/addiction.  The class will also present counseling skills and specific somatic practices for working with trauma.

Joshua Muscat has 20 years of clinical experience with the San Francisco Botanical Medicine Clinic, a low- to no-cost herbal clinic with a strong grounding in ethics and access. (More information about the clinic is available here: Joshua has studied at Michael Moore’s Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, the Pacific School of Herbal Medicine, the California School of Traditional Hispanic Herbalism, the Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine, and the South Star School of Traditional Tonic Chinese Cooking. He is a clinical herbalist and wildcrafter.

Mordecai Cohen Ettinger, MA, has 20 years experience as a multi-modality healer, educator and social justice activist.  Trained as a somatic practitioner, Reiki practitioner, and Cranial Sacral practitioner with a background in neurobiology and functional medicine, he has maintained a specific focus on trauma and trauma resolution using non-pharmaceutical interventions over the last two decades.  His somatic practice is grounded in Somatic Experiencing ©, the work of biophysicist and psychologist Dr. Peter Levine, with whom he trained along with Dr. Raja Selvam, and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk.  His Masters research explores the neurobiology of trauma and trauma resolution, particularly trauma stemming from systematic injustice, as it relates to collective and individual resilience and healing.  Along with working with clients, and educating about health, wellness and justice; Mordecai serves as Adjunct Faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) and is a playwright.  Read more about Mordecai and his work here: .


contact Adriane via or (415) 823-4277

A Reading of My New Play, Chokehold at Cutting Ball Theater May 14th!

If you don’t already have it in your calendars, please pencil in the reading of my newest play ChokeholdMay 14th, 7pm-9pm, at Cutting Ball Theater!  The reading is directed by Addie Gorlin and is part of Cutting Ball’s In the Lab Project.  It’s also just a few days before my birthday, making Chokehold super-charged with creativity and specialness. Plus, juggling and live original music by composer and multi-instrumentalist Ofir Uziel! Come celebrate!

Chokehold Details
What: Reading of my newest full length play, Chokehold!
When: May 14th, 7pm-9pm
Where: Cutting Ball Theater, 277 Taylor Street, San Francisco, 94102

Chokehold Synopsis:
When Tal, a young man who was once (supposedly) a girl makes the tough choice to participate in a risky Palestine solidarity protest, he begins a journey for his life—to breathe or not to breathe, that is the question.

Part picaresque, part carnivalesque, and like its protagonist, not satisfied being just one thing, Chokehold is a neo-expressionist absurdist hero’s journey examining how to live ethically in an unjust world and other of life’s profoundest existentialist dilemmas which compel and confound us all. Featuring live and original music by Ofir Uziel.


Chokehold_eblast image_Matthew John Sigrist
by Matthew John Sigrist

Symmetry Theatre’s Carnival Round the Central Figure Shows Us the (not so) Sunny Side of Death

Structurally very compelling, Carnival Round the Central Figure by playwright Diana Amsterdam whisks the audience away on a carousel ride, round and round, always round the Central Figure, of course.  In the manner in which, at turns, it exhilarates and invites trepidation and dizziness, it is much like an actual carnival ride, except this ride is the ride of your life—anyone’s and everyone’s which all end at the same simple and inevitable conclusion: death.  This Carnival then, examines the process of death and dying in the US and our society’s relationship to everyone’s final destination.

For this theatrical jaunt, we accompany Sheila (Lizzie Calogero) and Paul (Michael Patrick Gaffney), the eponymous Central Figure, caked in white face paint, already as ghastly as a ghost.  As theatre-goers file into the performance space, Paul is already on stage, supine in a hospital bed twitching and moaning inaudibly.  The only sounds are the familiar notes of carnival music, played on a loop.  From the start, Symmetry Theatre’s production excels at creating and sustaining a carnivalesque absurdist atmosphere for the play.  Not an easy work to stage, Carnival’s direction by Symmetry company member Chloe Bronzan and cast performances are strong. The audience is treated to some stand-out actors.

The play’s initial scene gives a resolute tip of the hat to Ionesco, the absurdist classic The Bald Soprano comes to mind in Shelia’s mired denial and her hyper-obsessive discussion of the quotidian.  The satire in these scenes really stings even as it elicits laughs.  As an aside, poor Sheila’s wardrobe is fantastic; she is shabby and silly in neon orange sneakers, jeans with elastic at the cuffs and a fuchsia and teal get-up on top. However, Calogero’s solid showing prevents this character from devolving to caricature.

Along with vibrant casting, the production also employs innovative techniques such as breaching the 4th wall, and non-linear/ not-quite-narrative storytelling— more circular and repetitive than Aristotelian, befitting a slightly madcap and macabre merry-go-round.  For some, the repetition as a device may be overmuch, but for me it plays as a metaphorical echo of the disorientating shock and trauma that death often brings.

The play features a cycle of scenes between the unsinkable Velina Brown—whose performance as Maryanne was so excellent I’m moved in the most complimentary way to call her a scene-stealer— and Marissa Keltie seated in the audience, transforming all of us theater-goers into fellow participants of a lecture-style class.  The actors had engaging rapport.  In fact, although the audience I was a part of  was relatively small (it was a matinee), we were a spirited bunch and in scenes like these some in attendance were moved to call out to the actors.  Given the gravity of the subject matter, I think this level of audience response was a considerable feat.

Perhaps the play is so evocative because it hits home in its scrutiny of US society’s death-phobia and how it inhibits our human capacity to connect with those we cherish most during their times of transition and our overall lack of deep connectedness to life in general.  One song from the play’s soundtrack advises the audience to  “live life as though you are going to die, because you are”.

Symmetry’s staging uses music throughout, with some live singing and some pre-recorded audio.  The live music is better and is mostly supplied by a sardonically amusing take on a Greek Choir featuring Calogero, Brown and the great El Beh as gospel choir singers who back up Michael Gene Sullivan’s Preacher.  Sullivan’s charismatic performance was also first-rate and Beh, who I initially saw in the ensemble of the San Francisco Playhouse’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson singing, dancing and playing a full size electric cello shined as a gospel gal and the creepy vein-draining and provocative Nurse.

Amsterdam’s text does contain some incisive satire.  Beh’s Nurse ritually milks the Central Figure’s vein while coyly cooing things like, “come on baby, just one more drop;” we live in a society with a medical system that does indeed bleed many of us dry.  However, I wish the work went further in exploring the socio-economic dynamics and inequalities of the this system, which I tend to refer to as the medical industrial complex— it is a profit driven enterprise after all.  More overtly embattled than ever due to the ensuing debate over Obamacare, medicine in this country is inextricably entangled with insurance companies, behemoth biotechs, and big phama whose CEO’s occupy prominent positions on hospital boards and whose board members hold influential staff positions at major hospitals.  Simultaneously, health outcomes in African American, Latino/a, Native American, LBGT and other marginalized communities lag disturbingly behind their white, straight counterparts.  Amsterdam’s critical gaze is not in this direction.  Instead, she chooses to make matters metaphysical and looks to Christian hegemony’s chokehold on death which to me is well worn territory.  However, the play often offers up this amusing commentary in three-part harmony, a crowd-pleasing nice touch.  Could Symmetry Theatre’s approach to the text more deeply explored these other dynamics? Perhaps.  I would have liked to have seen that.

Nonetheless, Carnival Round the Central Figure, is a solid and gutsy production (and when I say gutsy I mean it quite literally, as projectile vomit does fly—oh yes!).  Alas readers, with this review late to (cyber) press, you will not be able to see it for yourself.  The play’s run ended on December 1st.  But, your chances to see more great work from Symmetry Theatre are far from dead and gone, you have but to await their 2014 season.  Check their website for upcoming productions.



The Rita Hayworth of This Generation Hybridizes Historical Reclamation and Magical Realism to Hilarious Perfection

Featured as a 2012 Marsh Theater Rising Star, Tina D’Elia’s newest production of solo performance The Rita Hayworth of This Generation at San Francisco’s Garage Theater brings to life the fast-paced race for stardom of Carmelita Cristina Rivera in glittery Las Vegas.  With the endurance of a triathlete, D’Elia embodies not just the charming, sometimes discombobulated protagonista, but also her paramour, Jesus Antonio Gitano, the Transgender King of Blackjack hailing from Cali, Columbia; her butch producer, Angel Torres from New York via Puerto Rico; her idol Rita Hayworth; and Kelsey Morph Python, Aussie talk show host for the stars, living and dead.  Carmelita sets her sights on getting on Python’s show as a way of catapulting her career, but the host turns out to be her nemesis instead.  D’Elia embodies each character with charisma, vitality, quirkiness and credibility, they are not unlike people we may actually know (except for the ghosts!). Their worlds connect and collide, and their interactions weave a surprisingly intricate plot for a one-woman show.

One of the best things about The Rita Hayworth of This Generation is the way in which it reveals a hidden history of some of Hollywood’s best loved starlets.  Like everyone, I was well aware of the glamour, charm and talent of Rita Hayworth.  What I wasn’t aware of is that her given name was Margarita Carmen Cansino, and that she’s of Spanish decent.  Ms. Hayworth also began her career by performing in Mexico.  Her life apparently had its own nemesis, the notorious President of Columbia Pictures Harry Cohn. In 1946, Hayworth fought with him vehemently over her publicity (which he controlled completely due to her contract) when an image of her as the ‘bombshell’ from the film Gilda (1946), was used without her consent as propaganda in association with the testing of the first nuclear bomb after World War II at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  Rita Hayworth continues to be an inspiration to the many female performers that came after her; and many Latina performers see her a path-forger.  This is the experience of D’Elia herself, who first started working as a theatre artist in the fourth grade.  According to D’Elia, her initial moment of inspiration came:

“When I was 5 years old and I snuck into the altar of a Catholic church, [while] at a cousin’s baptism next door in the chapel. I knew women/girls did not have roles such as priest at the altar.  I was compelled to walk to the stairs to the altar. I looked at the mic attached to the podium. It was very high. I badly wanted to perform [for] an audience I was imagining.  I was dramatic!  I then danced/faux tap danced on the altar to entertain my imaginary audience. I knew it then that I had something I was to express, share, give, . . . .and connect with people this way.”

While that’s a great debut, after many years of performance from Boston in the 1990’s to the Bay Area, from TV and film to the stage, D’Elia attracts full house audiences like one I had the pleasure of being in on Rita Hayworth’s closing night, no longer imaginary ones.

A favorite of the local LBGT/ Queer community, D’Elia’s work showcases some of the more hilarious aspects of queer culture while engagingly weaving into the narrative her characters’ perspective and experiences on race, gender and class.  The effect is organic and authentic.  In one particularly amusing moment, Jesus, a frequent guest on Kelsey’s program, goes to visit her at her posh office and admiring its cleanliness says, “Oh, my people do a good job cleaning here!”

The Rita Hayworth of this Generation delivers feisty raciness in equal measure to its laughs.  Before catching D’Elia’s show, it would have been difficult for me to imagine how a solo performer could pull off enticingly hot and hilarious sex scenes, but D’Elia finesses this with fun physicality and creativity.

Along with sex, intrigue, a race for stardom, and much thoughtful humor along the way, the piece also employs magical realism— the purgatory of the stars becomes a ritzy club called the Casino for Dead Stars.  In the world D’Elia and her characters create, impassioned prayer sometimes earns you a direct line of communication with your deceased idol and a glimpse into the next world as she strives to earn her wings—who wants to spend eternity in a casino?  It’s tender and bittersweet watching Carmelita chase down her dreams, offering the audience an opportunity to also catch a glimpse of the real hardships many performers face, especially women of color.

The Rita Hayworth of This Generation concluded its month-long run at the Garage Theater on November 21st.  If you missed this great show, don’t fret!  D’Elia is working on a Part II now and is planning to perform the original in the East Bay and in Los Angeles in 2014.  You can learn about the artist’s upcoming performances and projects here and on her Business Page on Facebook under Tina D’Elia Consulting.  Tina D’Elia is a Bay Area performer to watch and watch out for!

Tina D'Elia Shines as Rita Hayworth in her one-women show!

Help Halt Climate Change, Fund Ground-Breaking Eco-Drama Extreme Whether Now!

In the wake of the catastrophic Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, a widely recognized human-made disaster in which the cost of the carbon-debt accumulated by the global North after generations of colonization and industrialization is being horrifically exacted from the global South (who else), there is no more fitting time for the a play like eco-drama Extreme Whether.  You can help bring it on a national tour and ensure its month long-run in at the Theater for the New City, New York City by supporting it on Indiegogo!

Author of the play and co-founder of Extreme Whether’s producing company, the Theater Three Collaborative (TTC), playwright Karen Malpede believes that culture alters consciousness and that to change our behavior, individually and as a species, we need to change the stories we tell.  In the market-driven context of US theatre in which truth-telling is constantly at odds with economic-censorship, Extreme Whether tells the raw, real tale of the fierce battle waged by climate scientists to urge global governments and corporations to heed the severity of climate change being wrought by human business as usual.  The play recalls both Brecht’s Galileo and Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.

The acclaimed Malpede had already staged five plays and started her own theater when she debuted her ground-breaking work, Us, in 1970.  It was directed by the great Judith Malina, of the Living Theatre.  Both Malina and Julian Beck were Malpede’s earliest mentors.  Throughout her career, Malpede has written and staged 19 plays, most of which she also directed.  In 1995, with the late Lee Nagrin and George Bartenieff, Malpede founded The Theater Three Collaborative.  TTC is dedicated to creating theater that fearlessly explores the most compelling and pressing issues of our times such as war, torture, and genetic engineering, and now, the climate crisis.

Extreme Whether has been praised by noted climate scientist and former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies James Hansen, who spoke at the play’s standing room only April 2013 public reading.  In a true homage to great playwrights like Ibsen, Extreme Whether isn’t just an eco-drama packed with stunning and sobering facts about science and the dynamics of corporate climate-change deniers, it’s also a family drama.  In the work twin brother and sister, one a climate scientist, one a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry, negotiate the conflict of their beliefs amid a struggle which is shaping the world around them.  In the life-world of the play, as in our own, a young activist, an elder environmentalist, and two climate scientist must grapple with ensuring the truth they know is heard and heeded against overwhelming odds.  Further, they demonstrate how it is possible to deepen their bonds of connection, love and trust while increasing their resolve in the face of potential devastation—the truth they hold is the truth upon which the survival of our species depends.  This may seem overly dramatic-to some, but considering the *recent words of Typhoon Haiyan survivor Catherine Balila, from the hard-hit coastal Philippine city Tacloban, who comments on witnessing the sea swallow her home, “I thought it was the end of the world,” we are reminded that it is simply stark reality.

Don’t let the truth get washed away, support Extreme Whether however you are able today!


*The need to turn to international news sources to hear the words of survivors and learn the true costs of this ecological injustice.

For this article’s ecological and racial justice lens, I am indebted to the work of Aura Bogado, Colorlines blogger and Nation contributor, whose excellent article is linked above.

From the Sept. 2013 Cherry Lane Theatre Reading
From the Sept. 2013 Cherry Lane Theatre Reading

Cutting Ball’s Sidewinders Serves Up Gender-Bending Gun-Slinging Intrepid Explorers that Leave Audiences Feeling a Bit More Whole

From the wilds of Kentucky (with a stop over at the University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop) comes one of the brightest and freshest theatrical voices that US theatre has seen in some time; introducing the fantastic Basil Kreimendahl whose not-to-be-missed play Sidewinders world premières as Cutting Ball Theatre’s bold season opener.  As the Bay Area’s go-to-theatre for outstanding experimental and groundbreaking works, this production delivers the excellence that audiences have come to expect from this stand-out company.

Winner of the 2013 Rella Lossy Award for playwrighting, Kreimendahl’s play is truly a work of landmark political and artistic significance.  With hybrid dramatic stylings that tip their hat both to the best of absurdism and vaudevillian clowning, the work deftly explores the shifty terrain of liminal embodiment, or at least those people perceived as somehow being in-between worlds.  With fine performances and precision direction by M. Graham Smith, Sidewinders keeps you on the end of your seat with laughter, delight, and pathos made all the more profound by their unexpectedness amid all the hilarity, and hijinks.

The minute one walks into the theatrical space, you enter a different world of purple-hued softly clouded skyscape, or perhaps in this world, this ‘up’ is down.  Sidewinders has audience members wondering before the first word is uttered.  Once it is, the metaphors rush with meticulous pacing and multi-layered interconnectedness, demonstrating Basil’s verbal and philosophical virtuosity while showcasing the skill and talent of the excellent cast.

The play’s point of attack lands us at the end of the tracks, on the threshold of a world that “not a thing has tread on”.  To make matters more discombobulating, Bailey isn’t quite sure what they have, you know, ‘down there’.  As the gun-slinging, sharp shooting Dakota, Bailey’s travel companion in the wilds opines, “having a ‘this’ or a ‘that’ makes you right side up.”  Knowing what’s in our pants orients us in the world, or does it?  Sidewinders’ journey explores this question of boundaries, limits, selfhood, and what separates and connects us all.

Immediately, the audience is drawn in by the dynamic performances of DavEnd as Bailey, the sad clown, and Sara Moore as Dakota.  The two have great chemistry and comic timing that breathes stunning vitality and tenderness to the characters.

The work’s script combines Basil’s unique take on classic abusurdist theatrical technique, a skillful and refreshing departure from the usual social realism which tends to dominate US theatre, with a nuanced exploration of gender, sexuality and embodiment as it is defined in the binary economy of language and culture.  Bereft of academia and theory, the play instead uses image, sound, absorbing metaphorical narrative and physicality to expertly dramatize the experience of a spectrum of non-gender normative people or those born with a sex or gender presentation that is ‘indeterminate’ according to society’s cultural conventions.  Best of all, it reminds audiences members, that “we should all enjoy a good fuck”, according to the expertly performed parable of The Sandy, a traveler the lost duo Dakota and Bailey encounter in their Old West wanderings.  Donald Currie who plays this role quite possibly steals the show; his performance is flawlessly moving, funny, and appealingly racy.

Kreimendahl’s play employs an interesting interpolation between the Old West’s concept of manifest destiny and how an individual’s own destiny becomes ensnared in society’s grip on the terrain of our selfhood based on the contours of our biology and physical bodies.  It is its own kind of conquest and it is practiced and enacted on us from the moment we draw breath to the moment breath passes through our lips for the last time.  Sidewinders conveys the disorienting constriction of this without being pedantic and revels in the joy, wonder, and beautiful bizarreness of those that are outlaws in this world.  While all the characters are their own unique outlaws and outliers, Currie’s Sandy and Norman Munoz’s stirring ‘Sam in exile’, (Sandy’s travel companion and much more), are embodiments of this in ways the audience continues to discover.  It will surprise and subvert your expectations.

According to Kreimendahl, “the queering of gender has brought us into a new frontier.  I wanted to explore that ambiguity and that in-between.  It’s really important that we see ourselves on stage and hear our stories, and it’s as equally important that we be given the opportunity to feel for people and situations outside of ourselves.”

Despite its myriad themes, complexity, verbal acrobatics and amusing cartoonish clowning (the stellar Sara Moore, is part of Thrillride Mechanics, a group of human cartoons), at its heart, Sidewinders marvels at what it means to human, and the seeming impossibility and miracle of human connection, no matter what kind of body you are born into.

At one point Dakota asks, “where are we?” and Sandy replies, “no one has named it.”  Sidewinders certainly takes the audience where theatre has never gone before, reminding us, as we look into an expanse of the unknown or ourselves in the mirror we can find the freedom to see, “a blank canvas.”

Sidewinders runs until November 17th, so roundup a posse and mosey on over to Cutting Ball for one of this season’s must-see plays.  The theatre is in the heart of the Tenderloin, the historic epicenter of San Francisco’s gender-queer and trans activism.  The stage is just blocks away from where the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria uprising occurred—San Francisco’s pre-Stonewall Stonewall, the perfect location for the premiere of this historic play.

“We should walk, but we don’t know what we’ll find!” Moore (l) and DavEnd as Dakota and Bailey blazing new trails in Sidewinders.