This past friday night I took my daughter to the newly re-opened Bindlestiff Studio to see their latest offering, a co-production with Pinays Maintaining Sisterhood Through Art (PMSTA)‘s, “Death of a Player.” We had a great time and, as expected, the experience offered much to think about. But before I get into my thoughts on Bindlestiff and the production itself, here are a few details.

  • Bindlestiff Studio: Website | Twitter | Facebook
  • PMSTA:  Website | Facebook
  • Remaining Showtimes: October 27 and 28 at 8:00pm and October 29, 2:00 and 8:00pm.
  • Tickets: $20 and can be ordered through Brown Paper Tickets. $25 at the door.
  • Location: Bindlestiff Studio 165 6th Street, btw Howard and Mission

The Venue

It’s been a long time coming, about 8 years, but now “the stiff” has returned to the San Francisco Filipino arts community and the space looks GREAT. Funded by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency after its previous space was taken over, they have done a great job at creating a modern look while maintaining a community venue feel. The easy flow of traffic, clean art installations and friendly staff made this place feel well prepared as it begins its new life. My only critiques are that one, they do not take credit cards, and two, the temperature in the downstairs theater was sweltering. One of my friends twittered, Oh yeah, it’s like the Philippines down there. Great for some immersion theater, not so much for watching a play.

The Purpose

The main reason that I took my daughter to see the show was not only because it was a production by PMSTA, but because I want to support the work and mission of The Bindlestiff Studio especially upon their return to operation.

From the Bindlestiff Website:

Originally opened in 1989, Bindlestiff Studio became the only permanent, community-based performing arts venue in the nation dedicated to showcasing emerging Filipino American and Pilipino artists.

Bindlestiff Studio provides the often under-served Filipino American community access to diverse offerings in theatrical productions, music and film festivals, workshops in directing, production, acting, stand-up comedy, and writing, as well as a children and youth theater program.

Bindlestiff Studio cultivates artists, who reflect and celebrate the diverse values, traditions, and histories of Pilipino and Filipino American cultures, through bold artistic expression and community engagement.

It is so important for small, focused venues like this to exist in order to provide exposure and opportunity: exposure to a larger audience of a community’s complex history, struggles and accomplishments and an opportunity for those from that community to have a venue to express those stories in creative and unique ways.  I am glad to see that Bindlestiff Studio is back in business and ready to lift up and share the voices and expressions of the Filipino American experience.

The Production

First a little about PMSTA . ..

Founded in 2007, Pinays Maintaining Sisterhood Through Art (PMSTA) strives to foster and develop strong, creative expressions and increased visibility of  Filipino American women through theater, performance, literature, visual art, and music. With much inspiration, the cast mates: Andrea Almario, Aureen Almario, Ann Borja, Kat Evasco, Nicole Maxali, Jamie Nallas, Gayle Romasanta, Tonilyn Sideco,  Maggie Suarez-Calixton, and Ava Tong, decided to open new doors for other women who can voice out their struggles and accomplishments.

With every production of community theater, especially one comprised of short one-act plays, there are going to be ups and downs in the flow of the show. “Death of a Player” is no different as there were some awkward transitions, moments of over-acting and a few things that I just didn’t get.  But . . . overall this was a wonderful production for its context, passion and moments of solid acting.  Knowing that any “review” is a matter of perspective and opinion, I am not going to call anyone out in particular, but rather I want to lift up the performances that really touched me.

In no particular order, my three favorite performances were:

Pretty Little Girls – This was by far the most fun of the plays . . . if you like guns, zombies and blood that is. Great timing and acting by all three performers. The plot moved quickly and the dialogue was easy to track as the three characters transformed numerous times. The most physical and campy of the plays, they did a great job selling the physical movement and the ending was awesome. The final play, it closed out the entire night on a high note.

Word of Oprah – Aureen Amario delivered one of the best performances of the night as a cheated-on women who does stuff – you’ll have to see it to find out what – to her significant other and lands in prison.  Her dead on impersonation of the man in her life combined with her ability to move back and forth between “normal” and “crazy” was more than a little disconcerting . . . in a good way.

Circadian Suites – There were many strong performances throughout the production, but the one that stood out for me was Tonilyn Sideco as Ophelia. Overall this was one of the strongest acted plays by all of the actors, but Tonilyn really brought it. Her ability to express genuine longing for and struggle about the love of her life was profound. Dotted with some great prop gag timing as well as deep emotional despair there was an intimacy that was truly moving.

There were also very strong individual performances given in “Died at 25” and “Strength” both favorites of my daughter.

A last comment for parent – While there is no obvious age requirement on the main blog, when you order tickets it says that the show is for 16 and up. I would agree with this age limit as there are some sexual situations, swearing and gun play that might not be appropriate for all ages. 

I hope you take the opportunity to check out Bindlestiff Studio during this production or one the many more that are coming up.

Here is a trailer that they did for the show . . .


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