Interview: Cosmic Amanda at Z Space Is Studio 54

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Z Space interviews Cosmic Amanda, Founder of BFF.fm and Disco DJ at Z Space’s Studio 54 about starting a radio station, art + politics (because of course) and disco.

Z: Tell us about your journey in starting a radio station for emerging artists.

CA: I joined my college radio station in 1994 when I was a freshman. They told me that they only played underground music and that you couldn’t play anything that has even been heard on commercial radio. So I had to learn all this new music that I never knew about. And it was like that moment, you know that meme where you see the brain exploding? It was like that.

Z: The floodgates are open.

CA: Yeah. I just saw that there was this whole universe of music outside of the mainstream that was broad and deep and unusual and cool. I was in college forever, and the only constant was that I always had a radio show. My radio show was call The Cheea Planet, and then I started playing disco, then I called it Stayin' Alive on the Cheea Planet.

When I decided to move to San Francisco, I was like “I need to start a radio station,” that's the only way I know how to support the scene. Part of the reason why I moved to San Francisco specifically was because the music scene was so cool and there were so many cool bands here. I got invited to a friend’s gathering at The Secret Alley, and they just happened to have a little space that was affordable. I fronted the money to get this going for a couple of months and thought that if at the end of three months we don't have enough interest and involvement, then it was a fun experiment.

It just so happened that it caught the attention of the right people at the right time. We started getting publicity and press and it just kind of took off. We do have specialty shows where people are focused on an area that’s not related to new underground music, but 90% of the shows are. It’s all people that want to have bands on and want to highlight new things. Doing a radio show is the most natural and comfortable way for them to do that.

Z: Everything right now feels like it’s about politics. During moments like this, what do you think the community wants/needs from art right now? What are the main conversations going on in the your scene?

CA: Art is the way that we synthesize everything that’s going on. That’s one reason that art is and will always be extremely important and valuable. Because we are going to need art to place what is happening in context for people, not just now, but forty years from now. Now we are looking back at disco forty years later and discussing “How does this reflect the time period, what can we pull out? What was important to people based on the art that they were making?” Representation is also a big issue. Just in my sphere with radio, and friends I have in the art community, the second Trump was elected, we started getting applications from people who said “I want to do an all-female or all non-binary show,” or “I wanna talk about immigration,” or “I wanna to have a show that reflects my point of view so that there is that representation out there for other people.” I think art is a huge conduit for that, making sure that different views are getting expressed and that people are able to see these different viewpoints through art.

The next extension from representation is understanding. When there is that representation of different viewpoints and you start exposing yourself to other people’s ideas you gain an understanding of where they are coming from. I think the biggest problem we have right now is this sort of us v. them friction. When we were all us, there was no them. There was really nothing to fear. I feel that dovetails with the history of disco. You had all different types of people together coming together around dance music and I think that’s what got people through a really difficult time in American history. I feel like we are inventing our own disco now. We don’t even know what it looks like yet. We will find out in 40 years….

You could hear Amanda’s disco beats at Z Space on November 30th by going to zspace.org/studio54. To listen and support Amanda’s radio station visit BFF.fm.

Practice your moves to the Cosmic Amanda disco playlist on Spotify!


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BFF.fm – Best Frequencies Forever is a San Francisco-based community radio station run by a volunteer staff of music nerds who love independent music and are hell-bent on delivering awesome radio programming. BFF.fm’s mission is to support emerging and underground artists and bring the Bay Area music scene to the world through the magic of Internet radio.

 

 

 

Dear Peter

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EVERY MONTH WE INVITE OUR DIE-HARD COLUMN READERS*
TO SEND THEIR BURNING QUESTIONS TO RESIDENT PLAYWRIGHT PETER SINN NACHTRIEB. EVERY MONTH, HE STILL RESPONDS.


Dear Peter,
I received my M.F.A. in Ceramics and now I’d like to write my first full-length play. Do you have any advice for people who are transitioning from one art form to another? I know the world is my clay, but beyond that, I am lost. Please advise.

Sincerely,
Clay

::::

Dear Clay,
I totally get where you’re coming from. I know if I had worked for years to get an M.F.A. in Ceramics, I’d never want to touch a piece of clay again either. I applaud your impulsiveness and indecisiveness in what you hope to do with your life. Ceramics? Ick!

Are you in your 20’s? I’m only curious about your age because when you’re in your 20’s, indecisiveness seems like a uniquely 20something kind of feeling. “I’m young! I’m confused!”  It’s cute.  But then, as you get older, your indecisiveness and doubt that you’re doing the right thing will never actually go away. Lack of clarity turns out to be a condition you’ll be afflicted with your entire life. Of course, with every year you age, you’ll start to carry the weight of choices made after which there is no going back. Like having children, or smoking, or committing a felony. But none of those anchors will actually have any impact on the future difficulty of making any new decisions and whether you are happy or not. You’re cursed! We are all cursed.

Also, maybe look into taking a class, and then, later, teaching.  

Happy writing!
Peter


Sup Pete,
Okay, so here’s my idea. Hear me out. It’s like a group of millennials and there’s an apocalypse. Think fire and tornadoes and fog and lightning. And they all have cell phones but the technology just isn’t enough, ya know? They have to learn to fight with their fists and bodies, like back to the basics. Man versus nature. But I guess my question is, if I want to write a play that has a lot of special effects like fire (and maybe the whole thing takes place underwater?) do you think it will still be produced? Should I make it simpler? Maybe they are just trapped in a book store?

Thnx,
Becca

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Yo Becs!
I love your idea! I think it’s important to know, though, that regardless of whether or not you choose to have some great special effects or set your play somewhere more dull, it will probably not get produced. Most theaters in America are completely uninterested in modern times and your generation, despite all the lip service they may try to give with their “under 30 pricing” (to their revival of The Cherry Orchard). So, I say yes to fire! Yes wind! Water it up! You might as well go big! Cause you’re probably also going home.  

Wlcm
Peter


Dear Petre,
I am stuck. So many sleepless nights. I cannot put pen to paper until I determine, once and for all, whether it should be theatre or theater. Who am I? What industry is this? Am I in a building? Am I an American? All of the political pressure makes me sweaty.

Sincerely,
Ralf

::::

Hi Ralph,

Theater.

Regards,
Peter


*Readers currently fabricated by Rose Oser, but I suppose you could send real questions to roser@zspace.org and we will consider them.  

Playwright Behind Z Scenes: Real life biking and The Making of a Great Moment

8 Things from my own bike riding that made it into
The Making of a Great Moment

By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, Playwright in Residence

I don’t think Mona and Terry, the characters in The Making of a Great Moment, would be riding bicycles on stage if I hadn’t been training for AIDS/Lifecycle (a 545 mile bike ride down California, raising money to fight HIV) while I was writing the first draft.  It was my first time doing serious road cycling and it was intense and amazing!  And it felt like the perfect addition to a crazy play about two actors willing to do anything for what they love. 

Here are a few of my riding experiences that made it into the show:

1) Bonking
The Making of a Great Moment opens with Mona and Terry setting up for their show after a long bike ride and almost killing each other.  While I never wanted to kill anybody while riding, there were definitely a few moments where I felt like I was starting to lose my mind.  I would have to pull over and chug more water and some form of sugar.  Which brings me to…

2) The miracle of eating weird sugar goo!
When your mind is bonking, there is a miracle cure: SUGAR!  Gummy bears and jelly beans are rebranded “energy blocs” and “power beans.”  And they have these packets of gelatinous sugary goo you can suck down like a baby.  And it’s OK! It’s healthy! You’re on a bicycle!

3) Lots of verbal announcing of road hazards and what you are doing on the bicycle.
My fellow riders on the AIDS/Lifecycle are some of the safest and friendliest cyclists on the planet and are always vigilant and sharing potential dangers up and down the line of cyclists.  “Car Back!” “Gravel” and “Glass” are some of the most popular things you hear repeated.  Somehow these warnings can be heard fairly well despite…

4) The inability to really hear someone else while biking.
When riding single file, it can feel a little lonely and you might want to start a conversation with the person riding in front of or behind you.  However, single word warnings aside, it’s quite likely you won’t be able to hear anything they’re going to say. It’s easier to talk when riding by side by side, but when riding on ALC they are very serious about…

5) The dangers of riding two abreast.
Riding two abreast on AIDS/Lifecycle is verboten because there are just too many riders and it makes it hard to pass someone safely (though it’s the best way for biker bros to discuss investment banking, or so I’ve observed while riding in Marin.)  This safety rule made its way into the play and it’s dis-obeyal leads to dramatic consequences. Such as getting…

6) Flat tires
Flats are an inevitable part of the experience of a sport where your connection to the road is a nickel-wide piece of rubber with an inflatable tube behind it.  I had a lot flats this year while training, including five in one single day. That was a long day.  But, I did become expert in changing tires!  In the play, Mona and Terry are not experts.   

7) Unique body discomfort
In a nutshell, riding all day can do quite a number on your taint. You can wear padded shorts, have a seat with a hole in the middle, and lather yourself up with anti-chaffing cream, but that taint’s still gonna hurt.  This is just one of many strained and sore body parts cyclists are willing to endure for their love of riding. Which leads me to

8) Doing something because you are passionate about doing it, even though no-one else seems to understand why you’re doing it.
Cyclists, and AIDS/Lifecyclists are willing to tolerate pain, soreness, a little numbness because they love and care about what they are doing.  Riding is an exquisite way to take in the country.  AIDS/Lifecycle is a phenomenal way to raise money for an vital cause.  It’s worth that pain in the taint.

And that’s what doing theater can be like too, or any creative pursuit.  Artists are willing to endure aches and pains and deprivation (and occasionally some humiliation) because they are passionate about what they are doing.  For some, they believe it matters.  And for others, they just love doing it.  And that makes any danger, any soreness or sacrifice absolutely worth it because, well, there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing. 
___________________________
 

SPECIAL EVENT: 
Join us for Bike Night at Z Space Thursday, August 10th in partnership with AIDS/Lifecycle and SF Bike Coalition TICKETS HERE

The Making of a Great Moment runs in Z Below through August 26th. Get tickets here.

 

LEVYdance: Garance Marneur brings Alone/Together to life

Check out exclusive behind the scene footage of the week long LEVYdance Tech Residency for Alone / Together.  Directed by LEVYdance Executive Artistic Director Garance Marneur in collaboration with LEVYdance Company and Guest Artists. Coming to Z Space Oct. 26th-30th.  Tickets here

Looking for Stimulation?

WEIGHTLESS

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Behind the Scenes with rock opera WEIGHTLESS, a commission conceived and written by Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses.

Directed by Becca Wolff and presented by Z Space, Encore Theatre Company, and piece by piece productions. Weightless builds on The Kilbanes’ distinct style: a genre-bending theatrical event that combines intimate storytelling with a high-energy rock show. Weightless is an adaptation of the story of Procne and Philomela found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses: two sisters bound by deep love are separated by a vengeful god and must travel across worlds to find their way back together.  In Weightless, the cast and the band are one and the same, blurring the line between actors and musicians, between straight musical theater and concert.


WORD FOR WORD IN PARIS

WORD FOR WORD getting ready for the last shows of the France tour in Paris. 


WORD FOR WORD: OPENING NIGHT IN PARIS

Word for Word: Opening Night of “Stories by Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóibín” at Theatre Adyad in Paris on May 2, 2016.

WORD FOR WORD: OPENING NGIHT RECEPTION

Celebrating opening night of Word for Word Stories by Emma Donoghue and Colm Tóibín at a reception hosted by The American Library in Paris.