Bigger and Bolder: The 2018 New Strands Festival

By Taylor Steinbeck

The Strand Theater is ready to rock. Next week brings the third annual New Strands Festival and with it comes pop music, Afrofuturist titans, and staged readings of fierce new plays. “The 2018 artists are new American voices with global visions and global appetites,” says A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Andy Donald. “The festival is still going to be about San Francisco, but this year, it’ll be about bringing the world to our city.”

Tegan and Sara playing at the 2008 Treasure Island Music Festival.
Photo by Tyler Love. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
This year, A.C.T. is partnering with SPACE on Ryder Farm to develop presentations of two new works for the 2018 New Strands Residency. Located on a working farm in Brewster, New York, SPACE is a nonprofit artist residency program that has become “one of the leading curators of the next generation of new work,” says Donald. Representing SPACE is book writer Emily Kaczmarek, who will be bringing the Untitled Tegan & Sara Musical to The Rembe, and playwright Ngozi Anyanwu with her epic play Nike, or We Don’t Need Another Hero. Kaczmarek’s musical is a girl-meets-girl love story set to the pop-rock soundtrack of the Grammy Award–nominated duo Tegan and Sara. Nike fuses Greek drama with contemporary dialogue to create a bold new myth starring an all-Black cast.

Look out too for other exciting projects from the festival's line-up: Both Your Houses, a new play by Susan Soon He Stanton, follows a romance that blooms backstage during a production of Romeo and Juliet; a new translation of Friedrich Schiller’s passionate drama Don Carlos; the third workshop of Jeremy Cohen and Dipika Guha’s emotional LGBTQ+ tearjerker, Malicious Animal Magnetism; an autobiographical play with music from Thao Nguyen; and SeaChange, a social justice play written by Marisela Treviño Orta exploring the changing face of San Francisco.

Artwork for A.C.T.'s 2018 New Strands Festival.
Along with welcoming the Bay Area community to The Strand Theater for a third year, the 2018 New Strands Festival will feature master classes led by Stanton and Kaczmarek, stand-up comedy from Bay Area–based Irene Tu, and happy hours for theater lovers. The festival, sponsored by nonprofit tech company Mozilla, will run an extra day compared to past years, with each presentation receiving two readings instead of one, enabling theatergoers to provide more of their valuable input. “We don’t just want our audience to witness an artistic process, but to actually be a collaborator,” says Donald. “Wherever the works may go after the festival, San Francisco audiences can feel an attachment to these works, because they had a part in their creation.”

The 2018 New Strands Festival is free and open to the public and runs May 17 to 20. To reserve tickets and learn more, click here.

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