Arts Listings

Temescal Labs Stages Present a Double Bill

By KEN BULLOCK - Special to the Planet
Friday February 08, 2008

Temescal Labs, the innovative Oakland theater company (nee Ten Red Hen) that notably staged both The 99-Cent Miss Saigon and Clown Bible at Willard Metalshop Theater, is performing Clean, a work-in-progress about Silicon Valley and toxicity, which includes the story of Hans Reiser, on a double bill with Brittney Brown Ceres’ Bodily File, 8 p.m. tonight (Friday) and Saturday at CounterPulse, 1310 Mission St. near Ninth Street in San Francisco. 

“CounterPulse chooses two artists per season for residency,” said Maya Gurantz, Temescal Labs’ founder and dynamic artistic director. “It’s a very supportive process. Remarkable to work with my company in this professional space—especially to be able to work on developing all these ideas, these dark stories, without having to worry about a final product.” 

The two major stories are those of Fernando Jimenez Gonzalez, an 18-year-old worker at a P.C. Board company in Silicon Valley, who drowned in a vat of sulphuric acid last September (and whose family, after months of an OSHA investigation, has just been compensated: $3,800), and Hans Reiser, now on trial in Oakland, accused of doing away with his wife.  

“The Reiser story is about the more invisible costs of the industry,” Gurantz noted. “He’s on the intellectual end of production, whereas Gonzalez was in manufacturing, at the opposite end.” 

The staging of Clean includes a 15x15-foot piece of fake turf in the middle of the CounterPulse space, and a tissue dancer, playing Gonzalez, performing his fatal tumble over and over. 

“There’s lots of movement for the Hans Reiser character, too,” said Gurantz, “and lots of found text. This has been a real exploration, deeply researched. I went over 10 years’ back issues of the San Jose Mercury and read the relevant books, and everybody joined in—actors, designers ... we had field trips to the Intel Museum. And I don’t know that we’re anywhere near finished. The ideas involved are too big to find answers to in three months.” 

Meanwhile, Gurantz is looking toward the future. “I’ll be directing for Shotgun in their Fall slot, then we’re trying to take Clown Bible [in which Biblical stories are performed as musical comedy by clowns] to New York. And figuring out what the next project is, though we’re not finished with this one at all! And we’d like to take something to Europe the summer after this one—a Commedia-type clown piece.” 

And why the name change from Ten Red Hen? “That’s the name of my blog!” said Gurantz. “It was chosen in a moment of haste to give the company a name when The 99-Cent Miss Saigon was opening. The blog will keep that name. But I think Temescal Labs is less confusing, communicates more what we do. And we’re permanent Oakland residents now. Besides, I like what ‘Temescal’ means—it’s the Ohlone word for sweat lodge.”