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International fest promises unique dance, drama and music

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Russia’s Meyerhold Theatre Center presents the tragicomedy “One Day We Will All Be Happy” June 1-3 in Southside Theater. (Courtesy Polina Kozlova)
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The 14th San Francisco International Arts Festival, an 11-day showcase opening May 25 at Fort Mason, comprises performances by 65 ensembles and individual artists, locally and nationally based, and from 15 other countries across the world.

Some performers are making their U.S. or West Coast debuts. Others are returnees — “old friends,” as founder/artistic director Andrew Wood calls them — from previous festivals. A family-friendly program — including GuGu Drum Group from Shanghai among the opening night performances — is part of the mix.

A sampling of selections: dancers from South Korea, Japan, China and Hong Kong; international collaborations of various types; interdisciplinary work; a world premiere dance billed as a “feminist performance”; Voodoo Cabaret’s songs of the African diaspora; and Trio Balkan Strings with an eclectic musical mix.

Along with music and dance, eight theater pieces also are on the program, including three from Europe.

“One Day We Will All Be Happy,” from Russia, gets its American premiere, with headlining performances June 1-3 in Southside Theater.

Written by Ekaterina Visalieva and translated into English by Stephen Ochsner, it is a monologue by an unhappy schoolgirl.

The single role is shared by two actresses (Anastasia Pronina and Alexandra Kuzenkina), described by one reviewer as representing ego and alter-ego.

Directed by Sava Chebotari, the show has won awards since it was first produced at Moscow’s Meyerhold Theatre Center in 2012.

In it, Masha, a teenage misfit, confides in the audience: “It’s like everything got off on the wrong foot,” she begins.

Her abusive, widowed mother is the school janitor, a secret Masha keeps from her classmates; mother and daughter are both facially pock-marked and are lower-class outcasts in a middle-class milieu.

Caught between her peer group and her wretched home life, Masha confesses to stealing from other kids, finds solace in her crush on Brad Pitt, wonders how a mother can fail to love a daughter.

Director Chebotari sees the play as an “opera,” the text a musical score of sorts.

“For me it’s very important to see on the stage two actresses,” he writes via email; the two women, simultaneously sharing the role of Masha, create a whole that is bigger than the sum of the parts.

One critic called the play a “tragic rhapsody”; another described it as a “purification ritual”; it evoked “fear and laughter,” wrote a third.

“One day, we will all be happy,” Masha’s mother intones repeatedly.

The play’s topic, says Chebotari, is a familiar one in the former USSR countries—unfortunate, he adds, but true.

IF YOU GO
San Francisco International Arts Festival
Where: Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, S.F.
When: May 25 through June 4
Tickets: $25 most programs; $70 for five-show pass
Contact: (415) 399-9554, sfiaf.org

SELECT HIGHLIGHTS

GuGu Drum Group: The award winning ensemble from Shanghai offers a “theatrical drama told through the unique language of drums.” 8 p.m. May 25, Cowell Theater.

STEAMRoller Dance Company: The troupe presents a reimagining of the signature work, “Siamese Dream,” which combines elements of Hollywood musicals and Hong Kong kung fu movies to create a “fantasia of Asian Americana.” 8 p.m. May 25, 7:30 p.m. May 27, 3:30 p.m. May 28, Firehouse.

Tango Con*fusion: The company challenges the outdated image of the macho-male and hyper-feminine woman in Argentine tango in “Sex, Women & Tango.” 9:30 p.m. May 26, 7 p.m. May 27, 5:30 p.m. May 28. Southside Theater.

Amy Lewis: The performer appears in a free 25-minute presentation of “16 Electras,” which offers varied versions of the Electra myth. 2 p.m. May 27 and June 3, meet at Chapel for show at Black Battery Point.

Voodoo Cabaret: Rise Above Racism presents the participatory “village party” with group ritual, sing-alongs, dancing and laughing. 9 p.m. May 27 in Gallery 308; 6 p.m. June 4 in the Chapel.

Eve Mutso: The Estonian choreographer who appeared as Blanche in Scottish National Ballet’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” shares a bill with LEVYdance and Alyce Finwall Dance Theater. 8 p.m. May 27, 2 p.m. May 28, Cowell Theater.

Trio Balkan Strings: The Serbian family from Belgrade plays original guitar music that fuses Balkan, jazz, gypsy swing and classical styles. 7 p.m. May 28, Chapel.

Compagnie Tabea Martin: The Switzerland-based troupe presents “Field,” a performance with three people who want to engage together” on a bill with Chinese choreographer Gu Jiani’s shadow dance “Right and Left.” 7:30 p.m. June 1. Cowell Theater.

Meyerhold Theatre Center: The Russian company’s comic drama “One Day We Will All Be Happy” is an indictment of class and discrimination in contemporary Russia told from the vantage point of a provincial schoolgirl. 8:30 p.m. June 1, 9:30 p.m. June 2, 4 p.m. June 3. Southside Theater.

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