courtesy photoFrom left

courtesy photoFrom left

13th Floor Dance channels Raymond Chandler

It’s 11 a.m. on a cloudy morning and Raymond Chandler has writer’s block, and his story trails off to red herrings, dead ends and vain attempts at plot. Jenny McAllister, founder of 13th Floor Dance Theater, can relate.

“I know the feeling,” she says. “I do a lot of the writing for my dance-theater pieces, and analyzing how my characters would react to each other pulls me through.”

McAllister’s latest work, “Being Raymond Chandler,” debuting in The City on Saturday, recreates the ambiance of the film noir genre in which characters from Chandler’s imagination — fast-talking dames, broads, goons and of course, detective Philip Marlow — fill his imagination and come alive to help him move the plot along.

An ardent bibliophile, McAllister had been a fan of Chandler and other writers of the genre since junior high. “Thinking about this piece, I became fascinated both with Chandler as a person and with his process,” she says.

Chandler’s wife tried to encourage him to include romance in his work, but their profoundly intimate connection didn’t translate to the page. “He believed romance would ruin a murder mystery. We built that in as an argument between the two of them.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a murder mystery without a murder. In this case, the audience doesn’t know who the victim is until the end — making the piece not so much whodunit it but “to whom it was done.”

The costumes — slinky ’40s-style dresses for the women, fedoras for the men — and Michael Oesch’s shadow-filled lighting design establish the film noir feeling.

To create the off-kilter visual angles popular in those films, McAllister places her characters as if they were in a camera frame. “It’s like someone is in a close shot and something is happening far behind them on the very edge of the stage. It makes you feel a little uncomfortable, like something’s not quite right,” she says.

Her performers, including several film buffs, had as much fun in the development of the piece as McAllister did. Period costumes, ceiling fans and vintage props gave them the freedom to throw themselves into the characters.

“In rehearsals, we recreated some of the movie scenes. It was so much fun. They were just chewing up the scenery,” she says.

Then there’s the rumor that Chandler was closeted.

“There are some very intimate scenes in his novels between men, so we put a little of that in as well,” she adds.

IF YOU GO

Being Raymond Chandler

Presented by 13th Floor Dance Theater

Where: Studio B, ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell St., SF.

When: 8 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; closes Nov. 3

Tickets: $18 to $23

Contact: (415) 863-9834, www.odcdance.org/buytickets.php13th Floor Dance TheaterartsBeing Raymond ChandlerDanceJenny McAllister

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Temporary high-occupancy vehicle lanes will be added to sections of state Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 101 through The City including Park Presidio Boulevard to help keep transit flowing as traffic increases. (Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes coming to some of The City’s busiest streets

Changes intended to improve transit reliability as traffic increases with reopening

Demonstrators commemorated the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside S.F. City Hall on June 1, 2020.<ins></ins>
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

San Francisco Unified School District Board member Faauuga Moliga, right, pictured with Superintendent Vincent Matthews on the first day back to classrooms, will be board vice president for the remander of the 2121 term. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faauuga Moliga named as school board vice president to replace Alison Collins

The San Francisco school board on Tuesday selected board member Fauuga Moliga… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

An instructor at Sava Pool teaches children drowning prevention techniques. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Indoor city pools reopen for lap swimming and safety classes

Two of San Francisco’s indoor city pools reopened Tuesday, marking another step… Continue reading

Most Read