‘Last Rites’ a labor of love

To honor New College — a San Francisco school that recently folded after 35 years of innovation in education — faculty and alumni have banded together to present “Last Rites for the Lost Republic: New College 1973-2008.”

Performances of the multidisciplinary show are Friday and Saturday at New College Theater.

“One of the things that we all explored at New College was trying to find ways to transform each person into more of who they would like to be,” says humanities professor Theresa Dickinson. “And part of our jobs, now, is to help create this ritual that willhelp us move on.”

Dickinson’s contribution to “Last Rites” will be made via the dance group she founded on campus, Zaza Dance Theater. The group will present a largely improvised piece on the theme of mourning New College. Zaza features alumni Samir Batar, Maica Folch and Chris Sia, with accompaniment by St. John Coltrane Church musician Roberto Haven.

“We all agree that we chose New College because it is the best school — we could design the education that we needed,” says Tony Bravo, who then catches himself. “It’s hard for me to remember to use the past tense when talking about New College, so you’ll have to forgive me.”

The classically trained singer describes his portion of the show as a cross between musical theater and performance art, with all original new work, accompanied by Bohnye Bice on keyboard. Bravo says that the performers are so dedicated to this memorial that, in the absence of paid campus maintenance, they have committed to cleaning and maintaining 777 Valencia St., where the show will take place.

Also performing will be MamaCoAtl, who holds a master’s degree from New College’s Women’s Spirituality program. An “artivist” active in environmental, feminist and spiritual movements in the Bay Area and Mexico, MamaCoAtl will offer spiritual rituals in Spanish, English and Native American languages.

The $10 ticket donations will go to the two teachers who have continued to teach despite not having been paid in recent months — Dickinson and Millie Henry; they also have taken on trying to coordinate student transfers.

Perhaps in the New College tradition of “promoting the ideals of a just, sacred and sustainable world,” Dickinson doesn’t consider her efforts extraordinary. “It seemed obvious to do that — keep teaching — because it was possible,” she says. “I couldn’t have borne to just stop flat, there’s something about the act of teaching that you want to carry it through and see it resolved.”

IF YOU GO

Last Rites for the Lost Republic: New College 1973-2008

Where: New College Theater, 777 Valencia St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday

Tickets: $10 suggested admission; no one turned away for lack of funds

Contact: (415) 282-7746; lastritesforthelostrepublic@gmail.com

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