By Paul Bendix
About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl... (More)
About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanently injured there in a 1968 mugging. Half paralyzed at 21, it took me 11 years to find full-time work. A high-tech job drew me to the Peninsula in the early 1980s. After years as a high-tech marketing writer, I retired and published my own book, Dance Without Steps (Oliver Press, New York, 2012). Having long aspired to café society, I frequent Peet's on Santa Cruz Avenue. Rolling through our downtown, I reflect on my own life - which I have restarted several times. My wife died in 2009. I remarried in July, 2013. (Hide)
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For those who made it to the M-A Performing Arts Center for Sunday's matinee of 'Lilith the Night Demon,' congratulations. The San Francisco Choral Artists event was what our beautiful civic theater should be all about -- originality, beauty and controversy. As for the latter, Sunday's hour-long 'Lilith,' described as occurring 'in one lewd act,' was designed to startle.
Listening to the audience buzz, clearly some were offended. But no one was asleep, trust me. For this 'Lilith,' mostly startled with its joyous score, narrative wit and vocal beauty.
This concert opera manages to rope in a barbershop quartet, a trio of angels and a nine-year-old singing Yiddish. There's also a narrator, giving 'Lilith' something of the feel of Stravinsky's 'L'Histoire du Soldat,' another diabolical chamber work.
San Francisco Choral Artists only performs in this area a few times a year. I almost missed Sunday's event. Unfortunately many others did also, for the Performing Arts Center was barely half full. I wish the PAC had more of a consistent presence in the community. In particular, it needs to have a 'season.' I don't know of a website, display or flyer that describes 'This Month at the PAC,' for example.
Music at Menlo occupies the facility for three exciting weeks each summer. But they are also based here, and in over 10 years the festival has built up an infrastructure, including donors and volunteers. As for the rest of the year, visiting artists and troupes need something similar.
Maybe the performing arts are not the easiest sell in Menlo Park. We are an educated community, but our daily discourse runs to business and technology. Meanwhile, we have a beautiful civic theater, acoustically engineered for live performance. I hope someday it fulfills its promise.