Art Saves Lives is a button I wear. My mantra. In our floating kingdom, the photographers, painters, potters, glassmakers, musicians, writers and filmmakers, my fellow artists, don’t just wear that line. We live it.
Right before the pandemic, my husband, playwright Lance Belville, died of heart failure. His play Qaddafi’s Cook had played London that January. In May 2020 it was to headline the San Francisco International Arts Festival or SFIAF. By March 16, 2020 state and local executive orders began shutting down “non-essential” activities. I was at the mortuary making arrangements. There was no festival. No theater. Not for a long time.
And then, Art Saved our Lives. The team of artists, London actor Alvaro Flores, Mexico City composer Adrian Paredes, Minnesota designer Tom Berger, and myself met by Zoom seven days after Lance died. Alvaro and Adrian were in the first full bloom of their careers whereas Tom and I were in the legacy phase. How long was the curtain closing?
We brainstormed. Then, over months, over numerous Zooms, we videoed and edited the drama from our four different locations. We promoted our recording and that version of the story of the Mexican chef caught in the web of a dictatorship played in digital festivals in Orlando, Kansas City, and Minneapolis and for Ross Valley Players in Marin. The critics wrote, “A portrayal of passion and power. Highly recommended.” The ticket income went to the emerging artists.
For almost two more years, we inched our way through the bureaucracy of U.S. Immigration, to finish getting Adrian and Alvaro their artist visas, as we planned with other venues as far away as Indiana for live performances when theatres opened again.
On June 9, 10, and 11, Qaddafi’s Cook will finally play the San Francisco International Arts Festival, SFIAF’s first full-blown, live roster since 2019. At Joe Goode Annex at Project Artaud in San Francisco, Alvaro will recreate the dishes co-author Carlos Ambrosi actually cooked for the dictator, each plate a metaphor of life under tyranny.
On opening night, after the 55-minute show, artists and audience will raise a glass of J. Lohr wine and toast Lance. And much later that night, if you hear guitar music and sung rancheras coming from the back deck of my floating home on West Pier, you’ll know that four artists are celebrating life and art.
More info and tickets info are available online. SFIAF is offering a 15% discount on festival tickets to help spark that feeling of summer. The discounts last until Monday evening, May 29. To get the discount deal, simply enter the code MEMORIAL when purchasing tickets.