Tag Archives: san francisco

Solo Performer and Comedian Bill Santiago Interview

Solo Performer and Comedian Bill Santiago Interview

image from assets.nydailynews.com Alicia Dattner> I remember you'd been performing for a year when I first started and we met… How did you start doing comedy?

Bill Santiago> I had friends that were interested and got me hooked. But it appealed to me right off. Say what ever you want to say. Use your wits. Get people to see things your way. Laughter. Applause. What's not to like?

AD> What was your motivation to write a show about dancing?

BS>Whenever I'm dancing I have this inner monologue going on, about about how well it's going or not, all the characters out there that you see and meet and dance with, whether I just nailed a move, or someone's foot, the constant frustrations and occasional moments of unparalleled joy, and the simple human interaction of being that close to someone you don't know and trying to synchronize. Plus how obsessive people can get about their dancing, and how far it's come, the Latin dancing, from the way that my parents danced, how people are taking it now to a ridiculously Cirque du Soleil level that is frankly laughable. 

And the way the different people dance the different dances, and how each dance has its own tricks and personalities, salsa, versus tango, versus bachata, versus samba, versus flamenco, versus cumbia, versus merengue, and on and on. And the teachers, my God, they're all such crazy gurus! And the whole process of learning, how you have to train yourself to absorb these movements into your own being, and how thrilling it is to be learning. There's a lot there. 

The quest to become the dancer you'll never be and enjoy yourself as much as possible along the way. It's a comedic gold mine, really. And combining standup so closely with dance is new for me, allows me to be physical on stage, and look for the humor in the physicality as much as in the words. And I get to work with super musicians, and invite people from the audience to come up on stage and dance with me. It's very interactive. It's always a different show, you know.

AD> What's your favorite thing about dancing?

BS>My favorite thing about dancing is the connection that you have with where you come from, this music stirs that in you, and the escape that you have from everything else in your day, in the periphery of the present. I love that when you're dancing nothing else matters, and if you're lucky you can let go, and maybe connect with someone else in a very unique and beautiful way. But it's high stakes because there is a lot of pride on the line, that's the stuff of funny. 

image from www.speakoutnow.org  AD> What's your favorite thing about comedy?

BS>My favorite thing about comedy is whatever latest the line I am working on to perfect, or idea that I am trying to get traction on. When it works, when I finally get it to gel and I hear the laughter, it's very satisfying. I like that bulls-eye feeling. It's also nice when people remind you that you are doing good work, that it has affected them, that it matters, that they want to see more and that you are appreciated. 

AD> How would you classify what you do? Is it standup? Is it solo performance? Is it something else?

BS>It depends on the project that I am working on, the particular show. The "Funny of (Latin) Dance" show is way beyond standup, but standup is the basis of my approach, I apply that skill, those chops to this new topic, and hopefully renders an entirely new kind of show. 

AD> Anything else you'd like to share with us?

BS>I'd love to share some of the spontaneous magic that happens on stage when I invite folks from the crowd to come up on stage and dance with me in this show, but you are just going to have to come out and experience it for yourself.

Bill Santiago performs all over the country.  Go see him. 


Eat Pray Laugh Video

Eat Pray Laugh Video

So the creativity coaching work that I do is largely based on the work I’ve done to get through the blocks to being a comedian, solo performer, and artist.  Here’s a little sample of what I’ve been up to in my creative life.  I’ll be performing this show Eat, Pray, Laugh! in San Francisco January 20th, 2010 to February 24th each week with kirtan singer Mirabai.  You can get tickets here.

costa rica, part deux–i mean part dos.

costa rica, part deux–i mean part dos.

How ’bout that 4th of July, ay? Are we Independent yet? I got a sunburn on my midriff due to SF Mime Troupe related activities. Lots of good times with friends this weekend!

So there was some more important story about the legislature (what could be more important than laughter, I ask you?) so the reporters didn’t come last week. No big. They may come tomorrow… Who knows.. Either way we’d love for you to come out and enjoy yourselves at laughter yoga. See below for more info… You can sign up at eventbrite.com or just show up… Bring a friend to Laughter Yoga for free!

Costa Rica, Part Deux–I mean Dos
So you wanted to hear about the rest of my Costa Rica trip… Ok: the highlights. I went out in search of dancing one night on my own. Remember that I speak only broken, Sesame Street Spanish… I’m driving down the road to Quepos and I finally get past all the hotels and into the town when it begins to rain. I ask around to several people because the streets aren’t labeled anywhere, find the club, Republik, and no one is there yet. It’s like 9pm. They say come back around 11 or 12, I feel really silly and… old.. I want to go to sleep at 11 or 12. I chat with the door guys and one of them mentions that there’s some salsa dancing at Byblos. So I walk back down the alley to the rental car, a Daihatsu 4wd, and drive back up the windy road past the hotels and hotel restaurants in the now pouring rain.

I pull into Byblos, which has a sports bar and casino and pool tables, and there are exactly four people dancing to some recorded music–two Costa Rican guys with two white girls. Everyone seems to know each other. After a walk around the place, I buy a Pilsen ale (no, not Pilsner) and pull up a seat. I manage to ignore all men who want to talk, chat with a couple of women (who perhaps suspect I’m a lesbian because I’m ignoring the men and talking to them?) I sip an eighth of my beer and get up and sit closer to the dance floor three times. Finally, one of the guys who was dancing before asks me to dance–the one who totally knows what he’s doing (yes!) I say, “I don’t know how, is that ok?” Because I’ve only danced Salsa like three times. It’s ok with him, but this is Cha Cha, so he shows me that. “Relax!” seems to be the only word he knows in English. He counts out “Uno, dos, tres!” for me and swivels my hips such that I look like I Belong on the dance floor. Unlike in swing dancing, where there are three-minute dances, here each song blends into the next. We dance Cha Cha for 20 minutes and then he asks if I want to do Salsa. We dance Salsa for another 20 minutes. I am drenched with sweat and we’re doing twirls and dips and it seems that everyone in the bar is watching us like it’s Dancing with the Stars, but that may be just my imagination. When the music ends, I’m dizzy and my hair is wet and I know his name is Mario, but nothing else. I drink some agua and see my feet are blistered from dancing. As I leave he waves goodnight, and I get to sleep by 12. Huzzah!

Ok, so that was a long story and I’m tired… Also, we went on a zipline tour of the canopy of the rainforest, which was really fun, and the last day when I was sitting by the pool, the spider monkies and iguanas came to visit me! Dozens of little spider monkies and their babies jumping in the trees next to me. And an iguana and several lizards walked almost right up to me. Wished I had my camera then. Ok, pictures to follow soon.



Tucson less phreaky than Phoenix…

Tucson less phreaky than Phoenix…

Phoenix: I am inspired by the magical bird who, every 500 years, builds a nest, sets it alight, and burns in its own fire. It then rises anew from the ashes and lives again. Reminds me of Passover. Like the flood story from the Torah, a version of the Phoenix story exists in China, Japan, Russia, Egypt, Greece, originating in… you guessed it, India (Garuda, the bird of Vishnu.)

Show Report: Tucson less phreaky than Phoenix…
I’m sitting in my friend Abby’s dining room in Tucson, Arizona. Abby’s three month old baby, Juna, is adorable and amazing. Bouncing Juna in my arms is at once peaceful and thrilling. It’s sunny here with a light breeze that carries the tune of morning songbirds. The air is dry and intermittently dusty, the land dotted with cactus. Dogs bark at night in packs, reminding me of India, but with less death-cries. Today I visited my comedian friend Robert Mac and threw some ideas around for my show about India, “Eat, Pray, Laugh!”

I put on my show “The Punchline” five times in the Phoenix Fringe Festival these past few days. Emotional spaces opened up in my later performances that I had been longing for–there were whole shows, not just moments in which I truly enjoyed myself. I expanded into my characters more playfully, freely, deeply. It was both inspiring and relieving to know that it gets better and better as time goes on.

The audiences were so great… they really enjoyed the show and got what I was offering (although smaller crowds than I would have liked.) Here’s one among many awesome reviews from a fellow Fringer/Storyteller from LA:

“You have a lovely show. I really enjoyed it. You are a very skilled writer and performer, with great command of the story arc… the Distraction Dance was awesome.” -Antonio Sacre

Tucson is less weird than Phoenix. Phoenix is very hot and you can’t walk anywhere. The only kind of “alternative” lifestyle that seems to exist there is the punk genus. If you don’t go to the university and walk around in a bikini and shorts all day, (where is the beach, young ladies??) and you want to be different, you have to be a punk. It’s very sad. The people from the ASU theatre department are great, and really dedicated to bringing more grassroots culture up into Phoenix with the Fringe Festival. Keep on fighting the good fight. Anyway, I stayed in the Hilton by the airport for $45 a night (thank you, Priceline) and was able to get in the jacuzzi every day and watch HBO, so that made up for various shortcomings of the city.

A final highlight: yesterday I drove up to Arcosanti, 75 miles north of Phoenix. It’s an experimental community centered on the architecture and ecology ideas of Italian Paulo Soleri. Soleri, a Guggenheim fellow now about to turn 90, completely re-imagined architecture and city planning such that people, culture, and natural space are the focus, instead of, say, cars, roads, and parking. His city plans are like hives, built to maximize open space and human interaction. Some deep part of my soul called out to me, yearning for such a place to live and work. Even though 50,000 people a year visit Arcosanti, and they’re actively building a city big enough to house 7,000 people, the pace is a snail’s. They need an infusion of millions of dollars to really build it. Maybe they can get in on that stimulus package…?

How to Actually Manifest Your Dream, Part 5 of 7

How to Actually Manifest Your Dream, Part 5 of 7

In the last post, you were in the "creation" phase.  Creation is always happening, but it can get blocked, so we did a lot of exercises to make a safe container for the creative part of you to unfold.  As you move into the next phase, keep taking time to be intentionally and spontaneously in creation–free of criticism. 

And now, very gently and clearly, we're going to begin the process of editing.  Many people consider editing to be the most important part of art because this is where we begin to turn toward the idea of our work being received.  Many people consider art incomplete until it is in fact received–that seeing, hearing, or experiencing the work is its last phase of creation, "closing the loop."  I agree with this, but I also feel that for some art works, the maker can also be the best audience.  If we don't please ourselves in our art, we're not doing anyone else any favors!

So here's an exercise to transition yourself temporarily from creator to editor, feeler to thinker: 

Get three actual hats.  Really do this…  Maybe your "creator" hat is big and silly, your "appreciator" hat is beautiful and flowery, and your "editor" hat is like a newspaper editor's? 

Have your "creator" hat on while you're brainstorming, writing, drawing, singing…  After your allotted creating time, take off your creator hat, and put on your "appreciator" hat.  As the appreciator, you will talk to the creator for a few minutes and let her (or him) know how thankful you are to her for being so open and uncensored.  Tell her how it felt (fun? silly? exhilarating?) to be with her, and how happy you are that she has come to play with you.  Tell her that the next step you are going to take is to gather, organize, and edit what she has delivered so you can deliver this gift to the world!  Ask her if she has any requests of how you shape the material.  Ask if she will stay as an observer of the process to help keep the integrity of the work.  When you are done, take your appreciator hat off and put on your editor hat. 

If your creator lives mostly in your second chakra (the pelvis), your appreciator lives mostly in your heart chakra.  Your editor lives in your throat and "third eye" chakras.  Sitting with your back straight so all of your chakras are aligned, begin to look at your work with a warm, clear head.  Look at it as if it's not in fact your work at all, but the work of your best friend.  Begin to sort, clarify, and solidify what's there, seeing the best in it, and looking for places to chip away the extraneous pieces.  Do more cutting than adding.  Finish off your session with a quick flip of the appreciator hat and remind yourself how much great work you've just done and what your purpose in doing this is!

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful
servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has
forgotten the gift."

-Albert Einstein