Viva the Ape Woman

May Oskan’s rock opera The Ape Woman had its world premiere at the Pit Stop last night and all I can say is WOW. GO SEE IT.

No, I lied. That’s not all I can say. There’s only one more scheduled performance — tonight! — and though the word was last night that it might be held over, and last night’s performance was being recorded, not everybody is going to get to see it. So I want to say a couple of other things.

May Oskan, who grew up here and is currently living, clowning, and generally being creative in San Francisco, not only wrote and directed, she also sings the demanding lead vocal part. May has sung backup for her sister, the accomplished and celebrated Nina Violet, but her voice was a revelation: rich and expressive, both solo and in harmony.

And that’s where the wonder of The Ape Woman gets even more wondrous: singing harmony were Nina and younger sister Marciana Jones. Nina also (of course) played viola in the stellar Pit Orchestra, which was far more than a backup band. Marciana played autoharp, May played ukulele, and yes indeed, back there on guitar was Michele Jones, the mother of the three.

And presiding over the Pit Stop was Don Muckerheide, who happens to be May and Nina’s father. If you’re getting the impression that there’s some serious synergy going on here, you’re right — but it doesn’t stop there. In its incarnation as a community-based performance space, the Pit Stop is still a few months shy of its first birthday, but already it’s a cauldron for creative fermentation. Most (all?) of the performers have been involved with the Pit Stop in other ways: accomplished keyboardist Adam Lipsky organized the summer Sunday night jazz series, recording tech Anthony Esposito hosts the popular Monday night open mike, and Nina Violet both recorded and launched her wonderful 2011 CD, We’ll Be Alright, here. And so on.

Writing may be a solitary endeavor, but knowing she could tap into such a cauldron must have helped inspire May Oskan to push her material further and further, until it became the remarkable ensemble piece that is The Ape Woman.

Like I said before: WOW. GO SEE IT.

 

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About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has two blogs going on WordPress. "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories" is about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard. "Write Through It" is about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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